Toby Johnson Reviews Gay Spirituality 101

Toby Johnson, the eminent author of many books including the classic Gay Spirituality, writes on

Gay Spirituality 101 is far more than an “introduction”; indeed, if we’re using college level identifiers, this is more like a 303 graduate seminar than 101. Joe Perez rises to a much higher perspective in his analysis of themes in gay spirituality than a 101 Intro. Using the evolutionary and consciousness-stage model of Ken Wilber, Perez places insights into the nature of reality itself gleaned from deep investigation of gay inner experience as the real heart of the gay spirituality movement. Just as in order to understand sexuality you have to include both heterosexuality and homosexuality, so in order to understand the human relationship to the Divine you have to include both what he calls heterophilia and homophilia, that is, the universe’s love for complementary opposites and its love for itself in its own perfect reflection. A modern gay perspective on religion and spirituality transcends the styles and pop idioms of neo-pagan imitation. Moderns cannot go back to pre-Christian, pre-Patriarchal paganism if only because we know better. We understand these things as myth and symbol from a pre-scientific time. My whimsical complaint with the book is that it’s too short. I wanted more of Perez’s insights. This book isn’t about being a religious gay man or lesbian seeking a welcoming church; it’s about honoring and learning from the unusual—and sometimes queer—perspective that being gay can force upon one’s soul and psyche. A quick read, but very packed and thoughtful.

New to this site? Buy the eBook Gay Spirituality 101 for only $1.99 today.

In Defense of Spiritual Smut

“On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

“On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Spirituality writing doesn’t have a very wide audience, at least not as wide as we think it should. On the Web and on Facebook, the prose in short form can easily become a redundant chorus of platitudes and in long form … well, simply left unread.

In continuity with the spirit of my writing, Gay Spirituality strives to rock a few boats and we’re willing to bear with the occasional flamer who doesn’t get it.

Our Web and Facebook page occasionally publish pics of hot men. There is a lot of this in gay culture and we have noticed that a little beefcake now and then makes our posts more interesting to the masses. In doing so, we strive to elevate the picture in some way, transcending its status as mere eye-candy, and presenting an opportunity to view it as source of wisdom.

It can even be funny to see the contrast, say, between a quote by Confucius about the nature of work next to a hot sweaty construction worker. The humor is intentional.

"A man who does what he loves never works a day in his life." - Confucius

“A man who does what he loves never works a day in his life.” – Confucius

In doing so, we aren’t saying that gay culture is too fixated on eye-candy or that lookism isn’t a problem. But as sites like Philosophers’ Mail shows us, sometimes it takes a hook to get readers to pay attention to difficult or challenging material and to compete with the garbage sites offering fluff or empty calories.

We have seen other “serious” and “sophisticated” websites that refuse to post anything erotic because it would run afoul of political correctness. We choose to see the sexual and the spiritual as intertwined, and it would be hypocritical of us to sanitize our creative output to try to gain the approval of élites.

(By the way, we try to use pictures of models which show a variety of ages and body types. However, most male models tend to be above average looking guys. Also, we don’t subscribe to the view that looking at sexy, erotic pictures is a sin or anti-spiritual per se. In contrast, we have argued that Beauty is a force which raises the Eye of the Spirit upward in an embrace of the divine. Read “Looking at Lookism” to learn more.)

So if after reading this you are still offended or outraged that a spirituality page or site serves pics of hot men as part of its menu, then take what works for you and leave the rest. We hope at least this post explains better where we’re coming from.

New to this site? Buy the eBook Gay Spirituality 101 for only $1.99 today.

Gay Spirituality as a Universal Donor

1901844_593939320699784_681364818_nPerhaps the phrase “gay spirituality” seems odd to you, as if there should be just one spirituality for everyone. It is an imperfect phrase, but it points to an important and neglected fact: gay people and straight people love in different ways and how we love is very important to our spiritual life. Indeed, in Christianity and other religions, it is said that God is Love. So how can it be that there is such a fundamental difference as straight/gay and this would be irrelevant for the spiritual life? It seems almost self-evident that there is something distinctive about how gay people love that gives them/us a unique perspective on Love.

One doesn’t need to look too far beyond common sense and self-evident principles in order to discover what is special about gay love that sets it apart from straight love. Simply put, it is same-directed instead of opposite-directed. There are same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. There is homophilia (same-love) and heterophilia (other-love). This is true for gay men and for lesbians, and true for bisexuals at least part of the time. And so the phrase “gay spirituality” could mean nothing more than recognizing the fact that gay people love in gay ways and straight people love in straight ways, and the unique way of loving reveals different aspects of spirit/reality. The life lessons learned by a man loving a man in his primary relationship and a man loving a woman in his primary relationship are inevitably different. These differences are important, and recognizing a distinctive gay spirituality speaks to the differences.

Perhaps you’ve heard this explanation before regarding homophilia/heterophilia. Is there anything new in what I am saying? Perhaps it is just a recapitulation, but if there is something I want to add that you might not have heard before it is this: It is important to own that “gay spirituality” is about the way we love and the way we are sexual beings (loving and sexing as it were). There are bells and whistles for sure, but they will vary from tradition to tradition. Some will want to add a New Age flavor and stress queer archetypes or wicca or tantra, others will want to stress gay saints and sages and mystics and their contributions, others will prefer philosophical or aesthetic views of human nature and purpose. There is truth in all of these, so long as one doesn’t make the mistake and claim that only one tradition has an exclusive lock on truth.

Continue reading “Gay Spirituality as a Universal Donor” »

New to this site? Buy the eBook Gay Spirituality 101 for only $1.99 today.

A Note on Andrew Sullivan’s Hidden Ecclesiology

In an article today on the Dish, Andrew Sullivan stands at the precipice of revising his longstanding views on the role of religion in civil debate. He does so, I think, by letting his views of what is good for the Catholic Church and a “living Christianity” explicitly color his views of political discourse. This would be fine if he wasn’t trying to make the point that people ought not do exactly what he was in the process of doing.

After noting the rise of spiritual progressives (perhaps belatedly), he at first reiterated his view:

What the Church can and must do is draw our attention to, say, soaring inequality or long-term unemployment or resilient poverty and challenge us to see if these evils can be prevented or ameliorated. What it should not do, it seems to me, is grant any political movement – let alone a political party – to represent in policy or political terms what our actual response should be.

Now I am commenting as an Integral spirituality writer, not a Church-identified theologian. But I am informed by the Catholic and Protestant social ethics traditions, and I note that Sullivan’s views are questionable even on Christian grounds. His political realist hero Reinhold Niebuhr, for one, would not agree that Christians ought not speak in political terms about specific responses to social ills. For one thing he had no problem fighting communism on Christian grounds.

But the quote above does not yet get to the really juicy part of Sullivan’s post. First, he approvingly quotes crunchy conservative Rod Dreher explaining his tolerance for left-wing Christians:

But let the Left be on notice: if you endorse this kind of thing, don’t ever open your mouth to complain about conservatives doing it. You can’t complain about the Religious Right bringing their faith to the public square when you don’t like their politics, and praise the Religious Left for doing the same thing when it suits your goals.

And then Andrew’s response puts him one click away from shifting his longstanding views:

It seems to me you can resist the politicization of religion by the right without committing the same category error on the left. In fact, it seems to me vital for the restoration of a living Christianity that it not be drawn into these political struggles. But if you do want to conflate Christianity with leftist politics, as Rod Dreher notes, you may come to regret it… (Bold added)

So what he’s implied is that interjecting religion into politics too overtly is an “error” whether it is done on the right or the left, and is potentially regrettable. Well, that’s a small improvement from my perspective! He stops short of saying the “Christianists on the Left” are doing anything worse than the right-wing religionists and his admonition that progressives “may come to regret it” could be more definitively or harshly stated.

Continue reading “A Note on Andrew Sullivan’s Hidden Ecclesiology” »

New to this site? Buy the eBook Gay Spirituality 101 for only $1.99 today.

Deepen your explorations of Gay Spirituality

Photo Credit: Joe Perez

Photo Credit: Joe Perez

The spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl said, “When you sink deeper you touch a level where question and answer come together and have a love affair.”

I hope you will sink deeper into my writings and fructify.

Towards this end, I’ve recently added about 20 articles to the Gay Spirituality website which I hope you enjoy.

Most of these articles were originally published online and then edited for inclusion in my book Rising Up. Although they may have been written a while ago, I still stand by their general message if not every particular statement.

Click here to read the articles.

Some of the jargon in the articles is not accessible to uninitiated readers of my writings. If you are frustrated with terms like “STEAM” and “religio-rational” and “postmodern pluralist” then you would do well to pick up one of my books.

The philosophy and theology in my writing is not everyone’s cup of tea. Generally my writings are more difficult than that of other “popular” spirituality writers, and I would apologize for the trouble if there were any other way I know to lead my readers into a worldview which can rock their world and break them open to Spirit.

And then there are those of you who disagree with me, bless you. I encourage you to write me with your observations and criticisms. I’m sure you will have a perspective that I can benefit from hearing so that we may learn from our mutual agreements and disagreements.

If you enjoy these writings, share them on social media and tell your friends.

New to this site? Buy the eBook Gay Spirituality 101 for only $1.99 today.