Today the war between homosexuality and religion rages on in the churches, mosques, and synagogues. Most conservative or orthodox or traditional religionists reject homosexual acts or the orientation itself as incompatible with ethical and righteous living. And worldwide these are the loudest voices and the most powerful and influential forces in society.
But things are changing surprisingly rapidly. In only a few decades gays and lesbians have made enormous strides towards social acceptability and won key rights and liberties. Governments in many nations recognize gay unions or marriages and attitudes have changed such that the sight of two men or two women kissing or holding hands in public does not arouse approbation.
Spiritual individualists (a.k.a. “nones” or the “spiritual, but not religious” types) tend to be more accepting of gay people because they have thrown off religions which they by and large view negatively. They have insisted upon being spiritually independent which gives them the freedom to choose their own attitude towards homosexuality rather than sheepishly obeying the dictates of church officials or fundamentalist doctrines. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your point-of-view.
But if you ask spiritual individualists for a rationale for their views, they are an incoherent and incohesive chorus. Some will tell you that discrimination against gays is wrong because it just feels uncompassionate or unloving or too judgmental. In other words, they root their disapproval of homophobes on their own individual feelings, whims. notions, and fancies. By and large, they don’t appeal to anything more substantial than their own conscience because they know better possibilities.
There is a better possibility and it comes by rejecting spiritual individualism. An Integral Spirituality affirms the dignity and sacredness of sexual orientation as a category for revealing human nature, much as it affirms the value of our sex as a category for showing us what is the nature of being human. Whether we are a man or woman or transgender, we learn through our sex and gender identity the style or type through which we embody spiritual forms. And whether we are gay or straight or bisexual, we learn through our sexual orientation the style or type through which we transform our spiritual form.
There is room for disagreeing about the exact lessons to be learned from our sex, gender, and sexual orientation … but the fact that we are learning distinct lessons which are important and make us who we are is important to recognize. Spiritual individualists have little room for these distinctions usually because they believe they are all relative or unimportant or something to be shed on the way to perfect androgyny or freedom from sex. It takes a wider worldview than individualism to give sex, gender, and sexual orientation their proper due.
There is an appropriate role for individualism in spirituality which I do not want to deny. The freedom of conscience, for instance, is a bulwark against irrational dogma and exploitative institutions. The ability to articulate one’s own Unique Self and express one’s Unique Gifts celebrates the individual, albeit in a way that has been rid of the illusion of the separate self in favor of the realization of oneness of All-That-Is.
Integral Spirituality gives sexual orientation a valued role as a form of revelation of spiritual realities. When it comes to gay liberation, this move changes the game. Our vision affirms that there are Two Prime Directions of Love, self-immanent love and self-transcendent love. It is possible to speak of this truth by acknowledging that homophilia (same-sex love) and heterophilia (opposite-sex love) are primordial manifestations of love. It is impossible to think of one without the other; there is no heterosexuality without homosexuality for they are two sides of the same coin.
In our spiritual discourse there is not merely Love; there is Same-Directed Love and Other-Directed Love in an intertwined paradoxical harmony; in this teaching is the fruition of the quest for deep meaning into the nature of same-sex love. Only by giving homosexual love an honored place in one’s conception of human nature and striving does one ground a gay-affirmative ethos in spiritual knowledge rather than mere opinion and egoistic fancies.