Gay Affirmative

gay-love2By Joe Perez

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.

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Forging A New Both/And Approach To Our Lives

mark-thompsonBy Joe Perez

Mark Thompson in the “Introduction” to Gay Spirit (1986):

“In creating new myths for themselves, gay people need to return to the questions asked by the founding members of the Mattachine Society nearly forty years ago: Who are we? Where have we come from? What are we here for?

The self-definition sought by members of America’s first gay political organization is also to be found in the writings of such gay visionaries as Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter, Gerald Heard and others who are included here. In an attempt to answer these questions, gay studies today have been polarized, stymied by the absolutes implied in the nature versus nurture discourse currently employed. To simplify: An essentialist view holds that gay people have existed throughout recorded human history, an errant offspring of nature; a constructivist view says that our notion of gay people has been formulated by the values of contemporary society and that it would be impossible to draw an analogy between homosexuality as practiced in ancient Greece and, for an example, as it is define today in America’s excessive gay subculture. Both concepts are largely irreconcilable, one trying to link feelings and behavior across vast stretches of time and variant cultures, the other destructuring modern perceptions of homosexuality as medical and psychological conceits.

The quest for a gay identity cannot be contained within a dialogue of opposites, a rational either/or approach. Perhaps answers lie somewhere in between, waiting to be forged from a synthesis of biological and social factors — that is, a situation of both/and….”

Thompson’s words, written incredibly more than 25 years ago — have been prophetic. His vision of an understanding of gay identity which is a synthesis of the best insights from biological, psychological, cultural, and sociological studies is definitely in keeping with an Integral approach to gay spirituality. He recognized before virtually any other writer that I know of the importance of bringing together seemingly irreconcilable views into a greater synthesis, and he saw that the great frontier of gay liberation is not oppression studies nor narcissistic self-expression but spiritual exploration and development. In his words, the great subject of our interest is “that most personal possession of all, our dreams… a world of our making.”

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Do You Believe In Psychics?

psychic-readingBy Joe Perez

When it comes to all things psychic, I am both believer and skeptic.But You Knew That Already: What a Psychic Can Teach You About Life (Rodale, 2005), a new memoir by openly gay 27-year-old clairvoyant Dougall Fraser, gives me many reasons for celebration as well as a few reservations.

Mystics have experienced the fundamental unity of all things. In the higher realms of existence, all distinctions between separate beings gradually disappear as we come to realize that unity. The awakening to interior spiritual awareness often coincides with paranormal intuitions about reality.

Researchers such as psychologist Susan Cook-Greuter of HarvardUniversity have studied the ways that people develop their sense of self, and they have identified a highly advanced interior state in which authentic psychic phenomena frequently occurs.

Cook-Greuter calls this mode of being the “unitive stage of ego development.” At this stage, peak spiritual experiences have become a habitual way of being and experiencing, and individuals have a high ability to concentrate on the goings on of their inner life.

At this advanced stage of growth, psychic intuitions frequently manifest as a general sense of oneness with another person. For example, you may be in the presence of somebody feeling a strong emotion. You may then experience a profound unity between yourself and the other. You don’t just feel empathy; in a sense, you actually are the other person.

Like many people who have attained a high stage of consciousness, Fraser frequently has genuine experiences of being one with others. He is also blessed with special gifts of being able to “read the energy” of others and gain startling insight into their past, present, and future.

Fraser didn’t navigate the territory of the numinous unity of existence by following the traditions of any particular religion. Instead, his psychic awakening happened spontaneously when he was a teenager at summer camp.

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Is Star Wars Good Spirituality?

YODA-facebookBy Joe Perez

The greatest cosmic spirituality drama of our era with super cool light sabers is back. Star Wars: Episode III is out, it’s good, and it’s a big hit. That the film is deeply spiritual is not in question (George Lucas himself described his intention to “awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people” and loaded the film with not-too-subtle allusions to Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity.)

But audiences will ultimately judge for themselves. Will the spiritual influence of this massive pop culture icon be for good or ill? With the final film of the six now in release, folks around the Web have begun to weigh in. Here are a few highlights: Apparently inspired to use Anakin Skywalker’s loose morals as an instrument of instruction, a traditionalist preacher at Hollywood Jesus identifies related Bible passages and calls out the spiritual lessons of the movie. For example:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

Repetitive, loveless, cheap sex? Excuse me, I must have dozed through that scene. The message in the movie’s “spiritual connections,” if I understand correctly, is that Star Wars needn’t be bad for spirituality if Christians learn the right lessons from the morals of the characters. Jeffrey Weiss discusses the film’s “quasi-religious mishmash” in a story for the Dallas News. Reg Grant, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, takes a traditional perspective when he says: “The Force is part of a cultural wedge of moral relativism,” said Reg Grant, professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary.

It has no explicit God behind it and no absolute moral code, he said. No Explicit Gods. No Absolute Moral Codes. These are required in order to avoid the great bugaboo of moral relativism. Ergo, Star Wars is bad for spirituality. Got it straight? Interestingly, the reviewer behind the religio-rationalist Office for Film and Broadcasting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops takes a different angle on relativism in the same movie.

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Toby Johnson Reviews Gay Spirituality 101

Magnifying_glass_on_antique_tableToby 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.”