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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Gay Enlightenment

meditator-man-beachBy Joe Perez

Whereas mainstream pundits and public intellectuals in the U.S. are focused on the next election, and many other folks are focused on the next Saturday night, there is a wider and deeper perspective. Looking as wide as this moment in over 2,000 years of socio-cultural evolution since the beginning of the Common Era, and looking as deep as this moment arising when the cutting edge of individual consciousness is a postmodern mindset, and even this edge has become dull and dismal.

It is an odd time to be gay or bisexual. For American men of my generation – past 40 – our lives have been crises of meaning and meaninglessness. We were born into a world in which the reigning moral, religious, and spiritual authorities condemned how we love and would have forced us into closets or so-called reparative therapy, We could read the mystics and enlightened sages of centuries past and with only a few exceptions could find no evidence that affirming the spiritual dignity of same-sex love was meriting even a moment’s thought.

And we did, and by unprecedented numbers gays, lesbians, and bisexuals rejected organized religion and set out upon paths of individual spiritual seeking. We found our way into Zen monasteries, radical faerie gatherings, drumming circles, hot yoga classes, and not a few very, very, very liberal churches and synagogues (places where they worried about marginalizing atheists and making sure language was neutered of any hint of white heterosexual patriarchy).

And yet for all this enthusiasm, a bona fide gay spiritual renaissance never happened. Not in the U.S., and nowhere else to my knowledge. I’ve had my boots on the ground in the LGBT spirituality movement for a decade (longer if I include the Dignity masses and addiction recovery circles and men’s work circles of my twenties and early thirties). I’ve seen the energy in the gay spirituality movement ebb and flow. I attended the first and only Gay Spirituality & Culture Summit, an unprecedented gathering of “gay spiritual teachers and leaders” from around the world in Garrison, New York, in 2004 (and I blogged it and wrote about it inSoulfully Gay, my first book). There have been some modest success stories, and I don’t want to diminish the hard work and real progress made by those few spiritual activists to enter the fray.

Often they have set goals and achieved them. What I am pointing to is that their goals have been too low. What has been absent from the U.S. LGBT movement – and elsewhere in the world so far as I know – has been the critical linkage between inner and outer liberation, individual and collective liberation, and transpersonal, worldcentric enlightenment. Read that sentence again. Did you say Whoa! or Whatever?!

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The Importance Of Loneliness

lonely1“Loneliness is the inability to share your story, your Unique Self story. For most people, the move beyond loneliness requires us to share our story with a significant other. For the spiritual elite, the receiving of our own story — and the knowing that it is an integral part of the larger story of All-That-Is — is enough. But for most human beings, loneliness is transcended through contact with another person.” — Marc Gafni

Your Supreme Identity is calling to you from the essence of all things. It is your own essence, your deepest and most complete autobiography, your life story not only told but lived and constantly recreated. It is the force which not only remedies loneliness and gives us solace in our solitude.

Paul Tillich once wrote: “Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”

Being alone is part of the human condition in which we are often at our saddest, full of shame or fear or anger. It does not require us to be physically isolated; we can be desperately lonely in a crowd or amid loved ones if we have been prevented from being our true selves.

Loneliness is an impoverishment in the midst of the riches of community. It is a sign of a disconnect between the individual and community, perhaps caused by family strife or an inability to find a religious community in which one finds a home. If we find ourselves without community, our loneliness can provide the motivation for creating new communities of connection and love and acceptance.

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