Any time I hear religion, sexuality, and gender, I always want to round out this holy trinity with its ever present fallen angel: trauma. Religion and trauma. These words should not go together unless the word healing is in between them. Too often when it comes to sexuality and gender the word causes fits between religion and trauma more readily.
I hear these words and I think about:
- My students who have been rejected by their parents for being LGBT because their parents’ faith tells them it was the right thing to do.
- Parents who show their LGBT children unconditional love and must therefore leave their church communities.
- Clergy who have lost their communities, ordination, and/or pulpit for coming out as LGBT, defending the rights of LGBT people, or simply presiding over a liturgy blessing the love of a same-sex couple.
- Those who have died from AIDS and have been denied a religious ritual that honors their lives and their sacredness.
- All of the LGBT people who hear microaggressions (short statements of discrimination) that are religious in nature. “You’re a sinner!” “You have a demon in you.”
- All who have been sexually abused by clergy: women, children, men.
- Women who have been denied ordination because of their gender.
- Women who have been abused by their husbands and stayed because they are counseled to be long-suffering and honor their marriage vows.
- Transgender people seeking to find the God who created them as transgender.
- A young woman who has been raped and blames herself because of her past sins.
- An unwed mother rejected by her church – the very community whose support she will need most when the baby arrives – because they view her actions as against the word of God. And yet, the young father remains in the choir.
And I also grieve.
Having been traumatized in the context of a religious community, I know the holy combination of grace and prayer upon the darkest re-livings of that trauma. I know the strength that the right words can create within me when spoken in a solemn and sincere outreach to the divine. I know that it is only God that truly understands the intricate interweaving of my pain. I crave ritual that can name the pain and harness the traumatic energy in worship to the divine.
Sexuality is spirituality. “This is really about that" These are the words of Rob Bell in his book Sex God trying to name the ways in which our sexual lives manifest our spiritual hurts and how our spiritual hurts manifest in our sexual lives. When we are spiritually healthy and connected to our God and we honor ourselves, then we also honor our sexualities and each other.
When we talk and we disagree about issues of sexuality and gender how do we do it without wounding, rejecting, shaming, and separating? How do we do it in a way that cherishes the family of God and our inclusion within it? How do we show the kind of love for our neighbor that our faith teaches us to show?
We don’t have to agree, but we do have to use our power and authority in relationships with softness and grace when we disagree. We need to be aware of the impact of our words and theologies. We have to love as we challenge one another to see our perspectives across our differences. We have to walk together on level ground with the humility that we are the creation and cannot fully know the creator.