By Milton Wendland
© 2012 Milton Wendland and Diversity Rules Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Milton Wendland is a licensed attorney and a professor of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas, where he teaches courses in LGBT cultures, sexuality and law, and queer theory.
Dear Inqueeries: I just came out to myself and a few friends at college. I was raised Christian and I still want to be, but it seems like I can’t be religious and gay. And now it’s Easter and I feel like I’m a leper. Help! Thanks, Meagan
I am always a bit heart-broken when LGBT people believe that they can either “be themselves” or “be Christian.” It is true that many religious traditions (not just Christian ones) are virulently homophobic because they believe to some extent that LGBT feelings, lives, or behaviors are sinful, deviant, or unnatural. Often these beliefs are based on misinterpretations or mistranslations of religious texts, but often they are based on human-based hatred and homophobia wrapped up in religious garb and served as eternal truth. I’ll answer your question focusing on Christianity since that’s your religious tradition, but keep in mind that my response fits Judaism, Islam, and other belief systems.
In nearly all religious traditions and denominations there are groups that work to help LGBT people merge their religious beliefs and their self-identities. DignityUSA (www.dignityusa.org) does this within a Catholic belief system and Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (www.awab.org) is for Baptists. Keep in mind that the groups are for LGBT believers in these traditions but these groups are not necessarily sanctioned by the churches themselves. Catholicism, for example, continues to insist that homosexual behavior is sinful.
In addition, a number of denominations or specific churches within denominations are openly LGBT affirming – United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association, many Congregational churches, etc – which means that LGBT people are accepted fully into the belief system and welcomed to live openly LGBT and Christ-centered lives. An online list of such demonimations and churches is at www.gaychurch.org, although you’ll always want to double-check ahead of time for your own safety, as there are recent cases of LGBT people being rudely and forcibly evicted from worship spaces.
The Metropolitian Church of Christ (MCC; www.mccchurch.org) might be a very helpful option if you are Christian. MCC was founded by a gay man for LGBT people because of the situation you describe – LGBT people feeling cast out of their religious belief systems and needing a spiritual home. MCC is celebratory of LGBT congregants and has been a haven for many who find that other religious traditions “tolerate” but do not fully accept their lives.
Many LGBT people identify as humanist, atheist, or agnostic, often espousing the belief that ethics and morality are better served with reference to humans and the human condition rather than to supernatural deities or divinities and supposedly divine revelations of scripture or belief. In general humanist beliefs do not excuse one from the moral life but actually heighten one’s awareness of morality. Without constant reference to an afterlife or to a supreme being like God, Allah, or Christ, atheists and humanists are often intensely focused on justice and equality in this life and the ways that we can improve this world now. The LGBT Humanist Council is an active touchstone in this area: www.lgbthumanists.org.
Google and Facebook will be helpful in locating these and many other groups. A quick search at your library or on amazon.com will reveal many helpful books on individual belief systems and on bridging your personal identity with your religious beliefs.
“Inqueeries” is an interactive column where readers are encouraged to submit questions for Milton to answer!
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