If you are reaching out to LGBTQ youth and young adults who feel unwelcome in their families, communities of faith, schools and other traditional social institutions, first let me say “Thank you” for your earnest effort to awaken dignity and self-respect in those harmed by the lies by which mainstream society surrounds them and inevitably fills them as these lies seep in to poison their hearts and minds. The harm is oftentimes mental and emotional before its toxicity builds up to the point of causing physical harm. Self-destructive actions come along after self-destructive ideas about how life works take root and toxic emotions that naturally result from believing lies about being unworthy of dignity, respect and love color self-perceptions. Since self-rejection, self-hatred and self-punishment follows on the heels of social rejection, it is helpful to have society cease to reject and begin instead to wholeheartedly accept LGBTQ youth and young adults as welcome members of society. If given enough opportunity, self-acceptance, self-love and self-actualization will also follow from the healing power of social acceptance. But it is not enough to convert the shame of social rejection into the pride of social acceptance. Why? Because shame and pride are flipsides of the same coin by which an ego-based society enslaves us all. We need to do more than help LGBTQ youth and young adults to adopt the ego’s ways of being enslaved to social approval by pride and taken for the ego’s ride to a destiny unworthy of all human beings. The ego’s way is not the solution. There is another resolution to the dilemma of being nonconforming or “different.”
Because a spiritually rooted and enriched life is the only true alternative to the ego’s seductive illusions, I especially want to thank those who are doing all they can to alert men and women who claim to speak for God to the harm caused by religious teachings that utterly denigrate the personhood and dignity of people with nonmainstream sexual and gender orientations. As a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to challenge those who claim to honor Jesus to do much, much more than to stop spreading the lies that purport to condemn people of all ages who live with nonmainstream sexual and gender orientations to lives of guilt and shame and doom them forever to hell as unqualified to ever enter heaven. To end systemic and individual bigotry is a worthy goal because once it’s achieved, we’ll stop harming our youth and young adults who dare to feel “different” and as part of their feeling different struggle secretly or openly with “different” sexual and gender orientations than the mainstream may admit to sharing. But ceasing to do harm is not enough. We must invest ourselves without reservation in undoing harm already done and in healing broken hearts much in the need of mending. Only then will we face within ourselves the adverse effects of ego on and within all of us and evolve beyond ego’s limitations to embrace lives flowing freely with love’s most desired and treasured experiences.
Until their hearts are healed, those who have been wounded by lies and social rejection carry emotional pain and will continue to act out their pain in ways that socially conformist folks will condemn as “proof” of the wounded’s inherent unholiness. Inner pain is often acted out in socially nonconformist (even rebellious) ways in the face of the conformity that has caused the pain. (Such acting out is a way of saying, “No, you cannot do that to me anymore.”) We must educate conformists (adherents to traditions) to be aware of how their unreasonable, fear-based demands for conformity are themselves a root cause of psychic pain and of the resulting harm that flows from believing oneself to be utterly unworthy of and unavailable to God’s love. Lies confuse our minds. Confusion = a form of psychic pain that couples with feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, powerlessness and resentment to imprison a person’s mind in a dilemma from which there appears to be no escape but death. Death looks like the only relief after forms of temporary relief like drugs, alcohol, sex and other thrills and pleasure-triggering pursuits prove futile.
We must learn to say to inflexible traditionalists “If, in order to please God and experience Divine Love in abundance, I have to be 100% like you and not deviate in any way from the model of human life that you have adopted, then you are saying that God did not create diversity within the human race even though God created diversity among all other realms of Nature.” Minerals, animals and vegetables embrace diversity without judging any aspect of diversity unworthy of belonging. We must be willing to ask “What other expression of Nature polices its members to demand conformity and penalizes by rejection the minority who may not conform? Are not other species wise enough to accept nonconformity as a source of new-and-improved versions of the species that may prove to be more adaptive to changing conditions and capable of causing the species to survive those changes? Might demanding conformity and rejecting nonconformity doom the human race to extinction? Might a holy race include nonconformist expressions of holiness in all innocence as a way of ensuring that the race thrives beyond its currently limited vision for itself? Might God’s vision for the future of the human race encompass more than past traditions have embraced? Might future traditions embrace more of life, love, liberty and laughter because ancestral traditions learned to be more open to God’s creativity as a (re)new(ed) tradition?”
I’m not qualified to address how people of other religious flavors may view the socially marginalized (social “outcasts” or “rejects”), but I am qualified to speak to my brothers and sisters who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, as their primary Teacher and Friend. We who follow Jesus are called to go far beyond stopping the transmission of harmful lies. Yes, we do need to stop spreading messages of condemnation in the name of the one who said to the adulteress “And neither do I condemn you.” Her sanctimonious, self-righteous neighbors accused her of “sin” and then dropped their stones when Jesus reminded them to look into their own hearts at their hidden, unconfessed and unrepented shortcomings. All “sin” means at its origin is “separation.” Jesus came not to separate from but to reconcile us to the Creator of Us All who loves and favors each of us as the individual and collective apple of His/Her eye.
The shortcomings of followers of Jesus include not only 1) accusing others of different sexual and gender orientations of being lifelong, irredeemable sinners (forever “separatists” from God doomed to suffer throughout all Eternity) but also 2) failing to heal and comfort those who are condemned. It is not enough to stop condemning. Jesus is a healer. His followers must take up healing as their primary avocation until the harm done by the Church (and others) is undone. We must heed the call to be allied not against but alongside those whom less understanding members of society have rejected as unacceptable family members, friends, classmates, fellow worshippers , co-workers, etc.
As an example of the misguided conclusions researchers are coming to about how to respond to the harm such condemnation causes, I cite this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/26/lgbt-homeless-youth-survival-sex_n_6754248.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices.
As this article evidences, researchers tend to intellectualize their way through data to spot the harm (as if it needs to be proven, which it does only to those who otherwise restrict their lives to associating with other members of the privileged class and remain blind to the plight of the less privileged). But they know nothing of the response followers of Jesus are called to provide in response to such harm. We are not called to study “the problem” in order to gain “insight into a little-understood world and demonstrate the need for more government-funded shelter beds and other resources focused on LGBTQ youth.” Government is not the answer here anymore than government-run orphanages and foster care meet the needs of unwanted children and youth to be welcomed in homes where they are wanted. Plenty of followers of Jesus have homes that have room to welcome unwanted youth to be included there as members of the family, as spiritually adopted children and siblings simply because they are already divine children of the Divinely Loving God Jesus called Abba. We need not out-source the care of the unwanted youth and young adults to governments or any other resource beyond the Christian community itself. We who claim to occupy the privileged status of having Jesus’ care and guidance must take into our hearts and homes those Jesus says he identifies with, whom the Bible says he called “the least of these.”
I urge you who advocate on behalf of LGBTQ youth and young adults not to settle for speaking to believers in Jesus as if the government is the resource Jesus calls upon to serve God in his name and nature. Jesus calls upon his followers to serve according to his way, truth and life. He says we will do what he did and greater things will we do. He does not teach that his followers should badger politicians into spending taxpayers’ money to provide for the socially marginalized. He calls for his followers to serve directly in accordance with the blessings that they have received, to dig into their own pockets as the Good Samaritan did to provide for the stranger found beaten and abandoned along the road. Emotionally beaten and abandoned LGBTQ street kids (as well as LGBTQ youth elsewhere in society) need more followers of Jesus to heed their Lord’s commandment to love God and one another and to leave no one out of their circle of love.
Others may be free to insulate themselves from direct involvement in the lives of those whom the distorters of Jesus’ teachings have harmed. We who live by the truth of Jesus’ teachings must step forward to demonstrate by the congruency of our words and deeds that the age of hypocrisy is over and a new age of integrity has begun.
To those who advocate on behalf of LGBTQ youth and young adults and seek to serve their best interests, I say, “What you are doing is a much needed beginning to the age of integrity. I encourage you to take it all the way and call upon followers of Jesus to confess their own shortcomings as followers, turn from their adherence to habits of falling short, take up their responsibilities and follow the One who sends the Holy Spirit to leads us into all truth.” And I repeat, the gratitude of all whom you serve and of the God of Love who watches over them goes with you always. May you be open to reaping as you sow from the One who sows generously within the hearts and lives of all who serve in the nature of truth and love!
© Art Nicol 2015