This article will focus primarily on Roman Catholicism as the majority of Irish people were brought up in a Catholic environment or were educated in Catholic schools.
It comes as no surprise that the Pope isn’t the biggest fan of the queer community. In his Christmas address, he stated that homosexuals are “deny[ing] their nature” and will be “stripped of [their] dignity as a creature of God.” With sweeping declarations such as these, is it any wonder that LGBTQ issues are such a divisive topic in the realm of religion?
I started questioning my spiritual beliefs just before I made my Confirmation. Science and doubt pervaded my thoughts and I flipped between blasphemous atheism and overwhelming Catholic guilt until I was fourteen. At this time, my best friend (who I had met in Church) came out as gay. My love for him and my increasing passion for women’s rights and gay rights was the final nail in the coffin. The church did not accept us, so I was not going to accept it. I soon broke all ties with Catholicism fully and completely. Since then, I have flipped back and forth about Christianity, explored and studied Buddhism, Paganism, and a variety of others looking for something to believe in when my life felt out of control, a limbo between heathen and piety.
Damned if you do
Religion is a double edged sword; it offers a community, hope, support, but in so many cases, dictates that we, as the LGBTQ people of the world, are sick and twisted and wrong. In recent times, particularly amongst lay practitioners of faith, acceptance of the gay community is becoming the norm. With this structural schism within the leaders of organised religions, how is one expected to reconcile this discord within oneself?
From what I can gather, there are two ways in which this reconciliation occurs. The first is much like my own teenage solution: disconnection. The feelings of guilt and shame about having an identity that is not supported by the Bible or by leaders of the Church can be overwhelming. Often leaving the Church is paired with other reasons, but at the end of the day, you can’t change who you are. Some people are fine with this; they live their lives and a lack of faith doesn’t bother them. Some accept that they will never be okay with religion, that it will always be an internally inconsistent, critical institution which shouldn’t dictate correct sexual behaviour to anyone. There is a black and white in religion that this thought process follows – this part is beyond belief, so I won’t believe in any of it. Simples.
Queening the Bible
Who I find more intriguing are the queer people who have managed to make peace with their God. Ever since I read about the Queen James Version of the Bible, I have been wondering whether I too would be able to harmonize the issues that once so plagued my soul. So far, I am still in limbo, but when questioned on their spiritual journey, I received some interesting answers.
“I believe now in the idea of one core being from which all religions are derived and that core belief is based of love and light”
“It shouldn’t matter. Whatever makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone should never be condemned”
“Being gay is part of who I am – and my spiritual beliefs are there to connect me to myself, other people and the universe. They’re my own personal beliefs, and I’m not masochistic enough to impose a “gays are wrong” to my own sense of a higher power”
“The distinction between religion and spirituality is growing more profound. My beliefs are founded largely on spiritual experience rather than dogma or cannon law.”
“Jesus preached tolerance and respect for others, as do most major characters in other religions. I believe their preaching of respect is being misinterpreted, that it only applies to certain people, which I disagree with. Being homosexual doesn’t impact whether a person is good or bad, my religion teaches kindness and generosity, which are personality traits, sexuality is irrelevant”
“I still believe in God and possibly Jesus but not the structures of the Catholic church, the contradictions of the bible or the need for organized religion. I am happy to pray and express my own thoughts on God without the need for religious instruction.”
“God made me as I am, to do his work best on this world and to be happy for it. (One of the realisations before I came out!)”
“My sexuality and my spirituality are both parts of who I am. I couldn’t live without believing in a higher power. Life didn’t make sense to me without someone to thank and pray to. That whole ‘God made us the way we are for a reason/ Everything happens for a reason’ made and makes sense to me. If I’m bi, it’s for a reason, and I’ll be happy about it and thankful for it.”
It’s not impossible to reconcile the Church if you’re not heterosexual, although not every one can or wants to do it. I may never be able to stop asking questions and simply believe. I am not sure I even want to; I am not sure if I can bring myself to avoid it either.
I suppose I’ll keep asking questions until this limbo sets me free.