Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Need For Spiritual Safety

My heart has grown heavy once again this year over recent deaths that have occurred from the Orlando mass shooting tragedy and also in the LDS LGBTQ community with news of more suicides.  Lives with so much potential were taken from this world.  Each one of them with their own hopes, dreams, talents, and gifts, senselessly snuffed out in acts of violence.  Whether that violence comes from a person armed with hate and a gun or from a pulpit that expresses moral justification in its condemnation of LGBTQ individuals, they all have one thing in common.  Each one of them dehumanizes and degrades people based on how they love, making it easier for others to feel justified in harming them.  Whether it is with misled good intentions mixed in with a feeling of moral superiority or evil intentions that only seek to harm, the result is still the same.  Heartache, sadness, broken families, and in the worst cases the death of these precious individuals who deserved more than what society ultimately gave them.   To all the people who may read my blog who have lost someone due to suicide or some other way I am truly sorry for your loss and I know that my words won't change what has happened.  I hope that my post can help others understand and have a greater capacity to empathize with others that may be suffering.  It is my hope that some day children growing up will not experience the pain that I and so many others have experienced at the hands of those who may not understand them or what they are going through.

Not only can violence be physical, it can also be emotional through abuse and neglect, it can be verbal with speech that seeks to degrade, harm, and diminish the worth of others, and it can be spiritual.  Spiritual violence is most often, in my own experience, used unknowingly by the person using it.  It can be a sermon or a lesson in Sunday school.  It can be a side remark or comment that may be said out of ignorance.  It can be a doctrine or set of beliefs that exclude certain groups of people, making individuals into inconveniences in what some want to be a static and unchanging belief system.  Ultimately, I think the most damage comes in an LGBTQ context when someone is outed leading to religious authorities, parents, and friends who do not understand them to use religious terminology to shame or to harm in order to change the person sexual orientation.  These type of messages although maybe well intentioned most of the time harm rather than help the child.  These words and actions from loved ones and trusted authorities can lead to isolation, depression, and sorrow which can tragically lead this person to take their own life.  What messages are we sending to children who are confused and hurting when over the pulpit LGBTQ people are derided as a menace to public safety and that acceptance of gay and lesbian children somehow will bring about the destruction of the world.  What messages are being sent when children whose romantic orientation doesn't fit a specific mold are told that they shouldn't exist in a church.  What is happening when that child grows up and falls in love and then is told that the love that they feel is sinful and evil.  When parents shun them and religious leaders condemn them this is spiritual violence and tragically this has led to many suicides of young LGBTQ children throughout the years.

How do we combat spiritual violence and protect those that are victims of this violence.  In some ways it first takes introspection on our own part on how we view the God that we say that we worship.  Is our God a homophobic God, a God that encourages rhetoric that leads to the deaths of children from suicide?  Does our God delight in children being thrown out of their homes by their parents and told that God does not love them? Or does our God that we worship truly express love for everyone?  Does he see everyone as equal in his sight and does he express sadness at the offense that is committed against one of his children?  Do we see the Divine in the diversity of human relationships and how people express their love for one another?  Does our spiritual community seek to build up and welcome all people or does it place a caveat at the door that says we welcome all except for those that we find unacceptable?

I have the utmost respect for those saints who have continued to attend the LDS church after this past November.  Who have seen the bad fruit that has been wrought by the rhetoric and policies directed at the LGBTQ Mormon community and have still moved forward in seeking to be place of refuge in the church for those who need it.  For me the pain became to unbearable and I couldn't stand staying.  However, although I am no longer in attendance I have realized that simply standing on the sidelines is not an option.  I truly felt this after speaking with so many other former gay and lesbian Mormons at the Community of Christ World Conference and hearing of the near universal stories of heartache and spiritual violence that they experienced.  As individuals with shared experiences it is my hope that we can find those spiritual refugees, those individuals that have been so harmed by the rhetoric that all too often is still being used.   My hope is that we can meet them where they are and provide them a space to heal and a space to once again branch out and reach their potential whether outside or inside organized religion.  It is my hope that  hearts will be softened toward those that are different.   That spiritual safety will be found for those children who fall in love with a person of the same gender.  It is my hope that everyone born can have a place at the table.  That all people may be welcomed into a place that recognizes their true worth.  It is my hope that we all can come together and create communities that seek after peace where every child has the right to belong.

Below is a hymn that has really touched me over the past two months since I have heard it.  It is a hymn that truly embodies for me the type of spiritual community that I feel can be possible.  The lyrics and the video are posted below.

"For Everyone born, a place at the table,
for everyone born, clean water and bread,
a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,
for everyone born, a star overhead,

For woman and man, a place at the table,
revising the roles, deciding the share,
with wisdom and grace, dividing the power,
for woman and man, a system that's fair,

For young and for old, a place at the table,
a voice to be heard, a part in the song,
the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled,
for young and for old, the right to belong,

For just and unjust, a place at the table,
abuser, abused, with need to forgive,
in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy,
for just and unjust, a new way to live,

For everyone born, a place at the table,
to live without fear, and simply to be,
to work, to speak out, to witness and worship,
for everyone born, the right to be free,

and God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
yes, God will delight when we are creators
 of justice, justice and joy!

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