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Theme:
Gender and Sexuality

Gender and Sexuality

Summary: Sunday, October 20—Friday, October 25, 2019

With all the changing ways of understanding gender and sexuality, most of us truly need contemplative eyes and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to “rupture simplistic binaries” and be compassionate and respectful of difference and diversity. (Sunday)

Jesus, like the cosmos itself, is about two things: diversity and communion. (Monday)

As a Christian, when confronted by a tension between a religious certainty which leads me to violate the law of love and a deep unknowing that still moves in the direction of “loving my neighbor as myself,” I am bound to choose the latter course. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Tuesday)

With the interpretive grid provided by a critique of domination, we are able to filter out the sexism, patriarchalism, violence, and homophobia that are very much a part of the Bible, thus liberating it to reveal to us in fresh ways the inbreaking, in our time, of God’s domination-free order. —Walter Wink (Wednesday)

You are not your gender, your nationality, your ethnicity, your skin color, or your social class. These are not qualities of the True Self in God. Why, oh why, do Christians allow temporary costumes, or what Thomas Merton called the “false self,” to pass for the substantial self, which is always “hidden with Christ in God”? (Thursday)

One of the easiest ways that progressive denominations could ignite interest in the binary-busting aspects of Christian theology would be to free up queer clergy to proclaim the Gospel from an explicitly queer perspective, boldly and honestly. —Elizabeth Edman (Friday)

 

Practice: Generosity

Giving brings happiness at every stage of its expression. We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous; we experience joy in the actual act of giving something; and we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given. — Siddhārtha Gautama, The Buddha [1]

Those who pray learn to favor and prefer God’s judgment over that of human beings. God always outdoes us in generosity and in receptivity. God is always more loving than the person who has loved us the most! God does not shame us but loves us even more deeply than we could ever know or love ourselves.

Douglas Abrams reflects on a conversation with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

In generosity, there is a wider perspective in which we see our connection to all others. . . . There is an acceptance of life, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. . . . There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is “wise selfish,” a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves. [2]

Writer, yoga teacher, and queer activist Jacoby Ballard notes that generosity is an important practice in LGBTQIA communities:

I see collective houses sharing, providing for one another. I see partners taking care of each other, friends showing up for childcare for queer families, . . .  community putting in incredible effort to create beautiful commitment ceremonies. I see our communities supporting the organizations that support us. This is so beautiful, and I think this is a human quality for survival. Every community that survives does it together—we can look to so many other communities to see this. Generosity is a response to injustice. We rely on one another out of necessity, but also because we know in our hearts that there is a different way to be, a different way to live. Our generosity with one another is indeed resistance to the greed and fear that oppresses us. We provide for one another out of love for each other and love for ourselves. When we give, we acknowledge that all beings want to be happy. [3]

Here is a contemplative practice to cultivate generosity from mindfulness teacher Amy Love:

Sit in a position that feels stable yet comfortable.

If it feels right for you, close your eyes. If it feels better to keep you[r] eyes open, gently gaze down in front of you. [Settle] into this moment by noticing your breath.

. . . Bring to mind a time when someone was generous toward you, a time when someone did something nice for you. Bring that time to mind in full color, reflecting on who was there, where you were. . . . How did it make you feel? Where does that feeling live in your body? Really feel into what this time was like for you.

If your mind begins to wander, that’s okay. Gently escort your attention back to feeling the time when someone did something nice for you.

Now . . . bring to mind a time when you were generous with someone, a time when you did something nice for someone else. Again, really [sink] into this memory by recalling who was there, where you were, and what was happening. How did it make you feel to be generous in this way? Where do you feel that in your body? What are the sensations of generosity like in your body?

[End] this short contemplation by resting back in your breath for a moment. [4]

I pray that recalling experiences of generosity, both given and received, will allow each of us to carry that spirit to all living things, especially those who challenge our overly-simplistic ideas of what it means to be a human being, made in the image and likeness of God.

References:
[1] As quoted in Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World (Broadway Books: 1997), 207.

[2] His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (Avery: 2016), 275.

[3] Jacoby Ballard, “Queer Sangha, Fearlessness, and Generosity,” Decolonizing Yoga (December 19, 2013),  https://decolonizingyoga.com/queer-sangha-fearlessness-generosity/.

[4] Amy Love, “Generosity vs. Giving. What Does It Mean to Be Generous?” Mindful Schools (December 10, 2018), https://www.mindfulschools.org/personal-practice/what-does-it-mean-to-be-generous/.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate. . . Seeing God in All Things (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

For Further Study:
Elizabeth M. Edman, Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (Beacon Press: 2016)

Richard Rohr, Just This (CAC Publishing: 2017)

Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches, ed. Walter Wink (Fortress Press: 1999)

Image credit: Gene Davis Paintings 1960-1972 Exhibition Poster (detail), Gene Davis, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead. —Richard Rohr
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Gender and Sexuality

The Wedding at Cana
Friday, October 25, 2019

Today, openly queer Episcopal priest Elizabeth Edman shares about the first time she preached on the Gospel passage about the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). Her use of the word “queer” as a verb may be off-putting or confusing to some, but if you are familiar with Jesus’ first miracle, the context of the story will help you understand what she means.

As I started working with the text, I saw something amazing going on. . . . What I saw was Jesus taking these pots of water—water designed for ritual bathing, for spiritual cleansing—and turning that water into wine that everyone was supposed to drink. What I saw was Jesus taking this substance that was all caught up in ideas of cleanness and uncleanness, all caught up in notions about what separates us from each other, and turning it into something designed to be shared, something that eases our anxiety about all the harsh lines in our world. . . .

What I saw was Jesus queering those pots of water.

So that became my sermon: a queer reading of the wedding at Cana. I was so deliciously intoxicated by the queering in this story that I knew I had to be explicit about it. And I also knew that there would be lots of churches where a sermon like that would get me fired. . . .

One of the easiest ways that progressive denominations could ignite interest in the binary-busting aspects of Christian theology would be to free up queer clergy to proclaim the Gospel from an explicitly queer perspective, boldly and honestly. Let us be ourselves, and assure us that you will have our backs when our proclamation unsettles and afflicts those who are comfortable in a dualistic worldview.

Queering itself is risky business. To reject easy binaries is to enter into uncertain terrain. The discomfort of such liminal space is often at the heart of the fear that erupts in violence against queer people—violence that may be physical, or legal, or ecclesial, or economic. You really can get fired for it, even in denominations that pride themselves on being gay friendly. [1] Lots of priests and pastors have.

And that’s just so many shades of wrong, because in fact, busting those false dichotomies is part and parcel of [our] tradition. It is one of the bedrock reasons I am a Christian and love my tradition so much. Christianity pushes me right off that cliff of comfortable binaries all the time, and I need that. . . . “Love my enemy? Do good to those who persecute us? How could love and persecution possibly coexist?” [2]

She’s right, you know. The Gospel often puts us on the horns of a dilemma so we can wrestle with it. Jesus transgresses one boundary after another and we accept, celebrate, and even try to emulate him in many ways. Are we Christians today open to the possibility that God has called others (by the design of their very bodies) to wrestle with other questions and share their divinely-inspired insights and experiences without shame? I do not know the answer to that question, but it is one I am willing to struggle with. There is a cost that comes with denying the undeniable and we all pay it, but those we deny and marginalize pay a much higher price.

References:
[1] Rev. Edman notes: “I specify ‘gay friendly’ here rather than ‘queer friendly’ because, while a growing number of churches are developing comfort in recognizing gay and lesbian congregants and clergy, embracing others in the queer pantheon, including trans* individuals, lags behind, as does comfort with the word ‘queer’ itself.” Edman uses “the term ‘trans*,’ asterisked, to acknowledge the diversity of gender identities and expressions that exist within transgender experience.”

[2] Elizabeth M. Edman, Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (Beacon Press: 2016), 60-61, 176, xiii-xiv.

Image credit: Gene Davis Paintings 1960-1972 Exhibition Poster (detail), Gene Davis, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead. —Richard Rohr
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Gender and Sexuality

True Self and False Self
Thursday, October 24, 2019

For you who have loved Jesus—perhaps with great passion and protectiveness—do you recognize that any God worthy of the name must transcend creeds and denominations, time and place, nations and ethnicities, and all the vagaries of gender and sexual orientation, extending to the limits of all we can see, suffer, and enjoy? You are not your gender, your nationality, your ethnicity, your skin color, or your social class. These are not the qualities of your True Self in God!  Why, oh why, do Christians allow temporary costumes, or what Thomas Merton called the “false self,” to pass for the substantial self, which is always “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3)? It seems that we really do not know our own Gospel.

You are a child of God, and always will be, even when you don’t believe it.

And so is everyone else! God created us all. We are all God’s children.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that social identifiers don’t make a difference for your life. Before we can see ourselves together as “one” we must be in relationship with and value the “other.” God loves and creates each one of us as a unique being with different gifts and challenges. One of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), put it this way:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand. [1]

I think this poem beautifully expresses God’s desire for us to live into the fullness of our humanity and our identity. If we stay small and “hide our light” under a bushel basket, there is almost no place for God to move in, through, and with us for the sake of the world!

I am struck by the gentle, yet practical, affirmation the Reverend Elizabeth Edman received from her mother on this lesson of knowing and being who you are. If only all children could be so fortunate! Edman shares this formative story:

I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1962. The world I grew up in was defined by rigid binaries: white/black, capitalist/communist, north/south. Oh yeah, and male/female. That one didn’t work for this tomboy.

When I was five, I had to drag my mother into the boy’s section of the shoe store to look at sneakers. “Mama, c’mere! Let me show you the ones I want!”

My family taught me, “Be who you are, Elizabeth, even when other people give you guff.” When I presented the shoes to the clerk, he said, “Those are boys’ shoes.”

My mother cut him off: “Yes, size four, please.”

My mother was a singer. Being who she was meant having the courage to witness God’s presence in the sacred music she loved. You could see her put her whole trust in God, entering into this space between heaven and earth where her best voice, her best self, emerged.

Christianity is all about being who you are [what I call your True Self in God–RR]. That’s what Jesus was trying to tell us: Orient your whole being to the sacred, he insisted. Not because I’m telling you to, not because it’s what Scripture demands; do it because it’s who you are. It’s who God created you to be. God made us to be complex creatures, every one of us, for a reason. So if you want to honor God, here’s the first step: Know who you are. Be who you are. Be the person God created you to be. Amen. [2]

References:
[1] Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy (Riverhead Books: 1996), 88. Used with permission.

[2] Elizabeth M. Edman, video companion to the book Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (Beacon Press: 2016). See the free study guide with videos at http://www.queervirtue.com/.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 36-37.

Image credit: Gene Davis Paintings 1960-1972 Exhibition Poster (detail), Gene Davis, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead. —Richard Rohr
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Gender and Sexuality

A Deeper Tenor
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

My deceased friend Walter Wink (1935–2012), a Methodist minister, biblical scholar, theologian, and nonviolent activist, put religion’s struggles with gender and sexuality into historical perspective as another opportunity for learning Jesus’ way of liberation—of both oppressed and oppressors.

Where the Bible mentions [same-sex sexual] behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether the biblical judgment is correct. The Bible sanctioned slavery as well and nowhere attacked it as unjust. Are we prepared to argue today that slavery is biblically justified? [Over] one hundred and fifty years ago, when the debate over slavery was raging, the Bible seemed to be clearly on the slaveholders’ side. Abolitionists were hard-pressed to justify their opposition to slavery on biblical grounds. Yet today, if you were to ask Christians in the [U.S.] South whether the Bible sanctions slavery, virtually everyone would agree that it does not. In the same way, fifty years from now people will look back in wonder that the churches could be so obtuse and so resistant to the new thing the Holy Spirit was doing among us regarding [sexuality].

What happened to bring about such a monumental shift on the issue of slavery was that the churches were finally driven to penetrate beyond the legal tenor of Scripture to an even deeper tenor, articulated by Israel out of the experience of the Exodus and the prophets and brought to sublime embodiment in Jesus’ identification with harlots, tax collectors, the diseased and maimed and outcast and poor. It is that God sides with the powerless. God liberates the oppressed. God suffers with the suffering and groans toward the reconciliation of all things. Therefore Jesus went out of his way to declare forgiven [or unconditionally loved], and to reintegrate into society in all details, those who were identified [by culture and religion, not God, I might add] as “sinners” by virtue of the accidents of birth, or biology, or economic desperation. In the light of that supernal compassion, whatever our position on gays, the gospel’s imperative to love, care for, and be identified with their sufferings is unmistakably clear. [And make no mistake, despite the secular culture’s celebration of LGBTQIA identities, there is still deep suffering in that community, most often at the hands of their own families and churches.]

In the same way, women are pressing us to acknowledge the sexism and patriarchalism that pervades Scripture and has alienated so many women from the church. The way out, however, is not to deny the sexism in Scripture, but to develop an interpretive theory that judges even Scripture in the light of the revelation in Jesus. What Jesus gives us is a critique of domination in all its forms, a critique that can be turned on the Bible itself. The Bible thus contains the principles of its own correction. We are freed from bibliolatry, the worship of the Bible. It is restored to its proper place as witness to the Word of God. And that Word is a Person, not a book. [1]

Richard again: We have moved in the direction of justice and equity on many issues that were seemingly acceptable when the Scriptures were compiled: slavery, of course, but also capital and corporal punishment, bigamy, child-rearing practices, inheritance, taking interest on loans, and commerce in general. It seems to me that we as Christians should be at the forefront of ending and healing the suffering that has been caused by rejecting LGBTQIA individuals, refusing them full inclusion in our churches, and denying them equal protection under the law.

Reference:
[1] Walter Wink, “Homosexuality and the Bible,” in Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches, ed. Walter Wink (Fortress Press: 1999), 47-48.

Image credit: Gene Davis Paintings 1960-1972 Exhibition Poster (detail), Gene Davis, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead. —Richard Rohr
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Gender and Sexuality

Final Court of Appeal
Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Today I share thoughts from Episcopal priest and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault on an important question, “What does the Bible say about sexual orientation?” For the record, I couldn’t agree more with her response, so I will allow her words to stand on their own. I hope you will take them to heart.

How you answer this question depends hugely on what you take the Bible to be. If you believe that the Bible is a single, timeless, internally consistent teaching on matters of human morality dictated by God then yes, the Old Testament book of Leviticus is definitely uncomfortable with “homosexuality.” But it is also uncomfortable with menstruating women, shellfish, and pigskin. (And for the record, it has some very harsh words to say about lending money at interest, a prohibition that even biblical literalists seem to find it perfectly permissible to disregard!)

Like most other critically thinking Christians, I see the Bible as a symphony (sometimes a cacophony!) of divinely inspired human voices bearing witness to an astonishing evolutionary development in our human understanding of God (or God’s self-disclosure as we grow mature enough to begin to comprehend it, another way of saying the same thing).

As a Christian, I am bound, when I listen to this diversity of biblical voices, to set my compass by the teachings and the path walked by Jesus himself. Where biblical testimony is internally inconsistent (and even Jesus experienced it this way!), I am bound to honor Jesus as my final court of appeal. And thus, the bottom line must inescapably be that nowhere does Jesus condemn gays or lesbians (or any other person identified in the diverse range of LGBTQ+), and certainly nowhere does he wish harm upon anyone, even those whom the religious culture is so quick to condemn as sinners. His harsh words are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes them to condemn others. Jesus is all about inclusion, forgiveness, and empowerment. In the light of his compassionate presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of whether they be considered outcasts by those in the “religious know.”

There’s a part in each one of us that would prefer the certainty of an unchanging rulebook to the radical open-endedness of God’s ongoing self-revelation in love. But as a Christian, when confronted by a tension between a religious certainty which leads me to violate the law of love and a deep unknowing that still moves in the direction of “loving my neighbor as myself,” (Matthew 22:39) I am bound to choose the latter course.

“I will be what I will be” is the name God asked Moses to know God by in the book of Exodus (3:14). With that as one line of bearing on my thinking, and the steadily increasing revelation of God’s mercy and compassion as the other, I am compelled by my Christianity to refrain from any behaviors or judgments which arrogantly demean the dignity of another human being or cause them to lose hope.

Reference:
Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, “Cynthia Bourgeault on Homosexuality in the Bible,” Goop, https://goop.com/wellness/spirituality/homosexuality-in-the-bible/.

Image credit: Gene Davis Paintings 1960-1972 Exhibition Poster (detail), Gene Davis, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead. —Richard Rohr
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Gender and Sexuality

Diversity and Communion
Monday, October 21, 2019

God is clearly more comfortable with diversity than we are, and God’s final goal and objective are much simpler. God and the entire cosmos are about two things: differentiation (people and things becoming themselves) and communion (living in supportive coexistence). Physicists and biologists seem to know this better than theologians and clergy.

The arguments of homophobic or anti-gay folks might seem well-supported, but their goals and objectives seem to be different from those of God or Jesus. Their arguments generally have to do with very secular concerns: control over chaos, majority rule, fear of the other, fear of the unknown, and idealization of a family unit that Jesus himself neither lived nor idealized. Check the Gospels if you don’t believe me.

However, I do realize that we are dealing with incredibly deep archetypes, those electric sexual images that motivate us at the most intimate levels of our being. Such “totems and taboos” have a deep hold on every culture and every individual, but they do change over time. We have learned so much over the last thirty years about the biological and psychological complexity of sexual orientation and desire, as well as gender constructs. National Geographic, which is no light-weight magazine, devoted its entire January 2017 issue just to gender! We in the West have been stuck in a dualistic trap other cultures have not struggled with to the same extent. For example, the Navajo or Diné and other Native peoples have historically honored non-binary, or two-spirit, people instead of rejecting them or criminalizing their existence.   

As a general rule, I would say that institutional religion tends to think of people as very simple, and therefore the law must be very complex to protect them in every situation. Jesus does the opposite: He treats people as very complex—different in religion, lifestyle, virtue, temperament, and success—and keeps the law very simple in order to bring them to God:

A legal expert put him to the test: “Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” He replied to him, “’You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.’ This is the first and foremost, and the second is like it: ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hangs everything in the Law and in the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40).

If I were to say this apart from Jesus’ authority, you would rightly accuse me of being simplistic, naïve, and reductionistic. Yet Jesus’ approach takes the risk of allowing people the freedom to be themselves and to love God according to the shape of their own heart, soul, body, and mind! Religion developed for the sake of social control, but Jesus does not give us much grist for the social control mill. For Jesus, it is all about union—union with God, others, and what is, however it presents itself. Do not let the labels trip you up—woman, man, transgender, cisgender, straight, bisexual, gay, queer. We all belong, but how cleverly our moral pretenses prevent us from struggling with what is right in front of us! How ingeniously our ego protects itself from compassion and understanding.

Jesus, like the cosmos itself, constantly affirms two parallel drives toward diversity and toward communion. The whole of creation cannot be lying.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Where the Gospel Leads Us,” in Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches, ed. Walter Wink (Fortress Press: 1999), 86, 87, 88.

Image credit: Gene Davis Paintings 1960-1972 Exhibition Poster (detail), Gene Davis, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead. —Richard Rohr
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Gender and Sexuality

Wide-Eyed Seeing
Sunday, October 20, 2019

I know that many Daily Meditations readers are my age—or almost (I’m 76 now)—and come from traditional religious backgrounds, so I want to recognize that this week on Gender and Sexuality may challenge what we were taught about what it means to be human, made in the image and likeness of God. While younger generations are more comfortable talking about a spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations, most of us born before 1960 were taught that there were only two genders, male and female, and only one acceptable sexual orientation: “straight.” So, I want to start by inviting you to receive these reflections through the lens of contemplation. This week is a good test case for one’s ability to think in a nondual way.

Contemplation is a kind of seeing that is much more than mere looking because it also includes recognizing and thus appreciating. The contemplative mind does not tell us what to see but teaches us how to see what we behold.

Contemplation allows us to see the truth of things in their wholeness. It is a mental discipline and gift that detaches us, even neurologically, from our addiction to our habitual ways of thinking and from our left brain, which likes to think it is in control. We stop believing our little binary mind—which strips things down to two choices and then usually identifies with one of them—and begin to recognize the inadequacy of that limited way of knowing reality. Relying solely on the binary mind is a recipe for superficiality. Only the contemplative, or the deeply intuitive, can start venturing out into much broader and more open-ended horizons.

But how do we learn this contemplative mind, this deep, mysterious, and life-giving way of perceiving, of being with, reality? Why does it not come naturally to us? Actually, it does come momentarily, in states of great love and great suffering, but such wide-eyed seeing normally does not last. We return quickly to dualistic analysis and use our judgments to retake control. A prayer practice—contemplation—is simply a way of maintaining the fruits of great love and great suffering over the long haul and in different situations. And that takes a lot of practice—in fact, our whole life becomes one continual practice. I am no exception. I began to practice contemplation in the 1970s and I have never stopped, but more than forty years later, I find my binary mind is usually still the first to the table, ready to deliver a quick judgment and decision!

To begin to see with new eyes, we must observe—and usually be humiliated by—the habitual way we encounter each and every moment. It is humiliating because we will see that we are well-practiced in just a few predictable responses. Few of our responses are original, fresh, or naturally respectful of what is right in front of us.

The most common human responses to a new moment, or something that does not fit neatly into one of our dualistic categories such as male or female, gay or straight, are mistrust, cynicism, fear, knee-jerk reactions, a spirit of dismissal, and overriding judgmentalism. It is so dis-couraging when we have the courage to finally see that these habits are the common ways that the ego tries to be in control of the data instead of allowing the moment to get some control over us—and teach us something new!

The Reverend Elizabeth Edman, an openly queer [1] priest in the Episcopal Church, focuses in her book Queer Virtue on “‘authentic Christianity’ as a spiritual journey that prioritizes the ancient Christian impulse to rupture simplistic binaries, especially those pertaining to the relationship between Self and Other.” [2] Edman’s book doesn’t focus on issues of sexual morality but on all the cultural and religious boundaries Jesus transgressed.

With all the changing ways of understanding gender and sexuality, most of us truly need contemplative eyes and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to “rupture simplistic binaries” and be compassionate and respectful of difference and diversity. It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead.

References:
[1] “Queer” is an adjective used by some people whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. Once considered a pejorative, queer has been reclaimed by some LGBTQIA people to describe themselves. The word may also be used by individuals who identify as non-binary. In academia, queer theory is a growing field of study in many departments. See the following site for a glossary of LGBTQIA terms: https://www.glaad.org/reference/lgbtq.

[2] Elizabeth M. Edman, Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (Beacon Press: 2016), xiii.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (CAC Publishing: 2017), 7-9.

Image credit: Gene Davis Paintings 1960-1972 Exhibition Poster (detail), Gene Davis, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead. —Richard Rohr
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