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Religion Is Our

Religion Is Our


Being gay and religious are not not mutually exclusive, argues a young writer who should know.

A recent discussion with a friend of mine ended in a bitter disagreement. I believe religion can play a positive role in advancing the rights of American citizens in general, in particular gays and lesbians. He, on the other hand, believes that not only is organized religion mainly responsible for the inferiority of the gay community in the world, but that gay people as a rule cannot call themselves religious.

Organized religion (note: for the purpose of this article organized religion and spirituality will be considered one in the same) has obviously played an important role in the history of humanity, both positively and negatively. Commercialized holidays such as Christmas and Halloween are based on ancient pagan traditions that were later spun into the Christian calendar. Countries waged wars against each other over religious differences; some of these still go on today. In Northern Ireland, Protestant-Catholic relations remain edgy. On the positive side, people such as the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II have transcended their religious affiliations to make an impact on diverse communities. In fact, most people don't know that the Roman Catholic Church is the world's largest charitable organization, providing services to the poor and sick around the globe.

I attended Catholic school since third grade up until high school graduation in June 2007. The church has had a profound effect on my life, especially when it comes to being gay. It was largely responsible for my coming out. But I received negative feedback from my local community and was informally kicked out of the church, after which I became bitter toward organized religion of any kind and identified as an agnostic.

It wasn't until I met my friend Donna, a devout Catholic who works for the church, that I realized it wasn't religion that was responsible for my hurt, it was people. Yes, the church, along with other religious organizations, teaches that homosexual actions are sinful; however, church doctrine clearly states that the harsh treatment of any person -- homosexual or not -- is strictly forbidden. And just because the church's teachings are clear about homosexuality does not mean each member has to adhere to this belief. My parents are devout Catholics, as are many of my relatives. They all have been supportive of me, going so far as to donate time and money toward advancing equality for LGBT people. In fact, their reasons for supporting me and gays in general were direct results of their faith in Jesus Christ, who serves as a model for compassion.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church has been clear about its position on homosexuality and has gone so far as to oppose gay rights organizations. It has done this in a variety of ways -- joining forces with other organizations in the effort to ban same-sex marriage, fighting to deny gays other rights, and citing Biblical text as justification for antigay public policy.

But other religious organizations, such as the Metropolitan Community Church and Dignity (for Catholics) provide LGBT Christians with an environment sensitive to LGBT-specific concerns. And many fail to realize that religion has played an important role in bringing our communities together. Perhaps the most famous example is the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Many gays and lesbians look to King as the prime example of someone who gave everything for equality. However, one should note that King was a Baptist minister, and it was because of his faith that he took a stand. It was because of his faith that the Reverend King gave his life for peace.

My own experience with religion and the gay community has been a positive one. Around the time I became involved in activism, the Reverend Robin Gorsline approached me about working with People of Faith for Equality in Virginia. POFEV finally provided religious Virginians with an environment that advocated for equality for LGBT people because of their faith. Many activists, though, questioned the organization's motives. I encountered various people who blamed religion for the setbacks that gays suffered in Virginia. They believed that by embracing religion we were embracing the enemy. I couldn't disagree more. The more support we have for our community, the better. Instead of suppressing religion as it has suppressed us in many venues, we should embrace it when given the opportunity. This is exactly what POFEV did for Virginians everywhere, and it is because of POFEV that many of those who would normally shut gays out gave us a chance.

Religion has had a profoundly positive impact on our cause. Although religion has led some people to hate us, it has also given gays and lesbians everywhere a sense of faith, hope, and community. It is unfair and out of character to shut religion out of the picture when it comes to advocating for LGBT equality. If we expect to create an open and accepting environment in our country, we need to allow space for the religious, the nonreligious, the spiritual, atheists, agnostics, everyone.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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