The process of finding a way to make two different ideas, facts, etc., exist or be true at the same time (source: www.merriam-webster.com)
As we approach Christmas there is a battle raging within my heart. This battle centers on how to reconcile my upbringing in the Christian church, my inclusion in the GLBTQ community, and the internal reaction caused by the blatant hatred from members of both sides toward one another. Yes, I said both sides.
I attempted to write about the topic of anti-gay hate a couple of days ago, but found I needed to work some things out within my own heart first. You see, as I reflected on the stories that have been in the news regarding the persecution of members of my community by evangelical Christians, my blood began to boil.
It became evident to me that I was preparing to approach the topic from the victim mentality and in a judgmental manner. The internal battle continued as I reproached myself for going at it from that angle, but then another part of me said, “But my god … when a Christian pastor states that all members of my community need to be put to death, or another one tells a gay man that he prays that he will commit suicide, how can I help but be self-righteous in return and respond in a victim-like manner? How can I not respond in anger?”
When I think about the reactions of my own church and family when I came out … When I read heart-breaking comments from youth who have been kicked out their homes or whose families refuse to acknowledge them for the gender with which they identify, mostly driven by their religious beliefs … When I think about the high rates of suicide amongst members of my community … It’s hard to not label those feelings rising within as hatred for those who would dare to be so self-righteous as to think that they can tell me how to live my life; for those who would have so little regard for the feelings of another human being that they would suggest that this world would be better off without them; for those who would deem my relationship with my wife to be “less than.”
How do I respond with grace and mercy to those who are, in my eyes, primarily responsible for the stigma associated with being a member of the GLBTQ community? How do I turn this rage that is directed toward mean, hateful, self-righteous evangelical Christians into loving action?
During one of my daily rituals I was given the picture of a beautiful, perfectly stitched seam. Two pieces of smooth, neutral-colored leather brought together seamlessly. It was sewn so perfectly that absolutely nothing was going to tear it apart. So tight that nothing would get in … or out.
What does this have to do with reconciliation? Well, it made me think of Wabi Sabi, of which my teacher and mentor spoke of here. She refers to Wabi Sabi as “the art and practice of honoring the imperfect.” By sewing up a seam so perfectly, so tightly, that nothing can get in or out, there is absolutely no room for change. No room for growth. No room for honoring imperfection. No room for reconciliation.
So how do we create a state of Wabi Sabi, of honoring the imperfections, when we as humans tend to take things so personally? Not just things, but the actions, beliefs and words of other human beings?
I believe there is a difference between taking things personally and taking things personally.
On one hand, if we take things personally in the sense that we take things into our person and examine them, see how they fit with what is within without comparing how they fit with another, we are able to separate the chaff from the wheat and keep that which honors our person.
But on the other hand, if someone is so convinced that what is true for them should be true for all, and we take what they preach personally (or vice versa), it crowds out any possibility of true reconciliation. It pushes aside the possibility of creating positive out of negative. The seam is sewn so tightly that absolutely no light can get in or out.
It seems to me that what radicals or extremists of any flavor have in common is that they take what is written as absolute truth and condemn anyone who does not believe exactly as they do, and then attempt to force those beliefs on others. In the case of evangelical Christians, they appear to have blind faith in the word that was written by man thousands of years ago (and again, altered by man over and over). It makes me wonder if they take stock in the words of Jesus in the New Testament that “the kingdom of God is within you” and ever retreat within to seek that kingdom.
Would not the words of Jesus indicate that heaven, or the Kingdom of God, can be found right here and now? That heaven and hell co-exist in this very moment? That we have the choice regarding where we choose to reside? I would think that residing in a place where one has so much hate in one’s heart that they feel an entire segment of the population should be executed, or that they pray that a gay man will commit suicide, has got to be Hell. Are these individuals so afraid of examining what lies within that they must project those fears on their fellow man in the form of hatred and condemnation?
So how do we reconcile these differences? How do I personally reconcile these conflicting feelings within?
For me, I think that I must put my efforts into breaking down my own neat, tight seams. I must stop looking for the perfect answer as a means to find order in the chaos, and seek instead the beauty of Wabi Sabi. I must find a way to not take things personally, and to instead re-direct the anger that rises toward a positive outcome. I must find a new way of reconciling my thinking with that of those who feel and think differently, without compromising my core personal truths or forcing them on others.
I do not profess to be a Christian, but I do suspect that Jesus was a real teacher and prophet. I do suspect that his teachings were divinely inspired. I do know that the basis of his message is parallel with that of many other religions in that he preached about loving kindness, treating others as we expect others to treat us, and living a life of service by giving of ourselves, our possessions and our divine gifts.
With that I return to the question that I asked when I shared throughout my social network the articles that spoke of the hate from evangelical Christian pastors toward members of the GLBTQ community — articles that were published on a site that takes this kind of thing very personally. The question was, “What would Jesus say/do?”
I suspect that he would reach out to those who are persecuted, ridiculed, outcast, and made to feel unworthy. I suspect that he would welcome each individual exactly as they are and where they are on their own unique journey. There certainly would be no hate, no guilt-making, and no condemnation.
My guess is that if each and every one of us did even just a little bit here, a little bit there, to break down those perfectly woven seams, there would be space to let in more tolerance and perhaps even measures of understanding and acceptance. If we all were to strive for that state of Wabi Sabi — of honoring the imperfections in each other — we might just get to the point where we can truly celebrate each other’s differences. We might just get to the point where we treat each other with loving kindness instead of hate.
I cannot change the message of evangelical Christians, but I can change what I do with the anger that their actions and words evoke. I can create the scenario in which I might find my own personal reconciliation. I can conserve my energy and not share the negativity, but instead make every effort to reach out to those who are suffering. I can offer them a listening ear, a supportive hug, acceptance of who they are, and kind encouraging words that help them realize that they are more than worthy. They are necessary. They each have important gifts to share with the world.
It is my hope that by uplifting those who are the target of the hatred and encouraging them to be true to who they are, the collective energy of those of us living our soul’s true path will rise above the negativity and hate.
With gratitude to the ever-present example and inspiration of my teacher, Robin Rice, in striving to live a life that promotes healing with presence and beauty. I invite you to check out her social change project, Your Holiday Mom — a project that has been making a difference in the lives of GLBTQ youth during each holiday season since 2012.
Image courtesy of pippalou via Morguefile.com