Guest Blogger

Spiritual Rage

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 26, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Chris Glaser, clergy sexual abuse, gay Christians, progressive Christianity, spiritual rage

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Chris Glaser, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, is an author of 12 books, a contemplative blogger, an MCC pastor and an elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Jesus-head-crucifix.jpgVisit his contemplative blog, "Progressive Christian Reflections," and his web site at chrisglaser.com

Media preoccupation with clergy sexual abuse scandals and cover-ups overlook the far more pervasive spiritual abuse that virtually all LGBT people have endured. Such abuse is why a gay Christian like me often copes not only with church resistance but with LGBT rage - not just my own, which I have learned to manage (or not), but also that of others who may not have their original perpetrators in sight! The rage is sometimes manifest overtly, but more commonly comes as a kind of shunning - itself an ancient religious practice to shame the nonconformist.

Despite its expression, the rage itself is justified. Not only have we been misjudged and mistreated and excluded by religious institutions, but they self-righteously infringe on our civil rights and impose their ignorance and restrictions on us in the public square. When I served as a news reporter and then editor of an LGBT newsmagazine, I realized that much of the news we were covering was about spiritual warfare waged against our community.

Yet our rage is itself spiritual in nature. It is the rage that prompted Hebrew slaves to join the exodus from Egypt. It is the rage that motivated Jesus to rail against the self-righteous and to reject principles of religious purity that ostracized multiple human categories. His one recorded angry action was clearing the area of the temple where women and outsiders could gather that had been usurped by merchants helping temple-goers fulfill mere ritual obligations.

The rage for justice is at heart a spiritual yearning. To believe in ourselves and others as worthy of justice and thus seek equality, love, and marriage are ultimately spiritual affirmations. Our faith is that we too are sacred. Such faith brought down the Berlin Wall, ended apartheid, and prompted a friend of mine to burn all of his family Bibles to ritualize his newfound progressive Christian abandonment of fundamentalist beliefs.

Rage fuels movements, but it can burnout individuals. As an activist of four decades, largely in the church, I believe my greatest assets have been stamina and tenacity. And neither would have been possible if I did not begin my day reflecting on the larger picture, the greater purpose of life - in other words, creating time in my schedule for morning meditation.

Whether we contemplate the stars or spiritual writings, the eyes of a lover or beloved pet, a regular period of reflection may restore our souls even as we reform homophobic institutions. "Breath" and "spirit" are the same word in the Bible. Thus to take a breath or a breather is to rediscover spirit.


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"The rage for justice is at heart a spiritual yearning."

That might explain why so many social justice leaders, from Martin Luther King to Desmond TuTu have been persons of faith. But who's a similar leader in the LGBT community? I'm coming up blank, completely.

The place of religious leaders in LGBT communities is far more tenuous than it was for King or Tutu. I can think of some gay Christians fighting for justice (such as Rev. Mel White/Soulforce) and of some religious groups fighting for justice (like the UU Standing on the Side of Love campaign), but I'm not sure how feasible it would be for a faith leader to stand up and try to galvanize the entire LGBT community... the pain and anger caused by religious wounds shape a lot of LGBT persons' responses to organized religion.

It seems to me that from the beginning the LGBT movement has been decentralized, which I believe to be a good thing. There are a number of "big names" in a wide variety of venues that could be mentioned, like Rev. Troy Perry in the religious category. Btw, the LGBT media for a long time failed to recognize that the denomination he founded, MCC, was for a long time the largest LGBT organization in the world. Anyway, leaders in all movements are largely created by the media, or those who play to the media. Rarely do we regulars (or leaders) get a chance to vote! ;)

It was spiritual rage over the resistance to Clinton rescinding the ban on gays in the military that led eventually to DADT back in 1993 that motivated me to start using my paint brush to create art that reflected radically-inclusive Christian iconography. Sadly, the LGBT community save a few rejected my artistic endeavors. My art was too radical (a gay Jesus and lesbian Madonna, oh, no!), they said... or maybe the images conjured up too much pain inflicted by misguided religious zealots for folks to see my art and its powerful narratives. Nonetheless, I kept on keeping on. And I am glad I did. Not only was I better for having persevered, but now the message is getting through, getting out, getting seen. What was once spiritual rage is now a holy blessing to me and to others.

And Becki Jayne, your artwork is healing for those who "get it." Glad you transformed a kind of double wound (both church and LGBT resistance) into a healing!