When you are LGBTQ, organized religion is an abusive ex-boyfriend, it grabs you like an Eminem-fueled rap with a thrumming baseline and then batters you, all the while apologizing and telling you that it’s your fault. “If you only prayed more and asked the Lord to take this away from you”, they’d cry as they shame us publicly. “You don’t want to go to hell do you”, they always seem to ask while denouncing us — as though we are somehow less because of what we feel or who we love. All the while they’re shoveling the “all loving, all knowing” line down our throats to coat it with fear to make the messages that follow easier to swallow. I believe it’s time for a change, not only mentally, but also spiritually.
I was raised dual-denominational — Muslim and Christian, and you can imagine that going away to college in San Francisco created a huge shift in perspective on my faith and my life as a (closeted) bisexual . Once I left the sheltering wings of my family, I began to explore world religions and was shocked to find a resounding message echoing across them from paganism to Islam to atheism. “Be kind to all, regardless to circumstance”, they seemed to shout. In my sophomore year, I was confronted with unwarranted attention from a man protesting on campus at SF State during a religious holiday. He told me I was “going to hell”, and he did it without preamble. Two years later this is still one of the most powerful memories I’ve had in “the city’, a place renowned for acceptance. And this, is what needs to change about religion—or rather our perceptions of it.
The biggest problem that I have with modern (organized) religion is the single-minded ability to cast stones and condemn a person or a group of people who are perceived as being different by the controlling body. For years, I struggled internally with who I was and who I could be. It took me years to overcome the subliminal psychological poisoning and self-hatred I was taught, and copious amounts of support to relearn how to love myself and reconnect with my faith.
People of faith love to quote their holy books, the supreme laws by which all men should live. I don’t see why I can’t quote two of these books and establish that condemnation is not the way of God, and you are not a sinner (for who you love). One of my favorite prophets is Job whose famously quoted as saying, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Surely God catches the wise in their craftiness” in the book of Job 5:14. Well, what is meant by a glass house? The bible is full of symbolic messages, and this one in particular references those willing to condemn another for what they perceive to be sin while simultaneously living in a structure that is subject to collapsing due to their faulty logic. Your English teacher would call it a logical fallacy.
The Maulana Muhammad Ali translation of the Holy Qu’ran has this to say in the second chapter, 106th verse: “Whatever message We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or one like it. Knowest thou not that Allah is Possessor of power over all things?” This drives home the point that these messages are uniform throughout the prophets of the God of Abraham (who speaks in the Talmud, Qu’ran and New Testament). I’d like to further affirm that Jesus said, “’YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these”, with no stipulation on whether or not to love that person be they different from you, worshipper of different Gods, or those who are attracted to those who you are not. Furthermore, in the Qu’ran, the God of Abraham stands firm that one the biggest sins a single person can commit is to condemn another for being a “non-believer” or “khafir” for any reason because it is not the place of the believer to judge what is in the heart of another(49:11).
To any LGBTQ youth who may be reading this in a religion or with a perception of religion that invalidates their orientation or beliefs; I wish someone would have told when I was lost and confused:
You are not alone, regardless to however beaten down you may feel now. God is love not hatred. I find it impossible to believe in an all-loving and all-forgiving entity that would condemn anyone for something they couldn’t control. Regardless to what you believe, the strength to overcome your obstacles is within you, without, and all around you. True, things often take a turn for the worst before they get better; don’t for a second believe that you are alone in this struggle. I invite each and every one of you to follow me as I explore the world of spirituality and religion in my column as we together redefine “belief”.