Pope Francis: Who Am I To Judge?



Pope Francis’s unscripted comments about gay people (or perhaps just gay priests) – “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” is what it is. As a bisexual man and person of Catholic religious orientation, I enjoy the well-deserved attention it is receiving in the media.

Just when I thought: “Finally there’s a bit of good news in the world about religious traditionalists changing their minds and opening their hearts and setting a new tone that can usher in a new era in reconciliation between the straights and the gays!” wouldn’t you know it, a comment on the Facebook page for GaySpirituality.com from a reader who says:

He’s just another puppet for profit, his words mean absolutely nothing to me…

Out of context, that’s just closed-minded and mean. The man is the pope, for God’s sake, and he’s just made a landmark shift in tone that could change the shape of gay spirituality forever. And all you can do is call him a “puppet for profit”?

But in context… well, that’s the thing. I don’t know that man’s context. I don’t know what he’s suffered at the hands of homophobia and religious indoctrination. I can’t put myself in his shoes because I don’t know what abuse he’s gone through and why apparently he hasn’t healed from it yet to the point where he knows that the pope’s words deserve at least as much respect as the guy he would meet over the deli counter at lunch. Just because he’s the pope doesn’t mean you can call him a “puppet for profit”! Ouch.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Hallelujah! It’s gay marriage for Washington State!

Lesbian Wedding
Photo Credit: stevendamron

Today my home state of Washington becomes the seventh state in the USA to legalize same-sex marriage. I am grateful for the wisdom and discernment of Gov. Christine Gregoire and the state legislature, including many Democrats and some Republicans, who have given me and many thousands of fellow citizens equal rights on this day.

I almost didn’t vote for her in 2004 because I hated her stand against gay marriage.  I’m glad I did. What I didn’t realize then was how important it is to keep forgiving and giving our political leaders a chance to change their hearts and minds. With time and lots of work and the grace of God, miracles happen.

They made a courageous choice, for sure, but not perilously so. The governor conveniently opposed gay marriage until a few weeks ago, when polls had accumulated showing that gradually public opinion in the state turned decisively towards equal marriage rights.

I don’t know when I will get married, and can’t even be certain that such a day will arrive for me, but if it does then I know that I am free to follow my God-given path without having to experience irrational discrimination from the government. Hallelujah!

To many people with a traditional worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a terrible sign of the decay of modern culture into wickedness and perversion, proof that we have entered into a New Dark Age.

To many people with a modern worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a good sign that the liberating state, focused on individual rights, is finally becoming separated from the control of oppressive religion.

To many people with a postmodern worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a terrible sign that Queers have forsaken their rebellious, bohemian queerness with its potential to critique the bourgeois, patriarchal, and oppressive sexual institution of marriage, which really needs to be jettisoned altogether in favor of an anarchic paradise of “vive la différence!”

Let’s not kid ourselves. Parts of each of these worldviews probably lives in each of us to some degree or another, if we have listened to other people and tried to give them a fair hearing. But from an integral worldview, no one of these worldviews is adequate.

Our vision is evolutionary, inclusive, and spiritual. Gay marriage is an evolution of culture and society in all its dimensions — a sign of God and Spirit in our midst — a holy and good thing not merely because it lets gay people have hospital visitation rights but because it is an expression of the inherent dignity of gay people as equally manifestations of God.

Our view is not anti-liberal; it is pro-liberal. It is not anti-conservative; it is pro-conservative. Gay spirituality includes both conservatism and liberalism and transcends them (as I wrote in 2004).

We make room for parts of traditional, modern, and postmodern worldviews, because these views have lived within us at one time in our own development, and to hate these views in others is also to reject a part of ourselves. We allow for difference, but we do not say that all differences are okay; differences evolve ever towards our True Nature, uniquely expressed.

We celebrate a victory which brings greater justice to a minority population. Today’s victory in Washington is a victory for the human spirit, that gayness which lives in all of us, whether we are homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual … because we are all members of the Catholic Church, the Universal Sangha, the Universal Mosque, the Universal Synagogue, and the divine fellowship of humankind.

A true World Spirituality affirms the dignity of all people and will not rest in complacency so long as justice remains to be delivered for so many people around the world.

Joe Perez is an author who has published books on Gay and Bi Men’s Spirituality.

Three blogs

I get mail asking why I so frequently comment on Andrew Sullivan’s blogs and articles. (I also occasionally get mail telling me I shouldn’t care what he thinks. Sullivan has earned his share of enemies in the gay community.) No mystery, basically he’s my favorite mainstream blogger and I think his writing is a great touchstone. He’s certainly one of the few mainstream bloggers taking an approach that is arguably integral (though still miles away from AQAL or STEAM-based). I am frequently disappointed by some of his flatland politics, but I learn a helluva lot even when I disagree. What more could anyone want of any writer?

Tonight, Sullivan linked to another site called Independent Gay Forum, and praised it. So have I (see “Why I Read Independent Gay Forum,”) and I also praise this site and recommend its articles. The site’s writers have earned Sullivan’s praise (Dale Carpenter’s columns are usually the most thought provocative, in my opinion), but I simply cannot let Sullivan’s characterization of the site as “non-left” go unchallenged. Of course, Sullivan is merely repeating the Indegayforum party line, that theirs is the “alternative” to the gay left. What’s truly accurate is that theirs is a genuine alternative to the left by presenting conservative, libertarian, and classical liberal opinions only. And that’s all they offer. Of course, to their readers like Sullivan, that’s all there is that’s worth mentioning on the “non-left.” Puke.

From the standpoint of an integral philosophy, Independent Gay Forum is primarily a sounding board for mostly rationalist-level writing by some of the gay community’s best writers. There is occasionally an integral bent to a piece, and when I find it, it always makes me happy to see. And their opponents on the mainstream left are mostly rationalists. And with their opponents on the far left in gay academia, you have a heavy pluralist streak. Not exactly a huge difference between the left and the so-called “non-left,” from where I’m standing.

P.S.: In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I have in the past (it’s been a few years) submitted a few of my previously published columns to Independent Gay Forum for publication, and they were all rejected without explanation. For example, I submitted one of my best columns, a piece about gay and straight men healing from sexual abuse, and I drew the connections to healing homophobia on the terrain of individual consciousness. Rejected. Too spiritual, I guess. (They include stories by religionists, but only the rationalist-level stuff like explanations for why Roman Catholic natural law philosophy isn’t rational enough.) The story I make up is that their editors have no use for spirituality and are utterly clueless about the connections between inner growth, consciousness, and cultural/political change.

Subsequently, I founded Gay Spirituality & Culture where writers and readers less clueless about spirituality can congregate and see what magic might develop… It’s a group blog that allows for voices and perspectives excluded by the rationalist-level blogs like The Daily Dish and Indegayforum. The motto begins with this phrase: “We are a group of independent writers with interests in inner transformation, personal growth, spirituality, religion, and culture …” It’s still a baby, and I make no claims that it’s all that, but feel free to check it out. The GS&C blog will turn two years old in just over a week. Ghandi once said that you have to “be the change” you want to see in the world. Not everybody gets that, but some blogs are drawing the connections.