Towards a new theology of gay marriage

Wedding Rings

In “Out and Ordained,” Brett Webb-Mitchell tells of his journey as a gay Presbyterian pastor and offers his prayers for the Church. In 2011, the Presbyterian Church formally allowed openly gay and lesbian ministers. Now, there are new challenges ahead:

Webb-Mitchell writes:

In order to become more inclusive, there are many “next steps” to be taken in righting past wrongs. For example, as more states permit LGBTQ people to wed, churches will need to craft a theology of marriage that includes LGBTQ congregants.

To this, I offer my prayer that theologians in the Presbyterian communion realize that their work is not to be done in isolation, looking mainly to the Bible and the Westminster Confession.

We live in times in which people in every religion are awakening to see their sacred texts as historically conditioned and requiring much discernment to see how their authority can be reconciled with recognition of the dignity of gays and lesbians and others.

A theology of marriage must not rest content with looking to old texts to seeing how they have been misinterpreted; we must be willing to see our knowledge of God evolving over time in the fullness of history. A theology of marriage inclusive of gays must be one which acknowledges spiritual evolution, or it will only be a stopgap, an ethnocentric adjustment made at a time when what is most needed is a worldcentric transformation.

Affirming the sacredness of gay marriage isn’t about people embracing diversity for diversity’s sake, but finding in committed same-sex partnerships a new and essential expression of the Divine Love.

That’s why the perspective I staked out in Soulfully Gay is so relevant to the future discussion about the sacramental worth or sacredness of gay marriage.

In my book I take a step beyond the “diversity for diversity’s sake” rationale offered by postmodern religionists for affirming gay marriage, staking out an argument for gay marriage based on a philosophical and spiritual anthropology (that is, a vision of human nature) which describes how understanding the proper nature of gay love is essential to understanding the nature of God’s love for creation.

Theologically, affirming gay marriage is an evolutionary step forward in humankind’s understanding of the nature of Divine Love, a gift from God for all people, not just a tiny minority. The love of Same to Same is viewed as theologically distinct from the love of Same to Other, one giving us a mirror to self-immanence and the other a reflection of self-transcendence. Heterophilia gives us a picture of how humanity loves God; homophilia gives us a picture of how God loves humanity.

Such a vision is not merely a Presbyterian theology or even a Christian vision. It’s a philosophical-spiritual statement about human nature that can be affirmed by integral Christians, integral Jews, integral Muslims, integral Buddhists, integral Hindus, and even — by looking at self-immanence and self-transcendence as biological drives situated within a general theory meta-theory of evolution — integral secular humanists.

Notes on Evolution of Bridge of Light Tradition

There have been several changes to the Bridge of Light holiday since it was first celebrated in 2004 (the first gathering used the name Yuletide). While much of this information is technical of interest to a few, some of you may find the historical details of interest.

I originally derived the meanings of the colors from principles in Integral philosophy (a nonsectarian philosophy based on the principles of spiritual evolution and the mystical thread connecting all the great world’s religions). I still find my inspiration for the holiday as fundamentally “Integral,” but I apply the principles differently.

In the 2004 version of the ritual, the colors represented main stages of evolutionary spiritual development, with each color aligned to a specific vMeme of Spiral Dynamics theory of cultural evolution. In subsequent years, this narrow inspiration proved problematic on several levels: first, I have never really adopted the color scheme of Spiral Dynamics into my spiritual practice; second, I have begun to place more emphasis on the modes or lines of development than stages, and now use the chakra system as a convenient traditional way of describing these modes; third, the ordering and naming of the principles was overly esoteric and this probably hindered more widespread adoption of the ritual.

There is wisdom in favoring simple principles that are easily communicated to others based on traditional associations that are already widely in use and need not be reinvented. The color associations of the charkas are an excellent way of communicating basic principles of evolutionary spirituality without being too heavy handed or rigid.

As a side note, I will add that new color scheme and ordering is compatible (if not a direct match) to the eight-mode developmental model that I have begun to use in my 2009 writings on the Kalendar, my vision of sacred time, so all in all I believe the modifications help to bring the ritual into line with my best and most contemporary insights into the spiritual significance of homophilia.

I fully credit Kittredge Cherry for originally suggesting use of the charkas for defining the principles. Her meditation on the chakra meanings and their specific application for LGBT spirituality have been quite valuable. I have more or less adopted her ordering and descriptions of six of the seven principles with only minor modifications. (Just as I have fully credited Toby Johnson for originally suggesting that the holiday be held on the New Year rather than the winter solistice, an idea that has improved the ritual considerably.)

Kittredge advocated differentiating between the first and second chakras (red and orange) because these principles are of particular importance for the LGBT community and I couldn’t agree more. Also, her color scheme lends itself well to ordering the candle lighting in a more straightforward evolutionary scheme than my original ritual: (1) red, (2) orange, (3) yellow, (4) green, (5) blue, and (6) purple. I think that these are developments for the better.

Kittredge also recommended combining the eye and crown charkas into one in order to fit the six-color scheme of the rainbow flag with the seven-color scheme of the traditional chakra symbolism. Upon further meditation, I have opted instead for a different solution that retains all seven charkas. I achieved this by adding a seventh principle (depicted by two candles, one black and the other white) for New Year’s Day.

By adding a seventh candle on New Year’s Day just for the crown chakra, then we can retain a celebration of the third eye chakra. It’s my conviction that the Third Eye, representing holistic understandings, integral models of development, and “Right Understanding” (to use a Buddhist term) in the service of enlightenment is somewhat neglected in LGBT spirituality. It would be a shame to miss an opportunity to reinforce the principle’s importance.

Kittredge adds, “I see this as a work in progress, and am open to ongoing dialogue about it.” And that is my own opinion as well. I’m publishing these recommendations now, a couple days in advance of Dec. 26, when some individuals will begin their own Bridge of Light rituals, and encourage feedback from the community.

I intend to light seven candles for my own celebration of the Bridge of Light. I expect my celebration will look like this:

Evening of Dec. 26. Light a red candle in honor of the Root of Spirit, the Principle of Community.

Evening of Dec. 27. Light a second candle, orange, in honor of the Passion of Spirit, the Principle of Creativity and Eros.

Evening of Dec. 28. Light a third candle, yellow, in honor of the Core of Spirit, the Principle of Self-Esteem and Self-Actualization.

Evening of Dec. 29. Light a fourth candle, green, in honor of the Heart of Spirit, the Principle of Love and Compassion.

Evening of Dec. 30. Light a fifth candle, blue, in honor of the Voice of Spirit, the Principle of Self-Expression and Justice.

Evening of Dec. 31. Light the sixth candle, violet, in honor of the Eye of Spirit, the principle of Integration and Wisdom.

Morning of Jan. 1. Light the seventh and eighth candles, black and white, in honor of the Crown of Spirit, the principle of Spirituality and Universal Consciousness.

How will you embrace the Bridge of Light?

The six principles compared to the principles of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a tradition honoring African-American culture first celebrated in 1966. It is based on a synthesis of philosophies drawing from Afrocentrism, cooperative (or socialistic) economics, and black nationalism. The founder, Ron Karenga, described the principles as “the seven-fold path of blackness: think black, talk black, act black, create black, buy black, vote black, and live black.”

Bridge of Light is a new tradition honoring the full dignity and equality of all people. It is the fruit of ideas generated at the 2004 Gay Spirit Culture Summit in Garrison, New York; first promoted by writer Joe Perez; first celebrated in 2004. It is based on principles of integral philosophy and spiritual evolution, however it does not require adherence to any particular worldview or perspective.

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