Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon
Congregational Church of San Mateo
An issue of the Bay Times devoted to LGBT spirituality? How timely. With everything going on in the world, it sure couldnâ€™t hurt to be reminded of the power of intention, the power of principles, and the power of passion. All these are things of spirit â€“ however you name that which is within youâ€”and hence, of spirituality.
I am Christian and lesbian. I came into the world with both of these proclivities. After the textbook struggle of reconciling these two seemingly opposing realities, I decided a few decades ago to live both identities with all the integrity and beauty I could muster. I started out being accused by the church of being a practicing homosexual, but then I got really good at it and graduated into a professional lesbian. I immersed myself in the queer community, and I loved it. It was real, raw and revolutionary. (Then I became a parent, and thatâ€™s another whole story).
And for the Christian part, well, I decided to remain a Christian so that I could contest what a Christian is. The mainstream media presents primarily a Christianity that is enshrined in fundamentalism, a problematic extreme in any religion. I am a progressive Christian who believes in radical inclusivity. I find the teachings of Jesus incredibly compelling and if those of us who claimed his name actually lived those teachings, many of the tragedies and suffering of the world would come to a grinding halt. Of course, that could be said of all religions. If we could only live what we hold as ideals we would have already created some peace-filled, egalitarian utopia. Thatâ€™s not whatâ€™s happening but it doesnâ€™t stop me from trying to do my part, to live the essential message of my tradition that, unadulterated by our own cultural and social blinders, is remarkably graceful and just.
Christianity is my â€śmother tongueâ€ť -- I grew up with it. But, Christianity is the path I chose again as an adult to help guide my relationship to the divine. I love the traditions. I live my life and measure my life by the teachings of Jesus, a radical revolutionary for his time who stood up for the oppressed and who would have been on the forefront of the Occupy movement today.
I also draw on wisdom and ritual from many other traditions. I believe that there are many spiritual paths. The criterion is not a set of doctrines but a way of life. Does my spiritual path lead me to be more loving, more compassionate, more full of life and passion, more justice-seeking? Do my values help create a better world for all? For me, these are the important questions. Spirituality is in the here and now, in the everydayness of life, in the struggles, in the joy--spirituality just is-- it has little to do with whatever may be our understanding of the next world.
There are so many people whom I come across that are turned off to church and other organized religion for justifiable reasons. This growing percentage makes up the â€śspiritual but not religious crowd.â€ť The good news is that we spiritual people have so much to offer each other in community. So I hope people everywhere, especially LGBT people, continue to create communities of spirituality where we can come together to celebrate and connect with each other because I believe we will be better for it. There is a wealth of wisdom and spiritual experience to be shared in so many different forms and expressions. As I live my spirituality, my hope is that when people look at me they will see someone who is open-minded, passionate, egalitarian, kind, generous, one who questions the status quo....all the qualities I believe â€śChristianâ€ť means.
So I hope that we LGBT people will take seriously our own spiritual gifts, whatever our path, and bring our full selves to the struggle for freedom and justice for all. And that by doing so, we will find a place of peace and love within that is sustaining and that we will discover a spirituality for ourselves that is profound enough for our complicated world and for our uncertain, but hopeful, future.
Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.