Today at work, one of my bosses asked me about the course I’ve been teaching this quarter through Stanford’s Student Initiated Courses program. I told him the title — “Religion and Spirituality: LGBTQ Perspectives.” He said that sounded like a fascinating course, and started to tell a story.
“When my wife and I first moved to the Bay Area…” he began, and immediately, my internal monologue started: “Why, when confronted with the mere mention LGBTQ issues, do straight people always seem to feel a need to mention their significant others? Why are they trying to distance themselves from the queerness — do they think it’s contagious?!”
But he took the story in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. When he and his wife first moved to the Bay Area, he told me, they shopped around for a Catholic church where they would feel at home. In one church they visited, they heard a prayer that went something like this: “Dear God, we pray for our Holy Father in Rome. We pray that You may forgive him for the harm he has done to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters, and we pray that he may come to understand and accept them.” Wow. Hearing this prayer, my boss told me, he and his wife knew that they’d found their new church home.
In my class this quarter, we’ve been discussing the various levels of tolerance that religious communities have towards LGBTQ people – open and affirming, welcoming, etc. Students have discussed their various comfort levels around participating in religious communities that didn’t entirely welcome and affirm them. But nobody had talked about the inclusion of another group – a group of whom they were not a member – being included, as a prerequisite for their own feeling comfortable in a religious community.
This raises a question about solidarity: For you to feel comfortable in a church (or other community group), are there any kinds of marginalized people/identities [besides your own] who need to be explicitly welcome/included there? If so, who are they? If there’s none, maybe it’s time to re-examine your levels of privilege…
In my boss’ story, I saw the glimmer of a better world, one that’s possible if we follow our highest selves. A world where we would all feel it was important that our various communities (religious and otherwise) not only included and welcomed us, but valued the inclusion of all people – even on issues that don’t directly impact your life – would represent the the best of humanity.
Morals of this story: Solidarity is important. Allies can be amazing. Don’t judge them before you hear them out. And if you’re shopping for a new religious community, be an ally; remember that you vote for inclusion with your feet.