Helping refugees from religion reclaim their spiritual power

Posted on 01 May 2009 at 12:06am
By The Rev. Steve Collady Special Contributor

HRC’s local Religion and Faith Subcommittee plans town hall meetingAre you — or have you been — a refugee from religion?

For understandable reasons, the refugees are everywhere in our GLBT community, people fleeing a religion that not only does not accept them unconditionally, but actually doesn’t make sense any more, and perhaps never did.

Some of us have been searching desperately our entire lives for God and for a religious or spiritual community that accepts us just as we are. Others want nothing to do with God or any religion.

A few seek and may find God in "welcoming" and "affirming" religious denominations, some through Eastern mysticism, metaphysics or Native American paths. Others remain adrift in the religion of their childhoods, not discouraged enough to leave, but not truly connected either.

Some have chosen to stay and become leaders in traditional churches. Many of these are the walking wounded, spiritually: the refugees from religion.

As a gay man growing up in a typical Protestant family, I spent years coming out to myself and others. I also spent years as a refugee, denouncing and rejecting a religion that seemed so hypocritical — teaching love, but depicting a temperamental, judgmental God who was just like many humans.

How could that be? My journey of spiritual rediscovery has helped me understand that I had too often surrendered my innate spiritual identity as a child of God to organized religion.

A particularly powerful experience for me was becoming aware that ultimately my anger, loneliness and feelings of rejection weren’t as much about the conservative hijacking of Christianity as my own unwillingness to spiritually come out to myself — to claim my innate spiritual power.

Just what does this "claiming spiritual power" mean? For me, the bottom line is to understand and accept that I am a loved and loving child of a loving God — always have been, always will be. It’s about always taking a personal stand, at times publicly, for love in the face of fear or hatred; forgiveness when harm has occurred.

And this includes all individuals and organizations without exception, including churches that continue to teach fear and exclusion. My stand must always basically be one of love and inclusivity.

"Who have I come here to be?" That’s a question that never fails to ground me in the moment, helping to open to an inner guidance that puts it all into perspective.

This question also is appropriate, I believe, for the many GLBT refugees from religion — those of us who have experienced pain, rejection and doubletalk from religious institutions.

There are many options for reconnecting with God as our GLBT community moves forward in these changing and, for me, exciting times.

Recognizing that established institutions like churches change very slowly and have rarely been leaders in the early stages of social injustice (think civil rights, women’s rights, GLBT rights), some may be guided to become leaders within their church or a welcoming/affirming church. Such commitment provides invaluable insight to the inevitable resistance to change.

Others may find a home in a new-thought, progressive spiritual community. Some may choose not to be an active part of a spiritual/religious community, but live their faith in their own way.

Wherever we may be, as we ask the question and open to the answer of "Who have I come here to be?" we’ll know that we can find spiritual power wherever we may be.

I believe untold numbers of GLBT folks have a vision of religious and spiritual denominations and churches that embrace them with acceptance and respect, a loving and inclusive interpretation of the Bible, belief in an unconditionally loving and therefore nonjudgmental God (or Higher Power), and a powerful fundamental belief that though not every person is religious, everyone is a spiritual being with God’s spark of divinity within them.

So the question to you: Who have you come here to be? The Religion and Faith Subcommittee of the Dallas Human Rights Campaign is excited about our May 7 town hall meeting which we hope will support you as you find your answer.

Please join us Thursday, May 7, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m, at the Resource Center of Dallas, 2701 Reagan St.. Four panelists will begin the conversation about GLBT people, congregations and their shared journeys toward inclusivity and acceptance.

The Rev. Steve Colladay is a member of the Dallas HRC Religion and Faith Subcommittee, and has been the minister at Unity Church of Christianity of Dallas, since 2005. The church is located at 3425 Greenville Ave., Dallas, and its Web site is www.dallasunity.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 1, 2009.

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