I’ve struggled to talk about spirituality for a long time.
When we initially conceived Love Intersections, I decided that my own intersections with spirituality is something that I wanted to explore. Our journeys navigating the world as spiritual beings, our beliefs and how they shape who we are.
After attending ‘Generous Spaciousness’ last Friday in Vancouver – a series of dialogues about the intersection of faith and sexuality facilitated by a group called New Directions – I was really inspired by the conversations that I heard. The concept of New Directions is to have a space where community members, including Christians, can come together and engage with an honest dialogue with each other about topics related to faith and spirituality. Rather than lecturing churches and Christians to “be” more queer affirming, their approach is to have a space where people can hear each others stories, and be listened to.
I was really blown away by the whole event. As someone who grew up (and to a certain extent, still identifies as an) Evangelical Christian, “honest dialogue” about (Christian) spirituality only existed in my imagination. The “traditional” church model is a deeply entrenched top-down model: “The Truth” is literally delivered from the pulpit – and of course, there is no questioning of “The Truth”. I reflect upon how much misogyny and homophobia is delivered from sermons that I’ve had to suffer through, and how much of the root of these issues is the fact that there is no avenue to dialogue on how “the truth” is being interpreted from scripture, and how our spiritual lives are deeply compromised by this top-down model…a top down model that has traditionally, for 2000 years, reinforced patriarchy, misogyny, and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities.
I grew up in the era of “I Kissed Dating Good Bye” – a popular abstinence based youth movement, which demonized (quite literally) any premarital sexual relations to the extent that even kissing was evil. I was literally taught that dating was a modern concept of the past 50 years, and that it leads to morally apprehensive behaviour. I was taught that sex ed was an apparatus of the devil to promote promiscuity, and that condoms were actually perforated and didn’t protect you from STDs. As a budding activist, I remember the shockwaves that went through my church when I, very vocally, as a 16 year old, began questioning the church leaders who were imposing these factually untrue, and very discriminatory things on us youth.
While I recognize that my experience as a youth in church is an extreme example, I wonder how many other layers of my spirituality are deeply affected by this top down model. How can we engage honestly with our own spiritual lives, if the model of the organization where we receive our spiritual guidance – i.e. The Church – itself doesn’t allow for any spiritual accountability or dialogue? If my spirituality, as a Christian, is rooted in my deep and personal relationship with God, then shouldn’t we be talking about my lived experiences too, and how they are fundamentally related to my spirituality?
What was beautiful about the dialogue on Friday with New Directions, was the amount of honesty that was allowed in the space – something that is rejected and feared by the “traditional” Christian Church model. I was really moved by how vulnerable people were allowed to be in a space to discuss such a difficult subject.
My hopes, is that Christians today can continue to challenge the systems within their own church organizations that enforce a model that silences people and reinforces oppression. As an organization that literally preaches how love is the greatest commandment of all, I hope that we can begin to transform our own communities so that we can do exactly that – love more.
In love and solidarity,