church, gender equality, growth, human rights, lgbtq, relationships, religion, sexual orientation, thoughts

We Are ALL Members of the Human Race

I came across this Ted Talk video; and while it’s a little long, I feel it’s worth the watch. iO Tillett Wright discusses what I’ve been considering, and the thought that I’ve been developing within myself for a long time. I have grown to a state of mind where I do not believe in sexual orientation. Now, that is not the main point of her talk; she discusses human rights. But, she points out how lucky she is to have parents she never had to ‘come out’ to, and how they didn’t bat an eye when she loved both men and women.

One of the first things I considered when looking into sexual orientation is this quote:

“I do not have a soul. I am a soul; I have a body” – unknown

I believe that statement to be true. I believe that who I am is not dependent on the body I am in. I believe there was/is/will be more than the short life I live on this Earth. What more there is, I have no idea; I just believe it’s arrogant to think that this is all that exists. A person’s personality is dependent on many things. Environment and experiences are huge factors. Genetics is a factor. But, I believe, my soul is the most important part of my personality. How else can you explain how and why people think and act the way they do? Look at identical twins. Exact same DNA. Basically same environment and experiences. Same household. But how many identical twins have you met, that have the same personalities, and interests, and passions? I feel I’m safe to assume few to none. So, what makes these two people that have the same influences in developing their mentality and personality so different? Their souls. My soul chooses my preferences, my style, my way of thinking, whatever makes me, me.

One of the next things I considered is physical attraction. Obviously, physical attraction is important. How someone looks is often the first thing to pull our attention. We wear certain clothes, and cut our hair certain ways, to try and express how we think and feel in the attempts that someone else will see that, connect to it and be attracted to us, and reach out. But haven’t you ever met someone, thought they were gorgeous, and then gotten to know them – and you find out that they’re annoying, or arrogant, or just not compatible with you at all… and they no longer are so gorgeous to you? Or, there’s the opposite also. I met a guy, and wasn’t very physically attracted to him. Then, I got to know him, and I fell in love with him, and then found him to be one of the sexiest men I knew. How we rank someone’s beauty is often dependent of our connection to them on a personal level. My best friend is a beautiful woman.. anyone can see that… But because I know her soul, she is more than beautiful to me, she’s radiant. Physical attraction does not define sexual orientation. It’s fluid and ever changing. People go through ‘phases’ where they are attracted to people that look one way or another, or have those ‘exceptions’ where they are attracted to someone that’s not their ‘type’. And I’ve never met a woman that cannot appreciate the beauty or sexiness of another woman. I don’t care if they identify and gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever. Every woman in the world has been caught up in another woman’s beauty at some point. I’ve found that it’s much more difficult to find men that identify as straight to admit experiencing the same phenomenon. A lot of guys feel too uncomfortable or judged to talk about another man’s attractiveness. Society has taught them that it makes them less of a man to be gay. It’s sexy for a woman to kiss another woman, but it’s typically comical or disgusting for a man to kiss another man. I can’t count the number of times I have asked a guy if his friend or someone he is talking about is cute, and they are immediately uncomfortable. I get the ‘I don’t know if he’s cute, I’m a guy’. You’ll never hear that same response from a woman…

social construct – noun – a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’ through cultural or social practice

Sexual orientation is a socially constructed idea used to categorize people. Society tells my guy friends that if they appreciate their buddy’s looks, it makes them gay, and that make them less masculine and, in turn, less of a person. Society tells people that the genitals of the person you like, defines who you are. It tells people that you are valued and categorized by the body parts someone else was born with if you’re attracted to them. It says that your partner’s reproductive organs matters more than their character does. It says that what my partner was born with and has no control over, is more important than how they treat people, how they live their life, their beliefs, their career, their contributions to the world, their personality, their love, who they really are. I am not in a relationship only to procreate; therefore my ability to procreate with my partner is not a deciding factor.

Another thing that must obviously be considered is religion. Because truly, the debate about right and wrong when it comes to sexuality boils down to just that.

Recently, during a discussion with some LDS elders, I brought up the topic of homosexuality. Their church preaches that it’s wrong. That God made man and woman, and that is how it should be. To me, this seems outdated. It’s said in the Old Testament not to eat pork. Now, that is not an issue anymore. The response I received to that was, people didn’t know how to properly cook it back then, it was for their safety, but we’ve learned and it’s okay now. So, who’s to say that sexuality is not the same thing? God made man and woman to procreate. There were only 2 people in the entire world (Adam and Eve). If they couldn’t have kids, the human race would die out as quickly as it came. Man and woman had to be together to have children, to populate the world. Now, if we fast-forward to the 1830’s when Josiah Smith allowed his followers multiple wives, we see a different necessity. It wasn’t enough for one man-one woman to keep their population up, so polygamy allowed them to survive. Multiple-wives is no longer taught in the LDS church. It was a temporary necessity. So, who’s to say that now, homosexuality isn’t part of God’s plan for population control? The earth seems pretty well populated to me. Maybe God wants the gays to take in the orphans and foster kids and keep the population from getting too bad. Who knows? Until someone, from any religion, sits down with god and hears him/her/it say outright that in this time the only types of people that are allowed to be attracted to each other are men and woman, no one can tell me that god says it’s wrong.

To say that sexual orientation is real, says that one of a relationship’s founding attributes is gender. Consider every adult person in the world as a potential mate. Now, according to society’s standards, we should eliminate every person that is the same gender as us right off the bat. It’s odd that the first thing we are told to consider when choosing a mate is gender, not honesty, not empathy, not independence, intelligence, sense of humor, motivation, goals, morals, kindness, values, compatibility, or even if they are single or not. If I were narrowing down every person in the world, to find someone to be with, his or her gender would be the last thing on my mind. I would want a person that’s learned happiness is something you decide, not something you find; a person that finds beauty in the serenity of nature, as well as in the energy of the city; a person that creates goals and works towards them; a person that is kind to everyone, not just those that can give them something in return; a person that connects with me and grows with me. I could name a million things that are more important about a person than their genitalia. I believe that my soul is attracted to another person’s soul; that the person’s gender has as much importance as the color of their skin (meaning none). I believe that there is no way love is unnatural, or immoral, or wrong.

catholic, church, lutheran, religion

I went to church today…

So, today was the first time I’ve gone to church in a very long time. The reason this is a big deal for me is because I’ve reached a point where I’m not a fan of organized religion. I disagree with the rituals, the rules, and some of the things/beliefs that are taught. However, I see why it resonates with so many people, and feel that if it works for others, they should participate in it. My beliefs and opinions are just that, mine. I recognize how different they are from others, and don’t feel that other people are necessarily wrong. I feel that all religions boil down to the same core: treat others well, and do good things, and it will come back to you. In Christian faiths, this the God’s reward for your good deeds; in Eastern faiths, this is Karma; different religions have different names for it. I feel that in some ways, all the religions are ‘right’, and whatever resonates with a person is what they should follow.

Personally, I don’t like how often religion is used for controlling the masses. I don’t like how often religions that preach acceptance and love, actually turn around and judge and shun those they disagree with. I don’t agree that if a special person says some special words over a glass of wine and loaf of bread, that it becomes a special glass of wine and loaf of bread; and i don’t believe participating in this ritual brings me any closer to God. I don’t like the idea that I need to ‘earn’ my way into heaven, and that any act I carry out in my extremely short amount of time on Earth can damn me to an eternity of suffering in hell, especially from a father-figure that is supposed to have unconditional love for me. The more i research different religions, the more i disagree with them. But i want to be clear that it is the details I have issues with, not the core beliefs.

I was raised Lutheran – for anyone that doesn’t know what that is, my favorite description I’ve heard is that it is Catholic without the giant stick up it’s ass. In a Lutheran church, there are no saints, there is no pope, you confess through prayer directly to God instead of in a confessional to a priest, etc. I always felt very at ease in Lutheran churches, and that it was very much about having a relationship with God, and less about the right and wrong way to ‘serve’ Him. For a few years of my young adult life, I was very religious. I went to Church every Sunday, often alone as my mom didn’t want to go and my dad was at work. I went through my first holy communion, and confirmation. I prayed daily, and tried to live my life with God leading my decisions. I felt connected to Him. I can’t remember when I started drifting away from that, nor can I remember when I stopped believing in church, but I remember questioning what I heard in a new way.

I’ve had a hard time seeing God as our Father. The reason for this is because it’s hard to see suffering, and accept that an omnipotent father would allow his children to suffer like that. The explanations that I received from church, priests, religious friends, etc never satisfied me. It all seemed a cop out to me- God has a plan, one day Jesus will return and after this big fight, there will be peace and happiness for a long time (but not forever). The devil is at work, and caused this. Whatever I heard, did not sit well.

I also have a hard time seeing God as our Father because we’re taught that if we sin, and don’t repent, we will spend an eternity suffering in Hell (Catholics are even taught that anyone not baptized Catholic will spend an eternity in hell). Anyone that is a parent can tell you that no matter what, they will never stop loving their child. Their kid could murder, torture, whatever people, and while they would be horrified, a parent would still have love for their child. This is the kind of love we are taught God has for us. Now, I consider eternity. Our lives on Earth, even if we live to an old age here, are insignificant when comparing it to eternity. How could I possibly do something so horrible in this short amount of time on Earth, that would warrant an eternity of suffering in hell? To me, that’s like a putting a kid in time-out for the rest of their life as punishment for something that they did one day. The punishment is immensely cruel in comparison. How could someone punish their child so severely?

So- anyways, I started questioning things. I no longer found solace in my religion. I settled on believing in God, and Jesus, but that the Bible (especially the old testament) was fables and morals to help people live good lives. For a long time, I just lived my life as best I could, and didn’t feel church was necessary.

I’ve always been very interested in learning about other religions. This last year, I’ve tried to get deeper understandings of them. I’ve been going to Shamanic guided meditations. I’ve read books delving into beliefs and practices of religions, and how they compare and differ. I’ve discussed religion with different people, and looked things up online. I now plan to go to services at different churches/temples/etc to try and get an even deeper understanding. That’s why I went back to my old church today. It’s been so long, I wanted to see what I remembered, if anything has changed, and I wanted to see if I kept an open mind and heart if it would resonate with me again like it did so many years ago. There were some small things I forgot about (like how extensively it’s taught that God wants us to have a relationship with Him), but mostly it was exactly how I remembered. As for connecting to it – I didn’t really. There were moments though. During some of the songs, I got goosebumps. And there were times that I could feel the connection to God of the people around me. And during the sermon, there was a period of time I felt my third eye opening as I was considering what the pastor was saying. But, I didn’t feel connected to the God they were talking about. It didn’t resonate with me on a personal level. I couldn’t get past the comments about His forgiveness, about Him wanting a relationship with us and to have a conversation with us; basically, the things that humanized Him. I tried to be open minded, but I guess I had more trouble letting go my personal beliefs to accept what I was hearing than I’d hoped I would.

I did not go with the hope/expectation that my opinions would change. I understand what it feels like to be close to the God that Lutherans worship, and I understand their interpretation of the bible. I just wanted to see if I would connect with those beliefs again, and what parts of the religion I still resonate with. What I found was that not much has really changed for me at this point. I still believe in a god, I still believe in doing good, and treating others well, and I still believe that we are souls that do not cease to exist when our bodies die. I still disagree with communion, god as a father, and other details that are taught. But the experience did remind me of the benefit and comfort of the community that comes from the church. I found that over the years, I’ve gotten so caught up with what I agree and disagree with about churches and religions, that I lost sight of how a congregation supports each other through hard times. A sense of community is a valuable thing, and a church is full of people willing to pray for you, hear your struggles, and even watch your kids or make you a meal during a hard time. So- no, I don’t believe going to church is necessary for a relationship with God the father (if that’s what you believe), or that you should blindly follow the church (because it has know to become corrupted at times), or that what is taught in the church always coincides with what the religion is supposed to teach, but I do believe that it is important for a person to have a place to go where they feel connected to their God, where they feel safe and welcome to practice what they believe, and where they can connect and grow with people that have aligning views.
I’m happy that my experience today brought me a new revelation about religion, even if it was a small revelation. I plan to visit a Mormon Church next, and possibly go multiple times to get a better understanding of their beliefs and ways of life. I’m excited to see what else I learn, and what new revelations I will have!