Love and Inspiration from others used as a recipe to combat hate
Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
Happy Valentine’s Day hopeless romantics! If you’re still seeking “the one,” don’t despair. Patience, persistence, and optimism win the day. Being a guarded romantic helps too.
February 14 is named for a third century Roman who is associated with courtly love. Although St. Valentine is not rumored to have been gay, throughout history, there have been several LGBTQ Christian saints believed to have taken a same-gender life partner. There are gay, lesbian, and transgender saints. They’re worth exploring both for the example they set and the spiritual grounding each offers.
At times the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament suggest the existence and acceptance of same-gender attraction. “And it came to pass … ” I Samuel 18:1 teaches “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” The story of these two men, one the son of a king and the other a warrior, borders on the erotic as well as romantic.
In another teaching, Naomi, a widow, and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, had a unique connection (Ruth 1:16-17). This is not to say they were lovers, but the scriptural language suggests a clear possibility.
You don’t have to be Christian to be inspired by LGBTQ Christian saints or the Judeo-Christian heritage that may support same-gender relationships. Judaism and Christianity are parts of the infinite spiritual cosmology unfolding at every moment.
Due to some of the unsettling news faced by the LGBTQ community, St. Valentine’s Day is a “holiday” needed more than ever. In January, the Trump Administration announced federally funded foster agencies in South Carolina may deny services based on religion and same-gender relationships.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement noting his shock because “the federal government is openly sanctioning discrimination against Jews, LGBTQ, and others. Allowing a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against Jews and other minorities is outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent for our nation.” According to ADL, a local Jewish woman has already been rejected as a volunteer mentor of children.
I take comfort knowing ADL and other groups are out there also fighting the good fight. The LGBTQ community is not alone.
St. Valentine and saints perceived as LGBTQ are courageous reminders of resilience during persecution. They didn’t stop loving. Didn’t become jaded. Didn’t lose hope. Didn’t become misanthropes.
Their timeless lessons teach us to look beyond what we can see and touch. They teach us to transcend bad experiences. These lessons spiritually mentor us to go beyond the visible. Each of us comes with our own baggage and limitations. The goal is to be as self-aware as possible, so personal insecurities don’t give us a reason to limit our growth.
I remain hopeful, often reflecting on the words of a favorite theologian Teilhard de Chardin: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”
Many reading this column will be exchanging gifts and having a romantic dinner with someone on Valentine’s Day or during a special weekend date. Consider adding something to your gift giving.
Offer a donation in the name of your significant other to an LGBTQ friendly group like ADL, Ali Forney Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), or Matthew Shepard Foundation, among other worthy organizations.
In an era where you can feel helpless, small efforts like this can lessen feelings of fear and anxiety and be an ongoing reminder to the LGBTQ community that it’s not alone. Reflecting on the past provides an invaluable perspective moving forward.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t just love your significant other. Relish being in love with the person. And remember to love and be in love with life no matter how unjust it may seem at times.
*Paul is a personal chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also the author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis. ”