By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist-
No matter the support from peers, colleagues or straight friends, there can remain in the LGBT and Searching Community, consciously or subconsciously, a feeling of sin, guilt, shame and unworthiness. Priests, rabbis and other spiritual guides have made the case intellectually and theologically for many years that to love and be loved differently is not a sin.
Despite research, scholarship and religious affirmations that members of the LGBT and Searching Community are loved and accepted unconditionally by God as families and individuals, there is doubt. Doubt festers in the deep recesses of the soul. It’s a daily, tortuous and emotional struggle for some to believe they are accepted unconditionally.
I’ve been e-mailed many times by LGBT and Searching Community members who regularly attend church or temple. Sometimes they worship in a place where they admire and respect the spiritual leader, but who will marginalize their personhood or dismiss their loving, monogamous union by condemning gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender “behavior” in generic terms before the congregation. If it comes from the spiritual leader who is liked, it is especially painful.
Folks also have e-mailed me that they’re content with their spiritual family at a church or temple that completely embraced them. Despite the warm welcome, however, some harbor doubt about God’s acceptance.
Although there are similarities in the many experiences shared, no two are identical. There’s no one answer or solution to the unique personal spiritual journey. Religion, life experiences and social upbringing are among the factors that make each journey different. I welcome specific questions sent to the e-mail below. Your experiences can help others not because you have answers for others or that I can offer any when you share questions, but each journey provides perspective. Regardless of your religious beliefs, if the “spirit” moves you, please e-mail me your questions or share your experiences.
Much of popular culture today still accepts some form of hell that involves eternal punishment of the worst kind. This stems, in part, from the stunning depictions of damnation by extraordinarily talented artists of yesteryear. Although the art is fascinating, it’s not accurate. Hell is not pitchfork-poking demons, caverns of fire and smoke, large meat grinders that grind sinners up for eternity. These punishments can’t be found in the Hebrew Scriptures nor the New Testament.
Colorfully written descriptions of hell are the ramblings of illiterate monks who drank bad mead, ate funny mushrooms before bed, or were delirious with food poisoning. In other cases, talented writers like Dante penned his Inferno and John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, which provided nightmarish descriptions. They’re not accurate.
The Birth of Satan, by T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley, The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels, and A History of the Devil by Gerald Messadie are among the books that offer excellent insights into the historical development of Lucifer. I don’t believe in Satan’s existence. Hence, I don’t believe in vampires and werewolves. If Satan existed, why couldn’t other monsters? Many Christian conservatives contend that Satan’s greatest strength is the denial of his existence. Based on this logic the same could be said of lycans and bloodsuckers.
It’s been said, written and reinforced that joy, beauty and union with God make the person complete. An absence of joy and beauty hinder unity with God. This is real hell. Unwanted, relentless, and undeserved feelings of sin, guilt, shame or unworthiness that may exist among members of the LGBT and Searching Community could be a call for a deeper relationship with God. It could be God’s way of saying there’s always room for you at the table. Come as you are.
* Paul is an author, attorney, and a seminary-trained ordained priest in greater Albany, N.Y. He is author of Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It – A Call to Social Justice, available on Amazon.com. He may be reached at Dilovod@aol.com.