McNaught: Being Gay or Religious – Are We Still Stuck?

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Sometimes, the universe really wants our attention. The day started with an email from a heterosexually married, and faithful, privately gay, senior officer in The Salvation Army. He sent a news story about his religious organization being disinvited from staffing a “welcome” booth at the Capital City Pride Parade in Olympia, Washington. It was done to protect members of TSA from threats of violence, stemming from a complaint on gay social media.

I marveled to my longtime correspondent that in our lifetime The Salvation Army would request to show support at a gay pride event, and I asked him his feelings on the threat. From my own life experiences, I know what it’s like to feel rejected by both your community of faith, and by your gay family. Does one have to choose between faith and love? Still? He once did. He no longer does because of our long-distance friendship. 

As you may recall, I was, at age 26, fired by the Catholic Church from my reporter/columnist job at the Detroit diocesan newspaper because I publicly affirmed my sexuality. The subsequent persona non grata position I then had among Catholic officials and coworkers was very painful because I was a proud, if often defiant, Catholic, and I loved my job.

Eight years later, staff members of an anarchist gay newspaper were so upset that a Catholic had been selected by then Boston Mayor Kevin White to be his liaison to the gay community that they pasted flyers on trees in the common that read, “Brian McNaught invites you to a public orgy…Bring boys and toys, slings and things. Co-sponsored by Dignity and Integrity.” Once again, my soul felt bruised, because I knew these guys, and it reinforced my awareness of being unwelcome among some people as a gay Catholic man.

The next thing the universe sent my way that day was an audio tape. I listened, as part of my daily spiritual practice, to Krista Tippett interview a guest, this time, Fr. Richard Rohr, about spiritual beliefs in a changing world. Do beliefs change with new information? All others beside Fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews know this to be true. 

The order of our childhood faith becomes disorder when our life experiences change and conflict with dogma. We then go through a re-ordering as we mature, and get a better perspective on our life’s truths. Naming one’s sexuality or gender are experiences which cause disorder in religious beliefs.

How could, for instance, a transgender Catholic continue to embrace church teachings when they now insist they don’t exist? After spending years lolling in disorder for emotional stability, the person who is transgender may decide to leave disorder, and re-order their beliefs to find comfortable, treasured guidance to their decision-making.

That same day, Ray and I serendipitously chose to watch with our meal a film about a pair of Mormon missionaries who fell in love, but were pulled apart by their different reactions to their faith. In “The Falls: Covenant of Grace,” the question is asked, “Can you be gay, and a man of faith?” These two young men agonized, one in particular, over the price they would be forced to pay to be gay by their conservative church.

We ended the night with the delightfully irreverent, “Good Omens,” a series starring Michael Sheen as a good, slightly bad, angel, and David Tennant as a bad, slightly good, angel, who help us take order, watch it become disorder, and then get re-ordered, so that good is bad, and bad is good, and as Joseph Campbell wrote, “And where we thought to find an abomination we find a god.”

I loved my life of order as a faithful Roman Catholic. I found great comfort in my sense of belonging to something awe-inspiring that would never change, as well as to a community, and then I named and claimed myself as gay, and realized I needed disorder to find a home for my sexuality and spirituality. 

I loved my life of disorder because it allowed me to be a gay Catholic until it didn’t. I got squeezed by both sides. As a result, my spiritual identity and my sexual identity both had to fend for themselves in a new world in which I rebuked the order of both the church and the most radically intolerant of the LGBT community.

And now, I am truly energized by my life of re-ordering my faith with my sexuality, confident enough from my life experiences to hold my own against the Christian Church and the community, in discovering who I am, what I believe, and how my world of abomination is a god. How so? God is love. They who abide in love abide in God and God in them.

I lost a community when I fled the world of order, but I found another in the disorder. Many there will leave me now as they see me re-order, for order is seen as anathema to self-actualization without rules. Another community will form, but I will rely less on it for the ongoing development of my identity, body and soul.

 


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