Credit, Brian McNaught, Lincoln

Lincoln has been a Buddhist since he was a puppy. In his earliest romps around our lakefront property in the Adirondacks, he would stop, sit for long periods of time, and observe. In other words, he was in the moment, with his body and his mind in the same place, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling things for the first time. It’s called “Beginner’s Mind.” You needn’t be a puppy or baby to experience it. 

 Ray and I didn’t embrace Buddhist and Taoist thought until much later in our lives. For the first thirty-plus years we were Roman Catholics. Both from families of seven, we each had sixteen years of parochial education. As youngsters, we both were trained as Altar Boy servers at Mass, memorizing all of the responses in Latin. We knew and said every prayer, speaking up clearly during “The Apostles Creed” that we believed in one God in three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

There were advantages to sharing the same faith when we came together in a relationship in 1976. On Sundays, we walked together to Mass. Our friends were often gay Catholics. We read the same national, liberal Catholic newspaper, found interest in the same media reports on the Church, read the same books of inspiration, and then both left the Church with the same open wounds, anger, and rejection of Catholic doctrine. 

Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, and other Evangelical Christian leaders get credit for alienating us from Christianity altogether, but so do the Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops who tried to drive non-celibate gay Catholics out of Church facilities. 

 The biggest casualty in our messy divorce from Christianity was Jesus, an entity who, from childhood, inspired our fervent social activism with his recorded life and words of love and forgiveness. 

My 24-day hunger fast in 1974 was motivated by the Sermon on the Mount. But the obnoxious proselytizing by Fundamentalist Christians, with their “Honk if you love Jesus” bumperstickers, and their refusal to have funerals for or bury men with AIDS in their cemeteries, drove us away from the name, “Jesus.”  

Not only did we no longer believe he was the one and only Son of God, we cringed when we heard his name. Nevertheless, we continued to draw strength from the echo of his teachings.

The same held true for the word “God.” Ronald Regan, and the so-called Moral Majority, twisted the image of God into a grotesque, emotionally-abusive Father. The marriage of Right Wing Christians and the Republican Party made it impossible for Ray and me to separate “God” from intolerance.  

The spiritual craving that remained was initially satisfied by the Unitarian Church, that we believed to be welcoming to gay people. But even gathering with them sometimes felt emotionally unsafe, not because the majority of Unitarians weren’t eager to have us think about spirituality with them, but because the small handful who were visibly unwelcoming made driving to church on Sunday unappealing.

Ray described himself as an atheist, I as an agnostic. We didn’t stop seeking answers to our questions about life, death and the unknown, but not in the company of others. Several people, books, and other  influences eventually led us to Buddhism, and to a teacher in Naples whose life reflected the teachings of the Buddha. 

Ray and I then came to see the Tao te Chang as the most useful daily guide for our hunger for union with our higher selves. For many years, we’d read aloud one of the 81 short lessons written 2,500 years ago. I now have an excellent sage, August Gold, in Fort Lauderdale, who is a most credible manifestation of the lessons of the Tao. 

And, a funny thing happened on the way to the Tao.I’m no longer offended by the word “God,” which I now comfortably use along with the descriptive words, “Universe,” “Love,” and, “Divine Life.” 

I’m also good friends again with Jesus, which makes me very happy. There’s nothing quite like a reunion with the best friend from your youth. He’s still not the sole Son of God, but he’s a remarkably wise rabbi, and kind-hearted man. Actually, there are no spiritual words that now make me cringe. As the great teacher of comparative religions, Joseph Campbell, said, all the words mean the same thing.

Spirituality has guided Ray’s and my life together, and, the lives of most people close to us, even if they’re unable to articulate what it is they actually believe. Belief in the soul has helped me navigate choppy waters, to pay attention to the big picture, to esteem that which has lasting value. \

It troubles me deeply that LGBT people have been so deeply wounded by many religious groups. It’s actually outrageous that self-professed followers of any faith in the divine unifier would work to create divisions. 

That’s why I’d like to be of some use to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people at the end of their lives, if, in fact, they are struggling with thoughts of what awaits them in their next manifestation. 

LGBT seniors, like those who died of complications related to AIDS, are in need of an army of people who will help them navigate a peaceful, meaningful death, and protect them from people who would have it otherwise, including family members.

Lincoln would be a great one to bring with me to the bedside of an LGBT person, as he’s a very soothing presence. One can only feel joy and gratitude when petting this dog. But, he’d screw up my calling card, which I imagine could be, “If you’re dyin,’ call Brian.” However, it also could be, “If you’re dyin,’ and thinkin,’ call Brian and Lincoln.”

 

Brian McNaught has been a leading educator on LGBTQ issues globally since 1974. He has made his many books and DVDs available for free at Brian-McNaught.com. The New York Times named him “The Godfather of gay diversity training.

 

Check out other stories by Brian McNaught

McNaught: What Makes a Family

McNaught: Keeping Them Together

McNaught: Memories Light The Corners Of My Mind

McNaught: Through Thin And Thick

McNaught: The Way We Were