Sanctuary: Practicing Love

Love is a tricky word. In fact, it is so tricky that I went through a period of several years when I refused to use it. (Yes, spent lots of time working this out with my beloved and our children). For those years I spoke of honoring, respecting, trusting and appreciating to convey what I had always used “love” for. Having said that, in its best sense, love trumps all religious laws, all doctrines, and all beliefs, in my opinion.

These days, however, an individual says to family, friends and members of his or her religious community: “I am gay.  I am attracted to people of my own gender.  This is who I am.”

The too often Religious response : What you are is a (fill in the blank: pervert, sinner, disordered human being, anathema, child of Satan, etc).

These religious responses are based on a failed understanding of scripture and religious doctrine. Because religion carries such incredible power in our lives, for a human being, a precious child of the Divine, to receive these kinds of messages is devastating. They have a truth to tell about who we are, and no doctrine can supersede that truth brought forth from the sanctuary of their own core. Love is always the best response–honoring, accepting, respecting, trusting. Always. These responses to a person’s story will never fail.

Does that mean everything is so simple? Not really. I have been a religious person all my life. Working through these issues, what we believe, what our faiths teach, and how that squares with evidence that contradicts them is really hard work. So, people of faith, do the work! And make it personal. On the issue of homosexuality (or any sexuality that doesn’t fit the cultural expectation) imagine your own child, or sibling, or best friend, or some other beloved in your life coming to you one day to tell you that he/she is gay. How do you respond?

We need to practice, because we will only get this conversation once. No do-overs. When someone you love tells you that they are gay, “I love you but . . . ” is a fail. We have to practice our love for those days when it counts.  Love is a tricky word.  When we get it wrong, the failure is devastating.  When we get it right, it can heal all wounds.

Bob Patrick

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