27 April 2012

The Spirit Moves Them To Harvard Divinity School

According to an in-the-know friend of mine, the Harvard Divinity School has more than its share of LGBT faculty members and students, and that a large number of theses are being written on topics related to LGBT and spirituality.

Somehow, even though I don't consider myself religious, what this friend tells me makes perfect sense.  Some cultures have seen dual-gendered or two-spirited people as having particular conduits to the divine or spirit world.  For this reason, they were often accorded the tasks of mediating disputes and performing marriages and funerals and were exempted from some of the duties normally expected of people of their physical or birth genders.

However, I think there is another reason why many LGBT people are returning, as clergy members, to the churches that once shunned them, or from which they felt alienated.  It doesn't have to do with "liberal" or "post-modern" interpretation of the Holy Scriptures or some such thing.  Rather, I feel that our identities--particularly for those of us who are of transgender experience--are not merely about our physical, or even psychological or sexual selves.  We identify ourselves as we do because of a force within us that is independent of just about everything else.  Freudians would call it the subconscious, a term which is accurate as far as it goes.  While I believe there are forces within us that influence, if not govern, much of our behavior, I also think there is a dimension of our selves that is both within and beyond our conscious and subconscious minds.  Perhaps it is a supernatural force, and there may be a being or beings responsible for it.

In other words--for lack of a better term--being lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual or of whatever orientation or identity you care to name is as much a spiritual state as it is a psychological or physical one.  In fact, one might say that the very fact of life (as opposed to mere existence) is a spiritual state.  As Pere Teilhard de Chardin said, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences.  

Lots of people would deny (or simply not understand) what I've just said.  However, many of those same people would say that our selves and our lives, whatever they are, are created by God (or whom- or whatever else they believe in).  For them, that is sufficient reason for LGBT people to believe, to worship and even to feel that they are "called" into the clergy or to become theologians.  

Now, I just happen to believe that one can believe whatever one believes independently of other people, and that one can pray (or pay homage to their Supreme Being or Force) in the privacy of their own selves.  However, people who are spiritually moved, more often, want to share what they regard as the "gift" of their faith with others, and seek the company and support of others who are similarly motivated.  LGBT people who feel such impulses and "callings" have, I believe, even more reason to want the company of like-minded people and the support the structure of an institution of such people can offer them.  After all, many face ostracism and worse in their daily lives, often from the very people who were supposed to love and nurture them. And, those who have not become embittered by such experiences often feel the need to reach out to those who might be hostile to, or simply not understand, them.  

So it doesn't surprise me that more and more LGBT people are turning or returning to the places of worship that shunned them, and are even following "callings" to become members of the clergy.  And it surprises me even less that they'd be studying and teaching in places like Harvard Divinity School.