Love Project 4 – LGBT+ dialogue with the Church of England – stopping the abuse
The project continues my interest in deepest feelings of love, many might call spiritual love, that unconditional love of feeling connected and a deep sense of compassion arising out of it for all things. This intense and connected feeling is what I label God, Divine or Spirit. This is not because I can confirm that God exists, but because it coincides with some recounted and documented mystical Christian as well as other spiritual experiences that refer to God. Whatever it is contains such deep seated contentment and wonder that if we all felt like this it might be a very real antidote to all the fear driven hate that divides humanity currently, with all it destructiveness, and human disconnect with the animal world and environment that is equally destructive in those spheres.
There is a big caveat. Organised and structured religion and its associated scriptures, often seem to contradict more personal recorded mystical experiences of God. Even more thorny, adherents to religions who do not have a compassion based mystical experience of love to draw on, rely heavily on intellectual analysis or dictates from others intellectual analysis to find God. So this gets very warped by the not consistently compassionate human mind often determining belief from fear. Or, perhaps worse, from some kind of hate fuelled values, in my view, often with very misguided and potentially horrendous consequences. I think this is less an understanding of God and more an understanding of humanities culture, fears and prejudices towards other humans. The Abrahamic religions draw heavily on the bible and other related scripture.
We know the bible is a mix of historically traceable writing , often well after the fact, and untruths which science can shows that old interpretations are incorrect. Interpretation is just that, not fact, not insight, but a way of making sense of stories and philosophy at a particular time. Some humans seem to persist in wanting to go back to medieval times, whilst others seemingly secure in a greater science base, which describes, rather than explains and give meaning to life, given its very limited methodology. Thankfully there has been a philosophical and moral movement across cultures that strives to treat humans equally. Long may that persist to provide acceptable patterns of social behaviour and law.
My recent adventures with the Church of England have been quite a surprise. As a gay man I had long since, in disgust, lost interest in Christianity. Clearly abusive and institutionally homophobic church of England and even worse in other church’s. It had always been a matter of integrity and hypocrisy. Moral teachers cannot be hypocritical and inconsistent to educated minds, or they are not selling something that you can believe is real.
But some beautiful and mystical experiences, through neo-tantric practice, had brought me into direct connection with not just experiences of God/Spirit/the Divine, but also Jesus Christ. I had found this very much part of a “heart centred experience”. I felt, with incredible clarity, that unconditional love and forgiveness were there for all of humanity and that anyone could have this experience or insight from this Jesus Christ energy. This revelation made me feel very humbled and deeply loved. I felt this feeling of real unconditional love, and this was bound up with the beauty and energy of sex that can be part of some versions of Tantra. Sex seems to when part of love open up something I refer to a heart centre, which I find Christ also refers to. Church’s generally seem to have a real problem with joyful sex so church teaching is for me a very restrictive place to be. And to be honest people who go to Church do not seem to have any more unconditional love to express than those that do not. I consider consensual sex a natural part of human physical and emotional need and a human right. I fully appreciated non-consensual sex is the opposite. But sex can be spiritual, and the joke about orgasms – Did the Earth Move for You – is no joke. Perceptions change and the world can be a very differently experienced place. A place full of love.
I then find that in answer to my intrigue in more educated Christian teaching, related to these mystical experiences of Christ, that local clergy and informed lay people from the Church of England came into my orbit. They were generous in sharing insights that had escaped me at school. I discovered that, from my perspective, there was little contradiction at all in the mystical experiences to those unfamiliar religious words and ideas used in the Church if they were interpreted in the light of this mystical experience. I found that key words that made no sense in my world of love and tolerance like sin, worship, holy trinity, could in fact be translated, and another religious language seemed to be opening up to me. My interpretation is broad focussing on unconditional love, not suffering, not restrictive perspectives that some parts of the Bible, the least related to Christ. So I continue to find little in the Jewish tradition in the old testament, I have no spiritual experience that relates to that but I do find the Gospels inspiring. Again what comes after Christ is variable in its integrity to the Gospels.
I also discovered that probably very few church goers have frequent and profound mystical experiences of real unconditional love that brings connection with others, and the world as if they are part of you. Most people I know can have more muted experiences that the mind with all its fear easily overwrites and undermines. Fear cuts off this unconditional love. There is much I have come to love in the Church of England but people in the church tend to use their intellectual minds to try to understand God, interpreting contradictory scriptures rather than any spiritual insight. Without deeper heartfelt understanding the Church cannot therefore give the spiritual leadership the world needs and Christ has given and continues to give to us, quite consistent with the deeper mystical aspects of most religion I believe, oddly enough.
In my own mind unconditional love, the experience you have when you meet Christ in a mystical way means just that, and it includes LGBT people equally on the same terms as anyone else. With Christ there is no if, but or maybe just love for all. Given the degree of LGBT+ prejudice in the churches, and other religious beliefs of this world it seems that that love is not understood. My own understanding, from quite surprising at the time, mystical experience, is that Christ died so that all sins, all human disconnect from this flow of God love energy, could be forgiven, like a deep cleansing of world karma. In my understanding, sin is a disconnection with God, out of step with this unconditional love. I work on the basis that this deeper experience of God may be personal, but that if there is any common reality in it, then religions are talking about the same thing, albeit in different ways, with different paths to deepening personal experience. Indeed, I am exploring in another project what unifies spiritual experience across religions, and find, much does, once your overcome the translation, political and cultural overlay. But that is not this project.
Having been heartened enough to be confirmed in the Church of England locally, or in my mind acknowledging publicly the beautiful loving experience of this Christ energy, I get slapped back by the recent negative Bishop’s report about the three year dialogue with LGBT+ within the Church of England. It clearly said that unless I didn’t have any sexual loving relationship I was not welcome as an equal member of the Church. Yet again the Church amongst others perpetuate the unchristian view to treat people differently and deny basic human rights and needs for love and sex. And in my own experience to find deep loving sexual experiences through Tantra are incredibly profound and are a gateway to being heart centred. It brings for me as a gay man profound Divine and Christian spiritual experiences. However, I have to acknowledge that there is an enormous gulf between me and the Church teachings on sex. Loving sex which is in tune with the Divine can only be found in marriage, let alone between people of the same sex. Although I think historically sex outside of marriage might have been a thorny issue without contraception and modern medicine, it does seem far less relevant today as a basis for understanding love and sex. Perhaps sex with unconditional love is an expression of God not just a method of God’s creation of another human being.
I find myself again Outside, the story of many a gay man’s life. Thankfully the report was not accepted by the General Synod. So on an insight in one of my infrequent Sunday participations in the Eucharist this project emerges. To create an Outsiders Blog on Christian teaching available to help support what now will be continuing dialogue in the Church of England with LGBT+.
I am not going to refer to any Old testament based references, these are far too contradictory and also often quite at odds with my own spiritual experience. Leave all that to the Theologians. I am not Jewish and feel no personal legacy from the Old Testament. In the same way some of the new testament which comes well after Christ I find equally unrelated to my spiritual experience. But as of the start of the project I have found the gospels quite strangely consistent and compatible with my own experience and relationship with Christ. So keeping to that I will each week following the structure of services take a gospel reading and then juxtapose with a more personal perspective. Each week the gospel word and the gay word together. Let’s see whether the art can be dialogue.