Friday, July 06, 2012

A Spirit of Defiance

The Wild Reed's 2012 Queer Appreciation series concludes with an excerpt from Donald L. Boisvert's Out on Holy Ground: Meditations on Gay Men's Spirituality.

Gay men have always had a peculiar love-hate relationship with religion. It is important, therefore, to understand the very intimate connection between the oppression an exclusion of gay men and the emergence of a distinctly gay spirituality.

Gays are intensely conscious, personally and collectively, of the disdain in which they have been held by organized religion, most notably Christianity, throughout history. One need only consider in this regard the statements of condemnation that continue to be issued by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The political and social ostracism of gay men has its source in the oppression of Scripture. The blossoming of a gay spirituality can therefore be seen as a classic example of the positive recuperation, by the victim and the outsider, of the religious discourse of rejection and intolerance – in much the same way that gays and lesbians, for example, may opt to call themselves "faggot," "dyke," or "queer," or wear the pink triangle with pride.

In choosing to define themselves as persons with a spiritual life and a language with which to express it, gay men are staking claim to one of the most powerful and persuasive instruments of social, cultural, and political legitimacy, that of religion. In doing so, not only do they attempt to neutralize the sharp sting of religious righteousness, they also create a parallel religious discourse of inclusion and acceptance: sites of defiance and resistance, as it were. Such a parallel discourse, in turn, can become a significant source of personal and collective empowerment. The similarities with the field of liberation theology are striking, and it could be argued that these are more deliberate than accidental. Gay theology came into its own at the same time that several Latin American theologians were confidently redefining traditional Christian teaching with respect to the meaning of human salvation.

Gay spirituality is characterized by a spirit of defiance. In asserting the truth and viability of the gay religious experience, and in creating the conditions that allow it to assume meaningful and treasured place in the lives of gay men, gay spirituality situates itself squarely in opposition to the orthodox religious norm. Though some forms of gay spiritual life may be very much tied in with more established churches, gay spirituality, as a whole is transnormative. It may burrow blatantly and deliberately from a universal storeroom of religious symbols and rituals, but it posits a radically different understanding of the human body and of human sexuality, on the one hand, and of human relationships with the holy or with the sacred, on the other. This subversive element – vis-a-vis both the transcendent and the immanent – gives gay spirituality its force and dynamism, and makes it an essential constituent of the contemporary gay identity.

For previous posts in The Wild Reed's 2012 Queer Appreciation series, see:
The Theology of Gay Pride
Bi God, Somebody Listen
North America: Perhaps Once the "Queerest Continent on the Planet"
Gay Men and Modern Dance

For The Wild Reed's 2011 Gay Pride/Queer Appreciation series, see:
Gay Pride: A Celebration of True Humility
Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon
Gay Pioneer Malcolm Boyd on Survival – and Victory – with Grace
Senator Scott Dibble's Message of Hope and Optimism
Parvez Sharma on Islam and Homosexuality
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride
Worldwide Gay Pride

For The Wild Reed’s 2010 Gay Pride series, see:
Standing Strong
Growing Strong
Jesus and Homosexuality
It Is Not Good To Be Alone
The Bisexual: “Living Consciously In the Place Where the Twain Meet”
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride
Worldwide Gay Pride

For The Wild Reed's 2009 Gay Pride series, see:
A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except It Does
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Not Just Another Political Special Interest Group
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride
Worldwide Gay Pride

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
In the Garden of Spirituality – Toby Johnson
Gay People and the Spiritual Life
The Challenge to Become Ourselves
The Gifts of Homosexuality
The Bible and Homosexuality
The Roman Catholic Church: Officially Homophobic, Intensely Homoerotic
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men – A Discussion Guide

Image: Subject and photographer unknown.

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