Pope Francis made headlines and waves soon after he took office when he made the statement “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized.” (The “they” he is referring to is of course homosexuals.)
It can be particularly challenging to come out if we have been raised in a religion that does not accept our sexual orientation. In fact, it causes many of us to leave the religion in which we were raised as we no longer feel supported, accepted and nourished by it. Even if we were not raised in a particularly religious family we cannot have lived in this world without being influenced in some way by religious belief. We take heart however, that many (if not most) of the worlds religions seem to be evolving away from hatred and exclusivity into a more welcoming stance of love and inclusivity when it comes to sexual identity and orientation, as witnessed by Pope Francis and numerous churches now allowing gay marriages and even pastors.
The religions that are desperately trying to cling to the old way of thinking are afraid of change, and (IMHO) it is better to be understanding of this than angry. Change can be very frightening for us all, and yet it is a necessity of life and is one of the most beautiful things about the world we live in; Imagine a world of caterpillars with no butterflies. Metamorphosis and growth are basic laws of the universe; it is built into our DNA. For those drawn to fundamentalist religion, the world can be a tricky place to navigate since they must face many contradictions within their religious texts and explain many outdated (sinful) sounding passages that propose things like taking people from neighboring countries as our slaves and stoning a girl to death if she lives with her father and is not a virgin. But for the fundamentalist, change is too scary to face, and we may just be the biggest lesson staring them in the face. Sometimes if human beings are not forced to change, we stay within our comfort zone. Life within that comfort zone does not allow us to stretch and grow as we were meant to do. We are here to explore, play and expand!
How does understanding all of this really help us if a relative or someone we are close to insists on using religion as a reason to condemn our lifestyle? If we approach them with the attitude of wanting to change their belief system we will surely end up with much ramming of horns. The first question we must ask ourselves is “Do I accept myself completely?” If we do not accept ourselves, then we cannot expect others to accept us, and so we must practice self-love before all else. Next, we must practice allowing the other person to evolve at their own pace, and accept where they are in their journey. By accepting our religious zealot friends and family we may find that they will eventually become less judgmental of us.
I would love to hear your stories of how you have dealt with religious oppression. (Please respond below.)
In closing, from the spiritual perspective I often turn to Abraham Hicks as a resource. This is amazingly powerful if you watch it through until the end (9 mins): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_c7NWWiUnk
Peace and joy to all this holiday season!