Who knew that sex and sexuality figure so prominently in our age-old debates about spirituality and religion? Just how prominently I’ve only recently begun to grasp. I’ve always known about the rules and laws supposedly based on scripture and how, if obeyed, they will lead to salvation and righteousness. Never throughout most of my life, though, did I ever clearly connect the use of sex and sexuality as weapons of oppression and marginalization. I lived in a trap that too many of us who are oppressed and marginalized get tricked into. Without any kind of blatant incident of discrimination, we who have some measure of privilege tend to identify with the 1% through that bit of privilege. From this false sense of likeness we then act as if we are the 1%. Worse than that, we can mistreat the 99% in worse ways than the actual 1% treat us.
This phenomenon helps explain how women can in any way participate in perpetuating ideologies and theologies that oppress other women. Wow. How can we take something so deeply organic to our very being as sex and sexuality and use it against other people? No wonder great numbers of us are fleeing religion.
Many of my colleagues cringe at this phrase, “spiritual, but not religious,” not understanding fully, I don’t think, what this declaration means. Too many clergy who have given up a lot – more financially lucrative incomes, personal privacy, lives filled with less stress, etc. – to fulfill G~d’s call on their lives cannot fathom what it means to separate their spirituality from their rituals and doctrine, or their religion. (Please see sexNspirit’s “Welcome” post for definitions.) This is where we have one disconnect between leadership and parishioners. What’s interesting is that those of us focused on helping the people develop their own spiritual lives are actually the cause of the disconnect. The more people develop their own spiritual practices and grow in this way, the more they begin to see for themselves what my spiritual brother, Trig, calls a “farce” in his video below, “Why I Am No Longer Christian.” In the end, he dares, “[G~d’s] ‘Beloved Community’ has no divisions. It’s time to walk away from anything that says it does.”
Most painful for me is hearing the stories of disappointment and outright abuse experienced by people who trust the Church to re-present G~d. One of the women interviewed for my D.Min. thesis, Rain, sums up well what can precede a person choosing spirituality over religion. “I’ve discovered that much of what they [church leaders] told me simply isn’t true.” Do we remain religious and obedient, which is better than sacrifice, right? Or do we continue on a path of truth that Yeshua (Jesus) proclaims will lead to freedom? Ah, and if that truthful path leads to freedom, then that means the religious, obedience-demanding institutional path leads to . . . bondage. Hmmmm . . .
Unlike Trig, I’ll still call myself a Christian, only ‘cause we haven’t found a good succinct descriptor to replace it. I’ll also call myself a “disciple of Yeshua.” And that is who I am, but it’s a bit to articulate well. Yet like Trig, my view of the Church changed drastically the more involved I became in ministry. Some of my colleagues can dismiss the antics that only a few witness. I cannot. Then when I worked at non-faith based nonprofit I served alongside some very generous, kind-hearted folks who didn’t proclaim Yeshua as their savior, but they were doing more of the work of Yeshua than many, many congregations. I still don’t need any more proof than that to convince me it is better to be spiritual than religious.
It is through spirituality that I can transcend my gender and my race and my economic status to know my true worth as one of G~d’s creations. Christian religion tells me otherwise, at least the westernized, hierarchical Protestant version that currently influences much of this country’s rules, laws, and discourse. Folks who are not heterosexually male, not white and not of substantial financial means sure do catch hell here. If my connection to G~d depended on these societal values, I would truly have a keyhole limited relationship with our Creator, just barely peeking through to what’s possible for our lives.
Obviously, lately I’ve been quite aware of my gender, with all the ridiculous notions about women that are floating to the surface. While it is certainly fun and interesting to include sex and sexuality in my work, never before a year or so ago did I ever think that it would become one of the areas I study deeply. Once I learned from some of the women with whom I’ve worked that sex is used as such a weapon against their happiness, against their leading fulfilling lives, I had to take it on. Because ultimately my call is about people leading better lives; freedom is a part of that betterment. I am so grateful that we’re not alone in this quest! Certainly, we can see again that it is time to make some more progress toward just one aspect of equality and true righteousness. Spirituality will help us do this. Religion? Not so much.
© 2012 candi dugas, llc