The Rainbow and the Spirit: Spiritual Experiences of Some Same-sex Oriented Christians

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-10-02
  • Publisher: Textstream
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By providing both theoretical and practical primary research data, this book gives a spiritual and theological voice to the religious experiences of persons whom many Christians ostracize as persons outside of God's blessings and salvation. This study provides that voice by listening respectfully to some LGBT Christians' stories of their spiritual experiences and allowing those narratives of their experiences of God in their lives to be heard, while letting them speak for themselves, alongside the theoretical-historical information. Through their experiences of God working in different ways in their lives, all four research participants were able to reconcile and integrate their faith with their sexual orientation, and to arrive at the point of believing that holiness or salvation and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive. This book treats the narratives of these same-sex oriented Christians as spiritually revelatory and thus a contemporary medium of God's revelation in our post-modern era. It can therefore help us all, homosexual and heterosexual Christians alike, including those who are struggling to reconcile their faith and their sexual orientation, to see that holiness or salvation and homosexuality are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This book is a sequel to my earlier book, Blessing Same-Sex Unions: Theological Reflections (2005).


INTRODUCTION The purpose of this study was to get an understanding of how members of the homosexual community (defined as lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirited or transgendered [LGBT] persons) including those in committed adult same sex unions, experience God as present to them and working in their lives together as couples or as individuals. Specifically, I wanted to discover the spiritual and any other religious experiences of homosexuals within the Christian churches. I think this kind of research can be helpful to all members of the Christian community, homosexual and heterosexual alike. My research thesis was that salvation or holiness and homosexuality are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I did the research by examining some critical high points ('mountain top' transfiguration or spiritually transforming experiences), or low points ('valley of darkness' or 'dark nights of the soul', spiritually depressing, negative experiences); or routine spiritual experiences, of a selected number of members of the homosexual community. I wanted to probe to whatever extent participants in my research would be willing to share any relevant, helpful, indicative and appropriate aspect(s) of their spiritual lives, their spiritual journeys, spiritual biographies or autobiographies. Four gay persons participated in the study. They were one male same-sex couple, one bisexual male and one lesbian. The research was implemented in one city on the Canadian prairies. The practical primary research was conducted over the period of one year. However, I began doing the theoretical research i.e. the review of the literature, five years ago in 2007, periodically going back to new literature as leads emerged from the literature itself and from professional colleagues who read and critiqued the research design and made suggestions. I used the narrative method of inquiry, integrated with some conceptual tools that queer theory provides, within the framework of a qualitative research approach. THE QUESTION My research question arose from a book of theological reflections I wrote in October 2005, titled, Blessing Same-Sex unions – Theological Reflections. In that book, I used Acts 15:1-32 specifically, as a prototype and model or conceptual framework for understanding the current theological crisis of blessing same sex unions in the Christian churches. In Acts 15 the author narrates a very important and significant synodal or conciliar procedure and process. It is the biblical account of the Council of Jerusalem (A.D. 49-50 circa). Based on my previous and preliminary findings, I consider this very significant indeed. In that 2005 work I contended that this particular bible story (Acts 15: 1-32) provides us with three very crucial instruments, analytical or conceptual tools. First, this specific text in Acts provides us with a biblical indicator of a possible paradigm shift within the bible itself, from religious-cultural exclusion to religious-cultural inclusion. Second, it provides a key model and prototype for distilling an appropriate Christian synodal process for dialogue, consensus and doctrinal-theological analysis and decision-making on faith and doctrine matters today. Third, it provides some key discernment questions that the early church's Jerusalem Council raised implicitly about salvation and circumcision (which was a religious-cultural practice) and, by implication, discernment questions that we need to ask in the present era about salvation and sexuality, specifically homosexuality (or other same-sex relationships) and experiences of God that we may call 'religious experiences' or 'spiritual experiences'. I used that bible story and the book of Acts as a whole, together with some other selected biblical texts, as my controlling image(s), interpretive lenses or guiding texts (Johnston, 2004); or instrumental values (Charles, 2004), for interpreting the whole bible (Roberts, 2005). The term 'controlling image' is defined as a lens or frame through which one looks at and interprets the world around us, and/or the whole Christian bible or religious outlook on life (Johnston, 2004). In this study, I am using the terms: 'controlling image', 'interpretive lenses', 'guiding texts' and 'instrumental values', as synonymous terms that have the same meaning and are therefore interchangeable. Based on the above-mentioned biblical model or prototype and assuming that the terms listed above are synonymous in meaning, I argued as follows. In seeking to resolve the theological question of whether circumcision was necessary for salvation, or whether salvation was possible without circumcision, the Council of Jerusalem, under the leadership of James the Just (the Bishop of Jerusalem at that time), the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem mother-church, together with Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Silas and others from the Antioch-based Christian (Diaspora) churches, followed a prayerful and mutually respectful process and procedure. That process led to a decision in favor of inclusion. It was the most important theological-doctrinal decision that determined the future membership composition of the early church. It should be noted here that Walter Brueggemann, one of today's foremost biblical (Old Testament) scholars, has argued that when all is said and done the overall thrust of the bible is towards inclusion. Brueggermann therefore speaks of the general inclusivity of the bible.

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