Monday, September 15, 2008

Transgender and Religious Acceptance

As far as the teaching that is found in Holy Scripture, I had blindly accepted the interpretations of the Catholic Priests in their weekly sermons. I myself had actually never really read the Bible all the way through, but during my years going to Mass, I have heard the major portions that had been deemed of great importance. As a cradle Catholic, I mindlessly placed my beliefs in the wake of all those who adhered to and profess the true meanings of the teaching of the church.
I slowly realized that my Church and its teaching and interpretations that I had been raised with had been hijacked. Or maybe it was that I wasn’t able to follow the letter of the teaching in my personal married life. I began to see that the Catholic Church, The One True Church, did not accept all of God’s ‘chosen’ people. Not just the fact that I had had a vasectomy after the birth of my third child; that was my choice to have this done in order to not have my wife endure another procedure that could threaten her life. So really I was Catholic, but not a strict observer of all her dictates.
After I declared myself to be Episcopalian and a transsexual, it only reaffirmed my religious belief that I only accepted the true person that God knew I was. Being involved with the Episcopal group, Integrity; which was for GLBT members? The Psalm Passage that was their motto became my motto; which is from the Episcopal 1982 Book of Common Prayer: Psalm 84:11 “No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity.” This was my personal message from God, telling me that I, who accepted this challenge of being transgender, was His challenge to me; I was still one of his ‘people’.
If one were to read the text to the old Church Hymn, Just as I am, with the text by one Charlotte Elliott, beginning at the third verse of the Hymn,

3 Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea all I need, in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come,
4 Just as I am; thou wilt receive; wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve, because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
5 Just as I am, thy love unknown has broken every barrier down; now to be thine, yea, thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
6. Just as I am, of thy great love the breadth, length, depth and height to prove, here for a season, then above: O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

through the mind and eyes of someone who has been pushed to the edge because they are different; they hold these words in their hearts wanting to believe the truth of this beautiful poem, hoping that a church, their church would make them true by their actions.
However, as strongly as the Psalm passage and the old Hymn speaks of acceptance of all God’s children, it was the Reading of last Sunday from the Letter to the Romans, by Paul that really give me and for the people who have been excluded by the more evangelical church’s, this simple message of acceptance for the 21 Century, even though this letter by Paul was written in the 1st Century BC is for your ears to hear and your mind to accept.
The Reading begins at the 14th Chapter:
Romans 14:1-12
1 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions… 3... and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand…………
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

“Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall.”
Our task in life is not to judge, our task is to live out our own beliefs, even if those beliefs are not based on the Christian ideals; it is not ours to judge, “12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God”; the religious beliefs that I chose to believe in, is to place myself at the feet and mercy of my God; and only my God. We can not change the minds or beliefs that those of such narrow-mindedness, or "My Way or no way" of thinking of the single religious state. I endure the hateful Name Calling, Taunting, harassment, finger point, blaming natural disaster on God’s furious Anger toward Man, of the religious right, is just as powerful as control mesure as the mindless numbing reactive destructive power that Hitler manager to exhort over the German People; and just as dangerous to religious freedoms.
We have divided our treasured “United States of America” into regions of political division for ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’. Would we go any further by dividing our United States into regions of religions, as in “Christianity, being further divided by the ‘Protestant’ and those of the ‘Apostolic’ tradition? Of course there must be separate regions for the American Jewish faith, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Native American and those of Mother Earth; do we also divide our country into regions of ‘Heterosexual, Binary Gender—that is ‘male and female’ defined by chromosomal testing, with the rest of the country made up of “the others” into and among the above specified division? If we must travel through these distinct and diversified regions should we need a 'passport' or a 'safe travel voucher' in order to do so? I am of the mind that the great divisions that is rocking our great Country will never be so insanely divided.
Why does it bother us so that the great ‘Declaration of Independence’ Documents which created these United States of America guarantees it’s citizens the inalienable rights to believe in their own and distinct god, and worship as they chose.


MadPriest said...

After I declared myself to be Episcopalian and a transsexual

Oh, that's a simply gorgeous line. I love it.

Shannon said...

You have to be careful in applying Romans 14 to our situation, it is too easy to proof-text and end up misapplying the passage. The passage needs to be looked at in its entirety. Yes, it does apply in that there are stronger and weaker Christians, and just because the weaker cannot accept you does not condemn you in God's eyes. As it says in v. 22 "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves." But it also talks in v. 13-21about not being a stumbling block to the weaker christian. Years ago, the application of this verse to us would have been straightforward, i.e. be closeted if part-time, stealth if full-time. In this you are neither condemned by God nor a stumbling block to the weaker around you.

But in this day and age, God is moving in our world. The purity system that has embedded itself in Christianity of our age is as much an abomination to God as the purity system that Jesus railed against in the Jewish religion of that day and age. Do you really think that it is mere coincidence that God is calling more and more gay and lesbians to the ministry to the point where those variations of Christianity that reject them have shortages of qualified clergy, and those that object most vociferously are being deluged as in a biblical sense with them--ask your self about tremendous number of catholic gay priests and the numbers of gay closeted evangelicals that keep getting caught literally with their pants down. Isn't that soooo like God? The methodology is almost straight from the Beatitudes: the last shall be first, and the weak shall inherit the earth? God is moving and woe to those who fail to heed the leading of God.

God is also moving in the trans community as well. Transgender people have been led by the hand of God throughout the Bible, and contrary to the past in this country and this day and age I believe God expects us to teach and to lead. This is where Paul's use of the consumption of food in his day breaks down in being applied to our day. In the face of God's leading, we cannot stand silent. We need to defend each other in love, and stand up for the sexual and gender minorities as we are able and enabled by God. God does not expect us to just jump out there and scare others, or to combat our churches acrimoniously, for that would lead us in pride to become the stumbling block that Paul calls us to avoid. Rather reaching out in quiet love as you are doing in your own community. We are quietly teaching and being a witness by our story, when we lead lives of devotion to God, service to others, and love for all. In so doing we teach those around us and build strong Christians in our own communities.