The other day we saw a quote from the Dalai Lama who said that developing a concern for others can help create a calm mind. It made sense to us, so we shared it on Facebook, hoping someone would find it useful.
We got a few "likes," but then a good friend of ours wrote an interesting comment. He said that the Dalai Lama isn't completely accepting of homosexuality, so our friend shuns all "spirituality."
The last part of our friend's comment stopped us in our tracks -- and got us thinking about a few things.
For the record, it's true that the Dalai Lama has described homosexuality as "sexual misconduct." He also said that opinion may change over time. And the Dalai Lama made a point of saying that everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly in this world, including gays and lesbians.
But the Dalai Lama's position on homosexuality didn't really concern us.
Much more important was that our friend was abandoning spirituality -- and all the gifts that come with it, which we know about from firsthand experience -- because of someone else's belief system.
It's totally understandable that religious leaders' non-accepting views of homosexuality would be the kind of thing to drive gays and lesbians away from spiritual matters. We still think that's a huge mistake -- and for a few reasons.
First, spirituality and organized religion are two very different things. Spirituality is your own relationship with the universe or some power greater than yourself. Organized religion is an entity that is supposed to offer advice and support for your personal relationship with a higher power.
Second, why would anyone let someone else -- even the Dalai Lama -- sour your personal relationship with a higher power? You wouldn't let the Dalai Lama mess with your relationship with your brother or boyfriend or mother.
Third, if we want equal rights in all areas of society, it would be far more radical to stand up for your rights as a spiritual person rather than lie down and let someone take them away from you.
If we allow religious leaders to get away with spiritual inequality, we actively participate in losing the benefits that come with spirituality.
For example, we wouldn't allow the U.S. government to deny us HIV/AIDS funding because certain politicians don't like us. We would take a stand and demand our right to funding.
Back in the day, that's exactly what people did. They didn't stand down and give up the benefits of being taxpaying American citizens just because Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms didn't approve of them.
Since we believe we are all spiritual beings, we refuse to allow others to take away our spirituality or the spirituality of our gay brothers and sisters. We're going to be spiritual regardless of what anyone says.
In doing that simple, individual act, we take a stand for our right to be a spiritual human being -- we also take a stand for the LGBT community's right to be spiritual ... no placards or big boycotts needed.
That's our take, anyway.
We asked the Rev. Dr. Neil Thomas at the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles for his thoughts on this topic. Here's his email reply:
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"As someone who is a person of faith, I have spent many years reclaiming my spirituality and this work has led me to a deeper appreciation of my faith.
"I have refused to allow others to steal my spirituality and belief in a loving, compassionate, nonjudgmental God who loves all people and who does not make any mistakes in creating us all -- diverse and wonderfully made.
"This reclaiming of my spirituality means that I get to have an adult relationship with God that is not someone else's, prescribed by their belief, dogma or image, but is mine -- the personal relationship between me and God, lived out in community and subsequently in the world. This is truly faith!"
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.