Spring was sprung this year on March 20th with the Spring Equinox. The Abrahamic religions have entered into their high holy seasons – Ramadan beginning on March 22nd, the first Seder of Passover beginning the evening of April 5th and Easter Sunday on April 9th. This is a time of reflection and introspection. I like to refer to it as a “spiritual spring cleaning.” For those who identify as queer religious folks, there can be an accumulation of mental and emotional “gunk” that slows down our holistic well-being (mind, body, and spirit). The gunk can come from those old tapes in our mind telling us we are wrong or worthless. Even if we have been “out and proud” for years, but have never dealt with the spiritual violence inflicted on us from parents, politicians and “preachers,” those sores can crust over and harden our hearts. They become permanent fixtures in our lives that we no longer recognize as foreign. Many of us have done the hard work of coming out and telling our truth, but for some, it has come at the high price of rejection.
During this season of spiritual spring cleaning, we are invited to be in community, enter into prayer, and reconnect with our spiritual roots. Spring cleaning within a home can be a family affair. The adults focus on all the major repairs and cleaning and assign the kids the minor chores. We can be the one who helps with the cleaning or be the kid who is out playing in the mud and then runs through the house neglecting the repairs, the straightening up and clearing out our space. If we find ourselves with lingering emotional, mental, or physical hurt that makes us angry, crabby people, then we are living with cluttered space in our spirits. Where is the joy of being “out and proud” if we are down and depressed?
It is not a surprise that many queer religious folks have a complicated relationship with religion. The reason why so many of us block out the voice of reason speaking to our hearts is to avoid the remnants of religious condemnation. Sexual freedom should be liberating for all involved, and we’ve heard the voices that try to curb it. However, if there is a voice of reason that challenges duplicitous and abusive behavior we may have with our partners, then we have a build up of gunk. Living in a community with others should be constructive, but if we are constantly broken down though substance abuse, we have a buildup of gunk. Embracing our true identity and expressing it is a gift, but if we are more consumed with impressing others than accepting ourselves, we have a buildup of gunk.
Queer folks must learn to brush off offences that come our way, otherwise we will be angry, crabby people. What help or hope is there for improvement? We can spend much time and money working out our bodies and engaged with intellectual pursuits, but if we neglect our spirits, we are a three-legged stool that is missing a leg. Holistic health is vital for any person, but especially so for the queer identified person. An exercise we can engage in during these springtime religious holidays is to reflect on the question, “How am I doing? How am I really doing?” If we take time to quiet ourselves and sit still long enough, the truth will arise. We may discover we need to forgive the person who has offended us. Carrying unforgiveness is the “gunkiest” gunk there is! Identifying what is weighing us down is only the first step. The second, third, and fourth steps are to begin the work of clearing out our mental, emotional and spiritual space.
The gift of being queer is that you have stopped lying to yourself and trying to fit into someone else’s expectation. Don’t throw away that hard work by not attending to yo ur spirit. And if you are already engaged in deep introspection during this season, then find another queer person to encourage them to begin their spiritual connection or reconnection process.
Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow | CLGS Managing Director | Coordinator of the CLGS African American Roundtable