Since that especially brilliant issue on “Homospirituality: A Queer Kind of Faith,” it seems that spiritual concept is always on my mind, in the deepest places of my spirit, even in my body–God’s Temple. (Sound scary?) I see the hallmarks of homospirituality as being the Pivotal Point of Jesus, one of thousands of itinerant preachers in the Galilee area during first century Roman occupation. It was He who said that God’s most important commandment was to “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
An excellent theology professor once suggested I add a chapter a year to a theological autobiography which I wrote for his Contemporary Theology class twenty-some years ago. I guess one could say that the theme of these intervening years has been that of questioning my identity, a consequence of personal challenges the world thrust toward the adult being of this particular child of God. I regret that I allowed myself to lose touch with this extraordinary professor throughout these years, and to him I would say that I am daring to put these chapters down on paper. Yes remember paper and a pen, mightier than the sword. To God, the Word, pen and paper, to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s** empathy with the history of the acts of God, to his friend who saw that his life and words were shared, to all those struggling in life with acceptance of self, and to this professor, who I am not sure would wish to be identified, I dedicate these words.
The challenge of a lifetime, it seemed to me, was this learning of love of self. The female Christian role models had apparently omitted this from our Sunday School lessons altogether, and the male teachers generally digressed to especially conditional love, when it came to women. But it seemed paramount to me in +Jesus’ Words, so I vowed to learn to love myself, so that the quality of love I gave my neighbor would be up to task. In the light of all the world’s hatred, this proved to be quite a challenge, even though I did not seem to fit the dictionary or biblical definitions of “homosexual.” I longed for a word, a nice word that embodied the spiritual core of my being, of which I was most aware, as surely as I dreamed of respect and love from someone — also with the calibre of love and respect of which — Providence Willing — someone with whom to share a life and a home. At this point, I was aware of some twinges of internal feminist wisdom, but not yet aware of being armed with Double Edged Truth, although I’d skirted personal issues with the best of defense mechanisms and good ol’ fashioned denial, I’m sure. Perhaps a glimpse of the spiritual significance of my struggle is portrayed here in an excerpt from the above-mentioned theological autobiography.
“In all our situations, relational and individual, as we take responsibility in the situation, the grace of God casts upon us a refreshing voice of reality. First, in the crisis, I hear God’s call to repentance. Repentance, meaning that I face myself as I am, and then contribute that before God to a suffering world in which I find myself, thus sharing responsibility for it.
Then comes the experience of Resurrection, as I heed God’s call to freedom in the midst of the human condition. Resurrection, indeed. Just as there once existed a brown, motionless cocoon, which evolved into a beautiful breathtaking butterfly. Resurrection, as a reality, in that I have not only seen that very colorful butterfly burst forth, but I have touched its tiny design and felt the very motion of its wings.” (Fall 1974, CJS Personal Journal and Theological Autobiography).
I now muse that the core of homospirituality is perhaps a lifelong seeking, a process of internalizing a major Divinely Inspired concept — that of loving others as I love myself. Pivoting from that Vital Core of Unconditional Love to Acceptance, even self-acceptance. Yes, loving myself for who I AM, as part of the Great I AM. The cornerstone of a faith in which the Hope still lies Within. (April 4, 1997 CJS journal)
The tiny peace that follows is taken from my 1980s personal journal entry, published in an adoption newsletter in early 1990s, but originally inspired by persons carrying the label of mentally retarded, with whom some of my most joyous work years have been spent. I recall the angst of wondering sometimes whether even my own words applied also to me as a result of heterosexist reactions in the world. As a consequence of homophobic attitudes, especially in numerous families and churches, I questioned whether there was any place for me in this often seemingly God-forsaken world–whether I was gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, just confused, even straight, or to one group or the other or perhaps to all of them — just plain queer.
in the eyes of God
Yet not without weakness
not always seen
shining somewhere deep inside.
Just like everyone else.
** Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran theologian and a “pacifist” whose spiritual path led to his eventual death April 9, 1945, at the age of 39, at the hands of Nazi Gestapo, after his participation in smuggling Jews out of the country and his participation in an assassination attempt aimed at Hitler. He was also a pastor and seminary professor, who encouraged an empathic “historical” literary reading of the Bible. He was the author of The Cost of Discipleship and Letters and Papers from Prison, in which he makes several references to his religionless Christianity. His idea of transcendence is “religious relationship to the highest, most powerful, and best Being imaginable”, and the neighbor “who is within reach in any given situation.” God’s revelation in the personhood of the Messiah’s real presence was, to Bonhoeffer, operative in the community, as people in relationship with one another “for one another” as well as “with one another.” Bonhoeffer’s works have been edited and published, due to the concerted efforts of his friend Eberhard Bethge and others.
Carol Jean Stabel is a native of Texas who graduated from Booker (Texas) High School and currently lives in Corpus Christi.