Richard Rohr

Catholic priest tolerates gay men, and even trans people shock!

Rohr’s daily meditations reach millions, and recently he tackled LGBT folk, or SOGI, Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity issues. He started by assuming his audience was hostile.

With all the changing ways of understanding gender and sexuality, most of us truly need contemplative eyes and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to “rupture simplistic binaries” and be compassionate and respectful of difference and diversity. It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead.

I found it almost impossible to read. He is challenging his queerphobic Christian followers, saying that while he has to make a continual effort to be “non-dual”, his instinct and theirs is to judge gay as unacceptable. Jesus, he says, ruptures and transgresses simplistic binaries between self and other, but most people dismiss and judge every thing that does not fit neatly in their simplistic categories.

He wants to teach the Mind of Christ by getting readers to think about SOGI, which he has no doubt they will instinctively reject. This week is a good test case for one’s ability to think in a nondual way.

So he decides to preach that the church should include and accept LGBT people not in hopes that they can force us into a normal, celibate, straight-acting box but accept us as part of God’s beautiful diverse creation, and he starts by othering all his LGBT readers.

He says some good stuff. God’s will is that people and things become their true selves, and then live in “supportive coexistence”. Conservative Christians, however, want to control God’s good creation which they fear, seeing it as chaos.

Institutional religion tends to think of people as very simple, and therefore the law must be very complex to protect them in every situation. Jesus does the opposite: He treats people as very complex—different in religion, lifestyle, virtue, temperament, and success—and keeps the law very simple in order to bring them to God… Love God, and your neighbour.

Jesus, and Rohr, allow people to be ourselves. Do not let the labels trip you up—woman, man, transgender, cisgender, straight, bisexual, gay, queer. I note he does not mention lesbian. There is a reason we bring L to the front. Formerly people wrote GLBT.

He goes on to use queer folks to teach about the Bible. Yes, Leviticus commands stoning gay men to death, but the Bible records a developing understanding of God from Abraham’s attempted human sacrifice to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ harsh words are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes them to condemn others. Jesus is all about inclusion, forgiveness, and empowerment. In the light of his compassionate presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of whether they be considered outcasts by those in the “religious know.” Rather than complex rules teaching us what is OK so we feel safe with no need to think, or even to see clearly, the only law is Love.

Just as the Bible supports slavery and we don’t, so also we find deeper themes in the Bible support LGBT acceptance, and even oppose Patriarchy. Rohr writes, God sides with the powerless. God liberates the oppressed. God suffers with the suffering. I resent that. Many LGBT people flourish despite oppression. We are not his exemplar group of powerless and suffering people, and his attitude encourages others to look down on us and pity us- perhaps he does himself. We do not need his support, but justice.

He claims the secular culture “celebrates” us. Perhaps he has not read The Times’ articles on trans people. It is almost as if he shares the homophobic Christian’s shock when we are shown in a good light.

God, he says, creates each of us unique, with different gifts and challenges, and desires us to live into the fullness of our humanity and our identity.

Rohr’s example is Episcopal priest and lesbian Liz Edman, who aged five wanted boy’s shoes and was supprted by her mother. Everyone wants things forbidden by the complex rules humans create. From object of pity, we change in an instant to patterns and examples for others, who should all Know who you are. Be who you are. Be the person God created you to be. It is deeply uncomfortable for me. I am as enchained by convention as anyone. I have no wish to be forced to teach others any more than be pitied by them.

At the end, he quotes Liz Edman on Jesus turning water into wine. The water was used for ritual washing, the wine intoxicates and liberates us from rules. This is a queer interpretation, which might get her fired. To liberal straight Christians, she says, Let us be ourselves, and assure us that you will have our backs when our proclamation unsettles and afflicts those who are comfortable in a dualistic worldview.

Yes, Queers can be free as Christ intended, and our freedom help liberate others. But our experience belongs to no-one straight. We are not your teaching tool. And the idea of sheep and goats, the binary division between in group and out group, is everywhere reinforced in the church. For example:

Later, Rohr quotes an Asian man:

Now that new voices are being enunciated about him by those . . . outside the traditional framework of Christianity, Jesus must be experiencing an emancipation from the confinement of orthodoxy that has immobilized him. . .

2 thoughts on “Richard Rohr

  1. religion has been used as a form of enslavement and because the assumption was that most people were not intelligent enough to discern, there needed to be simple rules to follow where you didn’t ask too many questions. While it is true that not everyone is contemplative enough to realize that there is complexity and nuance around most issues, we shouldn’t strive to dumb down our spirituality but enrich it with the wealth that reality possesses. Unfortunately most religions contain a sizable faction of people who only see things in pure black and white and they are never going to go away. That doesn’t mean that one panders to them however.

    Liked by 1 person

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