Reclaiming the Spirit: Gay Men and Lesbians Come to Terms with Religion

Reclaiming the Spirit: Gay Men and Lesbians Come to Terms with Religion

Reclaiming the Spirit: Gay Men and Lesbians Come to Terms with Religion

Reclaiming the Spirit: Gay Men and Lesbians Come to Terms with Religion

Synopsis

David Shallenberger interviewed gay men and women, many of whom grew up in families practicing traditional religions - Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Protestant - that condemned homosexuality as an unacceptable life-style. When these children grew into adulthood and "came out", many rejected the religion of their childhood as they sought a more accepting gay community. But once they became comfortable with their new gay identity, they began to experience a spiritual hunger and a desire to be part of a religious community. Some sought to return to the traditions from which they came; others desired membership in new sacred communities. The quest for an integration of homosexuality and spirituality is the focus of Reclaiming the Spirit. Shallenberger asks how individuals can balance both a gay and a religious identity, whether coming out is a spiritual experience, and how coming out affects an individual's relationship to a traditional religious community.

Excerpt

It was a very painful time. Over the previous six years or so, I had lived very intimately with AIDS--not in my body but in the lives and deaths of too many friends. The losses seemed innumerable, yet every one hurt in a particular way. Life partners, lovers, my deepest friendships, all felt taken from me. Walking through downtown Chicago, my body and heart dragging from too much death, I happened to pass the Chicago Temple (First United Methodist Church). I was drawn inside--nothing else was helping me deal with this burden--and I looked up and to the left at the stained glass and said, quite audibly: "I can't handle this anymore. I need your help."

It had been more than fifteen years since I had been in church. In my youth the First Methodist Church of Palo Alto had been a safe place to hide, even though I wasn't all that clear about what I was hiding from. All I knew was that I felt awkward in the world of my peers and here I was accepted. The feelings of separateness and loneliness in the world continued, and by the time I was in high school, I was considering entering the ministry. However, the pull of civil rights and Vietnam War protests, the inevitable confusion of adolescence, and the resurgence of other interests took me away from any sense of "call." College and marriage followed, as if I were acting out a well-integrated script of what a middle-class man's life was to be.

Then at the age of twenty-five the pattern was broken by the discovery that I was gay; I could no longer deny a swelling sense arising out of a . . .

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