Judge Not: Learning Compassion
I’m sure you have followed, as I have, the many stories surrounding Ted Haggard’s revelation that he has been a deceiver and a liar, to use his own words. As an Evangelical leader, Haggard had led the drive against same-sex marriages. He had been called one of the most influential evangelical Christians in the nation.
Now Haggard has told his congregation, “The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. . . There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.”
I feel tremendous compassion for Haggard. He is a victim of a teaching by the church that completely violates the spirit and heart of unconditional love. He loathes himself because he has been taught to believe that being a homosexual is an aberration and an abomination. Consequently, he can do nothing but feel guilty for being who he is.
This teaching is based on the understanding that homosexuality is a “lifestyle choice.” Therefore, those who are attracted to members of their same sex are seen as ethically and morally inferior to heterosexual people. Of course, heterosexuals don’t really “choose” to be attracted to people of the opposite sex. They are born that way. It is their nature. And scientists are now establishing that homosexuals don’t “choose” their sexual orientation, either. They are born with a difference in their brains.
In past years, as I sought to understand homosexuals, I listened to the stories of those I knew. I was surprised to discover that they, men and women alike, knew they were “different” earlier than most heterosexuals become aware of their sexuality. As small children, homosexuals already know that they are not like others of their sex. This is not a “choice” they make, but an awareness they come to. They quickly learn to hide that awareness as they make every effort to “be like others” and to find acceptance.
Imagine how difficult it is for them to be raised in churches, synagogues and mosques where they learn that they are an abomination, not only in the eyes of their playmates, but also in the eyes of God Himself. This teaching is based on a passage in Leviticus 18 that states, “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
What is patently unjust and unloving about the application of this passage to homosexuals in our century is that the prohibitions laid out in Leviticus are not universally observed today. They are not viewed as “God’s word” unless they reinforce prejudices still broadly held. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If the law against handling pig skin were enforced, there would be no more football. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. People with a defect in their sight, women who are menstruating, and all who have disabilities are forbidden to approach the altar of God. And so the laws go, on and on.
Those who call homosexuality an abomination, base it on the Biblical prohibition, claiming it is God’s will. But they ignore dozens of other laws which are in the same book of laws.
When Jesus was asked what was the most important law, he said there were two: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. He did not say, “But not your gay neighbor, and not if your neighbor is a lesbian.” In fact, on another occasion he even said we should love our enemies.
What makes me the saddest about the Ted Haggard situation is that he is now going to be counseled by fellow pastors who will try to “cure” him of being what and who he is. He can’t love others as he loves himself, because he is forbidden by the church to love himself.
I wish religious leaders would learn to understand the nature of the law of polarity and the force that operates in sexuality. It is true that gender opposites are attracted to one another. That is one expression of the law of polarity. Yin is drawn to yang, and yang to yin. But it is also true that the law of polarity functions in many other ways. Young yin can be attracted to older yin, and young yang to older yang. Moreover, we are attracted to one another on many different levels, not just on the level of gender, and those attractions also function according to the law of polarity. Without understanding that law, religious leaders cannot give useful guidance to their flocks.
Moreover, it is not generally understood that there is only one creative power in the universe. That one power is expressed in countless ways. Sexual intercourse can result in the creation of a new physical form, but that is only one of the ways that sexual engaging is “creative.” When sexual engaging is an expression of love, it can regenerate the partners, resulting in a recharging of their bodies and an enlivening of their spirits.
But more important is the awareness that whenever the two polarities unite, creative energy is released. That union can and does occur within individuals, not just between two persons. And it can and does occur in groups, and on many different levels, not only the physical, but also the emotional, mental and spiritual.
If there were an understanding of the law of polarities, guidance could be given to those who experience themselves as “different.” They could be taught to understand the dynamic within their own fields, and they could be taught how to consciously guide and direct the energies coursing through them.
The other principle I wish religious leaders understood is “as above, so below, as within, so without.” Using that principle and viewing life as a waking dream, they could help homosexuals to discover that the biggest opportunity of their lifetime is to learn to love themselves. As they look outward, into the mirror of those who are of the same gender, they are being called to love themselves. For some people, it may be that they find it difficult to love themselves in the body they have (whether male or female). For others it may simply be that they find it hard to love who they are.
What is generally viewed as a problem in most cultures is actually an opportunity for the millions who feel themselves to be homosexual to learn to love themselves. And only when they can love themselves will they truly be able to love others, according to Jesus’ teaching, which can also be found in the Old Testament.
I was raised with the belief that just by being born, I was a sinner. For more than thirty years, I felt unworthy of the love I received from my parents, from my siblings, from my friends, even from God. It was only when I could finally say, “the church was wrong in teaching me that humans are born in sin” that I was able to let go of the feeling of unworthiness.
I believe Ted Haggard and others like him will never be able to love themselves or receive the love of others until they are able to say, “the church is wrong in its teaching that homosexuality is an abomination.” I pray that they are able to come to that freedom soon.