17 July 2007

God, Bells, Pride and LGBT by Mario Gerada

Possessing God

The debate on LGBT issues, the Catholic Church, human rights and human rights violations makes one wonder, to say the least. Being an openly gay man whilst at the same time an openly practicing Roman Catholic puts me in a strange position, a sort of contradictory one; a very uncomfortable position.

Often I participated in religious groups. Even though they were primarily prayer groups, issues were often discussed, or rather one preacher explained the intricate matters of certain issues, amongst them ‘homosexuality’.

During such meetings, one very uncomfortable fact was that one has no other option than to listen to what is being said, irrespective of whether it is correct or not correct, if it is scientifically based or opinion based. One has to listen to ‘The Word of God’ according to ******, take it or leave it.

What was more uncomfortable during such meetings was very simply that I, a gay man was present, and this preacher was there talking about me and describing me in ways which were simply incorrect notwithstanding the fact that the preacher himself was fully aware of my presence. Of course, this was quite contradictory to Christian love and charity which of course was being preached at the same time.

I must admit that I was often tempted to stand up and shout out loud – ‘Hey I am here, I am gay and what you are talking about does not reflect my life, what you are talking about are not the real gay issues which are of concern to us LGBT’. I must admit this is one of my regrets in life, of not having done so!

I would like to move directly to the point that I would like to make. Moving from one religious circle to the next I have noticed one very similar pattern in these circles, that of a false belief of ‘our group’ - ‘Possessing God’! I myself might have been tempted or have fallen into this sinful understanding of God too.

During meetings, especially those of the Renewal of the faith, of which I belonged for two or three years, we often witnessed the Holy Spirit at work. These were very powerful and touching experiences, which also left an impact on all of us, including myself. However, I could observe a tendency where suddenly the Holy Spirit – God, became some sort of possession. It seemed that in such groups there are very clear, and well articulated formulas on who is God, how to please Him, how to offend Him, how to call Him down, do’s and don’ts etc.

Being an uncomfortable outspoken pink sheep, I often raised the gay issue in such circles. However this was never an issue to be discussed, or explored. My own personal experience and witness was always not so important or not relevant or ‘not coming from God’, (notwithstanding that I was often profoundly touched by the Holy Spirit, as witnessed by a number of people). No one was ever interested to see what the Holy Spirit was doing. No, the main issue was to fit me in their own understanding of homosexuality and convince me that I was objectively disordered, also insinuating that possibly through enough praying over I might also be healed, as some before had been. If not these are the club’s rules, good bye and thank you very much. Of course it was not said so directly, but I happen to have a brain, as objectively disordered as it maybe, yet it functions.

Without sounding like the poor victim who had to suffer so much, I also probably did not address the issue in a tactful manner. I also chose to leave even though such meetings were beautiful and profound experiences of prayer and in reality no one asked me to leave either. Maybe if I was patient enough to wait, people might have been more ready to discuss this truth which as Alison says, seems to be emerging.

However I decided to step out of it all. I decided to move in a different direction and choose other ways of living my faith, whilst remaining a practicing Catholic. I hope this is in accordance to God’s will, but probably I will get to know about this after my death and not before; so many risks need to be further taken, adventure waiting.

I often ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’, ‘Why am I taking this on?’ ‘Am I on the right track?’, ‘Am I misleading people?’

However upon reflecting on such issues I find myself looking back. When I reflect on my own faith journey I realize that through all this mess I got to know more and learnt to love more this person who is and who we call God. Often the work I do on the LGBT Catholic issue leads me to emotions of anger, frustration, disappointment, disillusionment, and even hurt. Sometimes I also feel an urge to distance myself from this Church, the bride of Christ-Pure love and yet seems to be so insensitive and at times so cruel towards us LGBT. Such emotions usually last for a couple of days, a couple of weeks at the most. Usually I find myself again in His Eucharistic presence, crying silently; His love, peace and reconciliation sorting it all out for me.

Amidst my anger, hurt, passion, enthusiasm, ideals, disillusionment and disappointments, I always experience Him as the constant faithful peaceful lover, who somehow is not overly bothered by such issues but primarily bothered for my well-being and the well-being of our relationship. The rest follows, everything is back into perspective.

In this entire struggle, debate and fighting, He reveals Himself as the one who brings peace, love and reconciliation; as the wild one, who cannot be possessed or confined; as the one who is not predictable. His love is beyond our understanding, our structures and our safe institutions.

I believe that as LGBT people, our search for truth will help humanity to better understand God – maybe to move one step closer. I just hope we can go through all this difficult path with peace in our hearts; His peace, which He maintained throughout all His struggles, even in the face of His condemnation and death.

And the Bells were ringing…

Friday the 6th of July, Gay Pride Malta! The banner ‘Gay Rights Human Rights’ the rainbow coloured balloons, the noise, the cheering, the whistles. Not too many turned up, as it was rightly reflected upon, the numbers show that a number of LGBT people are still scarred to ‘come out’ in public and be seen. It shows that a vast number of LGBT still live in fear, trying to hide who they are. Possibly a number of LGBT could not turn up because of other commitments and various reasons.

As for me, even though I am ‘out’, participating in Gay Pride and being on the front row, holding the banner was yet another ‘coming out’. It is an experience which helps one to grow, to feel free as a human being, to feel true and honest about one’s own self, with oneself and society at large.

During Pride there was one ‘magical’ moment which captured my imagination. The route had to be slightly changed due to road works; we turned, walked past St. Paul’s Church. As we walked, coincidently [obviously] the Church bells started to ring in festive tones. People started cheering, and make further festive sounds, shouts and cries. It was a stolen moment possibly a God-incidence? It lasted only for few seconds – Church bells, celebrating LGBT people.

For that short moment [seconds] it felt like the Church bells were symbolizing a Church who openly loves us, a Church who is ringing its bells to celebrate who we are, to celebrate us as children of the living God. For those few seconds it felt like the Church was reminding people to stop prejudice, fear and abuse towards LGBT people and transform that into love, acceptance and festive communion. It felt like those bells were reminding the world of its past atrocities towards the LGBT, and the present ones still happening in many countries around the world. For a moment it felt that all prejudice, all fear, all atrocities, all violence are part of a distant past, that only needs to be remembered so as not to fall into those hellish traps again. Now we are all living peacefully together, celebrating each other as the mystery we are, as God’s children, brothers and sisters walking together.

Alas, they were seconds of frivolous dreaming, and the bells were not ringing for us, not for any LGBT person who suffered or is suffering now in Malta or in any other country around the world. The bells were not ringing for those LGBT who are contemplating suicide to encourage them and remind them that they too are children of the Living God, that they too are loved and welcomed in society and the Church.

The bells were ringing, but not for us. Gay Pride carried on marching towards Parliament. There it was concluded. But for a moment we could frivolously dream.


'They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they!'
Mt 23: 4

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