The Radical Oneness of Equality

onenessI wrote a post about the Radical Equality of Oneness – about how if we want to Awaken and live in Oneness, we cannot judge others and we cannot refer to the greater parts of humanity as “the unawakened masses.”  If we are to truly Awaken into Oneness, we must have the ability and the humility to see ourselves in all of humanity, to see ourselves as part of a greater whole and to love that wholeness as our Self.

Now with the Supreme Court ruling on Gay Marriage in June and all the talk of equal rights for all, I realize that there is also a Radical Oneness in Equality. Sometimes, as a card carrying member and facebook follower of the Human Rights Campaign, from time to time I see t-shirts, tote bags and facebook emblems where you can choose between “Lesbian for Equal Rights” or “Straight Ally for Equal Rights” or Transgender for Equal Rights” etc. and while I can see the value of showing that ALL kinds of people support Equal Rights for LGBTQ people, I sometimes wish there was a “Who Cares What I Am, I’m a Human Being for Equal Rights.” And that is because saying that I’m a Straight Ally makes it seem that I’m fighting for equal rights for someone other than myself, but I feel that equal rights for ALL people is MY issue.

Equal rights for gays and lesbians, for transgender, bi-sexual and queer human beings affect ME, even though God happened to make me heterosexual.  It affects all of us.  We ARE one, whether we live in the realization of that truth or not, we ARE – and other people living under oppression and prejudice, other people living with harassment and even violence affects ME.  My quality of life is affected by the LGBTQ community not being treated as equal human beings.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Supporters of marriage equality gather outside the Supreme Court of the United States to demonstrate support for LGBT couples on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

I can’t pin point a specific moment in my day when I am refused services, denied benefits or sneered upon.  I am free to marry and adopt and share my life with whoever I may fall in love with in any state I may go to.  I don’t have any experience in my life of being bullied or beaten with baseball bats.  But all I can say is that my life is unquestionably effected.  My whole being is effected.  I feel the pain of all the gay and lesbian beings in the world living in oppression, prejudice and derision.  The fact that 40% of transgender human beings attempt suicide because of the pain they feel  in a society that refuses to accept them for who they are hurts my heart, even though I was born with both female identity and female parts.  The fact that so many Americans still do not have the right to marry who they love eats away at me – the injustice, the wrongness weighs on my conscience as a member of this human race.  The fact that a gay or lesbian citizen of Brunei could actually be stoned to death for who they are makes me want to weep.  It is the same with the deaths of so many black men at the hands of police brutality, the same with the pain of the disenfranchised in Baltimore and Ferguson and in so many places on earth – it has an undeniable, actual impact on my life and my being.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  That is not just a theoretical idea or a poetic way of saying injustice anywhere is wrong.  Because, it is not just a theoretical Oneness – we live in an ACTUAL Oneness.  And the pain and injustice suffered by the LGBTQ community or any other persecuted or oppressed people creates a very real and actual pain in my being.  It’s not theoretical – it’s visceral.  I can feel it in the cells of my body, I can feel it in my human heart, I can feel it in my soul in a way that is tangible.  I know we are taught that the outer world is real and our inner world is not real – but that is not true.  The inner world exists within every aspect our outer reality and it is in some ways more real – and in this very real way injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  The pain of injustice in any human heart is a pain in every human heart, even those of the persecutors.

jesus-faithThis is why I am so passionate about equality.  This is why I feel so strongly that God loves ALL her children and that to legalize discrimination of gays and lesbians in the name of God is an atrocity!  Jesus would have wept at this hatefulness committed in His name.  I know in my heart of hearts that whatever quotes from whatever scriptures anyone spouts – God loves ALL her children (lobsters and all).  God is Love, and if we are made in God’s image, we must also learn love and we must stop promulgating hate in the name of God.

Once again, God conspired with Father Ted to bring me the perfectly relevant sermon for my internal process – showing how even in the bible there is the argument for inclusion (of course).

Father Ted’s sermon was about the reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we had just heard, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The Ethiopian was reading Jewish scripture, even though as a eunuch, a castrated male, Jewish purity laws would have prevented him from being accepted into the Jewish community.  Yet Philip, who had preached the Good News of Jesus the Christ to Samaritans and other gentiles, accepted the Ethiopian eunuch and baptized him, despite his different nationality, the different color of his skin and his different sexuality.

As Father Ted put it:

“It is a story about the inclusion of someone, who by many of the standards of the day, should have been excluded.  This story of the Ethiopian eunuch is relevant for today’s Church… This story of the Ethiopian eunuch is also a story relevant to public events this past week.  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the validity of same-sex marriages, and Bruce Jenner, who won the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics as a male, announced that he is transgender.

I believe the most important question before us is not about sexuality. It is about witness. It is about the question “What witness will we make?”  Our witness is the public affirmation of our faith. It is how we let the world see that we practice what we preach.  This is our opportunity to be what we say we are…

Our witness is to the unconditional love of God.  There are no gate-keepers at the doors of this church.  As we proclaim in our Baptismal Covenant “we respect the dignity of every human being,” and are never ashamed of who sits next to us in worship. We are all the children of God.

The story of the Ethiopian eunuch is about including someone who would otherwise be excluded.  The Church and our society are struggling with that same issue today.  We, in this particular community of faith, proclaim God’s unconditional love, and God’s unconditional love includes everyone and excludes no one.”

10423916_956135247753224_6797323417058110768_nThen I read a blog post from my favorite Bishop (yes, I have a favorite Bishop.  Don’t you?), Bishop John Shelby Spong.  He wrote a wonderful article about how there can be no compromise on the moral issue of ending homophobia in all its forms. He compared it to the moral issue of slavery in the 1800’s.  Before the Civil War, the US government had tried very diligently to compromise on the issue of slavery, trying to find ways to allow the Southern states to maintain the brutal institution while the Northern states recognized the dignity of every human being.  But there is no way to compromise on such issues where our very humanity is on the line.  And even though people used the bible to justify slavery and even though a diminishing minority clung to their false righteousness, there came a time where the injustice of slavery could no longer be accepted in our collective consciousness.

It is the same with homophobia, it is the same with all civil rights.  As we evolve in human consciousness, as our collective consciousness grows in love, we can no longer accept the hatefulness of the past.  I cannot accept it!  Hate anywhere is a threat to Love everywhere.  Pain and persecution anywhere, is pain and persecution not just in some theoretical “everywhere” – but HERE, in ME.  I am a straight ally and I am a human being, and Equality is MY issue.  I am working to heal the pain in my own heart, to end the suffering in my own life.  I am working from the Radical Oneness of Equality.


WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Supporters of marriage equality gather outside of the Supreme Court of the United States to demonstrate their support for LGBT couples on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

There were so many sections of Bishop Spong’s article that I wanted to include that I could have just posted his post and said “exactly!”, so I decided to put them all at the bottom of my post.  Below are my favorite parts, or you can read the full article.

In the slavery debate, those who shared the new consciousness were quite clear. Human beings cannot be held in bondage. This new consciousness challenged those definitions, which suggested that some people did not qualify as human beings; that some people were primitive, childlike, created to be subservient, and were, therefore, fit for nothing other than manual labor. Within that definition, slavery was deemed to be morally acceptable.

I thought about this period of history as I read of my own church, the Anglican Communion, seeking a way, “for the sake of unity,” to accommodate divergent opinions on the issue of homosexuality. The Church’s leadership is acting as if negotiation is possible in this conflict, yet the obvious fact is that homosexuality, like slavery, is a moral issue and thus not amenable to compromise.

The old definition asserts that homosexuality is a choice that evil, perverted or subhuman people make. It cannot, therefore, be tolerated… The emerging new consciousness, on the other hand, rejects every part of that definition. It asserts that homosexual people are neither morally depraved nor mentally sick, since one’s sexual orientation is not a choice; but something to which one awakens. It is like the dawning realization that one is male or female, part of a particular race or nation or even right or left-handed. A just and moral society cannot be erected on a premise that some human beings are subhuman or perverted, not on the basis of their doing but on the basis of their being. It matters not what any source of ancient wisdom has previously declared. The Bible, for example, was once quoted to support slavery, to oppose science and to prevent women from achieving equality. On every one of those issues the Bible was quite simply wrong. To quote it now to uphold the evil of homophobia is no less wrong.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy simply takes the old definition and labors first to defang it and then to perfume it. They call homosexuality “unnatural,” or “a deviation,” urging that it be suppressed wherever possible and controlled where not possible. Homosexuality, however, has now been incontrovertibly identified as present in the world of higher mammals. It also appears to be a stable and unchanging percentage of the human race at all times and in all places. These data suggest that homosexuality is not unnatural at all but is a minority aspect of the created order that appears quite normally in all higher forms of life.

The leaders of the mainline churches pretend that some compromise is possible. They seek to protect unity by attempting to civilize the debate until a new consensus arrives. They count “the unity of the church” as a worthy goal even as that forced unity violates that Institution’s integrity. Can you imagine that part of the Church that said no to slavery being asked to apologize for upsetting the consciences of the slaveholders? Can you imagine Church leaders saying to slaveholders, “we will not challenge the morality of your decisions about slaves because we would rather keep our faith community united?” Can you imagine coddling slaveholders so that they will not separate themselves in schism from the Church? Can anyone imagine any slave-holding church claiming to be the body of Christ?

Yet if you substitute the word homosexuality for the word slavery, that is what is present today in the main line churches. If homosexuality is a given not a chosen way of life, the continued violation of gay and lesbian people, in order to preserve unity with the Church’s homophobic constituency, is simply immoral.  Not to bear corporate witness to those who still languish in the dying definitions of the past is to turn one’s back on the very meaning of the Christ.

If the essence of our Christ is summed up in words that John’s Gospel attributes to him, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly,” then the choice is clear. Homophobia diminishes life; it does not make it more abundant. It must be ended; it cannot be tolerated even by making it kinder and gentler.

To the leaders of the Churches today I say: “Stop playing ecclesiastical games. Compromising truth never serves the cause of unity…. There is no room for waffling on this moral imperative. The idea that you will allow politicians to advocate placing discrimination against homosexual persons into the Constitution of this country, while your voices are either in agreement or remain deafeningly silent, is an embarrassment. If it takes a split in the body of Christ to make this generation understand that homosexuality, like slavery, is a non-debatable, moral issue, then for God’s sake, for Christ’s sake, you must be willing to pay that price.”


 

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Changing Our Selves AND Changing the World

be-the-change-you-wantWhen Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” he did not mean to just be the change on your yoga mat. Can anyone accuse Gandhi of sitting idly by in meditation – transforming himself inwardly as the world around him was unjust, brutal and violent? No. Gandhi did not simply meditate for peace and justice – he used the inner peace he found in meditation to take action and create real and meaningful change in the world.  The inner transformation through spiritual practice awakens in us a hunger for more love, compassion and justice in the world.

To me, what Gandhi meant is for us to have a unity of inner life and outer life – to have our quest for peace and justice in the world be reflected by peace and equanimity inside. Otherwise, we could be working for peace on the outside while raging with hatred against the world on the inside – and no matter what the anger or hatred is about, it is still putting out the vibrations of anger and hatred into the world, it is still polluting the collective mind. And, the nature of anger is that it cannot be contained or aimed just at one thing – it seeps out in how we treat those around us, those we love and anyone we come in contact with. So, if we are working for peace and we continue to rage inside, we are being counterproductive and working against ourselves and against peace.

Yet, I have often encountered people who say “Be the change you wish to see in the world” as a way to ONLY focus on change inside and not do anything in the outer world for change, to simply meditate every morning or say a prayer for peace before bed each night, but not think about the social impacts their choices or actions have on our world and the people around them. And yes, prayers and meditation for God’s Peace on earth are very good, but I don’t think Gandhi meant for us to ONLY change inside, to go to church on Sundays or take a yoga class on Thursdays and not take it any further than that. Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “Union” – and how could you truly practice Union and realize the Oneness you share with all of life and then stand by and do nothing? When you truly realize the Union of life, the Union of God, you cannot sit by and watch the suffering of others and just say, oh well, I’m meditating.  I think our prayers for peace are meant to be ceaseless and to encompass all our actions in life.

The Dalai Lama has also said “Change only takes place through action, not through meditation and prayer alone.” And in a recent public talk when asked “What is the most important meditation technique at this time?” his answer was “Action,” – to meditate in order to take it into action.

There needs to be a balance of inner and outer focus. If we only focus on social activism and political action we get burnt out and bitter. There are plenty of politicians or social activists who start out with a mission for good and end up with toxic thoughts and angry actions. If we only focus on inner prayer or meditation we get self-absorbed and isolated in our own little world.  There are plenty of well-meaning people who set out to change the world by changing their own hearts but drift off into la-la land and lose touch with reality.

I think that the great spiritual leaders of peace and social change in our world have modeled this balance for us to apply in our own small ways. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and those who have changed entire nations through Love and Truth Force – they use their inner focus on the Divine or the spirit as a way to keep them inspired and in a state of love in their actions for change in the world.

Amma-5201There is also the truth that we cannot change the world simply by changing the outside circumstances – that to create lasting change we must create a change in consciousness. As the beautiful Ammachi put it “Simply transferring the world’s nuclear weapons to a museum will not in itself bring about world peace. The nuclear weapons of the mind must first be eliminated.”

So, to create this change in consciousness we must first do it in ourselves – we must first be the change we wish to see. And then through action, inspiration, education, osmosis, transmission and electromagnetics we can begin to change the consciousness of others – and thus, change the world.