Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
April 8, 2011
Organized Religion: They Are Opponents, But Not Ever the Enemy
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
A Priest in Exile
Our Sunday’s paper published a brief article written by a Catholic priest who has been in voluntary exile from the Oakland diocese for six years. He took himself into exile because of what he sees as the Church’s failings. He writes: “Every Sunday I stand outside Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland with a sign that reads: ‘Structural reform now! Include the Excluded: Women, Abuse Survivors, Gay Persons.” He closes the article by asking readers to join him “. . . on Sunday, April 10 outside the Cathedral in Oakland for the first anniversary of this weekly protest for structural reform . . .”
Organized Religion Is Important to API LGBTs
Readers of this blog know our stance on organized religion. In the main we are critical because they put so many obstacles in our path toward social equality. We believe it is hypocritical raising millions of dollars to fight against gay marriage and at the same time paying out millions of dollars in damages to survivors of priest abuse. We read the letters and thus know the language the Oakland diocese used to oppose gay marriage. Still, they are opponents not enemies and for many API LGBTs the church is a vital part of their lives. Our archive preserves the story of a transgender’s mother who still teaches catechism. We have testimony from an API couple whose church rejected them because they have a lesbian daughter. We heard from an API lesbian who after she was banned from her church asked in despair why God had forsaken her. The people in these examples clung to their faith and eventually found a church that accepts them for who they are. We have more testimony like that and, yes, in some cases rejected API LGBTs turn away from the church, but surprisingly less than we would expect. Organized religion, despite its many insults to humanity, remains important for its practice drafts participants into a tight community of shared values. We believe that religion, all religion, should be based on a philosophy of tolerance and a continual striving for understanding. It should teach love and practice inclusion of and respect for all diversity, sexuality and gender included. Religion, though, has become big and complex and it is fallible people who govern that complexity: smart, dumb, ambitious, indolent. Somewhere among the rules and regulations philosophy and teaching drowned.
Organized Religion Must Change
The exiled priest tries to change the church from without. Is that a good strategy? Would it be more effective to change the church from within? We vacillate between the two. On the one hand, we know how frustrating it can be to be part of a community and try to change it. On the other hand, we know the frustrations of effecting change from the outside. The exiled priest is on the outside, but another priest from that same Oakland diocese has helped us with our programs. Staying within the bounds of his vows he has extended himself for our cause. There is the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. There is also the Network on Religion and Justice for API LGBTs, a network of organizations that include accepting churches. Finally, we read reports that organized religion is becoming more and more accepting of LGBTs. The reason is simple, organized religion cannot let itself become irrelevant, because for too many APIs it is an important force. Fortunately, it already has the seeds to become a relevant once again.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org