|This is the one subject I will always go to task about. Not only because I, myself, suffer from a lack of integration, but it seems the source of many problems in our society.
I grew up in a culture that placed spirituality on a lofty and heavenly plane. Religion was something to aspire to. Most of the time, an overabundance of rules and traditions upstaged the relational and down-to-earth aspects of spirituality. Placing such a high and lofty twist on our spirituality has made many feel that we can never measure up to the "perfection" needed to access authentic spirituality. Keeping up with all the "rules of purity" left me little time to remember that spirituality is a free gift, accessible to us all.
At the same time, sexuality was given the same status as the depths of hell. The only time sex was brought up in church was to scorn its sinfulness. Sexuality on TV and movies was portrayed in violent or risky settings. However, the more sexuality was degraded, the more it seemed to gain strength. The more others avoided talking about it, the more intriguing it became. Sexuality was our negative obsession - the cookies in the forbidden cookie jar. Placing obsessive negativity on our sexuality made many feel dirty and shameful about something that is perfectly natural. This negative obsession warped our sense of perspective.
I don't blame my upbringing. This negative obsession has been going on for hundreds of years. However, polarizing our sexuality and spirituality has been a fatal flaw. A wall has been erected between these two parts of humanity, and what's worse, it has been erected down the middle of each of us, individually. The same pastor that will preach "death to faggots" can be caught entering a sex club. Even though this true scenario is extreme, it serves as an example of what goes on in most of us, to some degree. It is a severing of ourselves, like the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Not only does the pastor live a double life, but usually he leaves any sense of responsibility, say, in the church, while he has unprotected, anonymous sex. This dichotomy, in essence, seems to play a part in most problems of our society - all the way from educating children in school to the private lives of presidents.
How can we live authentically if we are divided against ourselves? What can be done to reconcile two seemingly opposite extremes? I believe the solution lies in the natural way we are "put together." We are created to be whole beings, and we are at our best when we take all the different aspects of our lives (despite how diverse they feel) and bring them together in a complete person. This means learning moderation in many things and being controlled by nothing. This means "de-mistifying" religion and making it our own. It also means to understand sexuality as a natural part of life, guilt-free and responsibly enjoyed.
This is not a one-time decision, but a lifelong "restoration" job. I estimate that I have willingly been fed this dichotomous bill-of-goods for about 23 years of my life. I'll have to log a lot more years to counter the ill effects. I can feel every time - everyday when my spirit and my body do not connect up. Every moment this occurs I miss what God has in store for me. It drives me insane. I remember crying at a vocal lesson because I was holding back. I couldn't simply "wire up" my spirit to my voice (probably, I just couldn't let go).
When I first came out, I was helped in my integration process by Evangelicals Concerned, a group ministering to gays and lesbians coming out of conservative religious backgrounds. E.C. offers small groups, retreats, publications, etc... to help people integrate their sexuality with their Christianity. I grew immensely while involved with E.C. and met wonderful people who have become lifelong friends.
Another group that has helped me integrate my sexuality and spirituality has been the Radical Faeries. To avoid getting redundant, you can read more about my integration process with them by going to their page (click the above blue text).
Even though I have a long way to go, I am proud of my work helping both myself and others grow toward wholeness. The farther I continue on this journey, the more fully I experience life without fear. The effects have been so positive that I spearheaded a nonprofit organization called Triam Artist Group. Triam supports artists and teachers who speak out about the integration process. I believe the more we can bring spirituality down to earth and bring sexuality out of the dark - in essence, bring more wholeness to our lives - the more we will responsibly enjoy the world that is all around us.
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