O’Donnell: Matrimony of sexuality, spirituality

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The room was particularly cold. Though this chilly atmosphere was the product of a highly functional air conditioning system, it was exacerbated by exceptionally frigid words being preached from the pulpit center. The man positioned behind the burgundy-stained alder lumber spoke of divine order found in scripture regarding individuals whose sexual orientations and gender identities disrespect the fundamental principles of human values. In closing, the spiritual leader of an entire congregation passively proclaimed the inevitable misfortune of those who choose such a life which would end in eternal flames. I can tell you, as the 12-year-old child sitting with my family, I felt a deeply rooted fear for my own soul, believing he was talking directly to me.

Growing up in a Midwestern metropolis where roughly half of the religious community identified as Roman Catholic, I became accustomed to approaching conversations with a religiously conservative mentality and cautiousness. I attended Catholic schools for the duration of my formative academic years, capping that journey with two years at an all-boys Catholic high school. Silently, I listened to straight peers debate upon the sanctity of marriage, and the downfall of U.S. culture as more and more state legislatures struck down conventional marriage “protection” and entered into the 21st century of progression. Walking amid noisy hallways, I witnessed the problematic and hypocritical culture of straight boys reminiscing about their premarital “conquests,” while concurrently shaming and damning queer relationships of any kind. It was not until I left those hallways for a public institution across town that I began to shed my religious upbringing and entered a space where I found myself become spiritually aware with my own self and sexuality.

It is not fallacious to argue that centuries before our own, the greatest rivalry religious institutions faced was that of the empirical community. Each had sufficient support for their belief structures, whether supported by ordination or observation, creed, or calculation; both were fundamentally rooted in the analysis of universal truths. Now, many can find comfort in intertwining their spiritual beliefs, with scientific evidence, to validate their understanding of divine patterns. Atheistic scholars can enrich their arguments of molecular movement in connecting the rich symbolism in religious practices to how earlier communities interpreted their exterior experiences. In essence, time has allowed for the religious realm to befriend that of secular universals and only cultivate a deeper appreciation for the inner workings of natural order.

In the century we find ourselves occupying, spiritual communities seem to face a different form of opposition and contestment. Sexuality and gender, specifically those that “defy” the social normalities we have constructed around us as a race, have conflicted principles prescribed by traditional religious implementations. Whether individuals are spirituality expressive, or find their own form of spirituality in atheistic foundations, it is imperative that the veneration of other’s spiritual journeys be valued as an idiosyncratic aspect of human knowledge. The essence of spirituality, can be found in the connection between one’s self, the larger community, and the belief of deific attribution. When queer individuals expresses love for another person, they do not have to sacrifice their spiritual beliefs for such a core entity of their personhood. A person’s connection with any divine force, or belief in something different, is theirs alone and should be respected as any heterosexual religious individual would expect.

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