It Makes My Teeth Ache

I’m listening to a speech by Reverend Doctor Jamie Washington at the opening of Harvard’s new Office Of BGLTQ Student Life and he is talking about the necessity of engaging in the discussion of spirituality, religion, and BGLTQ issues. I don’t exactly think he’s wrong. The Humanist Graduate Community at Harvard recently ran a workshop on spirituality and religion for gay youth at LifeWorks, a mentoring program and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, and it was an extraordinary and valuable experience both for the students and for the (atheist) facilitators.

But it just makes my teeth ache and my brain tingle whenever clergy talk about queer issues and whenever the word “spirituality” comes up in a gay space. This may be a prejudice – I’m investigating my own feelings here – but I think there’s some justification. Surely, if anything is the enemy of gay people in the USA it’s (a certain form of) religion. When I cross the Atlantic to the USA, I lose a fuckton of rights, and the most identifiable reason for that is prejudice based on religious beliefs. And it galls me for inheritors of the Christian tradition, who use the title “Reverend” to give themselves authority, to talk about these issues without offering some form of apology.

And I have just seen too many occasions in which “spirituality” or “faith” are used to normalize queer experience: “He might be gay, but thank God he’s found Jesus”. It’s icky. And I don’t think Rev. Dr. Washington falls into this trap, and I think I may well be being unfair to him. But the teeth ache yet…

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About James Croft

James Croft is the Leader in Training at the Ethical Culture Society of St. Louis - one of the largest Humanist congregations in the world. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently writing his Doctoral dissertation as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book "The Godless Congregation", co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.