Archive for April, 2007

Yesterday, the Judson Memorial Church located in Manhattan hosted a conference called “How the Church Failed Us: A Way Back from Spiritual Violence“. Attendance was sparse, but I believe this was a result of poor outreach rather than disinterest and relevance of the issue. The conference brought people of Christian faith together to discuss how religion was being used to alienate and oppress people of color and queer folks.

I found the panelists and speakers engaging, flowing well from topic to topic. The most enjoyable speaker for me was keynote Ron Buford, former director of the “God Is Still Speaking” campaign. I didn’t know about this campaign before, and how socially transformative and progressive (i.e. controversial) it was, transforming churches into spaces of affirmation rather than condemnation. Ron’s words about the need to address our nation’s lack of spiritual development reminded me of Grace Lee Boggs’ writings.

My partner and I were also invited to speak on a panel and share our personal experiences with spiritual violence. Though I wish it weren’t such a tall order, my partner and I are trying to find a spiritual home(s) affirming our interfaith, inter-racial, queer relationship. As a buddhist, I was tentative to be a panelist at first, but was assured that my experience growing up in a white, conservative Southern town was an important one to share.

It’s taken me many years to develop an understanding about the way my childhood friends made me feel guilty about not being Christian. Their hurtful words were wrapped up in what they were hearing and internalizing from their own churches, perhaps not necessarily from God. The way they questioned my spirituality were denials of my own family, culture and spiritual journey. At best, they regarded my being buddhist a novelty, and not a legitimate practice. So when I became an activist, it was too easy for me to equate Christianity with being oppressive and fundamentally conservative.

I think that something is taking place in my own spiritual development, where moments of opportunity, affirmation, and reconciliation are taking place. To have had the opportunity to share my story at this conference, in a Christian church, was such a moment. And as an activist, I found it very hopeful to that these kinds of challenging conversations are taking place within the church.