LGBTQ Youth and Spirituality

(Matthew Shepherd)


“Myth Brings Understanding and Meaning to Our humanity” (Unknown)

Matthew 5:43-48

Last Thursday night at the Terra Linda High School graduation, a young lady, gave an amazing speech on diversity. She began with a period of silent meditation, for those who have died from racism, sexism, and LGBTQ.  

Each day across this country, and in our state we find LGBTQ young adults being persecuted, killed, and traumatized because of their sexual orientation. This week we celebrate Pride, a time of recognition that being LGBTQ  is a part of our diversity as human beings.

As we look around San Francisco we see churches displaying the Rainbow Flag, but inside there are few young LGBTQ young people and there are reasons:

First our Scriptures, written two thousand years ago, and the theology surrounding them, have been interpreted from a homophobic view point. That view point has permeated Christianity for over a thousand years. It is the prime interpretation in our society now. And will continue to be.

Secondly, the mainline churches have been fighting over LGBTQ rights, and that fight has and is bloody. Our former denomination is in a bloody fight as of now, and it will continue. The ideas, the statements, and the theology that comes out of this is death dealing to LGBTQ  young people.

Thirdly, in those welcoming congregations, LGBTQ youth do not feel welcome. They come into an environment in which sexuality is talked about around primary traditional  lines, where diversity in the various expressions of sexuality–leather, wicca, dual relationships,  etc. are seen as contrary to normalcy. We had a holy union service for a three women, and the words said to us by clergy in several mainline denominations are not repeatable. Congregations are not open to the diverse ways of relating that has come out of the LGBTQ experience, and out of the contemporary journey.

Fourthly LGBTQ youth do not feel welcome because they often feel treated as “the other”. Adults are afraid to work with youth, they are afraid to share their lives, to walk with them as friends, to share their journey. Youth feel set aside. The programs are very superficial, never deal with the real issues of their lives, but are very bland.  It is understandable that adults are afraid because of the fear around being accused of abuse, but the reality is that as Christians we are called to enter into relationships, we are called to walk on the edge. Life is messy, and dangerous.

Fifthly, the organized church as we know it has become less important as a social gathering place. Buildings become empty.  In Amsterdam the great cathedrals are museums, bars, and shops.

Young people find interaction  on social networks, in social groups outside the church, where they can interact without the constraint, of a theology that is narrow and judgmental, and socially destructive.

“Myth Brings Understanding and Meaning to Our humanity” (Unknown). In seminary we had a course entitled: “The Spirituality of Myth,” and it was the course that saved our life for it brought us into seeing Scripture as myth, and not as a literal, historical translation. The myth of Creation, the Exodus, of the Christ, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.  It is a story of God’s love for humanity, a love so intense that Jesus gave his life in order that we might have new possibilities in that love as we live each day of our lives.  It is a story that brings God’ s love in many faces–all expressions of God in life. All who love people, universally, are the expression of that God. Love is the expression.

We have traditional Christians who often want to attend “our mass” in the Park, and we give a watered down excuse. Our “mass” is simply sitting around and letting people talk about their lives. Sharing, and talking. These youth have been hurt so much by the traditional Church and Christians who come to the Park trying to save their souls with a homophobic, theology of  “come to Jesus” and all will be well, as they starve, fight for their very existence.

Many have PTSD from violence, abuse, homophobic backgrounds. They are judged for their life styles, for their reasons for being on the street, and have been crucified by the traditional church in so many ways.

People want answers, the only answer is that in choosing Jesus our lives can be transformed into moving away from homophobia, allowing ourselves to enter into the lives of young people, in such a way we can walk with them on equal ground, and listen in their pain. We cease becoming the “other”. We meet them where they are expecting nothing in return. We move from our places of comfort into their world. We share of what we have, without expectation of return. Our biases, prejudices, disappear and we walk in the myth of Jesus, who loves all.

We are called to live in love–as along as all we do rings out in the words of Jesus–“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, that is what matters.

For us ‘the church” are people of all beliefs, or no belief, people of any race, creed, sexual orientation and gender,  who give of themselves to others, who take chances to make life better, who walk with people as equals. The Church are those who live out the life of love to everyone. Our judgments we put aside, and walk in giving, caring, and listening.

This Pride we look at our life and we are reminded of the words of Elizabeth Gilbert: “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”

Our path is that of Pride, diversity, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and loving each other as equals. We invite you to move out in Pride.

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA. 94164


We still need volunteers for our Accessibility Booth at Pride


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