Hi all! Breanna here.
Part of my preparation for this trip with Equally Blessed to World Youth Day is a larger project I’ve been involved in this summer, as a Call to Action Young Adult 20/30 Leader. For this project, I’ve led conversations with small groups of people around the intersection of sexuality, gender and spirituality. The project began with a goal to introduce people in my own community to the intersection of these topics, but is now expanding (with the opportunity from Equally Blessed!) to a larger conversation with people from all over the world. My goal, now, is to engage in conversations like this before, during, and after I’m in Panama City.
When I’ve conducted these conversations in the past, they’ve been similar to the following outline. What is presented here is mostly a spirituality that begins to explore diversity of sexuality and gender.
Who is God?
First, we begin by considering our own spiritual beliefs and practices by asking a few of the following questions.
- What are different names you’ve heard used for God, or a Higher Being?
- What names do you use for God? In your personal prayer? While praying with others at home, a hospital, or in desperate times? While at church or Mass? Before you eat or go to bed or take a test or have a difficult conversation with another person?
- What images of God do we hold on to? When we think of God, what does God look like, if anything? What does God smell like, sound like, taste like? How do our senses help us to know God?
- How do these names determine ways in which you understand God to interact with the world? In other words, how does the language we use for God function to determine how we think of God in the world?
- What other names for God might you use to broaden my scope of who God might be and how God might work in the world?
Next, I encourage the group to use the term “Loving Creator” to describe God during our time together.
- What does the name “Loving Creator” mean to us?
- Take each term at a time… what does it mean to be “loving”? What examples in life do we have of something that is loving? What does it mean to be loving? What are characteristics of the action of love? And how does that fit with any idea of God we might have?
- And “creator”… what does it mean to create? To be a creator of something? Have you ever created something? What is the process of creating like? How does it begin? How does it feel to be in the midst of creating something, of making it? Do you make it from nothing? Or does it come from something else? And what does it feel like to have created something? Do you have a finished product? Or is it never finished but always evolving? How does it feel to create?
- Then put these two together. What does it mean to be a creator – to make something – while actively loving that creation? Who and what does a Loving Creator love? And what does that love look like?
- What would a Loving Creator want for us, as humans, as created beings? How would a Loving Creator want us to live our lives – with fullness, happiness, joy, support?
What is creation?
Then we think about what in this world is created, where we find it, and what our experiences of encountering these creations have been.
- What is “natural” to this earth, this planet, this world? And why do we call animals “creatures”? Is that “created” by God? If not, how might it have come to be? If so, how might it have come to be?
- How do the stories from Genesis provide reference for the stories we tell as Catholics, as Christians, even as humans to understand the ways in which we came about and currently exist?
- We, too, are creatures. What does it mean for us to be created by God? And what does it mean for us to be biologically similar to so many other creatures in this world, including animals, insects, birds, and plants?
There are 8.7 million species on earth — that scientists have identified. 8.7 million. That’s a lot.
- Think about this: take a walk outside and stand in the grass. Draw an invisible circle 3 feet around your feet. If you were to sit down and count all the different species of insects, plants, and other created beings in that small area, how many would you come up with? I bet quite a lot.
- How are all created things interconnected? And what, if anything, is the importance in our lives of being interconnected to so many diverse creatures and created things?
- What is the diversity within species? Think about humans: there are no two – even twins! – exactly alike. So with 8.7 million different species and each created being different than the next, that’s a lot of diversity!
Diversity of Sexual Orientations
Sexual orientation (which we’ll talk about more in the second blog) is the way in which one is sexually, romantically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually attracted to others.
Of course we know from basic biology that animals often mate with others in their species of the opposite sex to procreate. However, in the recent past, scientists have begun sharing more about regular characteristics they’ve observed of animals who portray same-sex tendencies and behaviors. These animals include: elephants, dogs, cats, giraffes, bluegill fish, penguins, monkeys, lions, ducks, foxes, goats, swans, turkeys, salmon, pandas, horses… the list goes on. But why have so many of us not heard of this before?
- Here’s a few reasons why:
- Homophobia, or the fear of same-sex behavior, has been able to dictate what stories are told and what stories are untold. For example, first, scientists observe animal behavior. They report on what they observe. Next, their data are shared with other scientists and their research is analyzed. Analyzed research is sent to editors and publishers who choose what to add and what to exclude in research. In the past, facts have been excluded as not to push forward a “gay agenda” by admitting that not only some humans but also some animals regularly engage in same-sex behaviors.
- What does it mean, then, to have a “Loving Creator” that has created all sorts of creatures with same-sex desires?
Creatures of a Loving Creator
Humans are different than animals, obviously. We make choices and commitments.
- If we are creatures created in the image and likeness of a Loving Creator, how ought we to act in the world? How ought we to interact with other creation? What does it mean for us, too, to be loving? to be creators?
- How ought we to interact with creatures that are different than us? With those that behave or think or speak differently than we do?
- How do we engage in healthy relationships with those we are attracted to and those we disagree with or do not get along with?
- And what, specifically, does it mean for us to acknowledge that the LGBTQ community, too, is created in the image and likeness of a Loving Creator?
… to be continued. In Part 2, we’ll explore Sexuality and Gender 101.