5 Keys to Faith & Sexuality Dialogues

FullSizeRender_1Several years ago, I began to wonder if the strategies LOVEboldly was employing for hosting dialogue between LGBTQ folks and conservative Christians might work in other contexts too?  I joined a listserv and, before I knew it, had met five strangers who agreed that the LOVEboldly approach, and others hosting sexuality and faith dialogues around the country, could be used as a model for connecting people on all topics across our most sacred divides.  After all, if we could succeed in hosting productive dialogues on sex and faith, what barriers couldn’t we scale together? Together, the six of us presented at the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation in October 2015.

One year later, our team has reunited to join the estimated 10,000 folks who have gathered from across the globe to attend the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City.  I’m tickled pink to be in their company again, and to have the opportunity to take LOVEboldly’s work to new audiences.

The six of us represent our own sort of diversity. Our group includes a Mormon, a humanist, an ersatz monk, a progressive evangelical Christian, a Unitarian Universalist, and a Marxist Christian. We are straight, gay and lesbian, female, male and genderfluid.  Over the past year and a half since we all first met over email, we have exchanged hundreds of emails discussing faith and sexuality.  Together, we agreed to each present the “one key thing” we want people to know about dialogues on sacred topics (such as faith and sexuality) in under three minutes.

Now, if you didn’t know, I am verbose.  Distilling eight years worth of work into three minutes provides no room for nuance, examples, story-telling, explanation, or practical ‘boots on the ground’ advice and it really has felt like torture to whittle it down.  Just three minutes.  Just one thing.

Well, I threw a little fit.  And then I rebelled.  So, what I offer you here is, yes, three minutes of material, but five keys I’ve discovered to faith and sexuality dialogues.  Now, after an introduction that nearly surpasses the length of the actual content of what I will offer, here it is in all of its succinct glory.

  1. We often approach sacred conversations for the wrong reason. Listening to, learning from, and serving those with whom we disagree must be our primary goal – even if it sometimes results in our own marginalization. Some might disagree with me, but I think we must enter dialogue not to transform others, but to be open to our own transformation. 
  2. We often approach sacred conversations in the wrong order.  The culturally dominant position, if there is one, must start with being a student rather than a teacher, a servant rather than a leader. We must earn the right to be heard before we speak.  To be a force for healing, we must be willing to apologize, both in word and in action for ways we have individually and communally wronged one another.  
  3. Dialogue can’t work when you’re too triggered.  Dialogue can be destructive for those who are dealing with open wounds from recent or very personal marginalization. It is not helpful for the abused to dialogue with the abuser. A certain level of healing must be attended to before re-engaging ideologies that hurt.
  4. Sacred convictions should not be checked at the door. Once rapport is built and we’ve earned the right to speak, we must share openly and completely honestly with one another.  We cannot lie to each other.  We must honor one another with the truth and accept the truth from one another – even when it hurts.
  5. There is hope. Even across sacred divides, dialogue can and does work. Sacred beliefs need not be sacrificed for the sake of harmony. To the contrary, sacred belief can be the very facilitator of true peace. Dialoguing with honesty and kindness makes us more like the kind of people God means for us to be.  It makes the world more like God means for it to be.  So don’t ever give up on it.

We are so grateful to all who attended and shared their wonderful insights with us at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. For resources pertaining to our presentation, click the links below:

5 Survival Tips for #2015Parliament

FullSizeRenderTraveling from near and far around the globe, I and five co-presenters have descended onto Salt Lake City for the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions.  It’s been an illuminating experience thus far, replete with large doses of piqued curiosity, inspiration, hopefulness, and, if I’m honest, a little trepidation.

I am a first-time attender and presenter of this conference and hope for the opportunity to attend again in the future.  But, for now, I am content in the opportunity to connect with old and new friends, and to expose new audiences to the work of LOVEboldly through my part in our workshop, “When Sacred Convictions Collide: Making Dialogue Work Across our Deepest Divides” on Monday afternoon.  For those who are following us from afar, please pray for our presentation.  We are thrilled to be sharing how to have faithful, productive dialogue on faith and sexuality and across sacred divides.

For those of you here with me in Salt Lake City, I offer here some survival tips for this weekend in a spirit of collegiality (and humor).

  1. Take time to recharge.  Both you and your cell phone need it.  Between endless tweeting, friending people, and consulting the app over and over again to decide between the five presentations you just have to attend (all inevitably happening at the same time) you need some time to rest.  Trust me – you’ll absorb things better if you do.
  2. Leave early.  I know there’s a map of the convention center.  And it’s supposed to be helpful.  But let’s be honest – that convention center is more confusing than those “easy-peasy” Ikea-build-your-own-furniture diagrams!  So leave early to find the session you want to attend.  Otherwise, you’ll be that lady sneaking in the back because you got lost for thirty minutes while trying to find Ballroom B.
  3. Drink water.  Lots of it.  At all times.  Chug.  This elevation in Salt Lake City is no joke.  Also, do not leave that hotel room without your chapstick. Just. Don’t. Do it.
  4. Prioritize getting to know people.  This is more important than getting to the five workshops you want to attend (even *gasp* the one at which we are presenting tomorrow).  Relationships will stick with you after we all have gone back home.  Those friendships, across boundaries that don’t normally get transcended, have the power to transform your life.  Workshops are great, but friendships are more important.
  5. Write it down.  Blog, journal, take notes.  When you get home, you’ll want to remember.  It will help you immensely to have access to the wisdom and inspiration you’ve found here.  Writing also helps you process what you’ve learned and experienced.  So, stay present in the moment with notes and decompress afterwards in your journal.  You’ll thank me later.

What about you, #2015Parliament attendees?  What tips would you add to the list?