Several 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- NCDD Presentation: What We Heard – summarizes threats, opportunities, questions and responses we gathered from discussion with our workshop attendees
- LOVEboldly’s Model for Reconciliation
- Offered by Phil Neisser: A Dialogue Model that Distinguishes Values from Worldviews
- World Parliament of Religions: Presenter Contact Information