Today on the site, please welcome Alex Dunkin, author of Coming Out Catholic, to talk about his experiences growing up gay and Catholic and how he’s reconciled the two.
Religion has been part of my life ever since I can remember. The meaning of the role religion has played has changed over time, from the fun community activity it was in my childhood, to the complete rejection of all faith I went through in early adulthood, and now returning to a curiosity about how religion operates in my own and others’ lives. Coming Out Catholic is the culmination of years of research, self-exploration and acceptance. It started as a simple question: Does being gay mean having to give up other aspects of my life and identity, most notably faith? Answering that question also became for me a release of all the frustration of trying to understand and reconcile Catholicism’s stance on homosexuality (rather than solely the Bible’s position on it).
The quick and easy answer to that question is that it doesn’t mean that at all. You can be Catholic and gay. One of these identities does not need to be sacrificed for the other to survive.
Some may be (and are) upset by this concept, and insist that it contradicts the Bible. But the Bible has been re-translated and re-released many times, and those translations are influenced by the social and political climate of the day, and so changes get introduced that differ from the original text. Some of these changes are necessary, to retain relevance across cultural differences and to reflect the development of civilization across the millennia. But many of these changes are politically charged, to promote the views of those in power, and even to undermine the rights of minorities.
This leaves the issue of how to apply the (often outdated) social views of previous generations represented in the Bible to modern society open to debate and a diverse range of interpretations.
Alongside all these arguments about Bible interpretations, another aspect of religion thrives: the faith. Faith is what allows quarrels over translations and literal meanings to fade away and shifts the focus of religion towards community, acceptance, family, and forgiveness. Faith is not found in quotable passages selectively pulled to further an argument, but in the community of people and their ability to support each other and allow everyone to live openly, without fear.
It is this approach to faith that reached out to me, and caused me to examine how some people used Bible passages according to their own agenda to reject and demonise the daily lived experiences of myself and countless others. Faith means using the Bible as a philosophical and spiritual guide, not a tool to segregate and belittle others, or as rules to control them out of fear of condemnation or the wrath of God.
Coming Out Catholic has allowed me to explore and express my curiosity and how it interacted with my research into the Bible. It was a pleasure to develop and once again find acceptance within my sense of faith without having to compromise my integrity as an openly gay man.
Alex is an author, researcher and reviewer based in Adelaide, South Australia. He is the author of Homebody and Coming Out Catholic. More author information can be found at alexdunkin.com/about