Symbols of Inclusion
Symbols are very powerful. Yesterday I watched a well-dressed woman speak as a guest on the Oprah show. She wore a rhinestone cross, just at the neckline. In an instant, I realized that she was Christian and that she probably wouldn’t like me. Even though I love religion and love the symbol of the cross, for me it carries another, more painful association. The cross, that symbol of love and transcendence that is so moving to members of the Christian faith, has for many, become a symbol of exclusion. I find this sad because I have always loved the spirit, the sacred, religion – the idea of tender human beings consciously connecting to that larger something that many call God.
Gays and religion are big news these days. After centuries of silence, followed by years of condemnation, in this era many churches are making the leap toward a more inclusive understanding of just who it is that God loves. This is a big and important positive evolution. We are experiencing an important cultural shift — using our own hearts and minds to interpret who and what God is. We are expanding the circle of love. Gays are central to this expansive movement, which signifies a growing reliance on intuitive spirituality rather than official interpretation by institutional authorities. This is truly liberation.
In spirituality circles for gay and lesbian seniors at the Gay and Lesbian Center in Hollywood, I ask people to bring a symbol or sacred object that is meaningful to them. Yesterday I realized that not one person has brought a cross. For many, the cross, this great symbol of hope, is still a symbol of pain, of being looked down upon, of not being good enough to be a part of a family or of a spiritual community.
As for the cross and the importance of symbols, it is painful to realize the associations many gays carry – people who wear crosses are likely to be people who look down on them. This is truly sad but it can change and is changing. Many churches are doing an outstanding job of welcoming all of God’s children and they have been doing this for years – All Saints, Pasadena, United Churches of Christ, MCC, scores of United Methodist churches, Agape International, United Centers for Spiritual Living, and countless other religious institutions.
We must reclaim the symbol of the cross so that it stands for love and inclusion for every living being. God’s love is unconditional. This knowledge is the gift that gays and lesbians bring to organized religion. We help to heal what others don’t yet know. We bring the awareness that all are worthy and that no one can ever stand outside the all-inclusive love of God.
Let’s reclaim the cross.