This week I chatted with Dr. Rolf Nolasco of the Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary where Dr. Nolasco serves as the director of the Rueben P. Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. Dr. Nolasco has authored several books on queer spirituality including, God's Beloved Queer and his newest book, Hearts Ablaze: Parables for the Queer Soul.
Our conversation touched on a number of topics related to both queer spirituality and the lived experience of being a queer person in our society.
On the word, "Evangelical"
Having had my own past bad experiences with organized religion and Christianity, in particular, one question I was eager to ask Dr. Nolasco was about being queer and evangelical. For many LGBTQ+ people, the word "evangelical" conjures images of fire and brimstone preachers and religious trauma. Dr. Nolasco explained that for him, evangelical simply means good news and it's about the goodness of people and of God. In that goodness, there's not judgment because Christ is ultimately about love. (Dr. Nolasco uses the term "queer Christ" here which I loved.) What many of us thing of as evangelical is a modern political movement that doesn't represent the actual teachings of Christ.
I naturally had to follow up on this idea of Queer Christ. It wasn't the first time I've heard this type of idea. I had previously read Will Roscoe's book, Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love. But Dr. Nolasco's answer really had an impact. He pointed out that true power isn't about gaining more power over others but rather giving power away. (An idea echoed in part in Starhawk's book, Dreaming the Dark). He described Christ's work as being radical liberation which naturally parallels queer identity. The coming out process is very much about that radical liberation of declaring your identity and your love.
White Christ and being a queer person of color
One area we visited frequently in our conversation was the experience of queer people of color. Originally from the Philippines, Dr. Nolasco spoke about colonization and the representation of white Christ that differs so much from the Christ he's come to experience in his own spiritual journey. His own version of Christ lovingly embraces him as "God's beloved queer".
We also spoke about issues in the queer community around the division based on age, body size, perceived femininity and of course, race. I mentioned that often the gay men's community tends to be dominated by affluent white men and Dr. Nolasco spoke about his own experiences with that. Our conversation focused more though on the need for our community to come together and provide a seat for everyone at the table. An idea that Dr. Nolasco sees as the root of his own work, giving everyone a seat at God's table. (If healthy gay men's community is something you believe in as well, please check out my Sacred Kinship Program.)
This summary doesn't do the full conversation justice, but I wanted to highlight some of the points that really stood out to me. Listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. You can also listen to the full episode below.
Religion has led to trauma for many LGBTQ+ members, however, this does not mean that religion, faith, and spirituality safe spaces are not available to us in loving communities.
On today’s episode, I sit down with Dr. Rolf Nolasco, an expert in Spiritual Formation, pastoral Theology, and pastoral psychology to discuss the importance of creating safe and loving spaces for spiritual exploration. In this enlightening episode, Dr. Nolasco shares his personal spiritual journey and explains what queer spirituality means to him. Listen in as we delve into important topics like what "evangelical" means in the context of queer communities, the significance of community for queer people of color, and explore the possibilities of a spiritually rich life in which we can partner with God to create a more inclusive and compassionate humanity.
Here are just some of the thought-provoking topics we’re about to dive into:
- What does queer spirituality mean to you?
- Rolf’s personal spiritual journey
- What does ‘evangelical’ mean among queer communities?
- Partnering with God to recreate a new humanity that includes all
- Breaking free of a traumatic, harmful spirituality and entering a safe, loving space for spiritual exploration
- Finding community as a queer person of color
- Queer Christ
- Readdressing and challenging religious parables
- Addressing current problems we are facing today within the gay communities and flourishing as a community
- What is the benefit of a spiritually rich life?
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