The Spirituality of HealingPosted: March 29, 2012
Until I confronted my fears and began sharing my life story, it was difficult to find healing. Growing up in a conservative evangelical household did not give me room for self-acceptance and self-expression. I grew up with a fantasy of meeting someone who would tell me that God loves me just the way I am. And yet, even if this remained mere fantasy, I never came to an understanding of why I felt “different.” As my mates spent their teenage years discovering their bodies, I was caught up in self-loathing and being anti-social. It was finding people who neither judged me nor looked down on me as less of a human being that helped me find myself again. I found community and it was in this community that I first had my experience of healing and what it means to belong.
In a society where homosexuality provokes bigotry, finding spiritual and physical healing is the most difficult pursuit for LGBT communities. Because of the harsh conditions of oppression that many non-heterosexual identifying people have to endure, healing can be difficult to achieve. The good news is- it is not impossible. There is healing in the collective power of community.
As I visit more countries, I am beginning to understand that homophobia- just like all forms of oppression- is cross-cultural. While I have been witness to stories of lesbian “corrective” rape in Africa, LBGTs in the United States too do not always have it easy- they struggle to deal with homophobia and are sidelined by certain national policies. Even if our advocacy issues differ (it is same-sex marriage in the U.S and a matter of life and death in Africa), we are all caught up in a mutuality of oppression that can only be challenged by the power of collective activism.
If oppression is cross-cultural, and if it takes collective effort to fight it, then healing shares the same pattern. Many oppressed communities have found courage to wage resistance against oppression because there is power in numbers. At least this is true for LGBT communities in my country. Acknowledging the fact that the LGBT movement in Uganda was born out of people socializing in places like bars, it is a tradition that has continued to this day. Many of us who became homeless when our families ostracized us and our religious places of worship turned into houses of hate; we found self-love and healing from living as community.
In a society where we are denied the right of existence, we have constructed alternative ways of healing. Through organizing regular community gatherings and now, the latest being a group of queer musicians and fine artists who are redefining their lives through art, we have turned our predicament into undying hope. I still wonder how we are able to laugh in the midst of tribulation. Then, I am reminded that healing does not always happen only when systems of oppression are brought down. Healing is not given by the oppressor. Healing happens when the oppressed choose to change their circumstances by redefining and making their lives meaningful.
In his ministry, Jesus showed us that there can be healing of oppressed bodies even when the status quo does not permit it. Jesus healed bodies on Sabbath; he overturned the tables of money-changers and expressed his anger at the hypocrisy of Jewish-Roman merchants for turning his “Father’s house” to a den of thieves; he healed people in the most unlikely places. My reading of Mark 11-15-19 is that Jesus was not just defending his father’s house; he was furious at rich people who were amassing wealth at the expense of the poor. Whatever Jesus’s preferential option for the poor was, his ministry was fundamentally about healing. And, the spirituality of healing is essentially what the mission of today’s Church should be.
In the past several weeks of deeply thinking about what it means to have the “spirituality of healing,” I have been introduced to the interconnectedness of the body, the earth, and the spirit. Whether it is eating food that adds value to our bodies or finding a relationship with nature through photography, healing can only be achieved if we understand community as having relationship with ourselves, with nature, and with the spirit.