Playing a gay Jesus in Terrence McNally's Passion play Corpus Christi for the past eight years has taught me a lot. My daily email inbox usually contains variations on these thoughtful messages from strangers: "You're going to hell, faggot," "Homosexuality is intrinsically disordered -- Jesus hates you!" and my personal favorite, "You're trash and an abomination! Kindest regards."
So on one of the most celebrated days in Christianity, I want to publicly thank you, the religious right, for actually being my greatest teachers in the subject of love. You have affected my daily life in extraordinary ways. You have actually restored my faith in humanity; I have seen hoards of people within the LGBT community come together because of you. Believing in Jesus or not doesn't matter, because the teachings all swirl back to one thing: love. Anything else you attribute to them is through your own filtered feelings of negativity and fear. The quotations below are actual quotations from the play, and here's what Jesus taught me about His teachings through them:
5. "Forgive your greatest enemy."
I believe Jesus lived with such pure unconditional love for all that there was no other feeling attached to anyone whose path He crossed. So if this is true, what could "enemy" really mean here? The answer: our very selves. Our ego is our "greatest enemy" when we allow the judgment, the negativity, the sense of fear or lack, the self-doubt, to pervade our thoughts. The ego is what keeps us from being present. By "forgiving" our ego, we take that extra step of bowing down to it gracefully and reconnecting to the fiery soul of love within, our "I AM" presence, the very connection to our inner source. This simple awareness allows not only more compassion for ourselves but compassion for everyone around us.
4. "As you believe, so shall you be."
You have to believe it to see it. Did you get that? You can turn around an otherwise overused statement to actually allow miracles to unfold into your life. And I think Jesus would even take issue with the word "miracles," because He didn't see, feel, or experience anything else; He knew we were born naturally whole, happy, abundant and positively at one with the source. He also knew that our connection to the source is still, and always will be, there. Our minds cloud the way, but we have the power to part the clouds simply by believing, by living in a moment-to-moment, co-created state of unshakable faith. Jesus didn't heal; He only saw wellness in people. Jesus didn't magically create 5,000 fishes; He only saw abundance in the sea. We have the power to feel, act, and be the same way.
3. "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
What He's talking about is the Mister Rogers kind of neighborly love: digging deep into your soul to love everyone, and everything, around you. But before that could ever be remotely possible, you must first love yourself. I had a teacher once tell me, "Don't beat yourself up; there's plenty of people out there that will do that for you." That's so true. Be kind to yourself. Quiet your mind and learn to listen innately to your hearts desires. They are all so easy to hear if you allow them to be. And then by living from that space, you create more love around you, so you actually never experience others "beating you up." Before we can ever begin to give, share or be love with anyone or anything else outside us, we must first take the steps necessary to love ourselves.
2. "I require mercy, not sacrifice."
It's easier to first look outside yourself to notice "wrong" in others; the deeper step is to look within for the same reason. Many spiritual outlets touch on this basic law: "Recognize the other person is you." And on paper it looks great, but in life not so much. This would mean I would look at someone like Fred Phelps and see myself in him. But what if I did just that? From my perspective, the man had to have been filled with deep pain and self-hatred to be able to spew such words of vitriol on a daily basis. Recognizing that, my heart breaks open. I remember a time in my life when I felt this way; it manifested as self-destructive behavior. I tried everything to burn my light brighter, sacrificing a big part of my being along the way and ultimately burning myself out. Maybe Phelps never felt this pain, but that's not for me to judge. Because Jesus requires mercy, though, I can recognize that Phelps became a great teacher for me. Look deep within and confront the uncomfortable questions of self-imposed inner pain. By acknowledging them, being compassionate toward them, and accepting them, you've already squelched any power they could ever have over you. Don't compromise or sacrifice your connection to the source for anything less than mercy for your own beautiful being.
1. "You are Jesus."
Read that again. And yet again. It's not just a quotation; it's a truth. At the core of you, and of all living things, is the purest essence of love. It is the very same essence as the divine source, the youniverse, the "I AM" presence, the very breath of life itself. When you plug into that supercharged connection to your own self, you are living joyfully in the present moment, which is your ultimate purpose for being. There is no one person or group of people excluded from that. This, to me, was Jesus' ultimate message. As an outsider Himself (I mean, He did preach a sermon that ruffled many a feather during His time), He spoke to the unspoken to, loved the unloved, and feasted with those on the fringe. He not only recognized that "all creations are children of God"; He knew they were thirstier for spirit, because by being on the outside, they had learned to love themselves already in new and deeper ways. This love for self is the very foundation of His teachings. And this is why being gay is a religious right. Living from a place of fully loving every part of yourself, especially when confronted head-on with the haters, is not only the path to a deep spiritual awakening; it is exactly what Jesus faced on His own prophesied path.
Go out and love some more.