While some religious institutions have perpetuated the stigma faced by LGBTQ+ people, many – including members of the LGBTQ+ community – often find belonging and spiritual connection through their faith. And for those inclined, faith can be a powerful force in their recovery from substance use and toward well-being.
Faith-based recovery programs
An important part of your child’s recovery plan may be attending 12-step meetings (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous) or other self-help meetings with a spiritual component. There are 12-step recovery meetings specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals in some communities, which may appeal more to your child. As a result of the pandemic, many of these meetings are now available from anywhere via zoom. Now, a young person in a rural community with no physical access to LGBTQ+ meetings has an option to attend virtually.
Learning new ways of coping, being with healthy people, having a purpose and looking after one’s physical and mental health are all parts of a well-rounded recovery plan. While religion and spiritual practices aren’t part of everyone’s recovery, research shows that they can help manage stress and increase a person’s positive outlook on life. If your child is attracted to a faith practice, try taking an interest as a show of support.
Reconciling faith and identity
Author Chris Tompkins, a gay man in recovery, writes about his mother’s struggles in reconciling her faith with his identity. In Chris’s book, Raising LGBTQ Allies, he describes a journey that began with his mother noting, “You know what my religion says: I can hate the sin but love the sinner.” Ultimately, she both affirmed Chris’s identity and found an inclusive church that welcomed LGBTQ+ members and their families.
Like Chris’s mom, some parents and caregivers struggle with their faith’s teachings about LGBTQ+ people. Reaching out to a faith leader to help you navigate your concerns may be useful. PFLAG has developed an excellent guide called Faith in Our Families that highlights the experiences of other parents and families when it comes to talking about faith, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
There are communities within many faith groups that are supportive and inclusive of LGBTQ+ members. Looking into what faith teachings say about LGBTQ+ people may deepen your own faith in the course of affirming your child.
PFLAG’s national faith resources may also be helpful to you and your loved one to connect with other people in your religious community.
It may be that God’s transforming grace is calling the person you know and love to a truer identity that you didn’t before recognize. It is frightening to feel you are losing someone that you love, and yet we know that perfect love drives out fear. Hold on to the love you share with each other, the love built over years and decades, the love you share with Christ. May that love give you the courage to learn about the identity that the Spirit is revealing so that you may know your loved one fully.
Pastor Ben Colahan
Faith Lutheran Church of Chico, California (ELCA)