Why Did I Embrace Islam?

As-Salaam-Alaikum السلام

I have always been very open about my spiritual life, and if you have truly got to know me, you know that spirituality means a lot for me. This is part of the journey I have started long time, the continuous search of my inner peace through some kind of philosophy or religious believes. The spirit within me is always crying out for something more.

I have done Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age, meditation, Prayer Contemplation, Silenced retreats, worship conferences, I have read books from Pemma Chödron, Staught Lynd, Henry Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Phill Yancey, John Piper, Erwin Raphael McManus,Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, Mother Theresa, and many more. Always trying to find that energy that comes within myself to help me cope with my so difficult and tormenting inner life.

For one moment in my life I thought I found the way and the answer for this journey, and I served for almost 20 years the Christian Church, and believed passionately in the life of Jesus and the power of God. I tried to follow Him and practice my faith in love, grace, forgiveness and ultimate I became a Pastor in the United Methodist Church were I served for 9 years.

Everything was doing ok BUT, in all these years I’ve always hide one side of my life I was ashamed of it, out of my own ignorance and self-hatred. I tried to changed it, seek spiritual counselors, therapist, psychiatrist, I went to organizations that supposedly changed you so you become a “real” person, they send me to hang out with “real” men who played basketball and football so I could learn their ways, they prayed over me, delivered me from evil, anointed me with holly oil, went to the doctor to get testosterone, uff just to mention all this I get tired. Let me tell you I tried EVERYTHING available out there, and at the end nothing was changed.

The searching of my own inner peace, and the love I had for Christ took me to finally accept myself as a gay men, and receive the freedom this brings; in the Gospel of John 8:36 says: “ So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” Finally after 39 years I found my own freedom, but I also found rejection, and acceptance, love and judgment, grace and criticism, from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The people that stayed with me and gave me a helping hand and big embraced ministered my new journey, but those who gave me their backs hurt me so much.

When the Church leaders asked me to leave my pastoral position because I was not capable to minister as an openly gay man doing ministry even thought that for the first time I was being truthful to the all the areas in my life. When men decided that my God’s call to serve Him was over, my faith in Christ, the Christian Church and their leaders died with it.

I wondered for 4 years trying to find my inner peace back by visiting many Christian churches of all kind of denominations, I even consider the Jesuit priesthood but after talking to them they told me that I couldn’t join not because I was gay but because I was divorced. (I wonder why the gay was not an issue!).

One day I listened to the Call of Prayer in a Masjid I was visiting and my heart plunged down into the floor in prostration. Even though I didn’t understand anything, it reminded to the many times I hear this call when I traveled to Tunisia and Morocco and the Called to Prayer woke me up every single day. The singing prayer in Arabic started to minister to my heart in ways I couldn’t understand, and literally I couldn’t understand, haha!

13512185_1082183311868803_2386129933056023050_nSo you may wonder why I was considering joining a religion who have persecuted and discriminated LGTBQ the same way Christianity has done it. Why did I leave the conservatism of Christianity to go into another religion that has not been welcoming us through out the centuries?

The answer to this is that this time I was bringing my whole self, and not hiding anything. If I am not accepted at the Masjids or even among the general Muslim community because of who I am, it is not my loss but theirs. I wont hide anymore, this is me a Queer, Mexican, Muslim, welcoming of all faiths, believes, philosophies, cultures, races, and people; an uncommon organizer that practiced vulnerability as a lifestyle, in a continuous journey to self-love who lives in a world that keeps rejecting those who do not conform to it.

You may not understand my own decisions and choices, but I am not here to convince you or make sure you understand my own journey. You may call me crazy, loco de la cabeza, weird, freak or wherever you want, but I am here to live, and get the most of the life I was given.

May Allah the most merciful or whom ever you choose to follow or unfollow be with you in your own journey as well. Inshallah!

Life in the DEEP SOUTH

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Today I went to open an account in a credit union , a white lady who was very well dressed took care of me, when I showed her my drivers license she didn’t accept it and asked me for another document to prove I was in the country legally. Her attitude was distant and not very helpful , but for some reason my life story came about and I shared with her that in one moment in my life I was a married pastor but I came out. This is what she said:

“Did you come out because you knew that was the right thing to do, or because you knew Satan was tempting you and you needed help to overcome the sin of homosexuality?”

Of course for one moment I was in shock but instead of getting into a very heated argument because I was there to open an account, I played along with her and suddenly I became the most pious Christian ever, sharing scriptures to her and making sure she knew I was a strong believer. And of course her attitude towards me completely changed. I was not a foreigner anymore, neither a sinful homosexual, I was a Christian brother. From then on she was the most gracious and helpful person.

You know I said to may self “what a heck!” Let’s play the game, I went to seminary so I can quote the Bible and I also can pretend to be what I am not. I know she was just a very strong representation of the religious privilege and reality in the Deep South. But instead of feeling upset about it, I had so much fun!

it was really hard to pretend who I was not but I knew if I did that I was going to be treated better and it worked. I gained a friend and a sister, of course all is fake and not sincere but I had an excellent service and I left the place in a good attitude

This makes me wonder if her attitude had changed if I had shared with her that I am an openly gay Muslim, and that I welcome and cherish all faiths and believes! What it would have happened in my experience in that place?

Prayer for Orlando / Oración por Orlando

Nullifiers-of-PrayerSalaam Ailikum,

En el nombre de Allah el Mas Generoso, el Mas misericordioso.
In the name of Allah the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

Guíanos en el camino correcto
Guide us to The Right Way.

Incrementa nuestro espíritu de compasión y el don del entendimiento, y quita de nuestros corazones la sombra del odio.
Increase in us the spirit of compassion and the gift of understanding, and remove from our hearts the shadow of hatred.

Oh Todo Poderoso, haznos una comunidad de acción donde podamos unirnos para combatir el mal y donde podamos apoyar a la comunidad LGTBQ con nuestro amor y paz.
O All Mighty, make us a community of Action where we are united in our stand against evil and we can support the LGTBQ community with our love and peace.

Oh Allah, estamos frente a ti en humildad buscando guía, perdón y misericordia. Oramos por las 49 almas que fueron asesinadas y por los muchos mas heridos en Orlando, por sus familias, amigos y toda nuestra comunidad LGTBQ, especialmente a la comunidad Latinx Gays, indocumentadas y sus familias en Estados Unidos , México y por los 23 Puerto Riqueños que murieron.
O Allah we stand humbly in front of You seeking guidance, forgiveness and mercy. Praying for the all 49 souls who were killed and the many others who were injured in Orlando, for their families, friends, and all our LGTBQ community, specially the Queer Latnix, undocumented and their families in the US, Mexico and the 23 from Puerto Rico that , believe it or not, is also part of the US.

Oh, Allah, ilumina nuestros corazones con luz, nuestros ojos con luz, nuestros oídos con luz, que haya luz a una izquierda y derecha, que haya luz arriba y abajo de nosotros; que haya luz en frente y atrás de nosotros,
O Allah, illuminate our hearts with light, our eyes with light and our ears with light; and let there be light on our right and light on our left. Let there be light above us and light below us; let there be light in front of us and light behind us.

Oh Allah, haznos una luz. Ameen
O Allah, make us a light. Ameen.

Note: I received help to put together this prayer from a good friend and brother from the Hoover Masjid, in Alabama and I complemented and added a little more. This prayer was read at the Ecumenical Vigil for the Orlando Victims and their families on June 15th, 2016.

 

With a Broken Heart!

Salaam friends,

As a new Mexican Muslim and openly gay men, and doing Ramadan for the first time, my heart is broken today.

It is broken because it involves three of my own communities: Latinx, LGTBQ and Muslim.

It breaks my heart to know that the media will direct their hate to the Muslim community in general.

It hurst my heart that the media is forgetting to mention it was a Latin night, and it hurts my heart because that could it be me or my friends.

It hurst my heart not be able to be open about who I am in my own Masjid and community because I am afraid to be rejected or to not be loved for who I am. I have endured enough pain already to be able to accept who I am as a precious beloved of God to go all over again in this new faith.

I am afraid to go to pray to the Masjid tonight, not because I am fearful from my life, but because I am afraid of silence and indifference, that my friends, is more painful specially when we share the same faith.

Today my soul and spirit is crying,

today I would love to be closer to my family, indeed I really would love to be with them.

I pray that this call of prayer can give us the peace we need to keep walking and keep fighting to be accepted and love no matter of our believes, race, sexual identities, gender, etc.

Take a moment and listen to this and let this call bring you peace into your heart and know that still LOVE is greater than HATE.

The Dark Demon –Depression in Organizing

Dark_demon_hybrid

What if I come to you and I tell you I have a terminal illness? What would it be your response? How would you treat me? What if I tell you that because of that I deal with death thoughts every day? What if I told you that I am afraid to live in this condition?

Every morning when open my eyes I know this could be my last day. This illness keeps me prostrated to bed most of my evenings and weekends. It doesn’t give me a chance to dream and hope anymore. I am usually just waking up, going to work, come back home and go to sleep. I have very few social interactions, and the way I go out to the world is through social media. Without social media I would be dead long time ago. For you is a distraction, fore me is a survival tool.

In the organizing social justice world we talk a lot about liberation, we talk about ending white supremacy, racism, ageism, and heteronormativity. We talked against gentrification, pollution, and wage theft. We resist ICE, police brutality, and family separation through deportation. We talk about the anger we have when people don’t understand about pronouns, marriage equality, cultural appropriation, or voting rights. We want to change our communities, our society and the way we live. But there is a condition and an illness that is killing us, but we have decided not to deal with it, because it means that we need to be open and vulnerable to others, and that is not the way we have been conditioned to be leaders and organizers in this society.

I constantly hear this phrase “we need to be strong for the people we are working for and with”. Do we? Why? I have been reading Audre Lorde lately and I saw this amazing quote: “Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.”  It is because we do not show our true selves to others than our own demons and illnesses are killing us. To be able to know about the weaknesses, strengths and the things, that makes us down, or hopeless, that is the true path of knowledge and liberation.

Depression is consider, for many, just an emotional stage. A sign of our inability to deal with our own personal issues, and incapable to move on. It is view as nothing important, and many people think that the solution is to be happy about the life we have, be thankful because there are people in worst condition than we are. We need to wash our face, and go out for a walk. To socialize, or simply to take control of our emotions. Depression will take people to suicide. Not because they were selfish like many people will claim, but because they were not able to cope with life, and for them death seems like the best thing to do.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent. More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.”

So if this is true, how come my illness is not validated? For example as some one who was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2014, and who is not ashamed to share it to others, my week can change from an excellent time, to a deplorable stage of hopelessness without any reason. Today for example, I came to work in the morning like any other day, sat down on my desk, and suddenly this dark shadow covered me, and pushed me down. Of course I celebrate life, but at the same time I ask myself over and over what that fuck I am doing with my life? And this question is the one who continually takes me to think in the death as part of my life. (When Death Seems Better Than Life)

We need to start including self- care as part of our own liberation, and acknowledge, and validate mental illness in our social, economic, immigration, and racial justice work. Vulnerability has to be part of any social movement; we cannot pretend we are the strongest, the wisest, and the more knowledgeable organizers, and activist. We are stronger not only because we find our own strength, we are strong because we can find the weaknesses within ourselves and join with other fellow human beings so we can become stronger. Lets face it there is a dark demon in organizing.

“There is the ‘you’ that people see and then there is the ‘rest of you’. Take some time and craft a picture of the ‘rest of you’. This could be a drawing, in words, even a song. Just remember that the chances are good it will be full of paradox and contradictions” Brennan Manning (Daring Greatly)