Fellow advocates representing the LGBT community, during the papal homily at Quirino Grandstand.

It was a timely thing: during the first vegan picnic of the year which happened yesterday, my friend, Manila Vegans founder and yogini Nancy, and I were talking about the power of traditions that go unquestioned.  

She told me about this interesting story called “The Lottery”, where the villagers perform this barbaric ritual in the name of tradition.  “There’s always been a lottery,” one of the characters said—the reason why their cruel tradition is being perpetuated. 

Traditions can be comforting, but they are not always right. This quote by the Buddha, I think, is a great way to filter our deeply-held beliefs:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

Just recently, I joined fellow LGBT advocates to make our presence felt during Pope Francis’ visit here in the Philippines. We waved our symbolic rainbow flags to show our support for what seemed to be an openness to the LGBT community. As the leader of the largest religious organization in the world, his seemingly pro-LGBT stance is what a Catholic country like ours needs to advance discussions on LGBT rights, which is closely intertwined with the HIV advocacy which my organization The Red Whistle is championing. 

Unfortunately, that stance wasn’t as real as we LGBT and HIV advocates wished. During the Meeting of the Families, the Pope was very clear that he saw LGBTs as a threat to the family

It just didn’t make sense to me. How could love ever be a threat? Why should other forms of love ruin one kind of love? Doesn’t love edify all of us who are enveloped in its embrace?

As The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up.” (And Pope Francis, didn’t you yourself say, “Realities are more important than ideas“?) 

It is time to test long-held traditions under the scrutiny of love: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:14)

The beautiful message of Christianity focuses on love and its completion. To accuse LGBTs of attacking the concept of family is a misguided conclusion which must be corrected. Love comes in many forms, not just the one that people have been used to for a long time. 

As more LGBT families come to the front to show that families and love come in multifaceted forms, the Pope and the Catholic Church must recognize that they have been steadfastly protecting only a partial version of love. And it is only time that we resign this incomplete version, so as to include everyone in its circle. 

Because the Bible, after all, teaches Christians as well:  

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” – 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

By Evan Tan

Evan Tan is a writer & communications professional based in Manila, Philippines.

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