Thinking Anew – Proud to be an ally
It is only when we can offer ourselves in all our complexity and be accepted that we can truly know that we belong. Getty Images
Summer finally unfolds and the season of Pride is upon us; joyous, exuberant gatherings of LGBTQ people and those who love them, a proclamation: “We are here! We exist! We celebrate how we have been made! We will not remain invisible!”
As a Christian in a heteronormative culture, I have often heard people complain, “Why do they have to make such a song and dance about themselves? It’s not something to be proud about. I don’t go on and on about being straight.” As if mainstream sexuality is not celebrated as well as obsessively flouted in our culture!
The notion of Pride is problematic for Christians, because pride is one of the cardinal sins in our theology. Everyone knows that pride comes before a fall, that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, that the root of much sin is pride. Pride means an arrogant self-obsession, excessive self-esteem and sense of entitlement, a valuing of the self over and above the other; resulting in the breakdown of wholesome connection with God, others, and ourselves.
But this kind of unhealthy pride is completely distinct from the Pride celebrated at Pride events. Healthy Pride is about a courageous self-respect, a rejoicing in community, the relief of celebrating that we have special gifts to offer the world. Pride is also a holy protest. It has an exhilarating defiance to it because of the courage involved in each person’s journey against many odds to the place where they can say, “This is me. I am here. I belong. I am loved.” There is a Mardi Gras atmosphere, with all the associated flamboyance and exhibitionism, as there is at every carnival, and everyday people of all shapes and sizes.
So as a Christian I love to attend Pride events. I dust off my rather unflattering “Christian & Proud” T-shirt, put on my clergy collar, and march in solidarity with my LGBTQ brothers and sisters-in-Christ.
I have a friend who had newly acknowledged to himself that he was gay and was very private about it. He was working with the first aid team at a local Pride march. The march passed a church whose members were standing outside their building, handing out water bottles to the marchers. What a blessing, on that hottest of days! What a sweet sign of God’s free offer to us – the water of life!
My friend took a bottle and then he saw that the label bore a Bible verse, plucked out of context: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” My friend was deeply wounded by this abuse of hospitality. Ironically I do not think that he had ever lain with a man, although that is not my business and in no way the point of the story.
All this has nothing to do with sexual morality. At Pride events there are saints and sinners and a mixture of both, as there are everywhere. LGBTQ Christians are called to embrace a holy sexual ethic of continence and faithfulness and covenant love – as are all Christians. Some Christians – straight or queer – get this very wrong. This goes without saying.
Church community should be a place where we work hard to see and respect each other as we really are. It is only when we can offer ourselves in all our complexity and be accepted that we can truly know that we belong. For too long, the church has sent (and continues to send) toxic, shaming messages to those historically silenced and shamed outside the Church. Discouraging people from asserting their value and needs is enormously harmful to people whose values and needs have always been actively denied.
So if you are a Christian who believes that God made us in many different ways – “And it was good” – take the opportunity to go out onto the streets at your local Pride event and march with your fellow Christians. Be an ally! Stand in solidarity! Bring your children! Give out water that is truly free! It will be joyous!