Evil and Jesus Came to Pride

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We pressed ourselves up against the metal railing as the jamboree poured down the street. Thousands of red and green and yellow feathers, batons flying through the air and Katy Perry blaring out the speakers. There were drag queens glazed in make-up, politicians waving from floats, gay and lesbian couples strolling, smiling with their kids cheering on their shoulders. It was a blue warm summer afternoon and the air was filled with bliss.

 

We had a banner draped across the fence that said we were sorry. We wore shirts that said we were sorry. We held signs that said God loves you. We apologized for the how the church has hurt them, hurt some in our group, hurt me.

 

Not ten feet behind us, in a ring of police protection, were other signs. Ten foot tall banners. They were plastered with scripture and phrases like “Penis Perverts” and “Anal Addicts” and “Labia Lickers”. There were roughly fifteen of them, three of whom had megaphones, and one of them with a step ladder and thick black glasses. They took their turns barking out:

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“SMOKE! HELL! SMOKE! You know what’s coming!!! God is going to burn you up! destroy you!”

 

“YOU ARE SICK! You sir, are a walking example of AIDS! YOU PERVERT! YOU ARE NOT NORMAL, YOU’RE A FREAK!”

 

“You hate GOD! You hate GOD! You hate GOD! You hate GOD”

 

“Shame on you! Shame on you! SHAME ON YOU!”

 

A lesbian couple approached the police perimeter, just below the man on the step ladder, yelling back at him. He smiled and sang.

 

“YOU ARE FILTHY WHORES! WHORES WHORES WHORES! But you know what? Even Jesus can save a little whore like you, REPENT YOU WHORES!”

 

Everybody knew these guys were jack-asses. They were hateful, crude, and yes, Evil. They were Westboro without the flag burning. As a group of gay veterans marched down the Parade, they screeched:

 

“YOU ARE NOT SOLDIERS! YOU ARE PERVERTS! YOU ARE NOT SOLDIERS! SHAME ON YOU!”

 

And even though you knew they weren’t really representing God, you felt dirty all over. Hours of hearing “SHAME ON YOU!” replays in your head and burns you with rage to the point where you start to think that breaking through the police to beat the snot out of them will be the only thing to bring you peace.

 

But then, there was this group of girls rollerblading down the street.

They had rainbow streamers in their hair and wore tasteful tank tops and gym shorts. One of them, this beautiful young woman was near the back. She was giggling happy, twirling in circles, gliding back and forth across the street- and I don’t know how to explain the expression on her face when she saw the protesters but it was like the air was sucked straight out of her.

 

She was trying to shake it off, looking hard at the ground, but the congested parade had to come to a halt and she had to just stand there. She had to stand before a mob shrieking out whore! and pervert! and Hell! Hell! Hell! She had to stand there, exposed, breathless, unable to get away.

 

Her eyes dropped to our sign and with a furrowed brow, she read it. She tilted her head- perplexed, and read it again and again and again and then looked up at us smiling at her. This wave of emotion flushed through her face and it was so rare. The kind where you can see the beating heart in the creases of her forehead and the sparkle of her eyes. She started nodding, weeping, choking out a proud smile.

 

And then she really hugged us.

Like the purest most desperate kind of hug.

 

She whispered thank you, thank you and then skated backwards, sizing up the sign and crying all over again. A friend tugged at her arm as the parade began moving again. But she stayed for just a few moments longer. God Loves You, God Loves You.

 

I had to step away. I fled past the protesters shrieking in my ears, down an emptier street where I could crash on a curb and cry. I didn’t have any clear thoughts, no prayers were said, it was just an erupting of emotions and a steadying of my breath, because maybe this is the closest I’ve ever been to Jesus.

 

Standing at that fence, holding that girl, in a gust of piercing barbs, love swept in and stole the stage. It was louder than their megaphones and their curses. It was faster and struck deeper than anything ever could. A love so beautiful that it stops us in our skates and draws tears from our eyes. That is gospel, my friends, that is God.

 

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Photo credit- Andrew Marin

 

And I know that these protesters don’t reflect many of the serious disagreements about sexuality within Christianity, but the bombastic slurs are the same I once leveled at myself. The same ones many of us did. The shame that overcame us like a fever and then, the surprise of Christ who came to call us good. Loved. Liked. Accepted. Created. Wept for. Rejoiced over. Loved. Loved. Loved. Loved. LOVED.

 

And at some point, it hit me that all this hugging and holding was for me too. I was placing my fingers over those hurt places, cleaning them with the reality that God is crazy over me. He delights in me. He made me. He holds me.

 

He died by lash, nail and suffocation, whispering the name of that girl in his final breaths. And she heard it. In the middle of it all, she heard it. It drew her in.

 

RR

Pride?

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A grandpa of a friend mine wrote a letter to his family about why, as Christians, they voted Republican.

Listening to it read aloud, one passage pricked my ears.

“gays are so sex obsessed. They’re like animals!”

Nods of agreement all around.

In the same minute that I muster up the courage to call them out on their bigotry, they turn on the TV and call their first witness. Drifting across the screen is a float carrying a couple of nearly-naked dudes grinding on each other to some techno jams blasting away in the background.

They are followed by ten more doing the same.

There is hooting and hollering and kissing and… more than kissing

And… just barely murmuring through all noise is… some sort of spontaneous frenzy… like reminiscent of the people of Tokyo in the shadow Godzilla… We strain our ears and crawl over to the speakers just to make it out

a chorus?

No, a mob- A mob made of moms and dads frantically calling for their kids, placing their hands over their eyes, preserving what innocence they have left and then… running like hell for the hills.

In this moment, with both convictions and pride on the line, I cannot bring myself to hum and sway along. I cannot shoo them away with my hand while whispering, “it’s fine by me- you intolerant pig.” I just can’t. It would defy my conscience. It would be dehumanizing. It would be calling pornography art. It would diminish the debate of equal rights.

Because what we’re watching is not a response to injustice,

Nor is it a celebration of diversity.

it’s just a sex romp.

My mind travels to the clientele regulars leaving the strip club only to cross paths with the old lady crying, “that is someone’s daughter in there!”

When was the last time we called out a Pride Parade like that? I’m speaking to the Christian LGBT folks and allies alike. How is the parade reflective who we are? Better question- How does it reflect our faith?

I know what you’re thinking and you’re probably right, if I looked like a J Crew model I too would be tempted to show off my tip-top bod via form fitting jeans and topless jogs. Really, I just might…

But if I believed that this was all I had to offer, wouldn’t you call me shallow? Moreover, wouldn’t you tell me that I am selling myself short?

I hope you would. I’d do the same for you.

Even if the conversation was completely limited to my sexual orientation, do you think I would define myself in such a slutty way? What If the tables were turned? Would you say the same for yourself?

The blogger at Gay Christian, Very Anxious gives a more generous description of what it means to be gay than I have seen any other Christian, gay or ally, do:

“My sexuality has allowed me to have uncomplicated friendships with women, deepened my empathy for the marginalized, and strengthened my faith through intense, personal questioning. It amounts to so much more than attraction to other men, which anyway is as emotional and spiritual as it is sexual. Christians ignore that, because they focus so intently on gay sex, moralizing a very minor component of homosexuality.”

I wish so much that this was the perception of every gay person.

But then I hear the battle cry rolling down the streets of Pride telling me that it is my body that is my best. That I can only know how to exist when someone else wants me in bed. That I am a body with a soul and not a soul with a body.

More than just clothes get stripped away when we reduce ourselves to sex toys. With the shirt goes our dignity and with the pants what’s left of our pride.

And with the parade, goes the perception of us all.

But I sympathize with these kids. They have been told for far too long that all they are is their sexuality; a lie said enough for them to start believing it. And it may surprise you, but it’s a lie that leads us back to the conservative church community. It is a weird circle, but a circle nonetheless. For those already inside, the Church encourages suppression creating a time bomb of affections. Attention is drawn to one detail and it becomes the whole painting. It becomes the prison. An iron mask. For those on the outside, the church accuses them of being sex-obsessed and animal-like.

The parade is an upper cut swing to the Church’s low blows. It is a mirror reflection of how the Church has whored itself out to the lowest common denominator through hateful rhetoric and prejudicial politics.

One calls the other perverted imps.

The other freaks out the faithful through naked float grinding.

It’s a boxing match.

~~~

I am all for living openly and authentically, but the Pride Parade just doesn’t fit that definition for me.

I want this community to be more than that.

Save your six-pack, I want to see your soul.

And hear your poetry. Your songs. I want a testimony told through blood, sweat and tears. The true one. The battle scars. The worst days and the best. Everything besides what your body looks like.

Despite what the media, LGBT friends and allies, and the church may tell you, who you are is not where your attractions lie.

As the sea change gets stronger in both the country and the church, I am praying that my LGBT brothers and sisters enter with a sense of grace and self-respect. We owe at least that to ourselves.

RR