Should Christians take part in ‘Pride’?
A Pastor’s reflection on the Church and Gay Pride
Recently I accepted an invitation to serve as a judge in the Baltimore Pride Parade. For the most part my friends, family and LGBTQ inclusive congregation have been very excited by this, even a little surprised. But a few family members and friends have raised the question… ‘Isn’t pride a SIN?’ And as a Christian who takes sin seriously, I thought this a question worth answering prior to Saturday’s parade.
First of all. YES, pride as it is biblically understood is unambiguously a sin. All of the New Testament references to pride carry clear negative connotations. And while the Hebrew Scriptures are a bit more balanced, almost always pride is ‘Good’ when God demonstrates it and ‘Bad’ when we do. Even Jesus is pretty clear, reminding us that it is ‘the one who serves’ that is greater. While there is no clear biblical list of ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ — they all have roots in scripture and pride in particular is one we should be mindful of. After all it was pride that led to the Tower of Babel; pride that made Joseph’s brothers throw him in the well; pride that made Saul turn against David and try to kill his friend.
When humankind seeks to take God’s place; to act in God’s stead, that is particularly sinful.
For many Christians that would be it I suppose. Case closed. ‘The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.’ And I confess the Hebrew Scriptures and how they treat pride in particularly are convicting to me. When humankind seeks to take God’s place. To act in God’s stead, that is particularly sinful.
But it is this precise argument that I believe compels me to participate in this years Pride parade. Because this Pride is not that pride. Because Pride didn’t start as a community celebration of uniqueness and identity. Pride started as a revolt against a man-made system that told LGBTQ people that they were disordered, wrong, sinful, a scourge on humanity, and worse. Pride started because good people of faith, Christian people, people like you and me, decided to TAKE GOD’S PLACE as judge and arbiter. We decided to systematically demonize and terrorize a sub segment of God’s Creation that is fearfully and wonderfully made. We sought to build our own Tower of Babel to demonstrate our superiority and cast aspersions on those who were not like us. And it wasn’t the first time either. Once upon a time we decided that white was ‘better’ than black. That male was ‘better’ than female. That english was ‘better than’ Latin. Or Greek. Or French. Or Spanish. We Christian sought to subjugate God in God’s self to our own devices and desires and declare that we knew exactly what God wants for gay people. And for us.
In short, Pride started not as a celebration of pride in the LGBT community but as a condemnation of the pride of the American community. That Pride celebrations are still necessary so many years later should serve as a continued indictment of our blindness in the Christian world to our fellow siblings in Christ who so desire the love of God and of God’s Church and who we continue to leave on the margins. In 2016, I marched in the Pride parade in Jerusalem. They had to wall off the parade route because they were afraid of violent attacks. Every year in America we see stories about communities large and small hosting their first ever Pride events; the first time that people have felt the freedom to be honest about who they are or who they love. Freedom because it was almost always Christians who mocked, derided, castigated them… or worse.
I don’t expect most Christians who read this to agree with me. I recognize that as a pastor in a denomination that fully includes LGBTQ members in all of the sacraments including ordination I am in the minority, and as the pastor of a church with a significant percentage of the congregation who self identify as part of the LGBTQ community I am in an even smaller minority. I don’t expect the rest of the Christian world to wake up tomorrow and suddenly decide to be radically inclusive of the entirety of the LGBTQ community (though Jesus would truly delight in that!)
‘Pride’ began as a protest against the sin of pride in the Christian community.
But I do hope that all Christians would see Pride Month as a time to practice their own humility. That they would remember that Tennessee Williams was attacked in 1979 after a Baptist Minister encouraged violence against the gay community. That Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder were killed by two Christian men who were ‘serving their creator’ and defended by their pastor at trial. That Sean Kennedy was killed, in 2007, in South Carolina for being gay, and was defended by a pastor who attacked Sean’s family for being a threat to the Church. That it was Christian hate that made Pride a necessity. That ‘Pride’ began as a protest against the sin of pride in the Christian community.
If you are a Christian who thinks that ‘Pride’ is wrong I agree with you. The pride that has allowed us — as a people who profess to follow a God of Love and Compassion — to look the other way as Christians hate, discriminate, attack and kill children of God because of who they are or because of who they love is absolutely sinful and needs to end. So I will attend, and participate, in Pride this year in Baltimore because as Christians we must break down the hate that divides and separates all of us from the knowledge and love of God. In the Gospels, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. When the rich man dies and ends up in Heaven he commands Lazarus, who he ignored, beat and starved his whole life, to get him a drop of water. But the Rich man found out as he stood up and looked at Lazarus, that ‘a Great Chasm is fixed’ between us — and that God and the prophets were on the side of Lazarus and the rich proud man was alone. I know that Jesus is always on the side of the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the hurting and the lost. And thats where I plan to be on Saturday, and for as long as I can after.
The author is an Episcopal Priest and Rector of Memorial Church in Baltimore City