PRIDE to the People

It’s pride month and I wanted to state once again how sorry I am for having stood on the wrong side of this conversation for so long. Not because I was some sort of anti-gay activist but because I was worse – a silent complicit “don’t rock the boat” coward who preferred to enjoy my privilege as a straight white male than stand up for the stigmatized and marginalized voices of precious souls around me. It took years for my voice to catch up with my heart.

Once I finally came to grips with what my passivity was causing in the lives of LGBTQIA kids and their families – especially as someone with leadership in a church setting – I knew what I had to do. And I knew it would be costly. In fact I didn’t think our church would survive the year. But if this meant our church would die – good riddance! We don’t need another exclusive club for the privileged to be told they are God’s favorites anyway.

The reality is that LGBTQ+ kids are FOUR TIMES more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide and their attempts are 4-6 times as likely to be successful. Moreover, kids who come from highly rejecting homes (most often religious) are 8.4 times as likely to attempt suicide and 70 times as likely to end up homeless or trafficked than their LGBTQ+ peers, let alone their straight peers.

Addressing this crisis was worth whatever it cost. And what it may continue to cost. Yet the rewards have been massive. In relationship. In the grace I received from my gay and lesbian friends. And in the stories of hope and healing that came from all over the country and the world to hear a pastor and a church and the staff team lay it on the line.

But there’s more to be done. The truth is the power is more in the hands of the congregations than in the clergy. I can’t tell you how many silently affirming pastors reach out to me to tell me they agree but couldn’t imagine risking their job. This is so depressing to me. Yet it continues. A farce of “right belief” that wounds and stigmatizes the already vulnerable.

The irony to me is that most churches are full of affirming congregants who just don’t mind separating their affirming “values” from the exclusive religious club they attend on Sundays.

Literally every Sunday morning, thousands of affirming Christians will sit and listen to spiritual advice from a pastor who they KNOW believes their gay friends are offensive to God. This hypocrisy alone is what keeps the violence, stigmatization, and marginalization of the LGBTQ community thrive within Christianity. Until affirming Christians stop patronizing churches that exclude people from leading, marriage, and employment eligibility based on their sexual orientation, they will be complicit in a war against people they claim to love.

That used to be me. I’ll forever regret that. But today I’m glad to be on the other side of that wall others told me was too high to climb. And I’m hopeful that as more affirming people of faith dare to climb over, the tide will turn.

So this PRIDE month, I look back with gratitude for what I’ve been through and forward with urgent hope that the way forward is love and that ultimately… love wins.

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