a haughty spirit before a fall.”
So read the verse from Proverbs 16, posted on a sign high above the crowd on the sidewalk at the edge of the parade route yesterday. I stopped to once again consider this brand of Christianity that is compelled to condemn what’s been happening in our colourful city this weekend. Reaching out to a lost people is one thing… offering good news, grace, salvation to those who are lost and are seeking…
But this man’s sign implied that those marching in or supporting the parade are WRONG! "Proud" in a way that is sinful! Moments away from complete and total self-destruction.
Not a particularly successful approach for winning converts, in my experience!
Until fairly recently, I, too, opposed Gay Pride. Not that I would go so far as to set up shop and hand out homophobic literature, but the apparent gratuitousness of the parade was often a topic of judgemental conversation between me and my Christian brothers and sisters. (I say "apparent", because admittedly, I had never actually been to a gay pride event to confirm these harsh judgements I was proclaiming.) I did not like it. I did not see the necessity of it. After all, straight people did not prance about naked, proclaiming their straightness. It was ridiculous, outrageous, unwarranted. And I would certainly never attend such an event.
I feel compelled to explain my change of heart.
Historically, June is pride month to commemorate the day when gay Americans finally fought back. Although some would argue that the gay rights movement in North America stems back to the 1920s, June 1969 was different. After years of often extremely violent police raids on gay bars and nightclubs, the gay community had finally had enough. Known as the “stonewall riots”, this series of protests in New York set in motion a strong and vibrant human rights movement across North America, and although police raids lasted well into the 1980s in Toronto, by the early 70’s, the community had begun to galvanize, and organized several large-scale social-political events, for example, the “Gay Day Picnics” at Hanlan’s Point.
Although tremendous progress has been made in terms of Gay rights, it is still frightening to consider that in some parts of the world, one could be beheaded for one's sexual orientation. (As one Middle Eastern group’s parade sign proclaimed, “We March for Those Who Can’t”)
And not so very far away, right next door in the US (a so-called "Christian" country), there are States that as recently as last month voted to ban same-sex unions. So, in north Carolina, a man and a woman can marry for 17 days and then get a divorce, and that’s okay, but two men who share a home/mortgage together, and have children together, and have lived in a committed relationship with one another for over 20 years? Uh-uh, nopes, they can’t enjoy the same legal rights as a man and a woman. (Read the Tom Bridegroom story for just one such poignant illustration.) And when they’re not banning same-sex committed relationships, they’re butchering their LGBTQ youth. This is Christianity?!
So the parade, then, is about protest and demonstrating, not just partying. It’s about raising awareness, challenging labels, questioning prejudices.
I’m all for standing up for equity and social justice. And so is the Bible, apparently: From Isaiah 1:17, we read, "learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression". In fact, Scripture encourages fighting for what one believes to be true and right: Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
I decided to see the spectacle for myself.
My girlfriend and I headed downtown on Sunday afternoon – it was hot as Hades (pun intended), and the parade route was already crowded with spectators by the time we got there. But we found a spot with a decent view, and prepared ourselves for the show ahead.
What struck me the most about the parade was actually the LACK of spectacle. The first hour of the parade was pretty much nudity-free, focussing instead on various organizations such as Amnesty International, a nursing home for LGBTQ senior citizens, some teachers’ unions (I got to see a few friends and colleagues, some an unexpected surprise), PFLAG.
Also sprinkled throughout were several church floats – it seems some share the “love thy neighbour” philosophy more than the “let’s stone the fags” viewpoint – and a surprisingly large number of police organizations from all over Ontario. And although the second half of the parade included the obligatory “wierdos” (i.e. nudists, polyamourists, flamboyant drag queens and BDSM leather folk that the media so love to photograph in all their glory), in the context of this year’s “Celebrate and Demonstrate” theme, it all didn’t seem quite so outrageous to me as I had expected.
It seems to me the churches who had floats in the parade were marching not -- as so many of our Christian brothers and sisters seem concerned with -- to support a sexually promiscous lifestyle that screams "anything goes if it feels good", but rather to reaffirm that God made and loves ALL people, and that there is perhaps more to God's two-spirited children than the stereotypes traditionally perpetuated by the mainstream media.
Once again I am reminded of important lessons from the Good Book: From Matthew 7, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
If my brothers from the sidewalk literature stand at the parade are so concerned with the sin of the homosexual population, I would encourage them to examine the planks in their own eye.
For more photos including – yes – some nudity, click here!