Rainbows & Jesus: My Day at Gay PrideFeatured, Social Justice — By Emily Timbol on November 30, 2010 at 4:00 am
There are certain words that I cannot stand. When I hear these words, something in my brain snaps, and I have to stifle a large, ugly utterance of disgust. It’s nothing against the words themselves, but the way that they have been misused by people who throw them out with little care or thought. Some people feel this way about the word “literally”, as in, “really, Mary, did you ‘literally’ die when you saw Twilight for the third time? Then why are you here to talk about it?”
I feel this way about the word, “lifestyle.” As in, “many members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community have an agenda and they want to impose their ‘lifestyle’ on all of us.” What does that mean? What exactly is a gay person’s “lifestyle?” I assume it has something to do with who they’re attracted to sexually, but does that define the rest of their life? Do they go to the grocery store and select gay groceries that fit their “lifestyle?” Do they ask the salesman at the dealership, “what car do you think fits my gay ‘lifestyle’ best?” Is there a gay Pandora station that plays the best music for their “lifestyle?” (That might not be too far of a stretch, I would assume it’d have lots of Gaga.) I’m still waiting on someone to give me a good definition.
That was one word that was thrown at me a lot over these past few months, while I prepared for the booth I was renting at Jacksonville’s Pride festival. Other words were, “hypocrite”, “sinner”, “hater of God’s truth” and, my personal favorite, “false Christian.” I assume that’s something like a “jumbo shrimp.”
With all the controversy I’ve stirred up, you’d think that the booth would have involved an S&M Jesus draped in a rainbow making out with Peter. This was not the case. The booth was simple: a canopy, a folding table, and 200 postcards hung up on clothesline. The postcards had the words, “Love God, Love Others, Fight Hate”, a website address, and a Bible verse on the front.
On the back were personal messages from Christians to the LGBT festival goers at Pride. Some of these were simple, too: an encouraging quote or Bible verse wrote out in Sharpie. Some were more elaborate, and used colors, art, or pictures to convey a message. Many were kind, some were funny, and all expressed love in the hopes of reconciliation.
I’ll admit, it surprised me that the majority of Christians I talked to were supportive when they found out what I wanted to do. I had people I hadn’t talked to in years contact me to ask for cards, and I had people I barely knew at church ask if they could pray for and encourage me. My own parents, who hold more traditional views than I do, were extremely supportive. They even took cards to pass out to their friends.
It’s not the supportive people though, that keep me up at night. Even though there have been only a handful of people who have been vocally and angrily disproving of what I am doing (embarking on a ministry to the LGBT community) it’s these people that I can’t get out of my head. It’s frustrating, because I have no doubts about why I am doing what I am, yet, I can’t shake the fact there are people who are so angered by what I am doing, they are actively trying to stop me.
The ironic thing is, it’s this opposition that has strengthened my commitment to the ministry. Being constantly misunderstood, accused, and disrespected has given me a level of understanding for LGBT people that I never had before. Seeing first hand how quickly people started sharing their concerns over my “spiritual health”, before I even told them what I wanted to do, made me realize what it must be like to be a gay Christian. Some people don’t care what you have to say, or want to listen to you at all, as soon as they hear the word, “gay” they know everything they need to know about you, and your faith.
While I certainly don’t know everything, I do know what happened that day at Pride. People who had been hurt by the church were shown love. Bible verses, personal messages, and kind words were displayed for thousands of people to see. There were married couples, teenagers, adults, mothers, and fathers who came in to the booth, and were shown love by people who asked nothing in return. Hopefully, there were people that day who were shown God in a way that will make them want to know more. I don’t know if any lives were changed, but I do know that the people who smiled, took pictures, took cards, and filled out cards in return, all thanked me for being there.
I also know what didn’t happen. There were no kinky sexual fetish booths, no nudity, no grotesque or rampantly vile activities being celebrated, and none of the things that I was told I would be exposed to if I went to the festival. I think the most scandoulous thing I saw was a kid with shoes on at the bouncy house. It was like most other festivals I had been to, only with a lot more rainbows. Maybe it’s because this festival was not in a big city with a large gay population, or maybe it’s because the people that warned me about what I was going to see don’t actually know any gay people, and misunderstand what the majority of their lives are really like (hint: just like ours.)
It’s these people that have accused me of not being a “Biblical Christian” and have used various verses to prove my perceived misguidedness. One that has been repeatedly brought up is what Jesus said in the John chapter 15. He said that if the world hates us, it hated Him first. He tells us that if we love the world, we can’t love Him. I have been told that since I love gay people, I love the world, and therefore don’t love God.
What’s interesting though, is to think about who hated Jesus. It certainly wasn’t the tax collectors, prostitutes, murderers, and sinners that He encountered. They invited Him into their homes, poured perfume onto His feet, and loved Him without abandon. The people who hated, and ultimately killed Jesus, were the pharisees, religious leaders, and people who held so strongly to the law that they refused to see who Christ truly was. The question on my heart therefore is this; if the people who have been hating me have not been the “sinners” that I’ve been trying to reach, but the religious people who so fear them, then who does that make the world? And what should my reaction to them be?
I don’t know the answer to that yet. Instead, I’m waiting on God, and focusing on the verse that was printed on the front of the cards. It’s the one in Matthew 22 that commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I have been told that to truly love the LGBT community, I have to “bring them out of the homosexual lifestyle.” Even if that’s what I felt God was telling me to do, I would have no idea how to accomplish that. Instead, my goal is to get as many people as possible, including those in the LGBT community, into a relationship with Christ .
The rest is up to Him.