Pride and the Apostle PaulWhere's the Faith? Thursday, August 9th, 2012
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
I think the Apostle Paul would’ve liked the festivities here in San Diego as we celebrated LGBT Pride. After all, he understood the destructiveness of division and prejudice. He lived in a world whose fundamental structures were rooted in pairs of opposites: circumcision/uncircumcision; Jew/gentile; slave/free; male/female. And, he believed that the message of Jesus worked against that. Jesus’ message is a message of grace, forgiveness, justice and unity; a freedom that surpassed the old rigidities of the literal law.
Paul would have loved Pride weekend’s insistence that under grace there are no longer rules that separate people into haves and have-nots, righteous and sinner, blue states and red states, fundamentalists and progressives, Israeli and Palestinian, Sunni and Shiite, Pope and laity, gay and straight. They can, and must, co-exist.
Yes, Paul would have liked Pride weekend.
Paul was a Jew by birth, as was Jesus. Part of the Jewish culture was an emphasis on being set apart – many provisions of the law, including circumcision and the dietary laws, were primarily ways that the people demonstrated, through their actions and outward appearance, that they are not like others.
It must have been shocking for Paul to say that any difference between Jew and Christian was irrelevant! And it must also have been shocking when they realized that when he said there was no longer Jew or Greek, he didn’t mean that either one had to assimilate to the other one’s way of life. Gentiles didn’t have to become Jews, and Jews also didn’t have to give up their Jewish faith. God’s realm is wide and so inclusive!
Paul would have liked Pride weekend.
Jesus came with arms open to all. Our own Constitution wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal.” Abraham Lincoln took these words and thought it possible that we have a country where slavery is abolished. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. And Harvey Milk believed in every political voice. Paul would have aligned with each of these, because he understood the power of legalistic law to cripple and punish.
Do you know how Pride got started? Early in the morning of June 28, 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn – a gay bar that was heavily patronized by people of color, including a high percentage of drag queens – located in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. On the one-year anniversary of the riots, the Gay Liberation Front organized a march in New York City in commemoration of the Stonewall riots. On the same weekend, gay activists on the West Coast, led by our MCC founder, Troy Perry, held a march in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco.
In New York and Atlanta the marches were called “Gay Liberation Marches,” in San Francisco and L.A. they became known as “Gay Freedom Marches.” Now they have become “LGBT Pride” parades and festivals – in San Diego, it’s the single largest civic event of the year.
A good working definition of pride is “proper, reasonable and justified self-respect.” A pride that is justifiable and reasonable, because it’s based on God’s widely inclusive love. Pride helps people feel they are not a tiny, powerless minority group. Through Pride, many find a sense of belonging, a sense of being worthwhile.
Paul would say, by taking pride in who we are in Christ, we can start the long process of overcoming self-hate. Standing side-by-side with God, rainbow people are an accepted, loved, connected and powerful force. I remember my first Pride parade in 1997 – where I would literally hide if I saw a camera! Such shame!
All of us need to be right-sized – proud of ourselves, forgiving and uncondemning of others. All of us deserve to have a sense of belonging, a sense of worth and acceptance. Paul says this is already true, if we understand God’s love and God’s grace.
Let me remind you, we don’t have Pride just one Sunday a year – we work year-round to help all of our friends and supporters be proud and happy. Lesbian, gay, bi, straight, questioning or transgender – we are all made in the image of the Divine Creator and we each have sacred value. Therefore, we ought to treat each other with that sacred value.
Rev. Dan Koeshall is the Senior Pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) in San Diego, California, themetchurch.org
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