LOVE is louder.

www.themarinfoundation.org

This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation.

Last month in cities all across the country, Gay Pride parades began as an annual commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising  in June of 1969. In Chicago, over one million people showed up for the festivities as tens-of-thousands of rainbow-colored feathers and flags waved in support of those marching and standing on the floats passing by. Merchants sold colorful goods along the parade route. Gay and lebian parents walked with their children sitting atop their shoulders to see over the crowd.

These parades are nothing new.

And neither are the protestors.

Each year, a group of self-proclaimed ‘Street Preachers’ gather to demonstrate and protest against the Pride Parade. Their twenty-foot tall banners share hate-filled slogans as men stand on ladders and shout out crude insults and accusations at passers-by with the help of their bullhorns – the modern day equivalent to throwing the first stone.

These are the caricatures of an unappealing type of Christianity that have earned the church a reputation of being anti-gay, judgmental and hypocritical.

Yet there are some followers of Jesus who believe and behave differently – who love the gay community and are convinced God does, too. Who believe all people are created in the image of God and are both beloved and beautiful. These are those who not only welcome LGBT people in their churches, but have a message which stands in contrast to the condemnation spewed by venomous protestors.

I’m Sorry.

The purpose behind the I’m Sorry Campaign is to apologize to the LGBT community for the ways Christians have caused harm, and to show our commitment to making things better in tangible ways. Our activism of love is nothing new, either. For the past several years, The Marin Foundation has shown up at Gay Pride parades in cities around the country. But this one is in our neighborhood. In our backyard. In Chicago. In Boystown.

Friends of the foundation came in from all over – we had guests staying with us from Minnesota. Texas. Pennsylvania. Tennessee. New Jersey. California. It was remarkable. Over 60+ people showed up in I’m Sorry t-shirts. For the first time, our team was able to gather in two separate locations – one at the beginning of the parade, and the other at the end.

Right in front of the protestors.

Directly behind us, on the other side of a police protection line, were the infamous Street Preachers - about a dozen protestors equipped with signage, each peppered with select scripture references disguised as weapons. Others included epithets which read things like ‘Penis Perverts‘ and ‘Anal Addicts‘ and ‘Labia Lickers.’ Though the clever alliteration continued, the 14 other names on the banner got progressively worse. Another listed a dozen Sexually Transmitted Infectionssuggesting each was divine punishment for the crowd. Yet another declared all LGBT people were ‘worthy of death.’

Their ‘preaching’ wasn’t much better, as horrific accusations and name-calling in the name of Christ filled the air space and crept its way toward the crowd. Their words crushed my soul. For a moment our team stood there, soaking in the gravity of the moment, aware of the harm that was being done. And then we stood in between them and the parade. We had our own banner draped across the fence, holding our own signs. ‘Free Hugs.‘ || ‘God loves you.‘ || ‘We love you.’ || ‘I’m sorry for the sins of my church.’ ||  ’I’m sorry – I used to be a bigot.‘ || ‘You are beautiful.‘ || ‘God loves everyone.

Most of these were made from cardboard boxes a nearby store manager had given to us – ‘You guys are the I’m Sorry people?!?! I’ve got LOADS of boxes in the back – take as many as you want!

As the parade continued, the cheers of the crowd drowned out the shouted ‘sermons’ of the protestors, whom eventually settled on a repetitive chant :: ’Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Sick! Sick! Sick!’

We stood there for nearly four hours. As the hundreds of people in the parade walked by us, their reaction was stunning. High-fives, tears and heart-felt hugs, along with countless ‘Thank you‘s. Several folks lingered and engaged in snippets of conversation, each expressing a gratitude which shook me to my core.

Toward the end of the parade, these emotions of those participating in the march were increasingly evident. I stood awestruck at the expressions on people’s faces as they would look at the protestors and their signs, and then see us and ours – as if we were an oasis of love in a desert filled with hate. A refuge.

One woman in particular – with blue hair – hugged me with startling desperation as she sobbed in my arms and thanked me again and again. ’I’m simply treating you like a decent human being,’ I thought. I didn’t understand.

And then the next day happened.

The evening following the parade, I went out with a group of people after an event put on by The Marin Foundation at our community LGBT Center. As is often the case at our events, this group represented the diversity of all shades on the spectrum of faith and sexuality – straight folks, gay folks, evangelicals and atheists, and everything in between. This is the tension in which we engage and  live and love. As I connected in conversation, a lesbian woman from across the table looked at me. ‘You – you’re the guy from the parade – you’re with the I’m Sorry people. I needed you guys yesterday. THANK YOU.

I thanked her and introduced myself, humbled by her elevation of the importance of me holding a simple heart-shaped sign made from a cardboard box. She continued, ‘No, you don’t understand. I remember you.‘ She took off the hat she had been wearing to reveal her pixie haircut – with. blue. hair.

After we’d established that we did indeed remember one another, she told me the story of the events that led to our encounter the previous day, answering the question of why she was so moved by our signs of love. ‘I’ve gone to the Pride Parade for years – and the protestors are always there. That’s no big deal – it’s nothing new. But what happened to me this year has NEVER happened before, and it completely caught me by surprise.’

She proceeded to tell me that, unbeknownst to our I’m Sorry Campaign crew (and quite likely unbeknownst to the Chicago Police Department), one of the ‘preachers’ had made his way past the protected security area and slithered up against the fence of the parade, pretending to be just another spectator. As he held out his hand feigning attempts at awaiting high-fives just thirty yards up the route from us, he grabbed people’s arms and pulled them in close – then he’d whisper, ‘You’re disgusting, and you’re going to burn in hell, pervert.

She was stunned.

My new friend described how she had been ambushed by these words, having been unexpectedly yanked from a place of supposed safety into a space of condemnation. It was as if she had the very life sucked out of her. She moved forward along the parade route, attempting to shake off the accusing words whispered into her ear. You are disgusting. You’re going to burn in hell. Moving forward on the parade route brought her within earshot of the ‘official’ protestors with their shouting and their signs and their slogans - whore! pervert! homo! hell! shame! sick!

And then she saw us, standing in the gap – standing behind a different banner, wearing t-shirts and holding signs with a different message - I’m Sorry. You are loved. You are beautiful. God loves you. We love you. She held onto me tightly with tears streaming down her cheeks, then moved to each of us along the fence. With each hug she heard these words - You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.

And in that moment, amidst the shouts of shame from the protestors and even in the wake of the underhanded whispers of another, she heard – above all else – words of love that healed her wounded soul.

I wondered how many other folks had been yanked into an unexpected condemnation – literally or figuratively – by those claiming to carry a message from Christ. With over a million people in attendance, chances are quite a few. Yet it is my hope – and my prayer – that LOVE is louder. At least for one, it was…and that made all the difference.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Beth Marin

    Another life story touched by love.

  • wordofawoman.com

    Thank you Andrew.

  • CM Goodrich

    LOVE makes all the difference. You have earned the privilege of sharing God’se story with this woman because actions speak louder than words! Go ahead, good and faithful servant. Well done!
    CM goodrich

  • Levedi

    I read these stories and I keep thinking about what Jesus said to people caught in sin – “neither do I condemn you.” “I’ll give you living water so that you never thirst again.” Peter denied Jesus 3 times and Jesus fed him a meal. Jesus vented his angriest words and actions on the people who were barring the entrance to the temple, selling God instead of giving him freely. Even if these “street preachers” are right that homosexuality is a sin, they aren’t following Christ. There’s no love in what they are doing. They are enjoying the idea of sending thousands to hell! That’s not Godly, that’s Satanic.

    • Dorian Moises Mattar

      The fact remains, it is CLEARLY SPELLED OUT – punishable by death right there in the BIble!

      You talk about your Jesus as if this myth brought any good to the world, when in fact it brought nothing but suffering and death!

      The Myth Jesus is said to have made it clear, that he did NOT come to abolish the old laws, but to enforce them.

      That law is ONE OF THEM!

      You don’t follow your book by the word, that is good for us, but hypocritical of YOU.

      You pick and choose as you wish from that book, they don’t. They follow it, which is good for them, bad for us. In this case, bad for the gay community.

      But the root of the problem is RELIGION, which includes that hideous book, the Bible!

      The problem is the BOOK!

      Bad for ALL of us.

  • Nate Smith

    :)

  • Jennifer Sharpe

    Love is louder for many more than just the one! I am a transgender woman who has marched in the Pride parade for many years and in the last few I’ve seen the folks wearing the “I’m Sorry” t-shirts. It is a very gratifying sight to see that some christians are behaving consistent with the message of God that I was taught as a child. If God created us all in his image as the bible says he did, then we are already perfect and a part of a perfect plan just the way we are.

  • Ogre Magi

    This rodent is doing nothing but proselytizing the LGBT community

  • closetatheist

    The obscene signs you described as being held by the protestors are the kind of public filth these Christians claim to be against. Its disgusting that they would hold up signs like this at an enormous event with children and then have the audacity to claim that what they’re doing is trying to keep unacceptable filth out if children’s lives and away from families…way to go idiots.

    • Dorian Moises Mattar

      Why wouldn’t they? The book, which so many of our representatives stand behind, PROMOTES it!

      Until our society STOPS being hypocritical about the Bible, this will never end!

      The bible has to be made publicly liable for it’s content!

  • Dorian Moises Mattar

    EXPOSE the bible publicly for what it is, a HATE BOOK!

    TAX the CHURCH!


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