This weekend was the annual Pride Celebration in St. Petersburg. There were close to 300k people in St. Pete for one of the largest pride parades and festivals in the nation. My emotions and mind have been centered around what the Church can say or do during these times.
We must have more to offer than “No!”
I committed myself to prayer and seeking the thoughts of other compassionate believers, towards being more intentional next year. This afternoon on our car ride home, the kids asked about the rainbow flags that our city is flocked with this week and the festivals filling our streets. Casey explained to them what they stood for and how we can choose to disagree without being disgusted or angry.
Tonight in the car Zoe asked me to tell her more about #Pride.
I explained to her that people in the LGBTQ community have not always been treated with dignity, fairness, and equality. I showed her how the massive trucks and police cars blocking each intersection were there to protect them because some want to harm them just for being gay. I explained that for most the parade and festival were a way to say, “we are human beings too and we deserve equality and respect.”
Zoe: “Daddy, that sounds like a good thing.”
Me: “It is honey, it is.”
Zoe: “So why didn’t we go?”
I thought to myself… there was part of me that wanted to and next year I may. If I do, it will be to simply stand and say, “in the name of Jesus Christ, I love you, I see you, and I care.” Casey and I have talked about going in order to start and listen to conversations about how the Church or Christian families have loved well or caused harm to those at the festivals as a way to learn from past postures that distanced LGBTQ individuals from the Christian community instead of drawing them in.
I explained to Zoe that it was complicated for us, because while we do believe all people should be treated with equality and respect, and while each person should have their full dignity affirmed (pauses to explain dignity and affirm), we ultimately believe that God has intended man and woman to be together as a picture of who he is. So, we do not believe we can affirm LGBTQ relationships.
Zoe: “Daddy I am frustrated
Zoe:” Because it sounds like #Pride is good and bad at the same time.”
(Sometimes her understanding and clarity floors me)
I explained to her that in one sense standing for people’s humanity, dignity, and right to be treated equally is good, and we as Christians should stand with our LGBTQ neighbors to say we love you and believe in your equality and dignity. But, while we do not think of gay people as bad, we do believe that same-sex relationships are not part of what God has called us to and therefore, sin.
At this point, Zoe became highly frustrated, because she truly gets mad at the idea of sin and its impact on our world. We spent time talking about how we all believe we know what is best and each of us is prone to take authority for our life into our own control (aka…the fall in the garden).
Zoe: “Daddy sin just makes me upset, I wish it didn’t have to be here.”
Me: “But baby, this is why Jesus is such good news! Jesus is making all things new and he is bringing change to lives every day.
Zoe: “Like he changed your life?”
At this point I had tears rolling down my face, knowing Zoe did not understand the gravity of that question and it’s connection to this conversation. I told her yes, baby, yes, Jesus changed my life, and someday I will tell you more about that story.”
Zoe: “Can you tell me now?”
Me: “ No, we are almost home. But thanks for talking with me and this has been a good beginning to the story that I will share with you someday.”
Zoe: ” Daddy I want to trust Jesus too, but it’s hard.”
Me: “I know it is hard and I struggle with that even today. But he will never stop pursuing you and loving you.”
As we pulled into the driveway, I was so thankful to have had this time with my inquisitive and deeply thoughtful daughter and I prayed that I stewarded the conversation well, while knowing there will be those from all sides not fully happy with all that I said. I know this is just the first of many conversations regarding sexuality we will have with our kids as they mature and no doubt interact with those in the LGBTQ community.So, our conversations will also go deeper and demonstrate the complexity and compassion needed when holding to a traditional Orthodox view of sexuality in a pluralistic society.
It would be easy as a Christian parent to affirm how things should be to the dismissal and ostracization of what is the reality for many. But that’s not what Jesus did. He drew near to those who lived in ways they thought was best and true to themselves. He showed them compassion and put society’s unjust treatment of them to shame all while teaching them that identifying with Him changes everything! It would also be easy to just promote a “love wins” approach to all things without ever talking about the Love that died so that our sins could be covered and atoned for once and for all.
I hope what my 8-year-old daughter comes away with from yesterday’s conversation, is knowing her parents long to honor Jesus even if it costs us misunderstanding in friendships and relationships, as some see us as liberal and others as judgmental. I pray our kids see that we will always seek to be disciples that strive to live according to God’s word, even when it comes with trust that doesn’t fully understand. I pray that I give abundant grace to my LGBTQ neighbors, many who long to honor Christ, but sincerely believe this is who they are and were created to be. A grace that calls them and all people to trust Jesus and give him authority in our lives, even the areas we think we cannot.
In the meantime, I am committed to walk towards my LGBTQ neighbors and seek to walk a difficult line of grace and truth, To do anything less is not faithful to the beautiful Gospel of grace.