What I Learned at Gay Pride

What I Learned at Gay Pride July 2, 2014

This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation. You can read more from Michael at his blog here – and his book, Love Never Fails :: Building Bridges Between the Church and the Gay Community will be available for pre-order soon (2015, IVP).

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my experience participating in The Marin Foundation’s I’m Sorry Campaign as we stood in front of these protestors during Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade.

<sidenote :: if you’re unfamiliar with the history of Gay Pride, I highly suggest watching this documentary which outlines the beginning of the LGBT equality movement at the Stonewall Inn in NYC – you can find other helpful documentaries on LGBT history and theology here>

I titled the post LOVE is louder.

In spite of the 20 foot tall signs and bullhorns used by the protestors spewing words of hate, our simple sings of love with slogans like I’m Sorry for how the church has treated you’ or ‘God loves you’ spoke volumes.

This year, we brought more people, with bigger signs – and the result was nothing short of extraordinary.

CNN picked up our story and published the photo above here – which is an honor; yet what stirred my soul even more than our little band of radical bridge builders having the publicity platform of one of the nation’s largest news organizations were the reactions I witnessed time and time again from our LGBT brothers and sisters marching in the parade.

To be fair, there were numerous folks who (quite understandably) flipped the protestors behind us the bird, cursed, screamed, or shook their heads and even laughed in the face of their blatant discrimination and hatred.

But far more of the folks marching took a different approach – one that reflects the life, teachings and example of Jesus – whether or not they actually claim to follow him.

but I say to you, love your enemies, 
and pray for those who persecute you

Time and time again I watched as those who were being told they weren’t loved by God, that they were going to hell – and worse – responded with these words ::

‘even though you hate us, we love you!’

‘we love you anyway!’

‘God loves you even if you don’t know him (or her)!’

I’m not making this stuff up.

In the midst of being shouted at through bullhorns and being called reprobates, abominations, disgusting and ‘not even human’ (a verbatim quote), these beautiful individuals stunned me with a love for all of humanity that I’m not certain even I possess – and I’ve devoted my life to preaching a message of LOVE.

On the back of our I’m Sorry t-shirts is the slogan ‘Love Is My Orientation’ – and yet as we were setting up our signs in front of the protestors early in the morning before the parade began, under the weight of accusations and the maniacal mocking of the street preachers I found myself muttering under my breath, ‘maybe these are the types of people christ went nuts on.’

If I could’ve made a whip of reeds and thrown some tables without being arrested, I would have.

These are the broods of vipers, the sons of the devil and liars who put burdens too hard to bear on the people – all things Jesus said about the legalistic religious elite of his own day.

Christ had harsh words for these play-actors who claimed to know God.

These protestors (and others like them) are the modern day Pharisees, those who claim to know the Law but struggle with the most important commandment – to love their neighbor.

So I found myself actually hating them, even creating violent fantasizes in my head to shut them up.

But LOVE is louder.

As I watched and listened to the reactions of my LGBT friends marching down the parade route, I found my own faith challenged to become more loving, more Christ-like – even toward those who are full of hate and animus.

Regardless of their orientation or faith tradition (or lack thereof), a great many of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* people who marched past provided a glimpse of the kingdom of God here, on earth.

With every tear-filled hug and ‘thank you for being here today’ I received, I responded with a genuine, ‘thank you for being here’ – because I found myself growing in my own faith, continuing on my own personal journey to actually act like the Jesus I so often claim to follow.

May we each find Christ in unexpected places and learn the same.

To learn more about our I’m Sorry Campaign and other resources and opportunities to participate in building bridges with The Marin Foundation, click here.

To support The Marin Foundation and our work, click here.

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  • mommalion

    The problem with your surmising here is that it assumes that your definition of love is the definition of God. When the opposite is true… God is the definition of love. Therefore ‘grace and truth’ (John 1) are both parts of love…for love is kind but it does not delight in evil. (1 Corinthians 13) For those that believe the entire word of God is God-breathed – we must believe in both grace and truth. We can’t throw out Romans 1 or Galatians 6. The orientation of love begins with God.