Love and Justice, part 2
I hate being part of a big group. It may be ego, or pride, but I hate getting lost in the crowd. I hate that my voice, and that of every other individual present, gets drowned out by the roar of the collective, where subtlety and individuality must be sacrificed for some greater common purpose. So this is the story of my conversion.
I knew that the Pride Parade was important. It drew attention to a group that otherwise was shamed into the shadows by heterosexual bullying. It challenged the status quo by bringing sexual diversity out into the streets. It was tremendously empowering for those who marched, and also for those who watched. I knew my own church should be involved, that I should be involved. But it happened on a Sunday morning, when my job was to be at church. A convenient excuse. Our members participated, but I stayed behind, to lead the rest of us in prayer.
I had always been uncomfortable with public demonstrations. When the "Jesus March" came to town, and Jesus-loving congregations were invited to participate, I chose to be a mere Jesus-liking pastor, by staying away. It all seemed like so much triumphalism to me, like shouting, "We're number one! We're number one!" I hated that.
But the Pride Parade was different. I had heard so many of the heart-breaking stories of my heart-broken friends. The Parade was a game-changer, both for them and for the rest of the world. So much so, that the "God hates fags" Christian groups always showed up as well, waving their bully banners high.
I had to get over myself. What did I want--a parade just for me? No, this wasn't about me. This was about my friends, and the kind of world where we're all safe, being ourselves, in all our rainbow diversity. So I relented. But if I was going to march, then I needed to make my own distinctive statement. I wore a clergy shirt, which otherwise I had pretty much doffed by then. And I ordered, online, a priest's stole in vivid rainbow colours. It stood out rather nicely against my black shirt. And then a jaunty summer hat.
As we gathered with all the other groups in the marshalling area, the feeling was ebullient. No one could have resisted the positive energy of the group. Even the bully bannerists must have felt it, and that their world was crumbling beneath them. When the march finally got underway, we carried our own banners and shouted our own chants and made our own witness to a world where human diversity is not just tolerated, but celebrated.
I don't know that I have ever felt so ... proud. The crowd cheered as we walked by, the church for once being in the right place at the right time. One young person broke from the throng to rush forward and give me a hug, and say, "Thank you," into my ear. By the time we were done, apart from my sore feet, I wanted to do it all again.
Next Week: Loving the Enemy