Good Pride

This morning I’d like to talk about the word pride. It is a word that is everywhere in the month of June. Of course, our LGBT+ siblings celebrate and embrace their reality replete with parades in the month of June. The month with its celebrations has come to be called Pride month.

Maybe you sometimes hear from folks that doubt the need  for Pride month this kind of question – isn’t pride a sin? 

Well, from what I gather in studying scripture, there’s good pride and bad pride. Bad pride amounts to being selfish, narcissistic, always putting yourself first. 

Good pride amounts to seeing ourselves as God sees us – as imperfect, sure, but as beings who God created in the divine image. 

Father God created us in the divine image, and loves us unconditionally. 

Good pride amounts to the feeling you get when you hear from your Father the words, “well-done, my good and faithful servant.”

My father and I grew to have a solid, loving relationship. He would have been 87 last Monday. I miss him very much. 

My father was old school, from a generation when being male meant you were expected to be more Clint Eastwood than Mister Rogers. My father was also a veteran of 9 years. He took emotional regulation and structure very seriously. 

Here’s the thing though: he was as emotional as anyone I've known. He just tried hid it well. Actually, he didn’t hide it all that well.. Whenever he watched a sentimental scene on TV, even the hokiest, he'd easily tear up. So do, by the way. If he thought I noticed this, he’d try to hide it. He’d say, what? And even more tellingly, he’d sometimes get up and leave the room. You know, real men don't cry. 

My dad was often reticent, rather aloof, and not present. 

I was all emotion as a teenager and into early adulthood. I was also very unstructured. More Mr. Rogers than Clint Eastwood. The artistic type. We were opposites, in other words. 

I wasn’t shown much affection. I rarely heard, I love you. I never heard, I'm proud of you. 

My son and I, we are sort of inseparable. My dad and I were not. 

In 1992, I was a sophomore in college. As usual, I called home one Sunday. 

One thing my dad and I did share in common was discomfort on the phone. My phone calls back home were 90% with my mom and the other 10% with my dad. 

But this one particular 10% talk changed my life. 

Boys especially need to hear the words, I’m proud of you. I especially needed to hear those words. 

At the end of that short phone call with my dad, I heard those precious words, “I’m proud of you.”

Father like son, I held back my tears until I hung up the phone. 

To know the pride of your father, the man you admired, looked up to, and was even a bit scared of, him being proud of me was a gamechanger and for my relationship with him. I needed to sense from him this good kind of pride.

Memories of this game changing phone call come to mind when I think about Pride month. Let me explain, beginning with the story of my evolution on this matter.

I grew up not only old school, but religious. My parents were solid evangelicals who read the bible literally and conservatively. I was taught growing up that premarital sex was a terrible sin, that abortion was evil, and homosexuality was an abomination. These beliefs stayed with me into my early adulthood. 

The process that eventually led to me being an open and affirming Christian pastor and ally was a long and evolving one. 

A big step in that process happened in my mid-20’s. I was living, studying, and working in Raleigh, North Carolina. Holly and I were 3 years into our marriage. 

One of my most memorable and character-forming jobs was at a specialty market called Simple Pleasures. It sold gourmet deli foods, chocolates, coffee, wine, and baked goods. It also had a small café beloved the neighborhood. I worked in the deli right alongside the café and its cooks. One of the cooks was Todd. Todd was an openly gay man around my age with a longtime partner. Funnily, one of the assistant managers at Simple Pleasures was first name Gaye – G-A-Y-E, last name, Todd. The joke around the market community was Simple Pleasures had two gay todds. 

Anyway, the employees at the gourmet market made for a close knit community, especially among the kitchen and deli folks. Todd was the first openly gay person I really got to know. 

Todd was an highly skilled and creative chef, a down to earth person, profoundly kind and gracious, and someone I came to admire and enjoy hanging out with. 

My friendship with Todd helped me to see the humanity and real, regular lives involved in the matter. Todd was not a sinner to me in need of a conversion. He was a beautiful, compassionate, and terrific person. Someone I was proud to call friend, someone I would have been proud to have called brother, and, speaking as a father now, someone I would have been proud to have as a son. I could not help but to see him as an equal and as a friend.      

But Todd also sometimes expressed to me that being gay is a difficult life. He along with his partner experienced hatred and anger, ridicule and discrimination, even threats of violence. I was working at Simple Pleasures when Matthew Shepard was murdered. Todd was heartbroken for weeks. 

Our LGBT+ brothers, sisters, friends are still told and made to feel by society, especially by Christian society, that they are the Other, that they are lesser than, that they are sinners. LGBT+ brothers, sisters, friends still face threats and actual violence on the daily. LGBT+ young people are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.

When you are fed this kind of negativity and experience this kind of harm from the culture around you, I imagine it is extremely hard to consistently feel self-pride. When you are constantly humbled and shamed by the culture around you, I imagine pride, feeling proud of yourself as you are, becomes extremely difficult.

Hence, Pride month. June is a time for LGBT+ peoples, living in a culture that humbles them, belittles, threatens them, to take pride in themselves and in who they are. June is a time for LGBT+ peoples to recognize for themselves that God made them in the beautiful, divine image, making them beautiful and divine.

As for allies, as for us, a community made up on mostly heterosexual and cisgendered people, we are given a wonderful opportunity to say to our LGBT+ siblings and friends, our children and grandchildren that we as a community love you and are proud of you, that we take pride in you just the way you are.

From what I know, our LGBT+ siblings and friends especially need to hear and know that. 


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