Embrace this month with humility

Published 4:26 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2024

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By Chris Adams

Over the last several days, a Facebook post by my church created a bit of controversy. On the local ‘Washington NC-What’s Happening’ page, we posted an image of a rainbow heart emblazoned with the phrase, ‘You are Loved.’ As June is Pride Month, we wanted to send out a welcoming message to those who believe that Christianity only speaks words of condemnation to the LGBTQ+ community. There wasn’t anything negative said about non-inclusive churches. There wasn’t anything in there that was actually controversial. It was just a word of affirmation. And yet, the controversy erupted.

Several folks found it necessary to jump onto the post and begin offering their counterpoints. They wanted their voices of negation to be heard as loudly as our voices of affirmation. Commenting on the post was eventually turned off as it was never intended to be an open forum of dialogue about all the reasons one should or shouldn’t support the LGBTQ+ community, nor was it intended to serve as a platform for hateful or denigrating comments.

I’m not gay, so my voice in this conversation is as a supportive ally. I have family members and friends who are gay. I have seen them be inflicted with pain by folks who not only believe they have a protected right to speak negatively but also those who believe their negative words deserve to be heard. It’s as if some believe their right to free speech is also a right to an audience. We seem to have confused something over the last decade as our ability to have constructive dialogue has crumbled into dust. Just because you have a right to speak does not mean that those in earshot owe you their attention, particularly in a conversation about the inherent dignity and worth of the LGBTQ+ community.

We live in a harsh world. We live in a time that feels apocalyptic, with conflict and pain spread across the globe. We live in an age in which there are countries that put LGBTQ+ people to death simply for being open about their identities. Pride Month isn’t just a month to wear rainbows, offer platitudes of acceptance on bumper stickers, and post nice things on Facebook. It’s like a crucible of time during which we push back against the world’s harshness. It’s a time in which we push back against the pain and anguish that drives our LGBTQ+ youth to significantly higher rates of suicide than those who are straight. Did you know that? According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ young people are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.

That should stun us into silence. What has happened to the world that makes LGBTQ+ young people feel so unworthy that they believe they should die? Rooting out that cause and casting it into the outer darkness is why Pride Month is worth celebrating and why I, as a Christian, join in the festivities. Historically, the Church has a checkered past when it comes to affirming those who are different. But there have been voices who have broken through the religious dogma in order to celebrate life! I think of Philip, who baptized an Ethiopian Eunuch when he wouldn’t have even been welcomed into the Temple. I think of Peter, who baptized a Roman soldier even though the rules said the Spirit should only go to the Jewish people. And I think of Jesus, who never uttered a word against LGBTQ+ people but instead embraced the outcasts of society who were deemed unclean.

To those who disagree with me or the millions of other Christians who embrace the LGBTQ+ community, I offer you a challenge. Embrace this conversation and this month with humility. Let your guard down so you can see past the letters and flags and embrace the full human dignity and worth of the LGBTQ+ community. And if that’s something you can’t do, then I simply ask that you don’t add to the harm already out there in the world. Find some other soapbox to stand on. This one’s already taken, and I’m going to keep shouting loud words of acceptance and affirmation as long as I can.

Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.