Sometimes life provides metaphors that are just too perfect not to acknowledge – last Sunday I was provided with such an experience which will help me relate a topic which has weighed heavy on me, and fortuitously happens to be fitting with the general theme of the blog.
The day began just as it usually does: I woke up, had my coffee and caught some of the Sunday morning news shows – this week happened to be Christiane Amanpour paying tribute to Barack Oba… I mean fathers –that’s right, it was Father’s Day!- by showing a segment on Barack Obama’s views on fatherhood. A lovely segment, really.
My drive to church is usually a quick and direct one: fifteen blocks north on Broadway, and I’m right in the parking lot. This Sunday was different, though. Approaching downtown, I noticed a large part of Broadway was shut down – my usual strategy of leaving only minutes ahead of time to shoot up the road and into church was quickly thwarted. As I made my way through the detour, I noticed a few fellows walking towards the shutdown section of the street in their underpants. Now is when I began to question whether this detour was simply due to the construction.
After a few more gentleman attired in this fashion, as well as one who seemed to be taking another for a walk by the looks of the leash and collar, I realized that this was not your typical Sunday morning in the Mile High City – it was Denver’s annual Pride-Fest, the event has been going strong since 1976, and draws around 200,000 spectators each year. And boy, did I have to take quite the detour around it to arrive at the the comfy confines of my usual Sunday morning church routine (for those of you who thought I had abandoned the metaphor point I opened with, bingo, there it is – more on that later). Before you stop reading because you have pegged me a homophobe for pointing out the irony in this situation, know that I’m not saying that taking part in Pride-Fest excludes you from the practice of attending church (or being a Christian for that matter), as that is precisely the view I’m writing to challenge.
I couldn’t help but notice the remarkable and unique lifestyle espoused by the Pride-Fest. These proud gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (hereafter GLBT) individuals don’t just embrace a different choice in partners, but a completely different lifestyle altogether – one of flamboyance and a love of being publically controversial. As much as gay rights advocates claim that what one does in the confines of their own bedroom is a private choice which should not separate one individual from another in the public sphere, these GLBT’s sexuality and “private life” was most assuredly on display for all to see this particular morning. I am no sociologist, and honestly did my best to stay away from such classes in college, but I cannot help but advance a theory as to just why this is – and I’m ashamed to say, Christians are at least partly responsible.
To Christians, being gay has often become a sin of the sort which is elevated beyond all others – one which is the mark of a depraved life which is unrepentantly turned away from God. Many churches show no love towards people who are gay, and would feel quite uncomfortable associating, not to mention sharing their pews, with one. Unfortunately for Jesus, often times those who are supposed to be His ambassadors in this world truly do not act as He would. As a result, gay people have no doubt seen an out-lash against their way of life from “religious” people in a way which has made them feel demeaned and judged unlike any other group. One common theme throughout history worth noting: where there is out-lash, there is backlash.
The reason why we don’t see an annual “Swim-in-Your-Money Fest” in Civic Center Park in which greedy CEO’s throw around hundred dollar bills and participate in Maserati raffles in plain sight of Denver’s homeless, middle, and lower class is because being a greedy rich person has not received the degree of judgment and hatred over the years which being gay certainly has. Yes, there has been class warfare in which the rich are called on to pay more taxes, but as far what a man or woman does with his or her after tax paycheck? That’s their own business. For some reason we’ve decided what one tithes is their own business, but who someone goes to bed with is. Guess those people were too busy patting themselves on the back to remember that greed is one of the seven deadly sins. Oops.
Up to this point, I believe I’ve made a relatively benign case here of love and acceptance, and probably haven’t offended anyone, unless any of you are among the depravedly greedy who thought that Money Fest seemed like a great idea. Well I suppose it’s time to change that: I believe homosexuality to be sinful – I just don’t believe it to be any greater of sin than the many other lifestyles which completely ignore what Jesus taught. I really have no idea why this particular sin has been elevated above all others; maybe it’s because this is one which most of us find so foriegn, unlike greediness, lust, gluttony or pride, for example, which many of us find all too often irresistible.
While I was taken aback that Sunday morning by all the men in their underpants obstructing my usual route to church, I believe if Newton had been with me that he would have been decidedly unimpressed, for obviously with every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When considering how great the “reaction” part is, it becomes sad to think of the hate these people have been exposed to over the years, not as a result of festivals like these, but simply due to their life choices which are often just as wrong as those first to throw the stones.
When I finally made it to church that morning, I snuck in the back, sat down, and reflected on not how different we all were from the leather and chain clad flaboyant homosexuals just blocks away, but how similar we are. Are we all not fallen and in need of a saviour? Have we all not chosen to live a life of rebellion from the God who has created us to have fellowship with Him? Do we all not despise being told how to live our lives by people who themselves are nowhere near perfect?
As the saying that goes, “there are no coincidences with God” – If we are to believe that God has designed the world, and is soverign over all that has ever happened and ever will, it logically follows that nothing should happen by accident. Of course then, it was no accident that the sermon that morning was this: the Gospel is applicable to everyone. From the uber religious to atheists; from the straight-edged to the depraved; from nuns to flamboyant homosexuals. Maybe if the Christians had shown less disdain and more compassion for GLBT’s over the years, the latter would feel less of a need to block off roads, get in their skivys, and flaunt their private choices for all to see.
Well, it’s now time to wrap up the metaphor. After church, having been struck by the irony of all of the churchgoers need to detour around Pride-Fest, and having been reminded anew that Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners, I decided to forgo the detour after church, and instead go right on through, even have a beer and hang around for a while. Main two lessons learned that day: 1) Hate and evangelism are mutually exclusive. 2) Slim men can make very good and believable Chers.