Here's what this pastor is thinking, as our city prepares for it's first ever Gay Pride march.
1) I want to do something
No, not throw rotten tomatoes at participants ;).
I just want to be there, be present.
Yes, I hold different beliefs than the LGBTQ2S Community around issues of sexuality, but I don’t think that means I can’t love and respect them. I’ve always believed that honour should be connected to identity (as a fellow human being and Image Bearer), not behaviour.
I can’t stand the fact that some people, so called “Christians", paint all of us Christ-followers with a brush that is anything but Jesus-like. Judgmental, condemning, critical, doomsayers all. They are sons of hell as far as I’m concerned.
I’d love to send a message, loud and clear, that me and my church community (Evangel) love people, regardless of how they look, act, dress, behave, or talk. Even when they promote values that are opposite to mine. Jesus is the one who comes along side humanity, with great mercy, and says “Neither do I condemn you…" Instead of pointing fingers and casting judgment, we want to be like Him.
And He was present.
And I want to be present. That’s all. Maybe I'll gather a few peeps and give out free ice-cold water or depending on the weather, Hot Chocolate.
2) I want to have a voice
I have a viewpoint, a way of seeing things, when it comes to gender-related discussions (which I've always been open and honest about). And I want to be able to bring my perspective to the table of open and courteous dialogue. I want to show those interested, that the story can have vastly different endings than what is commonly perpetrated by television media (they say you’re stuck with the cards you’re dealt, I don't believe that).
And although it would be a helluva lot easier (and ruffle less feathers) for me to just stay at home, does my absence now mean I lose my opportunity to speak and influence later? I believe it’s connected.
The words of Jesus continue, “…go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He doesn’t condemn, unlike a host of so-called Christians, but he DOES speak truth and addresses sexual brokenness (in this case adultery). He does so with kindness, empathy, and a true heart of love for people.
He does NOT force anyone to obey Him. He leads like a shepherd, doesn’t drive like a cattle-herder. We choose whether to follow His leading or not. That's the incredible (and potentially destructive) gift of Free Choice!
So what does Tony believe, you ask? At risk of being strung up, I simply hold to the time-honored conservative biblical view of marriage and sexuality. In a nutshell, that God created sexuality and gave it to mankind as a gift, and that his intent was that it be expressed in a lifelong covenantal relationship between one man and one woman. That's the simple version. From my experience, all other expressions of one's sexuality are less than ideal, and potentially destructive. I believe you're free to believe what you want to believe.
If I don’t show up on June 25, do people think I’m indifferent and don’t care? It certainly seems like absence could be interpreted that way.
I'm in the business of buildng people's lives. That's what I do.
Therefore I do care. I care a lot.
3). I don't want to lose my freedom.
You know why Gay Pride was founded?
According to Wikipedia, it was to promote a...
stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, to promote their self-affirmation...
And I am for individuals making up their own minds about the lives they’ll lead, and the beliefs they hold (as long as it doesn’t impede the civil rights of others). That includes the right to law-abiding, peaceful, public displays like Gay Pride.
But will I be afforded the same rights as a Christ-follower? Will I be free to proudly march through my city declaring truth as I see it?
Or could there be a time fast-approaching where I feel the need to host a “Christian Pride” event because of discrimination against, violence towards, rights removed, to build positive community and celebrate traditional ethics around sexuality and God-given (through birth) gender identity?
Yes, it's a long and loaded question.
I want freedom of belief and expression for others, and I want that same freedom for myself. And no, I'm not suggesting we revive the Jesus March (please, no). Yet.
But as I look at where our nation is heading, I can’t help but wonder if the future doesn’t actually mean I won’t be free to speak openly about what I believe about truth (including sexuality), without being called a racist, discriminatory, or bigotrist.
Though I pray otherwise, I'd put money on the fact that undercurrents in our overall society are actually leading away from, not toward, greater freedom.