Every June, the LGBTQ+ community and allies celebrate Pride Month, an opportunity to center and celebrate LGBTQ+ people in their fullness, to look back on strides toward equity, and to imagine a world where celebration and full inclusion is the norm, not an exception. For many Christians, however, Pride Month is looked upon with judgment and reproach, and is seen as an opportunity to preach vitriol against LGBTQ people.
Pride is an opportunity, not just for the LBGTQ community to celebrate, but for non-LGBTQ people to repent and to enter into a more holistically Christ-like way of being.
In many ways, Pride Month became necessary because of homophobic Christians. As a collective (though there are denominations such as the UCC and Episcopal traditions that have long worked toward greater inclusion), Christians, particularly conservative evangelicals, have created much of the context for the historic exclusion, abuse, victimizing and othering of LGBTQ people.
Jesus’ cross is one of love and inclusion; yet the church has made a cross that forces LGBTQ people to carry the weight of exclusion, bullying and rejection.
From instituting the inherently homophobic pseudoscience of reparative “therapy,” to disowning and rejecting LGBTQ family members, friends and congregants when they come out, Christians have historically punished and ostracized the very people whom God told us to love unconditionally. By normalizing homophobic language from the pulpit and justifying mistreatment in the name of theological “purity,” the church has contributed to the political, relational and spiritual dehumanizing of LGBTQ people.
Through this normalization, the church has manufactured a cross that it forces LGBTQ people to bear. Jesus’ cross is one of love, self-sacrifice and radical inclusion; yet the church has made a cross that forces LGBTQ people to carry the weight of exclusion, bullying, rejection, depression, isolation, suicidal inclination, repression and judgment. The church is guilty of, and complicit in, creating a culture of death, homelessness and isolation that in no way reflects the character of God.
Scripture and the image of Jesus have been weaponized against people made in the image of God. The church has chosen to elevate a perceived theological issue over the humanizing and healing of an entire community. It has pitted a judgmental caricature of Jesus against people and have called it the real Jesus, the will of God. At the end of the day, we should not need a systematic theology degree to decide and act as though all people are made in the image of God and that God accepts them ― the answer is always yes.
Now, before Christian Cathy comes barreling in with, “But what about the Bible, what does it say?” I am not interested in a proof-text argument for the sake of seeing who is “right.” To do so is to miss the point completely. The ultrareligious Pharisees reflected in the gospels constantly weaponized the text against people morally while not caring about their humanity. Jesus’ sentiment to them was always the same ― he invited them to give life instead of moralizing people out of it and to lighten the load of religiously oppressive practices that they created. Jesus’ litmus test was not a hermeneutic interpretation, but compassion and inviting people on the margins to the center. This posture of God is the same today.
The fruit of most Western Christian theology is death, depression, homelessness and exclusion. The church limits access points for LGBTQ people to safely engage in Christian community and attempts to convince them that the image of God in LGBTQ congregants is somehow less present than in other people.
We should not need a theology degree to decide whether all people are made in the image of God and if God accepts them ― the answer is always yes.
Christians have an opportunity this month, and in each day forward, to repent, to look at the ways that Christianity at large has harmed LGBTQ people and to turn to a better way. One led by queer voices, one that takes us closer to Jesus. This month is an opportunity to see our role as oppressors clearly, to make reparations where necessary, to elevate voices that we have silenced, to work against discriminatory legislation, to uproot our own homophobia, and to celebrate the gift of the resilient, dynamic and diverse LGBTQ community.
At the most basic level, the church should allow Pride Month to expose our homophobia. And, instead of hiding behind theology or tradition, it should ask what repentance really looks like. This is a time to learn from LGBTQ people and to create communities that create radical love, acceptance, centering and defense of LGBTQ people instead of falling into the historic trend of anti-LGBTQ sentiments, policy and action.
The church must give space for LGBTQ voices at the pulpit and must refuse to theorize and theologize about people if they are not in the room. It can do this by intentionally offering leadership at the highest levels of churches and organizations. The LGBTQ community has always had voice, but, historically, the church has simply plugged its ears while yelling the same flat proof texts. LGBTQ Christians have already been leading the way in this religion and have done so in the face of animosity, the question of their faith, and the rejection by faith communities. We must follow them for our collective liberation. As a collective, the church can do better. It must do better. The stakes are too high to maintain lines in the sand.
As Christians, we give up a piece of our full humanity when we forgo compassion and treat people as objects worthy of scorn or violence. Pride gives us an opportunity to end oppressive practices and ideology while also becoming more fully human ourselves. We get to learn from the image of God that is in LGBTQ people, the image that teaches the diversity of how God relates to gender and sex, that teaches how to celebrate and remain resilient in the name of pursuing love, and how to fight for our own collective humanity. It is necessary that in this month and beyond, Christians choose to return the things that we have taken from LBGTQ people: voice, space, dignity, safety and an affirmation of their full humanity.
The gift of Pride for Christians is an opportunity to see ourselves clearly in all of our oppressive history and to follow the celebration of this month into a better way.
Brandi Miller is a campus minister and justice program director from the Pacific Northwest.
#TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.