For four years, I’ve been going to San Francisco Gay Pride wearing a printed shirt that says “Hurt by Church? Get a Str8Apology Here.” Accepting and affirming churches are present. They host booths and walk in the parade, but I walk around with a big target on my front and back inviting conversation. The idea came to me one day on a hike while I was wondering, “How I could make my experience of serving with a church in SF more meaningful?”
Last weekend, I went to SF Pride again. It’s never easy. Even I, who can engage a deaf, mute rock, can still be intimidated. The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community has been told by Christians that it is too far from the reach of God, unless, of course, they get rid of their non-hetero sexual orientation. I go to these events carrying the message that God is sexual orientation and gender identity neutral God who loves them. Just as He loves straight, go-to-church-every-Sunday, Bible-reading me.
On Saturday, I wandered every public area and booth at the Civic Center. My Pride festival routine stays pretty consistent. I walk for hours and stand in groups of people watching performances. I smile, make friendly eye contact and keep the “open” sign on. In four years, I’ve never been treated aggressively nor have I been yelled at.
I have hundreds of stories.
This year, I met a man who had been through Exodus. He encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing to save kids from going through what he had. A cheerleader now living in West Hollywood left a comfortable church home when he realized he was gay; he knew their stance and made his choice for the thing he could not change: his sexual orientation. I directed him to a wonderful church in WeHo where I know the pastor and several congregants, and know they will walk with him back to God..
Two young Mormon boys chased after me. “Hey, I saw your video in a religion class. I want my boyfriend to talk to you.” The boyfriend had attended BYU during the Prop 8 voting in California. Students were ordered to make phone calls to California voters to sway the vote against gay marriage. He knew he could not do that; he refused and dropped out of BYU. We talked about verses, their lives, and reconnecting with God.
People wanted pictures of my shirt. They gave me thumbs up, high fives and hugs all day. I repeated over and over, “You know God is crazy about you, don’t you?” I handed out my card to hundreds of people directing them to my site to read a non-condemning view of the several passages of Scripture called the “clobber verses”. I repeat throughout the day, “Find a list of churches that will welcome you, connect with online communities for glbt Christians, get encouragement.” I want to open the door and invite them back into God’s House. They never should have been evicted or barred.
There was an apparently non-glbt trio from a church far outside the city standing in Civic Center. They looked stunned and overwhelmed. Church hats, invitation cards in hand and Scriptures on their shirts. I walked over and said, “Hi, so what is your intention in coming to this event?” The lead man said, “To let people know that Jesus loves them.” I asked, “Just as they are, or do they need to change their orientation for Him to love them? Would you welcome them in your church with their partners?” His predictable response was, “We welcome everybody at our church. Straight, gay, addicts, anyone.” I had buttons with me printed “Gay + Christian = OK” (from Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church) and handed them each one , asking if they would be willing to wear it. “Oh, I don’t know. I will take it home with me though.” “Great,” I said, “and go to my site and read the post ‘Dear Church’ and until you can understand what I offer as insight, you should consider not coming to Pride events because you are being evasive and deceptive and part of the damage.” They walked away and down a street looking like they’d had enough. I followed up with the pastor of this church after Pride and asked him to let me help him next year if his desire is to reach out to the glbt community. We have had a few exchanges.
One year, as I sat on a curb eating an ice cream, three completely naked men sat to either side of me and behind me on the curb. I guess the shirt made them think they could shock me. Nope. I just chatted with them. “So, why, with over a million people here are you all walking around naked?” One lovely young man responded, “We think the human body is beautiful.” “I agree”, I told him, “but we all have one and you are naked. And, if I were your Mom, I would be lecturing you about putting your ass on this dirty sidewalk.” It became a very friendly chat. Kathy and three naked men eating an It’s It ice creams on the curb in the Civic Center. This is a picture I do wish I had.
Gay pride events are attracting more and more hetero people. They talk to me too. They’re losing interest in a God and Jesus that “hates” the people that they love. I give them my card too. “That is not God, that is people. You are right; we suck.”
On Saturday night, I went to the Dyke March starting in Dolores Park and streaming to the Castro. I stood along the route with my buddy, Netto. I was “off duty” for God; I was there to watch. It was so cold, however, with the 30 degree temperature drop, that I took out my “Gay + Christian = OK” shirt (thank you David for giving them to us) and put it over my jacket. Groups of women and 20-somethings hooted when they saw our shirts. They ran to us, gave high fives, hugged us and wanted the “Gay + Christian = OK” buttons to wear. Netto and I gave out every sticker and button we had. All I had left were my cards to direct women to the blog site.
One young woman came directly to me. “Why does God say I am an abomination? I love Jesus and I love my girlfriend. I did not choose to be gay.” It was one of the most tender scenes of the weekend as I held this young beauty’s face. “Listen to me sweetie. You are not an abomination. This is what the word means . . .” She left whooping and heel-kicking, holding her partner’s hand. This week I got a letter from her:
I met you last weekend. My girlfriend and I were in the Dyke March and we stopped to talk to you. We discussed the word “abomination” briefly, and I told you I would contact you for further information.
I am desperately trying to reconcile my faith with my sexuality. I am in love with Jesus…and my girlfriend. If my (denomination) family got wind of this, I would be an outcast. They would claim I was backslidden, blinded, and in bondage to Satan and sin.
I will spend some time on your website to read some of the articles, especially anything dealing with the Bible and what it really says…not what I’ve been taught to believe. I am searching for the truth. I believe God created me to love another woman, but I still harbor a lot of self-condemnation…because sometimes I wonder if I am wrong to live my life as a lesbian.
I am also searching for a gay-affirming church. I live in _______ and it seems an impossible quest to find a church that loves the Word of God and accepts my girlfriend and me as we are.
I used to be very involved in church work. I have (positions she has held). I want to serve the Lord but feel as if I fit nowhere. God and the precious woman he put in my life are holding me together right now.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me on the streets of San Francisco last weekend. You were a tremendous encouragement. I appreciate your taking the time to read this lengthy message and I look forward to your response. May God bless your much-needed ministry.
I sent her a long letter and six church suggestions as well as the online resource The Gay Christian Network.
Netto and I followed the Dyke March to the Castro. Two young people saw my shirt and grabbed me by the arm “Will you talk to our Mom?” “Sure”. Mom/Amy was chatting with one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Amy told me her story. Amy had been in a Bible study back in Wyoming. A woman in the group has just left the study and church when her son came out as gay. The mom knew she would be condemned right along with her gay son for loving and supporting him. Amy cried as we talked. I ran into her again the next day. One million, two hundred thousand people and I ran into Amy again. She cried again and Pastor Maria prayed for her and encouraged Amy to be an advocate when she got back home.
This is what drives me: reconnecting the “outcast” to the God that never left them. We, the church, have done a horrible job extending the love of God to the glbt community. Jesus tells us that our “job” is: love God, love others. Simple.
If you know we are in the wrong, please join me. Gatekeepers, kindly step aside. You’ve done enough damage. If you’re skimpy on grace-giving to the glbt community, that is your issue, and not theirs. And, when you are ready to look like Jesus publicly, consider taking an active stand against oppression and for justice. Isaiah 55:6-12 even lists the rewards of the “repairers of the breach”.
Right there, in San Francisco, with 1.2 million people of every variety imaginable, not resembling anything like Sunday morning pew-sitters, I was exactly in the middle of my Father’s plan. This is evangelism: loving people as they are and, with the heart of Jesus the Christ.
I am going to challenge myself even more in September and go to the (in)famous Folsom Street Fair (S & M) . Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church , lead by Pastor Maria Caruana, is the only church that attends. They staff a water booth and hand out church literature along with unconditional love. I will be with them wearing my “Hurt by Church? Get a str8apology Here” shirt.
During the three hours wait on the parade route for the floats and groups to move, I move aroundamongst the many contingents. I spent over an hour with the leather group, the S & M people (who by the way are all over the spectrum sexually, and are mostly hetero). Conversations always came back to my shirt. They were very open and many wanted the “Gay + Christian = OK” buttons. Tucked somewhere amongst the leather, whips and chains is a reminder that God adores them too.
Are you brave enough to take even a small step to repair the tear? Would you intentionally befriend a glbt person and listen to them instead of telling them? Can you stop speaking against glbt people until you study the Bible for yourself? Could you take a major public step and apologize?
If anything here tugged at you, you can do something to stop or reverse the bad PR of the Christian church towards the glbt community. Jesus needs to fire His current Ad Men.