A couple of months ago I interviewed Nathan Albert from the Marin Foundation about Mercy, Justice, and the GLBT Community. It generated some interesting dialogue around a tough issue… how does the Church communicate God’s love to the gay community?
This past weekend Chicago, along with many other US cities, celebrated Gay Pride with a parade. As a part of the weekend, Nathan and a group of over 30 Christians from various Chicago churches went to demonstrate at the Gay Pride Parade with the Marin Foundation.
Their demonstration was much different, though.
While the most vocal “Christian” presence at the parade was in the form of protesters with “God Hates Fags” signs, Nathan and a team from the Marin Foundation took a different approach… they chose to apologize.
The volunteers wore black t-shirts with the phrase “I’m Sorry” on the front and held signs with messages of apology, on behalf of all Christians, for the way the church has treated the gay community.
While the ultimate message Jesus came to preach was one of love, grace and compassion, we’ve sadly misrepresented Him and alienated sons and daughters from their Father’s embrace… and I’m so excited to see how Nathan and his team took a different, humble approach and in the end, did something far more powerful than preaching or shouting… they showed love.
Nathan posted a story from the Pride Parade outreach on his blog that absolutely needs to be heard…Here’s some excerpts…
What I loved most about the day is when people “got it.” I loved watching people’s faces as they saw our shirts, read the signs, and looked back at us. Responses were incredible. Some people blew us kisses, some hugged us, some screamed thank you. A couple ladies walked up and said we were the best thing they had seen all day.
Watching people recognize our apology brought me to tears many times. It was reconciliation personified.
My favorite though was a gentleman who was dancing on a float. He was dressed solely in white underwear and had a pack of abs like no one else. As he was dancing on the float, he noticed us and jokingly yelled, “What are you sorry for? It’s pride!” I pointed to our signs and watched him read them.
Then it clicked.
Then he got it.
He stopped dancing. He looked at all of us standing there. A look of utter seriousness came across his face. And as the float passed us he jumped off of it and ran towards us. He hugged me and whispered, “thank you.”
I think a lot of people would stop at the whole “man in his underwear dancing” part. That seems to be the most controversial. It’s what makes the evening news. It’s the stereotype most people have in their minds about Pride.
Sadly, most Christians want to run from such a sight rather than engage it. Most Christian won’t even learn if that person dancing in his underwear has a name. Well, he does. His name is Tristan.
However, I think Jesus would have hugged him too. It’s exactly what I read throughout scripture: Jesus hanging out with people that religious people would flee from. Correlation between then and now? I think so.
Acceptance is one thing. Reconciliation is another. Sure at Pride, everyone is accepted (except perhaps the protestors). There are churches that say they accept all. There are business that say the accept everyone. But acceptance isn’t enough. Reconciliation is.
Reconciliation forces one to remember the wrongs committed and relive constant pain. Yet it’s more powerful and transformational because two parties that should not be together and have every right to hate one another come together for the good of one another, for forgiveness, reconciliation, unity.
What I saw and experienced at Pride 2010 was the beginning of reconciliation. It was in the shocked faces of gay men and women who did not ever think Christians would apologize to them.
I hugged a man in his underwear. I hugged him tightly. And I am proud.
What’s so cool about this story is that when Nathan posted the picture it lit up on Facebook and someone recognized Tristan and Tristan got in touch with Nathan yesterday afternoon. He said that all he could talk about from his experience at the Pride Parade was meeting Nathan and all of the Christians who were there to say they were sorry.
He was moved and he and Nathan are going to meet up later this week for coffee.
That’s what it’s all about. Who knows what will happen or what will come of this, but one life was impacted and countless seeds were planted in the hearts of many.
Pray for Tristan and Nathan’s conversation and pray that this will be the beginning of a movement of reconciliation between the Church and the gay community.
Huge props to Nathan, Kevin, Andrew, everyone at the Marin Foundation, and those who courageously joined them this weekend in taking Christ’s love to a place most Christians would run away from. Thanks for being an example and setting a high bar for the rest of us to follow.
How is your church communicating to the gay community? Maybe we need to start with a humble apology.
UPDATE: Many people have responded wanting to do something similar in their cities, so the Marin Foundation is making the “I’m Sorry” t-shirts available. Details here.