Jesus taught that his disciples would be recognizable by the fruit that they bear (Mt. 7:16). Later, the Apostle Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit” as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). These are the virtues that followers of Jesus Christ are intended to bear as they seek to live their lives in step with the Holy Spirit.
Yet, if you were to ask an LGBTQ person to describe the average interaction they’ve had with a Christian, you’d be hard pressed to hear any of those fruits of the Spirit named. In fact, you’d more than likely hear the exact opposite.
Christians, by and large, are known for their hatred, anger, disgust, demonization, prejudice, bias and condemnation of queer people rather than for any of the fruits of the Spirit. This is evidence that such anti-LGBTQ beliefs and attitudes are not coming from God.
Since coming out eight years ago, I’ve experienced the “bad fruit” of Christian bigotry firsthand nearly every single week. Today, as an openly gay Christian pastor and theologian, my inbox is flooded with messages, and my social media posts with comments, from self-proclaimed Christians saying things like:
You’re going to burn in hell for twisting the Bible. Being gay is an abomination.
I hope God strikes you down like he did to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Have fun in hell, false teacher.
I’m going to find your church and teach you a lesson, fa**ot.
These are not hypothetical—these are real quotes I that I received from real Christians. (I receive such quotes on a daily basis.)
Now, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by an incredible community of affirming friends. I am a part of an inclusive Christian community, have access to therapy and have spent the past decade receiving a theological education that has helped me to reconcile my faith with my sexuality. These messages do not have much of an effect on me anymore.
But imagine how these messages and comments impact a queer person who doesn’t have access to support or resources to help them on their journey. Imagine how a queer teenager feels when they read comments like this, which suggest that there is something intrinsically wrong with them.
Imagine the impact this type of rhetoric and theology has on the queer layperson in the pew who hears these words uttered by their clergy, whom they are supposed to trust. The spiritual and psychological anguish such toxic language causes is severe, and the damage is lasting.
In the past few years, conservative Christian opposition to the LGBTQ community has intensified dramatically. Simply search the term “gay Christian” on Twitter and you will see thousands of Christians calling for the execution of queer people, labeling us as pedophiles and threatening us with eternal hellfire simply for existing as a queer person.
This rhetoric has also given birth to new extreme theology and public policy as some people work hard to push queer people out of the church and out of society altogether.
In the face of such hatred, bigotry and opposition, it is easy to see why Pride is such a sacred and important celebration for all queer people, especially queer Christians. To come out of the closet is to choose to be honest and authentic, to embrace our God-created identities without fear and to stand in the light of truth rather than live shackled in the closet of shame.
Yet, in the moment that queer people are most honest and most authentic, many Christians demand that they return to living dishonestly to be acceptable to God and to the church.
Pride is a response to such a demand. It’s a resounding “no” to all those who seek to use fear to force us into conforming to their arbitrary ideas of what is proper and good. Pride is an act of resistance to those who choose to weaponize their faith to tear down queer people, a bold declaration that we are proud of who God made us to be and that we will not hide the light within us.
Pride is a rebellion against a false version of Christianity that has transformed the Gospel into good news for a few instead of a message of liberation and great joy for all. At its core, Pride is a celebration of God’s creativity reflected in the beautiful diversity of the LGBTQ community.
In a day when Christian vitriol and demonization against the LGBTQ community is on the rise, pride has returned to its roots as not merely a party in the streets, but as a rebellion against homophobia, transphobia and bigotry that is far too often perpetuated by those who claim fidelity to Jesus Christ. Pride is a declaration that “God is love and perfect love casts out all fear” (1 Jn. 4:18).
And when queer Christians and our allies participate in Pride celebrations, we are demonstrating our commitment to the radically inclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ and our quest to grow deeper in the all-embracing of love of God, even as we stand on the receiving end of the endless bad fruit thrown at us. What could be more holy or Christlike than that?