Here’s the text for the 6 March 2023 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Breakfast Show with Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2. Listen here.
February was LGBTQ+ History Month – and I thought about Pride Parades from over the years. My first was Nashville, Tennessee, just after I came out in 1995. Not exactly ancient history, but things were different then. Only about 200 of us gathered to walk through the city-centre. I remember passing by the bar, Hooters: in one window the waitresses cheered us on. In the next window, the drinkers offered us a colourful display of rude gestures.
Another memorable Pride was 2010. I was helping start a new church in Chicago. And one of our first events was marching together in a parade packed with 2 million people. Our fledgling congregation included gay and straight and trans folks, but most of us had never been so public before about our faith.
We were nervous as we queued to march. But we believed God had given us a message we had to share: that God is for all people. And so edgy as we were, off we marched with rainbow flags, a cross held high, and postcards we gave out, printed with different versions of that message:
LGBTQ or Straight: you are loved.
Believer or Doubter: you are loved.
Tattoos or Suits, HIV-positive or HIV-negative, Cubs fan or Sox fan, you are loved.
That last one – Cubs fan or Sox fan – is the American equivalent of saying something as scandalous as ‘God loves Liverpool *and* Man United’.
As we passed out those postcards, we talked to people, we hugged and high-fived people, we paused and prayed with people. And something beautiful happened along the way. We had imagined ourselves blessing the crowds with a message of love, but we realized really quickly: we were being blessed by the crowds even more. Fueled by their energy, our nervous band of inclusive evangelists came alive like a joyous flashmob.
When we reached the end of the parade, one of the straight guys in our church said to me: “Pastor, that was the most fun I’ve had in my entire life. Please can we go back and do it all over again?”
Desmond Tutu often preached: God’s love meets us right where we are – but never leaves us there.
I believe God has always been that way. The same God – of history, of today, and the world to come – is God for all people. LGBTQ+ and straight, socialists and conservatives, football fans and Hooters waitresses. The list goes on and on. It’s a divine scandal – God’s love bringing us all together and showing us the way to something totally new.