This last weekend, as the bass for the Pride Seattle parade boomed outside my classroom, I made a tough confession. It was this confession that contained the seeds for this blog.
“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”
I wish I could recollect how many times I’ve heard this scripture from the pulpit. I used to be involved with the Evangelical Christian movement as I was a member of a church that held “defense of marriage” rallies in the local sports arena and protested outside abortion clinics. I would tell gay people to their faces that I loved them, but that being gay was a disease like cancer that needed to be cured. I proclaimed that abortion was wrong, except maybe in the case of rape.
This summer I am enrolled in Social Web for Social Change, an offering of Bainbridge Graduate Institute where I am a Sustainable MBA candidate. I travelled to Seattle last weekend for the face to face portion of our class, which coincided with the annual celebration of Pride that was happening right outside BGI’s downtown Seattle office. Sometimes I feel a bit out of place at my school which noticeably leans left politically with my more conservative, Eastern Washington roots.
We were asked what our motivation was by our professor. When it was my turn, I shared that my daughter had changed my life and was my core motivation. She was conceived through date rape when I was on vacation in Arizona with a man I had just met. I was involved in the ministry at the time, and the pregnancy resulted in my expulsion from the community. The very same week, a friend of mine who was gay killed himself because he couldn’t change who he was.
While this time in my life shook me to my core, I’m so grateful. It’s true that we need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, as my mind and how I saw the world was blown wide open once things were more than just theoretical. While I kept my daughter, and she’s amazing, I’m able to offer grace to those who make different decisions. There is nothing tougher than being a single parent, even when one is surrounded by a supporting community. But moreover, I’m now a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ community. Seeing first hand the impact of judgement upon someone who tried to change who they were and saw the only relief being death changed my mind. How could a religion based on love shut the door on us when we needed it the most?
I have more stories to tell at a later date about this. But for now I will share the unconditional acceptance I felt in the air at Pride during a break in class. It was so hard to go inside as I looked around and saw people free of shame and being completely who they were. While some of it was indeed over the top and sometimes in poor taste and/or for pure shock value, the majority of the people I saw in the crowd were ordinary people. It hit me how I felt more of the unconditional love spoken of by Jesus here than in most of the churches I’ve sat in with the heavy pressure of being good enough weighing everyone down. Pride felt amazing, and freeing.
To my class this weekend, I confessed my judgements, and my past. I’m not out to change anyone’s mind or beliefs with this blog, but I do hope that I can make the case for being more understanding of one another. Instead of using scripture and political heft to deny rights to a subset of our population, we could guarantee liberty to all and let each make their own peace with God as they see (or don’t) see it. I am holding space in my heart for a day when we can live side by side and love one another, without sexual identity, religion or any other divider standing between us.
I’ve been on both sides of the culture war of sexual identity and the abortion debate. I understand the fear and genuine desire to do good held by the conservative camp, as well as the desire for love and acceptance on the progressive side of the issue. I can say with no hesitation that both sides have more in common than not, and that neither side is served by this polarization.
Can you remember a time when how you saw the world was turned upside down and “truth” was no longer absolute?