In light of the Orange City Pride event happening this weekend, a couple letters appeared in the Rock Valley Bee denouncing the perspective that a Christian could be part of such a thing. I think this question is rooted in an even bigger one: Would Jesus attend a pride event?
First of all, one must be very careful in declaring what Jesus would or would not do in 21st century, North American contexts. Cultural and historical differences aside, we each think Jesus would join us in our causes because we believe them to be noble and right. Conflict naturally arises when two opposing groups of Christians believe Jesus is on their side rather than their opponent’s side.
In the case of whether Jesus would attend a pride event, each side offers biblical arguments. Some who say Jesus would not attend such an event emphasize Jesus’ holiness. Operating from a biblical framework that perceives same-sex relationships as contrary to God’s plan and sinful, they argue that as the holy Son of God, Jesus would not and could not associate with what is sinful. It logically follows that followers of Jesus would avoid what is sinful, too, in our case an event that celebrates same-sex attraction.
On the other hand, some who could see Jesus at a pride event emphasize Jesus’ compassion. Operating from a biblical framework that sees Jesus eat in the homes of tax collectors (which would have been a much more public activity than a typical meal at someone’s house today), they argue that Jesus engaged sinful humanity in order to draw it back to God. Jesus did not get contaminated by the sin around him; he “contaminated” those in sin with his redemptive grace and goodness and now calls his followers to do likewise. Some Christians go further and question the correlation made between biblical references to homosexuality and same-sex relationships today, arguing that Jesus could attend a pride event like the one in Orange City because it seeks not to celebrate the kind of homosexuality forbidden in the Bible that may have been specifically associated with abuse and pagan worship.
As they unfold, the tone of these debates often becomes most uncharitable. People get mad and use the Bible as a weapon, firing texts back and forth to try to destroy their opponent’s argument (and maybe their opponent, too). I can’t help but wonder whether our accusations against one another sound too much like the complaints of the “good” religious people in Jesus’ day who complained when Jesus didn’t do things the way they expected, including getting too close to sinful humanity in questionable circumstances (again, thinking of dining with the tax collectors and others despised as sinners) or calling people to a seemingly impossibly high standard (I think, for example, of the disciples’ protest when a rich man is asked to sell all he has).
Personally, I must guard myself against holding more firmly to my position than to my love for my neighbor, whether it is the gay person in the pride event or the individual condemning it. On this side of the new creation, neither position holds to the entire truth of the matter and both sides would do well to listen more to one another. That sort of attitude, one that pursues both truth and grace, is what we need more of if we are going to get anywhere in this conversation.
These reflections repeat a letter I wrote to the Bee.
As always, the perspectives expressed in this blog are my own
and not necessarily those of any organizations or individuals
with which I am associated.
Comments from Facebook…
“Yes, I’m pretty sure he would be there.” – Carla S
“Jesus didn’t shy away from shattering the norms and expectations of the religious establishment #grace&truth” – Ed N
” I really appreciate this response to the editorials, Pastor Stan. Well said!” – Abby DG
“I don’t think He would be there. But if He came upon ones such as these He would tell them “go, and sin no more.” John 8:11. Just as He tells everyone who believes.” – Melanie B-VB
“The sentiment and caution to be Christlike in our dealings with others is good advise. However, I am disappointed by the blog because there was not even an attempt to answer the question. He seems to say-“hey make up your own mind, just don’t get mad and inappropriate with those who disagree with you”. Not really any help for those seeking direction, leadership or guidance. I know Jesus did not attend or celebrate any pagan festivals or associate with temple prostitutes, or engage in celebrations with them, of his time. I’m not trying to be irreverent or inflammatory. I believe those examples are probably the most like the “pride celebrations” of our times-allowing for historical, cultural and societal differences.” – Stan B
“I don’t think there is a clear cut answer, I think we’ll have to ask him ourselves when we get to heaven…” – Trish O
“Seems today everything is gray, no black and white anymore.” – Jo D
I appreciate what you wrote!