While religious conservatives were protesting Hendersonville NC’s PRIDE day proclamation, I was spending a weekend, deep in the Michigan Bible belt, celebrating their faith. The occasion was my grandson’s wedding.
I confess that the weekend was a struggle for me. My daughter and son-in-law attend a church that preaches that people like me are going to hell. It promises the same fate to my grandson’s twin brother, a wonderful young man who lives in Raleigh with his husband. The week before the wedding, I dreamed repeatedly that I was returned to Asheville in a body bag.
No one, left or right, would be surprised to learn that our family has struggled through some difficult conversations.
To their credit, my daughter, my son-in-law, and their family greeted my wife and me with genuine warmth. Aside from a few shop-worn bromides about liberals, academics, and guns, the wedding guests were the model of civility.
I, too, held my personal convictions in check. I don’t just disagree with a literal interpretation of the Bible. In my belief system, biblical literalism is a form of idolatry. It isn’t just misguided; it is sinful. Similarly, I could never subscribe to the vows that my grandson and his bride exchanged on Saturday: “wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands”.
But this wasn’t my wedding. I was elated for my grandson and his bride as they committed themselves, one to the other, each according to their faith. How brave and wonderful were their vows. How grateful I was that so many people had gathered to celebrate their betrothal. How privileged I felt to share this moment.
My joy was not an endorsement of my grandson’s faith. It was an endorsement of his right to pursue his faith. It was joy in seeing this sturdy young man express his heart and live his convictions. I will always defend his right to follow these, so long as they allow room for others to do the same.
I would hope that religious conservatives could approach Pride day with a similar heart. You needn’t endorse us. You are welcome to pray for us. But, unless you are without sin, please don’t judge us. We are just as hopeful, intent, and imperfect as you.
Even better, show up and celebrate, as I did with my grandson. A variety of faiths and congregations participated in Asheville’s annual Pride celebration this year. Asheville First Baptist (pictured) was among them. When I visited their tent, I saw one of their congregants in tears. “Is everything OK?” I asked.
She explained that the day was going wonderfully. She was simply overcome by how many people attending the festival felt healed by the mere presence of First Baptist. “I didn’t realize how much this means to them,” she said.
If you listen with every fiber of your loving heart, you may come to understand the heart-wrenching truth about Pride. Pride isn’t born of mirth and celebration. It is the child of fear and the mother of hope. It is fed by despair, nurtured by prejudice, and sustained by isolation.
Search your heart, believers. Instruct your teachers. Pride is the fruit of your labors. Christ offers us a simple way to end it. But that is the topic of another love letter.