Of course I’ve got to kick off this post with some disclaimers. I speak for myself. I do not write this as a representative of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, or of any particular Christian denomination. We good to go? Good.
The Department of Defense has cultural awareness observances every month. The month of June has been LGBT Pride Month. If you didn’t know that by now, I am concerned that you’ve been trapped in a dungeon. Don’t worry, help is on the way! Seriously, though…
Today in the galley (chow hall, for you Soldiers and Marines) our Special Observances Committee arranged for a brief LGBT Pride presentation. We do some sort of presentation/event every month. Often we will have Sailors and Marines volunteer to assist in some fashion. When it came time for the LGBT Pride Month, people kind of disappeared. I’ve had Christians tell me to my face that they are okay participating in every other month, but just don’t feel comfortable participating in Pride Month.
So I, a straight-white-theologically conservative-Christian-male (wow, that’s a mouthful), did the presentation myself.
I’m not here to judge or bash on those who claim discomfort with the idea of participating. I’m here to explain why I personally feel okay with it. In a nutshell, it all comes down to people. We’re talking about people. We’re talking about loving and taking care of people. Yes, this is part of the Chaplain’s job, but it’s also supposed to be the job of all Christians.
For me, taking care of people means finding ways to affirm their value and worth as human beings. A writer in an important book once wrote that all of humanity is created in the Divine Image. Male and female people bear the thumbprint of God. The image of God isn’t removed because of one’s gender. The image of God isn’t removed because of one’s sexual attraction. The Imago Dei (that’s fancy Latin for the theological concept of humanity bearing God’s image) is upon humanity. This is the foundational element for celebrating anyone.
Once we understand the value that we have simply for being, we can move on to practical application towards any particular group. As a human, I can celebrate you. As a human ,I can declare that you have value. You are priceless. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. We should celebrate humanity.
But why the LGBT community? Why not the straight community? It’s not right! It’s not fair! Just today I saw that people were making the hashtag #StraightPrideDay trend on social media. Honestly, we don’t need a straight pride day because we’re not demeaned for being straight. It’s the same reason why we can have a Black History Month and not need to worry about a White History Month. American history leans extremely white anyway. All of these special emphases are not about saying that one group is better than another. Black History Month isn’t saying that it’s more important than any other history. It’s saying that we don’t want to neglect or downplay Black history. LGBT Pride Month isn’t saying that being gay is better than being straight. It’s saying that we cannot downplay the humanity of the gay and lesbian community – and let’s face it, the straight community has done that a lot.
In “The End of Sexual Identity,” Jenell Williams Paris indicates that sexual orientation as identity is a relatively new construct in human history. This is something that both the gay and straight communities should understand. My sexual attraction is merely that—sexual attraction. My identity is so much more than that single identifier.
I’m a Christian Chaplain, and I come from a theologically conservative background. Most of my sailors and marines have a pretty good understanding of my position even without hearing me talk about it. My participating in LGBT Pride Month isn’t about condoning or promoting any behavior. It’s about my saying to my LGBT friends and colleagues, as a human being you have value, and I celebrate you and all that you bring to the table. I refuse to let others demean you just because they disagree with you.
In the end, we end up looking at sexual attraction as a measure of worth, and that’s wrong. Before the cross of Christ we lose all of those identifiers the world puts on us. Before the cross we all stand on equal footing. Even Jesus touched and talked to people that the religious high and mighty refused to deal with. And if Jesus can look past the world’s identifiers, that should be our goal as well.
That’s why I can participate in Pride Month.
If anyone would care to comment, I welcome all dialogue. I only ask that you keep it polite and civil. Any remarks I deem inappropriate.
Photo by Nancy Pelosi via Flickr