Monday, June 29, 2009

I Brought My Scriptures to Gay Pride

In order to keep my marriage on an even keel, I am not able to attend Church as often as I would like. One week ago last Sunday was one such occasion. I don't feel bad or guilty about missing Church under these circumstances. Sometimes the right place for me to be is Church, and I need to do whatever is necessary to be there. But the Spirit has indicated to me that strengthening and taking care of my family is one of my main missions in life, so taking time off from Church once in a while to show my husband that I love him and to spend quality time with our son is sometimes also the right thing to do.

I generally try not to miss Church two Sundays in a row. That presented a challenge, because yesterday was Gay Pride Sunday in the Twin Cities, and as I have posted previously, there's a strong expectation on the part of my family that I be at Gay Pride and not at the Mormon Church on Gay Pride Sunday. This time I managed to negotiate a compromise. I would attend Sacrament Meeting, which in my ward takes place from 9 AM to a little bit after 10 AM. Then I would head straight home, change out of my Church clothes, and we would head downtown in time to find a place to watch the parade, which began at 11 AM.

I'm glad I didn't miss Sacrament Meeting. I didn't have the usual opportunities to renew friendships in Sunday School and Priesthood Meeting. But I felt the Spirit so strongly, and the messages about faith actually helped me find some resolution to a little problem that's been gnawing at me lately. There was a particular moment when Bro. B. was reading some passages of scripture in his talk, and the Spirit gave me a key insight through the text as I read it in my own set of scriptures along with him. I was blessed!

But Sacrament went a little late, and so I arrived home a little late, and we were a tad rushed moving on to the next activity, and I left my scriptures in the pannier bag of my bicycle, a fact that went unnoticed until we arrived downtown and locked our bikes up. There's lots of petty thievery downtown, and as unlikely as it seemed to me that someone would steal my scriptures, believe it or not they are valuable to me and I didn't want that. So I had no choice but to bring them along with me to Gay Pride.

When Göran saw me taking them out of the pannier bag, he said, "Why did you bring those?" "I forgot to leave them at home," I said. He rolled his eyes and moaned, "I have nothing to say." So off we went to Gay Pride, me with my scriptures.

Of course I had no real use for them there. But having them made me aware that, metaphorically at least, there is no place I actually can go without my scriptures. In some sense I carry them everywhere in my heart. Having them there physically with me was, of course, a more-graphic-than-usual reminder of who I am and what I believe.

The Saturday before Gay Pride, there was a rather important, frank fathers-to-son talk that Göran and I had to have with Glen. And the subject of the talk was, what things about Gay Pride are good, and what things are bad. In the good category was: the affirmation that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, the affirmation of the positive things that the gay community has accomplished in the forty years since the Stonewall Riot in 1969, and the affirmation of the diversity of the gay community, which includes support groups, PFLAG, Rainbow Families, and religious groups. Much of what we see at Gay Pride is a visible reminder of the efforts ordinary people have made and are making to improve their lot and to become better people and a better community. All very, very good, and more than enough justification for being there to witness it and support it.

In the bad category: the ever present "easy sex" mentality, the superficial emphasis on physical beauty that, I've decided, has a deleterious effect on our spirits and our culture, the numerous scantily clad boys bumping and grinding... You get the picture. It's not that I've become a prude. Sex is a very, very good thing and an important part of life. But there's something to be said for maintaining a kind of propriety in public; there are valid psychological and social and emotional reasons for doing so, I think.

Last year at Pride, our son met up with some friends of his from District 202 -- a support group for gay youth -- and they wandered around the park together, periodically checking in with us. This year, our son stayed with us. Some friends of his from school (Glen's "girl posse") met up with us, and we all toured the various booths in the park together. And I think it was a good thing. I think Glen was actually grateful to have his two dads with him this year keeping an eye on things (one of whom was carrying his scriptures!). I actually enjoyed interacting with his friends too. That was a bonus.

I ran into a number of my students from the Seminary there. (In the past two years, I've had about a half-dozen students who are gay.) I enjoyed introducing them to my family, and my family to them.

The high point of pride for me though, was visiting the "J-Pride" booth. "J-Pride" stands for Jewish Pride. It's a small thing, I know, but it made me deeply happy to see so many people in the park -- people of all races and ethnicities -- sporting "J-Pride" stickers. I thought of the long history of anti-Semitism in America (which is part of what I teach about in my course) and I, of course, thought about the Holocaust and the time when the world stood by while millions of Jews were massacred. And my recollection of the horror of that in contrast with the sight of so many non-Jews wearing Jewish Pride stickers made me profoundly happy. Never again, I thought. Never again should they -- or anybody! -- stand alone. And that, my friends, is what Gay Pride should be all about.

While I was at the booth getting my own "J-Pride" sticker (it was the only sticker I chose to wear), I ran into a very old friend from my days in campus ministries at the University of Minnesota, Rabbi Sharon Stiefel, who has been the interim rabbi at Shir Tikvah, a local synagogue. We hugged and exchanged news. Those friendly exchanges with old friends -- by the way -- another of those things that falls in the "good" category at Gay Pride.

As I walked away from the J-Pride booth, I actually felt the Spirit. It was quite strong, quite amazing. And the Spirit brought to my mind one other thing of great importance about the Jewish people besides the fact that we should never, never again let anything like the Holocaust happen. It is that the very existence of Jews as a people is -- like the presence of my scriptures at Gay Pride -- a visible, physical witness of the justice, mercy, and love of God. We should all be such a people, a people who by nature of our existence testify to the reality of God and of God's justice and love.

Happy Pride!


Anonymous said...

a triple combination at a gay pride parade, now that's funny. someday, the gay pride parade in slc will be on saturday so more mormons can come

Bravone said...

Good post John. I love the last sentence.
"We should all be such a people, a people who by nature of our existence testify to the reality of God and of God's justice and love."

I'm not sure my life always reflects that worthy goal.

J G-W said...

There was some discussion a while back about switching it to Saturday here, but they've kept it on Sunday morning, which has made it difficult for a number of churches that would like to participate more actively in Pride.

J G-W said...

Bravone - thanks! I'm not sure my life "always" reflects that worthy goal either. But in the end, I think it's not our perfection, but our striving that marks us as a peculiar people...

Beck said...

I find it fascinating what compromises / accommodations we make in our lives for our loved ones and for our beliefs. Though my and your compromises may be different in their approaches, the end result is trying to do the right thing for who we are, for those we love and for what we believe.

Very nice post. I love Goran's "whatever" response to seeing you tote the scriptures. And, I, too, love the imagery of the scriptures at the pride parade. Those two things epidomize the accommodation right there in a great symbolic fashion of love.

J G-W said...

Thanks, Beck! I did find the situation slightly humorous... I'm glad that comes through in my post.

Göran and I go through ups and downs with my Church activity. Sometimes he is more OK with it than others. I would love it if someday he could actually start attending with me on a more regular basis. But I know that the key thing -- the most important thing from a spiritual perspective -- is for our love and our relationship to be strong. Everything else will work itself out from that.

Sarah said...

I had never been to pride before, and though I had a fear with bringing our children that they might see some things that I was uncomfortable with, I was not sure exactly what to expect.

I completely agree with your observation of pride with this post, and I am grateful for your idea to have this "talk" with my children prior to future events. I was not completely silent about it: they have been taught about modestly and I'm sure from my comments during the parade they could sense my disapproval. But it would be great to sit down with them ahead of time and discuss the difference between celebrating diversity and flaunting sexuality.

Santorio, it would be really great if they could change it to Saturday instead. I hope it does sometime, soon.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Thanks for sharing your Pride experiences. I agree with you on the good things about Pride and the bad things.

And, of course, the image of you carrying your scriptures around is just delightful to me.

J G-W said...

Sarah and Cody - Thanks!

I remember having an interesting talk with my dad about some of the more outrageous stuff that goes on at Gay Pride. Dad was very insightful... He offered his own observations on the impact of internalized homophobia and low self-esteem, and suggested that as time goes on and as the gay community and gay individuals continue to mature we'll see less and less of that, and more and more of the positive stuff.

My observation over 20 years of attending Gay Pride Parades would seem to confirm that...