This year has been an exciting one for me.
Most notably, I published my first book, Reclamation: A Queer Pastor’s Guide to Finding Spiritual Growth in the Passages Used to Harm Us.
Honestly, I’m still in disbelief that my words are out in the world, bound, copyrighted and sitting on strangers’ bookshelves, potentially changing how they see texts that have hurt my community for so long. Better yet, changing how they view themselves – or, for any cishet readers, their LGBTQ+ neighbors.
This whole process has been a gift and not one I take lightly. But this season hardly seems one appropriate for celebration.
As more states in the U.S. position themselves to pass “Don’t Say Gay” and/or explicitly transphobic bills like the ones that were passed in Florida and Texas earlier this year, there is palpable fear in the LGBTQ+ communities of which I’m a part.
Questions abound: If Roe v Wade gets overturned, what does that mean about Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage? Or Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized our very existence? In the midst of such worry, does it even matter if we celebrate Pride this year?
Celebration may feel like the last item on a list of appropriate actions to take in the wake of so much uncertainty, but yes, it does matter that we celebrate. In fact, celebrating Pride this year is crucial in the midst of all this fear.
Even so, how do queer Christians faithfully engage in thoughtful celebrations of Pride this year? Well, I’d suggest that we look to the example of Jesus.
One thing that LGBTQ+ folk can deeply relate to in the life of Jesus is that we’ve constantly had to contend with other folks spreading lies about who we are.
Sometimes they’ll go so far as to tell us to our faces what they believe about us. That we’re false prophets. Deranged. Sinners, simply for embracing our God-ordained selves.
We know what it’s like for misguided, impassionate folks to yell “crucify them,” just so they can continue living in a world that they’re convinced should only look as they see fit.
We know what it’s like for those crowds to take comfort in our torture and dismemberment. But crucifixion isn’t the only thing we have in common with Jesus.
Pride is resurrection.
Day in and day out, we go into the world knowing that folks will crucify us in favor of a sanitized version of ourselves that makes them feel more comfortable.
We could stay in the tomb, allowing others to believe the fallacies about the LGBTQ+ community that they choose to accept as truth. But we are a resilient people.
We choose resurrection over and over again, reclaiming our God-given identities as the precious gifts they are. When we celebrate Pride, we practice the holy sacrament of resurrection to truth and life, following the example of Jesus.
We will not stay in borrowed tombs. We will celebrate Pride and, in so doing, reclaim our lives among the living. For it is Jesus who first showed us that those yelling “crucify” do not get the final say.
Some of you are probably agreeing whole-heartedly with that last line, but I’d venture a guess that not all of you are. Some of you may be thinking, “Kali, you seem to be drawing a line in the sand – an ‘us versus them’ situation. How is promoting division like this going to fix anything?”
Great question. I’m all for conversation because I believe honest conversation is what changes hearts and minds. For me, it all comes back to Jesus.
Jesus’ resurrection benefited not just those who agreed with him, but everyone – even if they were too caught up in the temptations of the world to appreciate it while alive.
No one truly benefits from keeping truth buried. Sure, some folks may get richer, more powerful, and so forth, but they’ve had to bury their humanity in the tomb along with the truth they killed.
When truth is resurrected, those folks have an opportunity to revive their humanity through the humble act of repentance. When LGBTQ+ folks celebrate Pride – engage in our own resurrection – queerphobic folks get the opportunity to resurrect their humanity.
This isn’t a line in the sand; it’s an invitation.
It’s an invitation for queer folks to continue embracing their wonderfully made selves.
And it’s an invitation for others to walk out of the tomb, too. To resurrect their humanity, to refuse to believe the fallacies that others parade in their faces in order to secure votes, to look truth in the eye and see that God made queer folks good – very good.
The tomb is open, and Jesus is holding his hand out to you, queer and cishet folk alike, inviting you to resurrection through Pride. Will you accept?
Editor’s note: This article is the first in a series this week calling attention to June as Pride Month.
A bivocational pastor, writer and spiritual director based in Atlanta, Georgia, she currently works as a Spiritual Director at Reclamation Theology. Cawthon-Freels is the author of Reclamation: A Queer Pastor’s Guide to Finding Spiritual Growth in the Passages Used to Harm Us (Nurturing Faith Books), and a contributing correspondent at Good Faith Media.