LGBTQ+ rights aside, the word pride has never held much of a good reputation within Christianity.
Pride is named among the “seven deadly sins” or “capital vices,” and of all seven, theologians have often said pride takes the cake and is the deadliest of them. Pride, they say, is the root of all evil. In other words, pride is THE WORST.
And perhaps it is true that pride is the worst, if you are on the side of the winners, the oppressors and the top dogs. If you already hold the power, pride gets in the way of your capacity to share that power.
Pride coupled with power might prevent you from seeing and acknowledging the value of those with less power. Pride attached to power might indicate that you haven’t done the work to recognize your privilege and name your unearned advantages.
Pride plus power often looks nothing like Jesus, who “though he was in the form of God did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself.”
But what about the underdogs? The oppressed? The marginalized and the outcast?
Is pride “deadly” for them too? What leads to death if you start out powerless, and what leads to life?
For much of our history, Christian theology was primarily examined, discussed, written and authorized by men with power.
While those theologians have often named the sin of man as pride, feminist theologians have long noted that the sin of woman is lack of pride, or loss of self.
Sin is such a tricky word, especially if you grew up in a religious environment that used the language of “sin” to shame, coerce, guilt and control you.
Instead of treating sin like a list of dos and don’ts that make you bad if you don’t obey, what if we think about sin as that which causes harm to self or others?
It seems clear then that the lack of pride causes harm to groups that are already marginalized – not just for women, but for the LGBTQ+ community, for persons of color, for differently abled folks and so on.
This means that finding your pride, embracing pride, celebrating Pride Month – these are spiritual acts, my friends, that counter evil.
They are a reclaiming of your imago dei, a reciting of the glorious acts of a Creator who made you into a masterpiece, a retelling of your story through the lens of love rather than shame.
Pride, in this sense, is a virtue.
As Michael Eric Dyson writes in his book, Pride, “Thinking too highly of yourself is a sin. Thinking well of God and others, and therefore, yourself, is a sacrament.”
Pride is knowing that God loves both you and your neighbor, in all your individual uniqueness and queerness.
Pride is marveling at all the colors of the rainbow.
Pride is letting your light shine. Not Satan, not a detractor, not a whole homophobic army can blow it out.
Pride is being thankful for who you are and thankful to the Divine One who made you just so.
Pride is an embrace of love and rejection of self-hatred.
Pride is a love sonnet to the universe, a bear hug for the outcast and a “Welcome Home” sign for the lonely one.
Maybe that lonely one is your niece or your grandkid or your best friend or your dad, or maybe the lonely one is that piece of yourself you’ve been hiding for years.
Pride is that moment you finally feel safe enough to come out of the closet, or that moment you don’t feel safe, but you feel brave enough to do it anyway, or that moment you stay in the closet but throw yourself a little private party in there until you’re ready to come out.
Pride is singing, “Jesus loves me!” (Yes, me!) at the top of your lungs.
Pride is knowing your worth.
Pride might be a parade or it might be a single line in your journal: “I am enough,” or “I am gay,” or “I am bi,” or “I am who I am,” or “I am OK just the way I am.”
Pride is feeling pleasure at how unique you are.
Pride is the gradual obliteration of fear.
Pride is holy.
Pride is sexy.
Pride is like a mustard seed; you only need a teeny, tiny bit in order for it to grow.
Pride is contagious.
Pride is hopeful.
Pride is magical.
Pride is a gift from God.
Pride is like a treasure hidden in a field that you’d sell all your earthly possessions to finally hold it in your hands and know it as your own.
Pride is joy without the shackles.
Pride is finding yourself and liking her. (Or him or them or whichever pronoun fits best.)
Pride is a virtue.