Joseph and the Rainbow Coat: How Pride Month and Faith Can Coexist and Heal
Editor's note: This piece, while published July 17th, was originally written in reflection of Pride Month, 2021.
As I scroll through Tiktok everyday, the algorithm weaves me down paths of Harry Styles edits, Marvel Phase 4 theories, and endless Olivia Rodrigo sounds. Yet, the Tiktoks of confident women, men, and gender fluid people, comfortable in their own skin, are happy for the entrance into June otherwise known as Pride Month, while they preach the love and acceptance of Jesus; these make me wonder even after I have continued on. Where does Jesus belong in Pride? Where does faith lie amongst the rainbow? What color does it shine and drape proudly on its shoulders? It took me years to understand that Jesus certainly has a place in this month, and provides some thought provoking ways to express allyship, inclusion, understanding, and even healing. But where to begin?
Debates have littered church groups and Reddit and Tumblr pages for years on whether Jesus would have loved the LGBTQIA+ community just as anyone else or if there is a special place in Hell, their own fire and brimstone awaiting them for all eternity. Now, as a queer, progressive Christian pluralist, and growing up in a Slovak-Polish-Italian Catholic family in an Irish-German Catholic area, I’ve heard both sides extensively. However, as I studied the Gospels and researched for myself, delving in between the lines of Scripture, I’ve found that the overarching themes of love and acceptance in the Bible outweigh the hate and spurn spewed by those protesting outside gay bars and drag shows. And I don't find myself alone in this discovery.
Dr. Phillip H. Hutchens of Foothills United Methodist Church, one of the many churches in the United States striving to get their message of acceptance to the LGBTQIA+ community, explains it quite well. In an article discussing the deconstruction of Bible verses used against the community, he clarifies, “We, human beings, are very good at many things.
Unfortunately, one of the things we are good at is discrimination… To discriminate against sexual minorities is clearly incompatible with Jesus’ core teachings throughout the Gospels.” With this statement coming from an educated and experienced pastor, it is a wonder how Jesus’ words of the Gospels are warped and twisted into weapons of emotional and spiritual destruction.
Fun fact: Jesus never condemns nor loathes the LGBTQIA+ community in the Gospels. In reality, Jesus offers a new, final commandment before His death upon the cross: to love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34). And Jesus’ love? Now that is a lot of love. Yet, that is the kicker. That is what angers me and many others in the community, the hypocrisy of it all. We must love one another with the love God has for us, yet some Christians burn, raid, cut, and slaughter those who are simply loving, carrying out Jesus’ final commandment. The rainbow is so evident in the Bible, a tool of peace after a flood, for instance. In the famous Robe of Many Colors story, the messages of love and God’s Light emanate through the words of the Book of Genesis, Joseph’s robe being a symbol of it all. Yet, countless videos and news coverage of Christians burning the rainbow flag are strewn across the internet. How, then, after all of this, does Jesus have a place in Pride?
This past year at my school, Susquehanna University, I was the president of a Christian fellowship called InterVarsity. My main role was to lead a Bible study every week. This was no issue at the beginning of the fall. It wasn’t until I had come to terms with my sexuality towards the end of the semester that I was having trouble trusting the words I was preaching and studying with the small group. I had separated the ties once I had accepted sexuality, believing that being a Christian and being queer was not possible. Reading and discussing and analyzing His Words, however, on my own terms, has brought me to a better place. I like to think of it as Him and I sitting on a porch swing together, not speaking, simply enjoying each other's company on a warm summer evening, swaying in the breeze, maybe even a cold iced tea in hand.
Yet, I think the most important part of this realization is the fact that it is far from over. Years of this push and pull from the church and those around me caused me to put up walls, be wary of letting anyone in; this included Jesus. There was a time where I couldn’t see a future with Jesus in it. To take the step and let Him sit with me was a huge decision and one that does not come without troubles. Sometimes I find that I scooch away from Him on that porch swing, or I feel like He’s sitting too close, or I find the warm summer air too suffocating. But we work through it and continue to sit in silence, content with our time together. It is not easy, but nothing good ever is. So if just one of us in the LGBTQIA+ community can see the coexistence of faith in Pride, a place for Jesus per se, why can’t we all?
That is quite the loaded question and extremely subjective, I know. In one way or another, we all have been stung by the hateful spew of Christians who have weaponized Jesus’ words. Whether we like to admit it or not, confront it or not, it is there and it has stuck. It is a staple of American culture it seems. However, I find that understanding Jesus’ messages of love and acceptance, by one’s own work, while being part of the LGBTQIA+ community could be a key to reconstructing and healing the predisposition and “bad taste” of Christianity among those in the community. To overturn such a shameful staple is a long road and not an easy one, but it is possible under supportive hands and a willingness to crack the stigma of being a Christian and a member of the community being mutually exclusive. Pastors like Dr. Phillip H. Hutchens and influencers on Tiktok such as Mother Peaches or Rev Karla are just stepping stones to bringing these two groups together. If you ask me, restoring Jesus in Pride could be monumental, bringing more love to the month on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level. But for now, I’ll keep liking those Tiktoks as much as I can, hoping what I write here and what I learn there could begin to tether the division.
(In memory, thanks, and honor of Pride’s leaders from its birth, both late and thriving: Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and many more. Without you, I could not sit here and write this with such confidence and pride.)