But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. -- Galatians 5:22,23a
This past weekend was the Gay Pride celebration for my city. I live on a main thoroughfare directly across from a beautiful park and the beach. On Sunday, the 17th Annual Gay Pride Parade was held with over 75,000 participants. And guess what, it goes right down my street. Sat. evening, I made certain both cars were parked in the garage, which is off our back alley. Sunday morning dawned beautifully with lots of sun and a few wisps of fog. As I went out front for my morning cup of coffee, I noted that the street was shut down. What a beautiful sight...not one bit of traffic to spoil my early morning cup of coffee with a magical picture of the ocean dotted with hundreds of sailboats.
By 7:15, the street in front of me was starting to fill up with various floats and parade entries. I talked with one of the street marshals and found out that the actual parade started about two blocks north and that the street in front of me was being used as a "staging area." There they were...three deep. Across the street at the park were a group of "drag queen" cheerleaders warming up to one of Britney Spears' more outrageous ditties. In the middle was another group that was a bit less interesting and as such quickly forgotten. Nearest me was a group from the local Methodist Church. This piqued my interest. I quickly counted about 30 people in the group that would be marching in the parade. Many of them carried signs that proclaimed the love of God. In fact, most of the signs seemed to center around this theme that God loves everyone.
Soon, friends began to arrive at my house for brunch. With lawn chairs on our front lawn, we enjoyed each other's company, the weather and the fascinating preparations for this parade. As I was running around entertaining, one of the women from the church group asked if she could take a quick break in one of our lawn chairs. As she sat down, I glanced at the sign that she carried. God Wants Spiritual Fruit! He does NOT want religious nuts! I wanted to chat with her, but with a living room and front lawn full of guests and so much activity, by the time I had a moment to catch up with her she was already gone and their group was being waved to the front of the line as the parade was about to begin.
We had so much fun watching as the many parade entries passed us. This was obviously a time for fun, but not just fun, this was a time for gay people to say "I'm proud of me!" The fun was infectious! As the morning drifted into afternoon, the energy only seemed to get stronger. At times I witnessed poignant sadness as survivors of those who have passed from AIDS marched in solidarity against this cruelest of diseases. I watched with complete fascination as the crowd erupted into cheers as a group called PFLAG marched by. PFLAG stands for Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays and is an organization dedicated to strengthening the relationships of gays and their families. As this contingent walked past, I thought of some of the coming out stories I've heard that have resulted in gay people being completely shut off from their families simply because of their sexuality. No wonder the crowd reacted so vigorously to this group. Here were families who loved their kids for who they were.
I received a phone call from a friend who was about 4 blocks from me. She and her husband were there to be with her sister and since we hadn't seen one another in quite a while, I thought I would wander down the parade route for a quick visit. Ocean Street was packed!! As a people watcher, I was in heaven. God certainly has created a wide variety of people!! With the sun shining, the fun associated with the parade, the general attitude of festiveness, it almost seemed the perfect day.
As I rounded a corner, I was suddenly struck with something foul, the likes of which I've never witnessed personally. Standing on a stage, with a bullhorn in one hand and a Bible in the other, was a preacher. Surrounding him were several people carrying signs. I caught my breath, hoping against all hopes that I wasn't seeing what I thought I was seeing. God Hates FAGS! Fags deserve to be in Hell! AIDS is God's punishment to you! To continue down the street, down the parade route, I had to walk right past this group of people screaming scriptural obscenities and hate at each person who crossed their path. I was sickened as this self-proclaimed preacher told of a God who hated homosexuals and that they were going to rot in hell...and not soon enough!
I was able to finally meet my friend and it was so nice to visit a bit with she and her husband. By the time I got back home, the parade was over and the street sweepers were cleaning my street. Soon the traffic flow returned to normal and by day's end, I was able to sit down and reflect on the many sights I saw. As my mind turned over the many sights and sounds, I realized that two images of God were presented today to the gay and lesbian people of my city. One image was seen by each person who marched in that parade. It confronted them and condemned each one of them. There was no escape. God hates YOU was the message that was sent.
As I thought about that little, yet very loud, group of people, I realized that most gay people don't like Christians for good reason. We are always condemning them! Then I thought about the Christians I first met when I was still lost. They didn't condemn me at all. In fact, they were rather like the people from the Methodist Church I saw marching in the parade. They told me about a God who loved me...right where I was! They lived the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians! They didn't condemn me! They just loved me! I found that so interesting and desirable, that I ended up looking for and finding the source of that love.
I never did get to see the little lady from the Methodist Church carrying her clever little sign! But I think I'm beginning to see what she meant. There are some nuts out there using annoying bullhorns, who say they are speaking on behalf of God. They preach that God hates certain people! If I were to believe them, I'd be screwed! I'm glad that God didn't condemn me! I'm glad He loved me!! I'm glad He loved me SO much that He gave His Son! I'm also glad for people, like the little church lady, who are willing to live out the fruits of the Spirit! Sometimes just one light goes a long way in a world where darkness and hatred prevail!