A couple of years ago when we made our banner for the Honolulu Pride Parade, we did not know just how powerful its message of love would be. As Episcopalians we often live in a bubble, taking the love of God for granted. We forget that in many versions of Christianity, Jesus is viewed as a harsh judge, and it is the church’s duty to preach that judgment. Jesus is someone to fear at the end of time - a God of fire and brimstone. Sadly many LGBTQ persons have been victimized and abused by this inauthentic version of Christianity, and it is easy to understand why many of our LGBTQ siblings are wary of Christianity. Even if Jesus is still viewed as a loving God, many feel that the church has missed the mark, failing to embody the godly values of grace, love, and reconciliation.
I am glad that St. Mark’s is able to make a positive witness of God’s love at the Honolulu Pride Parade. This year we a had a strong show of support at the parade as more than 30 people marched with us. I believe we were the largest religious group to walk in the parade, and it is a crucial witness. Constantly throughout the parade, people mentioned how much they loved our banner (God Loves You - No Exceptions). Parade bystanders were incredibly supportive of our message of God’s unconditional love.
There was one exception. Shortly before the end of the parade route, there was a group of Christian demonstrators shouting terrible invective at the pride parade participants and bystanders. I felt sorry for those trying to enjoy the parade and who had to endure such hatred for the duration of the event. Past experience had taught me that there would be such anti-gay Christian demonstrators, and so as our group came down Kalakaua Avenue, I was not surprised to see the protesters, as well as the nervous looks of security personnel trying to contain them.
And then something wonderful happened. The protesters saw our large group coming forth behind our banner, and they look completely puzzled. Even better, those who had been listening to the protester’s invective throughout the entire parade, erupted in cheers for St. Mark’s and the inclusive love of God proclaimed through our banner and presence. The cheers of the bystanders drowned out the hate, showing that God’s inclusive love will always triumph.
As we live in a time when protections for LGBTQ persons are at great risk, it is my hope that the silent majority of people who believe in God’s inclusive love will be heard, just as they were heard at the parade. We are all God’s children. We cannot say the following enough: God loves you - no exceptions.