Pride and Prejudice: A brief belated note on Pride Sunday in San Francisco

Let’s play a little catch-up, shall we?

We had Pride Weekend here in San Francisco last month, which marked a year of my singing with the Ensemble. As I walked to the Sunday service that kicked off the parade (Glide does a magnificent float every year; this year was a gigantic stack of gift boxes celebrating the 40th birthday of Pride Parade) I passed one of the many conservative Christian hate groups that descend on the city for Pride weekend. (I’ve always felt it was a strange kind of back-handed compliment, the fact that they come from all over the country to hate on San Francisco during Pride. It sort of says “You are THE gayest of gay cities, therefore we will concentrate our considerable energies upon you.” I don’t know, somehow that’s oddly flattering.) That morning I wore a blazingly bright magenta shirt and a straw hat with an embarrassingly large pink flower in the brim. In the early morning streets of the Tenderloin, before the crowds lined the parade route, I was rather hard to miss.

A gangly youth on (literally) a soapbox shouted out to me that I was destined to burn in the fires of hell for my perversions, to which a year ago I would have responded (and did) with a raised middle finger and some not-so-nice words of my own. This year I stopped, beamed a big smile at him and hollered “Happy Pride!!! We love you!!!”

After regaining control of his rather impressive adam’s apple, he said “We love you too! That’s why we want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with you.” And with a sense of fullness and gratitude – gratitude for the strength to face this poor misguided fool with the love that has been taught to me by my family at Glide – I replied, “No thanks, I’m good. I’m on my way to church.” To which he said….nothing.

What could he say? That my church wasn’t as good as his? That the gospel I was on my way to hear wasn’t the right gospel, even though it was coming out of the same book?

Well, yes. He could have said all of that and more, because these people aren’t really at home to Mr. Reason, but he didn’t have the chance to. I blew him a big smacking kiss and trotted on up the hill, to sing with folks who know the meaning of the gospel that awkward young man claimed to be selling.

If I’d tried to explain to him that I’m a sacred-text-reading, gospel-singing, comparative-religion-studying atheist, that I’m essentially an Atheist for Jesus, I think he might have had some kind of meltdown. That adam’s apple might have made a desperate upward bid for freedom. It doesn’t bear thinking about. I don’t think it mattered, though. Like water dripping on a stone, the small things we do have a cumulative effect that we might never even see. He may think of me someday, years from now, and a small crack might open up in his concrete worldview. A little light might hit something that’s been kept in the dark, and a green shoot might begin to unfold. Who knows. Maybe in a few years we’ll see him on Pride Sunday, happy and full of love, in 7 inch silver platforms and a Carmen Miranda bra. For that, I might just make an exception and pray.

One response to this post.

  1. As always, nicely written, thoughtful, inspiring. Spreading the love is truly what it’s about in this life. It’s hard to remember in moments when we’re being shamed or hated upon. I’m so pleased that your immediate reactions are transforming toward the love and away from the bitter. Bitter is fun and releasing sometimes – we need it, too. But I know I always feel better internally when I’ve reacted out of love and compassion rather than vitriol. Nice work, you. We want more!


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