Thanks to a member of the congregation, a group of us from the Woodinville Church and a few folks from University Unitarian were able to march in this year’s Pride Parade. This congregant knew someone in the group, Sisters of the Mother House of Washington which are a group of “religious sisters” who work on behalf of those who are most marginalized in the queer community. They are not as large as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence but they are might and kind and were so welcoming to us.
As we waited (and waited, and waited) in our contingent, the “Christian Haters” appeared on the sidewalk near us with their megaphone, signs that read, “God Hates You,” and began to spew what I classify as hate speech. After a few minutes of this, I got mad and made my way toward them. We were near the Sounders Rugby men and women, one of whom said to me as I passed, “Go get ‘em.” I stood next to a cop and watched them, holding my sign high. I had purposely worn my Standing on the Side of Love clergy collar and was decked out in rainbow earrings. I wanted to be a ministerial counter presence to hate as well as an affirmative presence of Love.
One of the make Sounders rugby men was standing right next to the man with the megaphone. The brave rugby fellow “vogued” his heart out. To me, that took courage: to place yourself right next to someone who wanted you essentially dead. Later I thanked him.
A short while later I saw a lone individual talking about being saved and handing out fliers calling for repentance. He was trying to hand them to one of the Sisters. I had taken a particular liking to this sister as he was small, bearded, in wonderful attire, and was so gentle. He was sort of trapped in place with this “Christian” trying to get him to take the piece of paper. I moved quickly and placed myself between the sister and the man with the papers. He tried to hand me a paper which I refused instead showing him the sign I was carrying: “Thou Shalt Not Kill; Orlando; Standing on the Side of Love.” He said, “I don’t need that.” I said, “Just keep on moving along.” And made hand motions to help him along. Which he eventually did. I just was not having it that day. I was not having my people targeted by the distortion of the Christian personage of Jesus and his radically inclusive love.
Toward the end of the parade, another contingent stood along the side of the parade route with yet another “God Hates You” sign and a megaphone spewing more hateful rhetoric. I went right over and started yelling “Shame, shame, shame!” Which they then yelled back at me. So I just stood there blocking them with my body and sign letting their hate pour over me. One bearded man in sunglasses just held his arm out pointing at me.
Suddenly I was joined by the slight sister who I had shielded earlier. She, too, stood with her sign. Then a member of the congregation stood next to me. I backed away a bit. My interim Director of Lifelong Learning was suddenly right there in front of the guy with the megaphone. Smiling at him, standing there, signaling to him to bring it on, and letting him bombard her with his words. When I could no longer watch her taking it, I touched her on the shoulder to bring her away from the hate. And we went to catch up with our contingent.
I know we should probably just ignore these folks who show up at every parade with their signs, megaphones, and hatred. But as a person of faith and as a clergyperson, I feel an obligation to make it clear that these folks who distort their religious traditions to justify hate and violence don’t speak for God or religion. What I wished I had had the sense to do was ask all of us UU’s in our yellow shirts to form a line in front of the haters to visually “protect” the parade marchers. And to clap to drown out the megaphone. I am thinking that every march needs a contingent of angels that shows up as they have at the funerals where the Westboro Baptist “Church” pickets and espouses similar rhetoric. These angels and their wings provide a visual separation for those who are trying to make their way through loss and grief.
So what if we UU’s showed up at Pride Parades and events not in our yellow SOSL shirts but in huge yellow angel wings that have written on them, “Standing on the Side of Love?” I feel a creative urge coming on. Anyone else game?
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,