Disclaimer: This is a *fictional* story, not an actual personal experience. I hope to do something like this some day, and to live out love like this every day. But this is just a short story.
It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” – James 4:6 MSG
I step out of the van and ignore the immediate hostility of passers-by.
Two cross-dressers glare at me as they head toward the parade route. A man is crawling on the pavement in leather chaps; he has a leash around his neck, and another man is ‘walking’ him. He barks at me.
These are among the more tame participants. It strikes me as odd that in such a crowd, I am the one who gets strange looks.
If I am embarrassed at all now, well… it’s going to get a lot worse.
I make my way to the edge of the crowd and try to squeeze through to the front. I need to be visible if this is going to be of any value. When people turn and see me, they assume they know what I’m here to do. I get jostled and shoved a few times as I gently push my way through. “Bigot,” one person says. “Homophobe! Go home!”
“Get out of the closet already, Bible-thumper.”
The police are out in force. Pride parades often get a lot of attention, not all of it good. That one church from Kansas is lined up farther down the street. Some local churches have put up their own signs, not willing to be outdone by these famous out-of-towners with the “God hates fags” posters.
The cops are busy keeping people marching in the parade from getting into fights with the various protest groups. None of them notice when I finally reach the rope that marks the edge of the parade route.
I stand at the edge and lean out, a Jesus in Teva sandals, a wig, and a polyester white robe with a red sash I borrowed from our church drama team. The beard is mine, scraggly but full enough after two months of growth.
The first few people to see me react in anger, swearing, shaking fists. “You don’t belong here,” they yell, along with some other choice words. People in the crowd throw half-empty Starbucks cups and large sodas and McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Ketchup and mustard splatter across my white sleeve.
No one throws rotten fruit any more. It’s not readily available, and it’s too expensive.
The folks marching in the parade are not happy to see me, either. Rainbow signs with witty slogans are shoved in my face. I don’t know if they’re meant to block my view with their message, or block the view of the other marchers so that no one else has to see another religious jerk condemning everyone in sight.
“What’s another name for the Crucifixion?” one guy asks the girl next to him, loud enough for me to overhear. She shrugs.
“A good start,” he says.
She laughs, and glances my way, her smile turning into a sneer.
I reach out a hand to those marching, and someone spits at it. The next person ignores me, stepping away.
“I am sorry,” I say, and he looks back, brow furrowed. But he’s too far past me now.
Mostly all I get from the faces in the crowd is the strong sense that I am unwelcome–a defensive posture and wounded expression that demands to know, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. This is ours… go away.”
I catch another guy’s hand, someone in a leather jacket, boots, and briefs. He recoils in disgust, but then I say, “I am sorry for how we have hurt you,” and he pauses.
Someone else spits on me. “Go back to the tomb, Jeebus.” His partner winks at me and says, “Hey, baby, I’ll nail ya.” They walk away laughing.
The man in the leather jacket, whose hand I grabbed–he simply nods to me, and I think I see his eyes glisten as he turns and continues in the parade.
A thin guy explodes into a rant with more f-bombs than actual words, arms waving, fists clenched. “What the f’ing f are you f’ing trying to do, f’er? You f’ing f’s think you’re f’ing doing any good with your f’ing ‘God hates fags’ signs and your f’ed up little white dress? Do you really f’ing think I give one good f’ing G-D what the f you f’ing have to say to me? F!!! I f’ing hate you, I f’ing hate your f’ing book that does f-all to teach love and tolerance, and I f’ing hate the f out of the f’ing God you represent! What now?”
He gets in my face.
“I’m sorry,” I say, and a tear runs down my cheek. “I’m sorry for how we have hurt you.”
He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.
I think of the recent news stories I’ve heard, the angry sermons on the Internet, the callous defenses of indefensible statements.
“I’m sorry for how we’ve let people say we should ‘smack the gay out of children,’ or put them behind electric fences.”
He says nothing now, but he continues staring at me.
“I’m sorry for how we’ve pointed the finger at all of you, instead of preaching against our own arrogance, our own pride, our own prejudice and hatred. I’m sorry for how we act like you are less than human.”
“I came to say I’m sorry for my people and what we have done.”
His friend grabs his arm and pulls him away. “Come on, man.” But he keeps looking back, and I see him mouth the words, “Thank you.”
Another person spits on me, and a big guy just happens to hit me with his elbow. “Bigot,” he mutters.
This pattern repeats itself for an hour and a half, some people accepting my hand in friendship, many slapping it aside at first, some of them turning back to acknowledge the apologies I offer.
One of the people in the crowd behind me tugs at my shoulder. He’s holding a black leather Bible, with the gold edges on the pages and a little fish over a monogram in the corner of the cover. “You’re in the wrong place, brother. We’re all protesting at the other end of this block.” He points to where the angry people are waving their signs and shouting Scripture like a battle cry.
I nod and remain in my spot on the street.
Two women walk by, arm-in-arm. The blonde says, “You want us to confess our sins, pervert? We’ve been verrry naughty.”
They giggle as they approach. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Bible Guy watching.
“I would like to confess my sins to you,” I say.
“Ooooh,” the other coos. “Kinky. Yeah, do it.”
“I am sorry for the double standards we use to judge you,” I begin, and the smiles disappear.
“I am sorry for acting like one sin is worse than any other, for acting like our sins don’t matter to God as much as yours. I’m sorry for behaving like we’re better than you.”
They are quiet, holding hands, waiting as I continue. Bible Guy storms off to rejoin his protest.
“I am sorry for treating you like you don’t deserve our love–like you don’t deserve God’s love.”
The parade marches on behind them. I look at them through tear-clouded vision.
“I love you. We love you. I am sorry for how often we fail to show it. We shouldn’t see you as what you do, but I know we also do that. Please accept my apology on behalf of my people.””
I extend a hand after wiping it off on a clean spot of my robe. They hug me instead, ignoring the chopped onions and ketchup and diet Dr. Pepper.
We stand there, hugging, for about a minute before they thank me and move on.
Bible Guy is back with friends, and they’re not happy. “Don’t you know Leviticus says homosexuals are an abomination and the Bible says it’s a sin?”
“I know,” I reply.
“Yeah, well, maybe you need to get your Gospel straight before you come out here supporting all these queers.”
“I know what the Bible says about homosexuality, and so does the rest of the world,” I fire back. “What they don’t know, what they aren’t seeing, is what the Bible says about loving others!”
“Hey Jimmy,” Bible Guy says to one of his friends, “What do you think we should do with false Christs?”
It takes a couple minutes for the police to respond to the situation and break up the fight. I’m the freak in an offensive costume, so I end up in the handcuffs. “For your protection, bud,” one of the cops tells me as he drags me away from the parade.
Sitting in the back of the paddy wagon, I pull off the wig and rub a bloody jaw.
“Not the smartest move ever for the Son of God, eh, bud?”
“Yeah, I guess not.” I answer. I don’t believe that, though. I felt the hugs, I spotted tears, I saw the faces change from rage to respect. “Then again, things didn’t go so well for Him either, so it’s nothing new.”
The cop laughs. “I thought I saw those punks head back over to the protest after we grabbed you. You sure got them riled.”
“They’re mad because I used to be one of the ones holding signs.”
“Oh… yeah, I used to hate dealing with this parade each year, too. And then my son started marching in them.”
He offers me a cup of water. “Take it you get beat up by Christians a lot?”
“You’d be surprised.” I take a drink. “It was the religious leaders that wanted Jesus dead, not the so-called sinners.”
“Feh.” The cop looks back out to the crowd. “I just wish those guys would go back to their caves sometimes.”
“They can’t help it,” I reply. “They kind of belong here. The event is all about celebrating pride. They’re just full of a different kind.”