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HomeCommentaryEmbracing love over hate: Lessons from Spokane's Pride Parade

Embracing love over hate: Lessons from Spokane’s Pride Parade

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Embracing love over hate: Lessons from Spokane’s Pride Parade

Commentary by Sarah Henn Hayward | FāVS News

Attending the Pride Parade in downtown Spokane on Saturday, my eyes were drawn to some signs along the route.

“Repent, perverts!” The poster waved above the crowd of people on a long pole, evolved to rise above the protective angels that have come to be expected at Pride events around the country.

I overheard a mother behind me explaining the protestors to her child, “Those people think they are Christians, Honey, but they are filled with hate and want to make others feel bad.”

The refrain from the old Jars of Clay song echoes in my head, “And they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”

Who is the intended target for that sign?

I can hardly imagine anyone being confronted with that message and reacting with anything other than insult.

I considered the protestor’s intent. For the first two decades of my life, I believed that being gay was a sinful choice. The evangelical Christian church I attended interpreted the few verses of the Bible that discussed sexual immortality to assume that same-sex orientations were immoral.

I’ve since learned that those six small passages from the Old and New Testaments are not as black and white as they seem.

There are layers of language barriers, cultural differences and an archaic understanding of human sexual and gender identities that muddle the picture. Books like “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon” and “Becoming Nicole” and the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So” showed me how sexual and gender orientations are not a matter of choice and are perfectly natural.

Having been raised to think, with certainty, that being gay was a sinful choice, I do understand the protestor’s beliefs. They genuinely believe that anything queer is wrong. Maybe they are truly worried that folks will have a painful eternity if they don’t change their ways.

Even so, calling out a perceived sin in public with vicious words is hardly a loving act.

Under the surface, I think a deeper fear is at play.

When I was a Christian, I constantly worried if I was doing enough. I wondered if I was following God’s will over my own in a way that would make God proud.

As much as I had faith that I had trusted my soul to God’s care, there was a tiny whisper of doubt in the back of my mind. The parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, when Jesus says he will turn away folks who didn’t feed the hungry, invite strangers into their homes and visit prisoners in their lifetimes haunted my certainty.

Perhaps these protestors are afraid of their own shortcomings, their shadow side. And like classic bullies, they hurt others while attempting to rise above their pain.

It’s not an excuse, and the harm they do is real, but I can relate to being afraid that I’m not good enough.

Part of me wanted to engage with the bullhorn bullies at the parade. To point out their hypocrisy and debate Biblical interpretation. I wanted to put them down, to make them feel small and mean. In short, to act like them.

I’ve come to believe that a great barometer for judging my behavior is kindness.

And as hard as it was, and as annoying as they were, the kind choice at the Pride Parade was to ignore the haters.

Instead, I let the raucous parade drown them out and focused on the rampant joy and love and celebration all around me. I hugged strangers and danced with the crowd. I embraced the diverse beauty of humanity with open, rainbow-painted arms.

And I hope that one day, we will all learn to grapple with our shadow sides in private, working toward the good while giving ourselves and others grace. Holding shame at bay.

I am learning from the queer community to live large and proud. To be free.


The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.

Sarah Henn Hayward
Sarah Henn Haywardhttps://sarahhennhayward.com/
Sarah Henn Hayward is a voracious reader, a deep thinker, a curious learner, a nature lover, a former Christian, a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a loyal friend. She is the author of a spiritual memoir, “Giving Up God: Resurrecting an Identity of Love & Wonder,” and two children’s chapter books, “Sedona and the Sloth” and "Boston and the Beaver.” Her newsletter at sarahhennhayward.com highlights thought-provoking books concerning marginalized communities. She lives in Spokane, Washington, with her husband Dan, and their two children.

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Tracy Simmons
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6 days ago

Thank you for being an ally Sarah! I thought the same thing when I saw the protestors.

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