- Rev. Charles Perry
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Nowhere have I recently seen people experiencing heaven on earth right here, right now, more eloquently demonstrated than I did last Saturday night at the Pride parade held right here in Birmingham. It was an amazing demonstration of our love for one another in action, and it gives me great hope for our city and our nation moving forward.
This was my first Pride parade, and I honestly had no idea what to expect. I had a feeling there would be many people dressed in bright colors (there were). This being Birmingham, Alabama, I thought that there might be some protesters (there weren’t). What I was genuinely unprepared for was the size of the crowd along the parade route, and the overwhelming outpouring of love and joy from both people marching in the parade and the crowd that lined the streets. It was electrifying.
As we marched along, I looked over at my wife, Laura, and thought to myself, “This is the Kingdom of Heaven, right here, right now.” What made it feel like heaven? The answer is almost ridiculously simple: LOVE.
God IS love, and we are co-creators with God in that love. The love between those of us marching and those of us lining the streets celebrating the march was palpable, permeating, powerful. I felt it emanating off of my brothers and sisters, who walked joyfully beside me, and I felt it in the smiles and waves of the crowd. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sensation I was experiencing was radical God-love, a love that overcomes boundaries, that accepts others at a soul level and celebrates who they were created to be.
There are so many misconceptions about what Gay Pride means: I’m confident that many people who avoid Pride events imagine militant anti-heterosexuality. This wasn’t the case at all. So many of the marchers on Saturday were heterosexual allies, walking hand in hand and heart in heart with members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We were there with a very simple message: we love you! And as we marched along the route of the parade, we heard the same message back, over and over again: we love you!
As we looked into the faces of many of the people in the crowd, we could see joy, relief, hope, and pure, unadulterated love. There were people on that route who spend 364 days out of the year being told by their parents, their neighbors, their churches, and a large number of people in our governments and the media that they are not equal, less than, sinful, and broken. And even though in their heart of hearts, in the Christ of them they know better than that, so very many of these beloved children of God have internalized this message that they are sinful and broken. They live a heartbreaking reality of rejection. So, on this night, when even in Birmingham, in the heart of the Deep South, most of the closets stood empty, it was pure joy, delight, and love on display. As a community, we were experiencing tremendous healing.
If ever there was a demonstration of radical love, last Saturday night in the streets of Birmingham was it. We were marching to love the marginalized. We were marching to love the shunned. But most of all, we were marching to love our fellow human beings - people just like us. When we come together in love, as we did last Saturday, it becomes clearer and clearer how unimportant our differences are, and how absolutely vital our Oneness is.
I invite each and every one of you to experience this Oneness. If there’s something holding you back, let’s talk about it. Every one of us who marched on Saturday left with full hearts (even as we sprinted through the rain back to our cars). The community saw a church of people who cared about our LGBTQIA+ siblings enough to show up and show out. I long for all of us to experience full hearts, hearts where love drives out fear and hope overwhelms doubt.
I know that taking to the streets is outside of the comfort zone of some of us. I can promise that there will be many opportunities to be of loving service going forward, some that even the most introverted among us will enjoy. One thing I can promise is that however you experience it, healing through radical love is indeed a key that opens the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven, right here, right now. I invite you to join us in the kingdom, and you can leave your harp at home.
With radical love,