Every year about this time I start having this debate in my head. Do we really need "Gay Pride?" Do we really need go through all the trouble and expense of throwing, what appears to be, a weekend long party?

Then something like this crosses my desk:

A gay Tennessee couple was reportedly attacked — physically and verbally assaulted — by a Christian Pastor and his deacons to prevent the same-​sex couple from entering the pastor’s church. Sadly, the pastor is the father of one of the two members of the gay couple. Also sadly, the church members and bystanders did not lift a finger to help the couple or to stop church leaders from perpetrating the crime. Further, initially, local authorities refused to allow the couple to file charges.

Religion blog: ‘Fear doesn’t live here’


“I went over to take the keys out of the ignition and all the sudden I hear someone say ‘sick’em,’” said Gibson County resident, Jerry Pittman Jr.

Pittman said the attacked was prompted by the pastor of the church, Jerry Pittman, his father.

“My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request. My uncle smash me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back,” said Pittman. He said bystanders did not offer assistance. He said the deacon yelled derogatory homosexual slurs, even after officers arrived. He said the officers never intervened to stop the deacons from yelling the slurs.

To make matters worse, when the police arrived they didn’t do anything to stop the beating.

What on earth kind of perverted translation of the Bible is this preacher reading? How on earth can this possible be justified? This is not about the Bible. Well, maybe on the surface. Deep down where the heart and the soul intersect is pure raw fear.

The church is so fearful of our community that they will justify anything to stop us from being accepted as normal and thriving and contributing members of society.

I am fully aware it is not every church and some churches have made tremendous progress in getting rid of their fear… but if one speaks honestly, the biggest obstacle to our community is the moderate to conservative Christian Churches who will do anything to stop us.

They are deeply fearful of us. They are in two words “deeply homophobic.”

Homophobia: Function: noun date: 1969: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

It’s interesting how this irrational fear of the religious zealots becomes their strongest weapon against us and our friends.

The religious zealots of the world are so “fearful” of homosexuals, or for that matter anyone that doesn’t fit their definition of gender identity or orientation, they fight to throw every manner of fecal matter at the fan. It just blows out all over the place and some of it sticks to us. Some of that crap that we are stuck with:

The fear about where we will end up after death. Not to mention the fear of another Sodom and Gomorrah.

Some people seem to fear that if we pursue the life of our God-given orientation we will end up in this place that some call hell; a horrible place where we will be separated from God for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that this fear and concern are deeply rooted in the way we were and are taught to view God. So in essence, the only way to get past those fears is to change the way we view God.

I have recently been re-reading a book written by Bruce Bawer, called Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. From this book I have come to understand the real source of our fears when it comes to sexuality.

The source of this fear is the difference between an attitude of love and an attitude of law. On page 5 of this book Mr. Bauer states:

“Simply stated, conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine, and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience and the priesthood of all believers. If conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission–the resurrected Christ’s injunction, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, ‘go to all the nations and make them my disciples’–liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke’s Gospel reads as follows; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.'”

What these few words essentially say is that we have a choice as to whether we understand and live with a God as a strict authoritarian, who demands that all come to God in a specify way, or we understand and live with a God as a loving Creator who desires that all would come to God and would treat each other accordingly.

All one has to do is read the story of the prodigal son to make the obvious choice.

Yet, what we get focused on is a point of view that is based on the law and authority figures that have decided they speak on behalf of God. “The whole world will go to hell in a hand basket if the homos are given any dignity, acceptance or love.”

So, yes. There is a choice to be made.

However, I must say that to believe God would create something with free will and then ultimately destroy that creation because it did not make the choice to follow the law is rubbish.

Why did Jesus spend almost his entire earthly ministry bringing the outcasts, those outside the law back to the fold?

Why did Jesus, when asked to state what the greatest commandment was, say to Love God and to love your Neighbor?

He never said that in order to be okay with God and not go to hell you must obey the law of the day, rather he spent all of his time telling folks to love God and giving them example after example of how they could show and could live that love.

The women caught in adultery released, the raising of Lazarus, the blind person healed, the Roman Centurion slave healed, the woman with the issue of blood healed.

Jesus’ words:

“Be not judges of others, and you will not be judged. For as you have been judging, so you will be judged, and with your measure will it be measured to you. And why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother’s eye, but take no note of the bit of wood which is in your eye?”

–Matthew 7: 1-3

“Then Jesus said to the people and to his disciples: The scribes and the Pharisees have the authority of Moses; All things, then, which they give you orders to do, these do and keep: but do not take their works as your example, for they say and do not. They make hard laws and put great weights on men’s backs; but they themselves will not put a finger to them…

Matthew 23:1-4

“But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! Because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back. A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! For you go about land and sea to get one disciple and, having him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. A curse is on you, blind guides, who say, whoever takes an oath by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple, he is responsible. You foolish ones and blind: which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy?”

–Matthew 23: 13-17

Yes, the hypocritical religious right of center has chosen to live in fear by the law and the authority of those around them, while we have chosen to live by the words of Jesus and his examples.

They belong to the church of the Pharisees, Scribes and St. Paul; we belong to the faith that Jesus spent his ministry building and ultimately died for, unconditional love.

In the end, the religious right gets and maintains its power from our fear of what our relationship with God is going to be and look like in the hereafter.

We need no other reason for bringing 300,000 people to Piedmont Park each year then this and to say: “We are not afraid of you, our love cannot be taken away no matter what you do, say or threaten.”

To live in fear is the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught. If we are to really be the beautiful creation that God intended then we must listen to, believe and live the words of Jesus when he said to the disciples and to each of us today; “fear not, it is I!”  With the celebration of Gay Pride each year we say loudly and clearly: “Fear Doesn’t Live Here”

Yes, Gay Pride serves our community, it builds our community, it strengthens our community, it expresses our love, but most assuredly it destroys our fear.

Gay Pride allows us to say to the oppressive religious zealots, in the words of Glinda from the Wizard of Oz: “You have no power here, be gone before someone drops a house on you.”


Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail info@gentlespirit.org.