Pridefest, Rent, and the World We Live In

So a couple of Saturdays ago (June 16), Travis staked out a corner of the Greater Ozarks 2012 Pridefest in the Square to take some photos for Queen City Faces. It seemed like a great idea at the time, a perfect way to capture some of the faces of Springfield. He talked with a couple of people, shared the purpose of Queen City Faces, and took some great shots. After he’d been there for a while, a woman approached him and asked him if he’d considered the fact that some of the people at Pridefest could potentially lose their jobs or face alienation from their families if these pictures placing them at Pridefest ended up online (you can read Travis’ account of this story here). I’m not sure if the woman who talked with Travis was lesbian herself or if she was concerned that even being publicly associated with an event like Pridefest could hurt her career, but I do know that she believed that she could lose her job if her employers saw a photo of her at Pridefest. The whole thing got me thinking…we really do still live in a world where even those who associate with the LGBT community or stand in solidarity with them by attending events like Pridefest can face negative repercussions, and those repercussions pale in comparison to those who are actually lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. What year are we living in? Why is it still OK to persecute these children of God? Why are we still finding reasons to denigrate, dehumanize, scorn, and shun those who need to experience the tangible love of God more than anyone else?

As Travis was taking photos at Pridefest, I saw Phil talking with some “Christian” protesters who were in attendance at the event. Without even approaching them, I knew that Phil was engaging this man holding up a large wooden cross in conversation surrounding the subject of homosexuality and scripture, talking about the love of God and the hatred being spewed by the church. I don’t know the exact words that were being exchanged, but Phil’s oldest son informed me that the guy with the cross was saying that it was bad to be gay, so his dad was talking to him about that. I don’t know that Phil’s words made any difference to the man, but they made a difference to his kid, and I do know that his willingness to offer this man another Christian perspective meant the world to some of my gay and lesbian friends who saw what Phil was doing.

Now, the reason I wasn’t able to be part of the conversation Travis had with the woman concerned about losing her job or the conversation Phil had with the cross-carrying man was because I was preparing to perform with Springfield Little Theatre’s cast of Rent on the Pridefest stage.  Rent has long been called a controversial musical. In fact, I know I myself have given a few disclaimers to people from the church who have expressed an interest in coming to see it. Not to discourage them from coming, just to prepare them for what they were going to see. Rent deals with AIDS, drug addiciton, and sexuality. There are three romantic relationships that run through the musical, one between and man and a woman, one between two men, and one between two women. In Springfield, MO, that’s controversial. But the more I think about it, the more I want to say, you know what? Rent isn’t controversial! Maybe it was back in 1996 when it was released, but this is 2012! The world is a different place! We live post Will & Grace. We live in the era of Glee. We watch TV shows where violence is glorified and murder is celebrated (as long as you’re killing the bad guys, right?). And we think Rent is controversial? 

Which also gets me thinking… Why is showing up at an event that supports the LGBT community controversial? Why is standing up for the rights of a marginalized and demonized and dehumanized segment of our society controversial? Why is a musical that celebrates love and the ways it ties us together in the face of heartbreak and disease controversial? Conversely, why isn’t it controversial to claim to be Christian as you stand for discrimination and hatred? Why isn’t it controversial to spiritually abuse our LGBT brothers and sisters, all in the name of God? Talk about taking the Lord’s name in vain. 

So yeah, these are some of my musings early on in my sabbatical, in the wake of Pridefest. I lament the fear with which our LGBT brothers and sisters live, the fear that leads them feeling they even need to hide their faces a bit at Pridefest (because this is, after all, Springfield, MO), the fear that keeps them out of our churches because of the abuse they have had to endure, the fear that has shut off belief that God could ever love them, the fear that keeps them locked in closets of loneliness and despair, the fear that has them believing that there may not be a safe space for them. My heart aches. And so I stand in solidarity, in the hopes that some day these fears can be assuaged, that the controversy and disgrace will be laws like the one passed in North Carolina, the hateful language upheld in church doctrine, and the wholly un-Christian practice of dehumanizing and denigration of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

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5 thoughts on “Pridefest, Rent, and the World We Live In

  1. Hi, Emily,
    My Quaker/Friends meeting is going to set up a supportive booth at August Pride Events in Toledo. I wonder if there will be some opposing groups, like the protestors Phil was talking with.

  2. As a Christian, I don’t think my church really spews hate toward those in the LGBT community. There are some churches who unfortunately do, but denoms from Nazarene to Roman Catholic have views that the lifestyle is wrong, but those in it should be welcomed to the church just like any other sinners. Living a gay lifestyle is no more wrong than having premarital sex, lying, or lusting. None of us is perfect, we all need God’s grace and Christ’s light in our lives.

    1. I appreciate your comment, Sexperts, but I feel it necessary to say that I am not coming at this from a “living a gay lifestyle is no more wrong than having premarital sex, lying, or lusting” stance because I do not see those things as equatable. I do not believe that being gay or living into the reality that one is gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender is a sin. I think what’s important is that a relationship between two people be mutual, equal, and respectful. I don’t care if it’s between two men, two women, a man and a woman, or whether the couple is married or not. Just wanted to throw that out there.

  3. God has given you have such a gift for language and a loving heart, Emily. I live in Branson and first read about your church a few months ago when I googled, “progressive churches branson.” There are none to be found here and Brentwood Christian Church seems to me to be singular in the entire region. So I was already interested when I saw Phil’s video go viral. The video and your messages here on your blog resonates what I have been feeling and thinking for the past couple years concerning equal rights. Because of this and because of other statements of faith posted on the church’s website, my husband and I visited last Sunday. The people we met were lovely and the service was beautiful. My husband especially appreciated that you were involved in the political movement to cap interest rates on payday loans. We have a church family in Branson whom we love, so we are not considering being regular attendees of Brentwood, but I am so grateful for both your messages. I have ordered your books and will continue to visit your blog and learn what I can. You are an answer to my prayers.

    1. Theresa, thank you so much for your words! They mean a great deal to me. I am so glad you were able to join us in worship last Sunday. It is so unfortunate that churches like ours are few and far between in this part of the country, when I know there are people looking for churches like this everywhere. I know you have a church family in Branson, but know you will always be welcome at Brentwood whenever you feel like heading this way.

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