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Justin Lee on faith, culture, and nuance

Justin Lee on faith, culture, and nuance

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Gay pride festivals: a real-life follow-up.

On Friday, I answered a reader question about why some gay people dress or act provocatively at Gay Pride events. Imagine my surprise when, only hours after I published that post, a friend informed me that there was a local LGBT festival going on near me the very next day!

So with that reader’s question still in mind, I went to the festival and took some photos to share with you all. Here I am:


Thousands of people showed up to this event. I haven’t seen final attendance numbers yet, but the early estimates were in the 10,000-15,000 range. (I took most of my pictures early in the day, before it got crowded, but the crowds got denser as the day went on.) I stayed for most of the day, walking around and talking to people.

There were a lot of families there, and bounce houses for the kids:



There were lots of booths, and people walking their dogs:


Some of the booths even had doggie treats:


There were bands…


…and fried foods…


…and way too many gaudy rainbows.


I saw booths for churches, artists, political groups, and local businesses. I talked to old people and young people, singles and families.

You know what I didn’t see? Anything relating to sex. There were no sex-related booths, no men in thongs, no public displays of affection any more graphic than hand holding. It was just a family-friendly event catering to those who care about LGBT issues.

Is every LGBT event like that? No. As I’ve said before, the LGBT community is not monolithic. But after my post on Friday, this was a timely example that there are plenty of family-friendly LGBT events happening around the country; we’re certainly not all represented by sexual imagery.

I also encountered a group of straight Christians who had come to the festival specifically to preach. I approached one of them and listened in as he argued for 15 minutes with an atheist about evolution and other topics. Meanwhile, I saw others approaching groups of people and trying to engage them in conversation for the purpose of telling them about Jesus.

To their credit, these Christians were much more respectful than the protesters I sometimes see at events like this. They weren’t carrying giant signs and bullhorns; they were honestly trying to engage with people on a personal level. Unfortunately, their approach still left a lot to be desired. I don’t know about you, but I find it off-putting when a stranger approaches me in a public place and asks me invasive questions only to try to turn the conversation around to something they want to sell me on—be it hand cream or eternal salvation. It just feels too much like telemarketers, you know?

Before they left, I introduced myself to the preaching group. I asked them about their church, and I told them about my work. I offered to buy them coffee and sit and talk for a few minutes, but they declined. I offered to share my story, too, and I did share a few minutes of it, but while they were very polite, they were much more interested in finding a way to draw me into a theological debate than in sharing our stories and getting to know one another.

I offered to share more about what it’s like to be gay, to help them understand a bit more about the community they were trying to reach. They said they had to go and didn’t have time for that. I offered to give them a free copy of my book for them to read in their free time, if they’d promise me that at least one of them would actually read it. They declined, saying their lives were too busy for that.

“I understand,” I said, before shaking their hands and offering to pray for their ministry. “So I’ll just say this one thing. I believe you’re sincere and that you want to help people. But I can tell you right now, if you’re serious about ministering to the LGBT community, you’ll find more success with a lot more listening and a lot less preaching. The more time you spend listening to people, the more effective your preaching will become.

And maybe it wouldn’t end up sounding so preachy after all.

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