The reader will undoubtedly recognize pride as the seventh and deadliest of the seven deadlies, as listed by Dante Alighieri: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy, and pride.
But the astute reader will also recognize that the seven deadly “sins” are all relative. All of them are, in moderation, necessary parts of the human experience. Food, sex and romance are essential, wonderful elements of our lives, responsible greed keeps our market economy running (perhaps limping these days), and responsible, righteous anger has seen us through some particularly dark patches in our history.
Even envy has its place – it’s a great motivator. And the book of Exodus recognizes the physically and spiritually restorative benefits of sloth – the Israelites were commanded to devote one full day a week to it (Exodus 20:8).
This leaves us, of course, with pride. Pride is a much harder sell – its outward expression is rarely attractive. In this regard, I’ve always been a little uneasy about many of the LGBT pride parades. Much of the pride expressed at the parades is used by folks like Peter LaBarbera to spread hatred and by folks like Andrew Marin to perpetuate dangerous stereotypes and convince impressionable LGBT youth that there is something wrong with them. I am not the only person to remark that each happily married LGBT couple with children does more to advance the cause of equality than any parade or march.
It actually took my recent skirmish with Andrew to see the real value – and necessity – of Pride Month. Something about Andrew’s rhetoric infuriated me, but it was hard to put my finger on it. Why, I asked myself, am I so worked up about this guy’s homophobia when I’m perfectly willing to work with people whose views are (superficially) just as bad?
And then it hit me – those evangelicals are at least honest about where they stand. Andrew Marin goes out into the LGBT community and spreads seeds of inadequacy and self-loathing. And he gets away with it because he’s selling hope. The hope of acceptance, the hope of compassion, the hope of experiencing the intrinsic worth of one made in the image of a loving God.
And that’s why I was angry. Those basic dignities – that basic, yes, pride in an individual’s existence, in their love and in their family is part of the human birthright. That pride can never be for sale.
And this is something that, admittedly, I had never given much thought to. In my position of privilege, I have never doubted my self-worth, never had to think that my life was a mistake, that my love, or my family, was somehow inherently sinful. This is such a basic level of pride that I had taken it for granted.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for many LGBT folks. And understandably so – according to the most recent Gallup poll, nearly one half of the country believes that gays and lesbians are “morally wrong.” Which is to say, not entitled to the same basic level of human pride.
In the final analysis, Pride Month is about more than civil equality. It’s about spiritual and human equality. It’s about the restoration of that basic, healthy, pride and self-worth that are under assault the rest of the year. This pride is never sinful, but its absence can be deadly indeed.
To paraphrase one of the great Irish philosophers, let us always celebrate pride in the name of love.