Joyful Pride: Where All Belong

As Bayard Rustin reminded us years ago, “we need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.” What could be more holy and joyfully rebellious than Pride—a celebration that acknowledges all the ways in which the world makes it difficult for many people to love freely, yet also celebrates love as the best, most holy thing around?

Pride encompasses the belief that because God made us all for love, it is our birthright to express and enjoy that love however we wish. Pride is a joyful rebellion, full of both LGBTQ+ members and allies that says, “unless we are celebrating love in all its forms, we are not celebrating it at all.” It’s a reminder that all aren’t just welcome at the table of God, but that all are celebrated there for our unique and individual differences. It’s a reminder that as God’s holy and beloved people, we don’t deserve scraps of love wherever we can get it, but rather we are welcomed at God’s feast.

Pride Flag at Stonewall Inn
Photo by Jewels Tauzin

For me, nothing embodies a feast where all are welcome more than the Episcopal Church. Growing up in Mississippi, I fell in love with the Episcopal Church because the people I knew who identified as Episcopalians didn’t just say they loved Jesus, but also treated others as Jesus would. Instead of using their power to delegate who was and who wasn’t allowed, they unequivocally invited and celebrated all, steadfast in their belief that God didn’t put us here to be gatekeepers, but rather to pour out kindness and love like we are made of it, because we are. The phrase “all are welcome” isn’t a kitsch phrase that really means “all are welcome, but the minute you come in you must adopt every belief we have” but instead all are truly welcome, no loopholes or caveats, just a wide, open field where all could experience God’s love.

Rainbow Cope on Mannequin
Photo by Jewels Tauzin

I feel so grateful to be a part of a faith tradition that celebrates true, godly love– the kind that knows until all of us are free, none of us are free. As I read stories of LGBTQ+ people who have been shamed by their faith communities, I grieve and lament all the ways in which Christians have gotten it seriously wrong. I’m reminded of the story in the Bible when Jesus asks the rich, young ruler to give up his money and follow him. Jesus was asking him to give up his power and comfortable life of normalcy to truly be with and stand with those who were outcasts. The young ruler just couldn’t do it.

This Pride month, I’m reminded of all the ways in which our culture persuades us from identifying or standing with the vulnerable. Often, we’re told that by ignoring suffering and oppression, we’ll be able to sit at the table with the powerful. But that’s not happiness. It’s cheap belonging, sacrificing the liberation of others for a momentary status change.

The main emotion Pride Month makes me feel is joy– the rainbows everywhere, the music, watching those who have been hurt rejoice in community and love. Pride reminds me that God is not a tyrant, the powerful ruler in the sky. God is in the sidewalk chalk design in my neighborhood that says, “You belong somewhere you feel free.” God is living our most true selves, saying yes to vulnerability, connection, and hope.

Joy isn’t cheap belonging. It isn’t, as Christian Wiman says, “yee-hawing out of a million megachurches like elated locusts,” but is true liberation, to fully inhabit our lives and give up notions of power to be free.

What could be more joyous than Pride? One giant invitation to see the world as no longer “us” and “them,” but instead just one, big Us. Happy Pride to all, and may you always sit at tables where you are given feasts, and never scraps.

Jewels Tauzin, a fourth-year student at Barnard College, grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and is working this summer as an intern in the Communication & Marketing Department at Trinity Church Wall Street.