On Pride - Joseph Wood

Dearly Beloved,

  I suppose that I should be writing a more formal farewell right now; however, I'm honestly not ready for that kind of finality quite yet. So, I thought I'd tackle another topic that's near and dear to my heart: Pride. June 28-29, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an event that has come to be recognized as something of the advent of the modern LGBTQ+ movement—making the topic all the more apropos for my final meditation with Emmanuel. (The first pride parade, known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, was held in New York City on the 1-year anniversary of Stonewall.)

  So, what is Pride? A casual perusal of the Book of Common Prayer might suggest that any good Episcopalian should be opposed to the very notion. As part of the Great Litany, we beg God to deliver us "from pride, vainglory and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want of charity" (149). Every Ash Wednesday, we enter into Lent by confessing to the Lord "all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives" (268). In the assortment of prayers near the back of the BCP, we find one for our country that, among various other things, petitions Almighty God to save us "from pride and arrogance" (820), as well as one for families that likewise asks our heavenly Father to put far from them "the pride of life" (829). Last, though certainly not least, an optional section of the Exsultet sung out during the Easter Vigil declares that holy night "casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord" (287). In each of these instances, Pride is portrayed as a particularly pernicious manifestation of sin, distorting our relationships with God and Creation. It is grouped with such evils as "hypocrisy," "arrogance," and "hatred," all of which suggests an understanding of Pride that is one of egotistical idolatry, a kind self-aggrandizement that allows no room for the "peace" and "concord" that are essential elements of the Christian life and worship. Such Pride is rightfully declared one of the Seven Deadly Sins of the Early Church, robbing our connections with God and our neighbor of any chance at life in order to glorify ourselves. Such Pride is rightly named as antithetical to Christian love, to charity. Such Pride knows nothing of the existence of the Other. See, for example, the calls for a "Straight Pride" parade in Boston this summer.

  However, these examples are not the only times that Pride is mentioned in the BCP. In the Collects for Various Occasions, there is one for commerce and industry that asks that, in echo of the Incarnation, Almighty God "give to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor" (208, 259). In the Psalter, we find celebrations of the "pride and "majesty" of the "mighty warrior," the "annointed" (Psalm 45, 647) and God as "the pride of Jacob whom he loves" (Psalm 47, 650). This kind of Pride would seem entirely different from the sinful one named so often in our life together. This kind of Pride is fundamental to a right relationship not only with God, but human labor and salvation history. This kind of Pride is holy, sharing in the Triune life through its foundation in relationship--rather than casting them out. When we are proud of "what we do," it should be in a way that reflects upon God and our neighbor. When we are proud of what we do, it should be rooted in charity, in love beyond measure, and justice. It's the Pride of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

How do I figure? The difference in the two kind of Prides is, in the end, a very simple one: Pride in oneself vs. Pride in who we might be. The former is static and stultifying, unable to perceive anything beyond the way things are. The latter is fundamentally life-giving, always reaching towards the possible and, thus, towards the Other. It is Pride in the Kingdom of God. God’s LGBTQ+ children are proud not because of the world, we are proud despite the world. We are proud of all of the different ways we have survived a world that has been distorted, a world that has been twisted to deny us and so many Others of our God-given share in it. We are proud because we believe that, through truly loving ourselves and our communities, we can begin to reclaim the glory intended for us—all of us. We are proud because we know what is possible. Happy Pride: may you have joyous, defiant faith in something better.

-Joseph Wood