Pride is a funny word. It can mean both to have confidence in yourself and your work or contributions to the world (productive or creative or compassionate), but it can also mean to have a deadly (from the point of view of sinfulness) sense of your own power and worth. We take pride in everything from “a job well done” to our country. To have pride in the face of ridicule is commendable. To have pride in the moment of victory is to be tempered with as much humility as that pride will allow.
We take pride in our children, our church, our political party, our handiwork, our values. We condemn those whose pride seems to lead them to have too much respect for their own children, churches, politics, work, and values.
Pride in the hands of the oppressed becomes “Pride,” the rainbow-hued sentiment that we attach to the bravery of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride in supremacists of any stripe is something that might set one’s teeth on edge. This yo-yo sentiment, pride, is like anything with potency, too much is dangerous, too little is inefficacious. As we look toward our own pride celebrations as an Open and Affirming congregation on July 11 and at the Fort Wayne Pridefest on July 24, let us also look at our July 4th pride and sit honestly with this tricky word.
It seems to me that it’s important for us as human beings, and especially as Christians called to respect the value of each individual, to have enough sense of self-worth to expect better treatment of ourselves and for others. And when we enjoy better treatment, to have enough humility to not let our pride turn into hate, distrust, abuse, degradation, and denigration of others.
Perhaps we can test ourselves by noticing if our own sense of pride— in our sexual and gender identities or in our citizenship in a nation that claims liberty for all as a foundational value—is robust because we enjoy the liberty to be fully ourselves among others or if it’s because we experience an inflated self-worth in comparison to others. The first sense is the kind of pride that God gifted creation, a sense of connected worth. The second is sin at its most dangerous, an overdose of pride that takes from others their dignity.
I’m proud to be among God’s creatures, and grateful that being in relationship with those created for love keeps me from being sick on my own self-esteem. I pray that you enjoy that same sense of pride and bring it into every space you occupy, as a queer person or ally, as a citizen of these tenuously United States, and as a Christian.