At Long Beach Pride, One Group of Christians Take on Another Group of ‘Christians’ in the Name of Love
Photo by Robin Beck.
For many queers, all you can do is laugh—it becomes either genuinely humorous for a few or laughing becomes a defense mechanism when you stroll by people with microphones that scream you and your loved ones are abominations.
For the former, it’s the absurdity of it all that is funny. For the latter, it is the only way to keep from breaking down, to not settle into the all-too-common dredge of guilt that was the norm for every queer person during childhood, to maintain the ability to stay sane…
Sometimes, we can’t laugh at all because we’re broken down by that point or, even worse, we face tangible danger politically or personally.
Instead of us queers having to yell at the concrete blocks that are these all-thumbs, prime examples of devolution, instead of us having to laugh it off because of some well-honed defense mechanism or just because it’s genuinely absurd… Instead of those exhausting tasks, this group of caring, loving representatives of Christ took a giant banner proudly stating, “Protecting our kids from hate!” and simply blocked the hateful blokes.
So every year at Long Beach Pride, just east of the Long Beach Museum of Art, sit what Long Beach local Adreana Langston call “ChristoFascists,” folks with microphones and really badly designed signs screaming words of hate and prophesying that “God will come down and destroy Long Beach,” as one man told me just as my partner and I were taking this photo.
On a more poignant note, I know that it is so easy to focus on where we’re failing, how we have a lack of union, why we disagree with those we disagree with—and these issues, contrary to the Always Be Positive crowd, are important things to focus on if not outright essential.
But let’s never negate how we’ve taken massive steps forward because, as a queer boy who was born on the top of a damn mountain, I never thought I would walk up to a public transit station and watch an interracial gay couple giggle with glee as they trekked specifically to this station to score this TAP card. I never thought I would hear that very couple say, “Happy Pride!” so openly and publicly without fear while walking away and holding hands. I never thought I would see a regional transit agency support a form of love that, at least while I was growing up, was so reviled by the majority of Americans.
And when it came to the Pride parade, I never thought I would see other Christians duke it out with those ChristoFascists, as did the congregation of Long Beach’s First Congregational Church (FCCLB) and United Church of Christ. Instead of us queers having to yell at the concrete blocks that are these all-thumbs, prime examples of devolution, instead of us having to laugh it off because of some well-honed defense mechanism or just because it’s genuinely fucking absurd… Instead of those exhausting tasks, this group of caring, loving representatives of Christ took a giant banner proudly stating, “Protecting our kids from hate!” and simply blocked the hateful blokes.
“The climate of 2017 is more urgent than in recent years, so FCCLB was motivated to stand up and protect our children from hate speech and abusive language,” said Rev. Elena Larssen of FCCLB. “43% of our members are self-declared as same-gender-loving, so when our children are marching in a parade and hear abusive language about lesbians and gays, they hear those horrible words as an attack on their own parents. Since 1888, our congregation’s tradition is to teach tolerance to children, adults, and society at large. This year? Well, we just needed a bigger sign.”
The result? A blasting cry of cheers and applause from the crowd as Larssen led her crew of Christians to literally cover the entirety of the hateful protesters’ space.
“This manifestation was just one in a long history of First Congregational’s mission of social justice,” Langston said.
This includes FCCLB’s support of the New Sanctuary Movement, a growing network of Christian organizations and churches fighting against laws, policies, and events that hinder or do not protect everyone from the LGBTQ community to undocumented persons. This was fueled by the church’s participation in the Martin Luther King Day parade earlier this year: a religious, hate-fueled group bullied and trolled the church’s marchers, complete with bullhorns, shouting, and agitation.
“It was so bad the police on their bicycles rode between the harassers and our children,” Larssen said. “But we did not let them make us angry; instead, we sang songs and were joined by members of Long Beach United to try and block our children from the high volume intimidation. Clearly, everyone at the parade was there to honor Dr. King and celebrate tolerance and social justice—except this little group with their bullhorn of hate. But Dr. King faced down bullhorns and worse, so we kept marching. Usually, we laugh off protesters and say, ‘Well, it’s their First Amendment right.’ But this year, when so many vulnerable people in our society are at greater risk of losing civil rights, losing health care, even losing family members to deportation, we couldn’t laugh.”
We’re thankful you didn’t. We might be taking baby steps but dammit, we’re taking steps—and those steps deserve recognition.