While in Rome (hmmm, what a delicious notion to put in a sentence) a few years ago as a part of Women Touched by Grace experience, we learned about St Benedict (480 – 547) and his Rule for monastic living. Benedict was the first to envision communities built around the shared work of prayer, contemplation, and communal work. Our instructor was a German nun renowned for her grasp of the Rule. She shared her passion for and appreciation of Benedict in ways contagious.
One of the comments she shared struck me. She mentioned that for the (initially only) male monastics, the first thing that had to be learned was obedience and humility. The most crucial learning for a novice monastic had to do with letting go of pride and ego and allowing the structure of the community to hold them. They needed to learn to let go of pride.
When asked to talk a bit more about this, she made an off-hand comment. She noted that had it been women of the day learning to lend their gifts to community, they would be in need of a building up of pride and a sense of their own worth. Their culture surely did not nurture it. Only after building a sense of self worth could women commence to form rich communal life.
This issue of pride – the nurturing or peeling back of pride – has teased my mind since Katherine Kersten’s (Mpls Star Tribune columnist) most recent column. She seeks in her column to explain why it is that gay pride is unseemly in a church. Pride doesn’t belong in a Christian church, she maintains, because part of our journey as followers of Jesus is to disown our prideful ways, acknowledge our penchant for sinning, and ask for release and forgiveness.
Well, yes. And, those who affirm the holding of a weekend event called Pride (Pride is a celebration of the beauty of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons) know some things about the sorts of societal condemnations that make the claiming of pride a dream.
For so long culture has demonized and ostracized those who are same-gender loving people. The history of abuse is long: it includes the pink triangles worn on the sleeves of gay people in Nazi Germany, the families who name as dead their children who come out, the ongoing violence perpetrated against glbt persons, and the continued conversations around according rights in our society.
And in Christian community? For so many glbt persons, the message has been clear that they are not fully welcome.
Here’s the thing. Determining who is “in” and who is “out” is a function of our culture. The people who make the determination regarding the welcome are those who are “in”. Those same folks make the determination about what pride means. So claiming pride about something that “insiders” claim is clearly outside the bounds of seemly is an affront to status quo. And not welcome.
What is the sin of pride? Theologians through the ages have taught that pride is a forgetting of our utter dependence upon God. Pride is living a lack of faith in what God has wrought in us. Pride is a turning from the utter unique potential in us all.
That kind of pride is death-dealing.
But the pride of claiming self? Claiming as sacred a core component of our being – our sexuality -celebrated in covenantal respectful relationships, because God who breathed us into life in God’s image called us good?
That kind of pride? It is vitally important in our churches. Current Christian community is much like the early church and its welcome of women into leadership and full community life. We need to foster a sense of the self worth and worthy-of-pride being of all of God’s children: Gay, lesbian, straight, transgendered, bisexual, all born of God’s love and hungry for the sacredness that is community in Christ.
Living open doors, open minds, open hearts in order that all might experience the power of resurrection life. It’s the way of Jesus and our own.
So what is pride and what is inclusion and what is grace? What say you?