The indelible conscience and a month of “pride” | WORLD
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The indelible conscience and a month of “pride”

The LGBTQ quest to turn a moral argument into an emotive appeal for affirmation and acceptance

Participants in the 2018 New York City Pride March carry a rainbow flag down Fifth Avenue.. Associated Press/Photo by Andres Kudacki (file)

The indelible conscience and a month of “pride”

In case you haven’t heard, June 1 no longer marks the end of the school year or the unofficial beginning of summer. It’s the start of Pride Month. Initially conceived in 1970 to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Pride Month has become a government-promoted, corporate-sponsored, 30-day celebration of LGBTQ acceptance and achievements. When rioters threw bricks and tried to burn down the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village with police officers barricaded inside, even the most optimistic gay liberation proponent could not have dreamed that an illegally operated, Mafia-owned gay bar would eventually join the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon on the select list of protected national monuments.

Pride Month is at once a brilliant marketing strategy and a striking reminder that the conscience is a terrible thing to waste.

By linking gay liberation to “pride,” LGBTQ advocates—and it’s worth mentioning, that the five letters only fit together in an uneasy alliance—hit upon an ethical and strategic coup. The rallying cry of “pride” transformed their quest for culturewide moral legitimacy (a daunting task) into a personal plea for therapeutic well-being (a much easier goal). The debate would not be a head-on, rational discussion about whether the sexual revolution was acceptable by the standards of God’s Word, natural law, or Western tradition. The debate would not be about what was good for children, good for the public, or even good for those drawn to LGBTQ behavior. Instead, “pride” made the debate about feelings of personal acceptance. Changing the culture is hard work and takes a long time (about 50 years, it turns out). Convincing people to stop making other people feel bad is a much easier sell.

Even today, “pride” can be difficult to refute on an emotive level. By marching for “pride”—instead of marching for gay sex or sex-change operations for minors—the public isn’t asked to affirm actions and appearances they often instinctively find distasteful. They are asked to affirm that people should not feel ashamed of themselves. Those who hold to Biblical standards of sex and sexuality are forced to play the entire game on their side of the 50-yard line. Do you really want people to feel bad about themselves? Do you want to make people suffer? Aren’t you concerned about suicide and self-loathing? How can anyone be against “pride” if the alternative is violent, morbid, relentless shame? Pride Month turns a moral argument—about which the Bible has clear and unequivocal answers—into a quest for personal self-acceptance, which is why many soft-hearted and muddle-headed Christians line up for the parade just like everyone else.

If you need the worlds of sports, entertainment, education, media, and government to celebrate your sexuality in order to feel proud, maybe your conscience is trying to tell you something.

But, of course, “pride” is not the only antidote to shame. There are other alternatives, like contrition, repentance, and chastity. Or Spirit-empowered struggle and victory. Or gospel-infused forgiveness and transformation. One way to deal with shame is to convince yourself it shouldn’t be there. The other way is to lay it at the foot of the cross.

In the end, as effective as this marketing coup has been, Pride Month also serves as a reminder that there are behaviors and desires about which we should not be proud. As fallen human beings, we are more rationalizing than rational. We know how to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). If we deceive ourselves long enough—two generations will probably do it—God threatens to withdraw His restraining mercy and give us up to dishonorable passions. And this includes women exchanging natural relations for those that are contrary to nature and men committing shameless acts with men (1:26–27). The punishment for these and other sins is sometimes death, not only for those who do them but for all who approve of those who practice them (1:32). Some deeds done in secret are too shameful even to speak aloud (Ephesians 5:12). The ubiquitous Pride parade may not be a march toward cultural suicide as much as it is a sign that we are already dead.

And yet, it’s also a sign that God-given moral reasoning is not so easily vacated. If you need the worlds of sports, entertainment, education, media, and government to celebrate your sexuality in order to feel proud, maybe your conscience is trying to tell you something. Might it be that deep down—behind the torrent of rainbow flags and the blitz of billionaire sponsors—God is speaking to us a different word? Maybe the perversity of the sexual revolution is desperate for one-twelfth of the year to convince all of us that darkness really is light. Maybe it takes the entire apparatus of cultural approbation to convince us that the unnatural is natural. Maybe we need the noise of a thousand parades to silence our collective memory of 2,000 years of Christian history in the West.

If it takes the entire world marching in unison to assuage the guilty conscience, perhaps “pride” is just a pretense.

Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church (PCA) in Matthews, N.C., and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). Prior to the summer of 2017, he pastored at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich. Kevin holds a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and received his Ph.D. in early modern history at the University of Leicester. He is the author of several books, including The Biggest Story, The Hole in Our Holiness, Crazy Busy, and Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children.

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