I started wearing this small rainbow pin to church in January, 2016. I don’t wear it every week, but I never take it off of my suit jacket, so anytime I wear the suit, the pin comes along for the ride. I bought the pin as a semi-subtle form of rebellion against what I think is misguided policy/theology/doctrine that came to a head in November, 2015. Essentially, I wanted a visible indication of my dissatisfaction with the church and, more importantly, to show solidarity with my homosexual family and friends. The pin is my way of saying, “I am here for you. I am trying to make things better. I wish you felt welcome, and I hope this pin will show you that I want you to join us.”
Someone asks me about this pin every few weeks. I have gotten braver about explaining why I have it. I am not very good at talking to people, especially about controversial topics. I was especially intimidated a few months ago when an old curmudgeon-y guy asked what it was about. I kind of beat around the bush, hoping he would kind of forget that he had asked me. But, he kept asking. After I stumbled through an explanation, he said to me, “Oh. I see. I happen to agree with you, by the way.” Lesson learned: give people the benefit of the doubt.
Today, though, was different. Today, someone took this pin for what I wanted it to mean. A soft-spoken man asked me why I wore it; I told him that I had close friends and family that are homosexual and this pin was my way of showing them that I support them, and that I understand that they don’t feel welcome. He asked me if these family/friends are members of the church; I told him that some are. Then, he said, “I am in the same boat. No one here—save one other person—knows that. I only recently started coming back to church; I stopped a long time ago because I didn’t feel like I could come.” I only barely know this man. Until today, I am not even sure that we had spoken. But, this tiny pin gave us a chance to connect on a level far more intimate than the usual at-church banter, in a way that truly allowed us to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” and to “bear one another’s burdens.” I told him that I was glad he was there, that I am glad that he feels like he can now come and join us. I told him that I am sad that the church, its leadership and its members, have made it hard to want to join us. I told him that I will stand with him when things get ugly (as they already have, in my opinion).
Take religion out of it. Everyone needs a place to be, a place to belong. Obviously, this man has other places that he could go, but he is (bravely!) trying to make this one work for him. All of us will be better because of his bravery.
I felt humbled and uplifted by the fact that my crappy little pin made this man feel safe around me. People I love are hurting, due in part to a church I still attend. But my presence there, today, made this man feel a little more welcome and a little more appreciated just for being there.” That, folks, is what religion is supposed to be about. Stop making it about other stuff.