Posted by: Truth and Consequences 101 | March 25, 2013

Coming out at Pridefest, with a cross

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Pridefest is the annual event for the LGBT community in South Florida. On the third Sunday in March, thousands of gays, lesbians and transgendered and their families converge on Lake Worth for a weekend of activities, including a parade through the downtown area along Lake Avenue.

This was my third year evangelizing at Pridefest, my second with the “Are You Ready?” cross (see last year’s blog here: http://tinyurl.com/78e93hg). Like last year, a brother and I stood along the street with our crosses. The response is always electric; the cross of Christ always evokes a strong, visceral reaction, and, it seems, especially at this event.

We don’t go to Pridefest to condemn gays, although that’s the assumption when we arrive. We go because there are sinners there, and the nature of the sin is less important than the fact of sin, which condemns every man, woman and child to an eternity in hell. Our message is salvation in Christ alone; the cross is a reminder of the price He paid to liberate us from the slavery of sin.

The cross is offensive (Galatians 5:11). It reminds us of our sin; it tells us clearly we are sinners, and that God hates sin. “God hates the sin and loves the sinner” is a misstatement of Scripture; God hates sin, and warns the sinner to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).

This afternoon, like last year, we experienced anger, derision and scorn and we stood silently along the street. Within a few minutes, a woman began standing behind us with a fluorescent orange sign that said, “To Party.” (Our crosses said, “Are You Ready?” Get it?) She was angry with us.

My brother-in-Christ, Marcos, and I tried to engage her in conversation, but she wasn’t having any of it.

“You’re judging these people,” she said scornfully.

“I’m not judging them,” I said, “I’m guiltier than most of them because I’m older than most of them.”

Over the next few minutes, we had a tense exchange, she holding her brightly colored sign as high as she could as a backdrop to our crosses. Meanwhile, we were holding on for dear life to our crosses, as the winds were threatening to wrest them from our hands. The last thing we wanted was for some innocent bystander to get kaboshed by a flying cross.

She revealed that she had attended Loyola University in New Orleans and studied Jesuit theology. She also disclosed she owned a business along Lake Avenue. Meanwhile, the parade was passing by, with several of the vehicles in the motorcade stopping to deride and mock us. The crowd around us alternated between wild cheers for the marchers and making crude gestures toward us.

After a few minutes of this, I was inspired to ask our sign bearing friend a question. I admired her stamina in being able to hold a sign above her head for fifteen minutes. I was constantly adjusting my cross to keep from losing hold of it.

“Look,” I said, “my name is Mark, and this is my friend, Marcos. What’s your name?”

She stared at me for a moment from behind big, dark sunglasses.

“I’m Shelley,” she replied. A friend standing next to her said her name was Mary.

And with that, we began to chat. I asked her about Loyola and if she like New Orleans. I mentioned that Marcos and I had been in NOLA for the Super Bowl the month before. We both commented on the wildness that is Bourbon Street and how she actually left town for Mardi Gras every year she was there, because it was so out of control.

Shelley stated she was a “cradle Catholic,” and had grown up in the area. I asked where she had gone to high school, and we discovered that we both attended the same Catholic High School. (She graduated long after I had, of course.) We talked about some of the teachers and staff there, and then talked about the new pope.

A remarkable thing was happening around us at the same time. While vehicles and marchers were still stopping and gesturing, the crowd around us became less volatile; two young men standing alongside us began listening to our conversation. It was as if the Spirit of God had manifested right there, and placed us in the shelter of His wings for a few moments.

Marcos was approached by a woman who offered him a wristband. He accepted it, but on the condition that the woman take a gospel tract. She did, and thanked him as she walked away. Mary, Shelley’s friend, shared with us that she had attended Liberty University, than a Baptist Bible college in the Midwest.

For the next twenty minutes, the four of us, with occasional exchanges with Chuck and Adam, had a conversation. Shelley acknowledged our constitutional right to make our statement at the parade; we acknowledged her right to her beliefs and to protest our presence. And we shared with her, and Mary, and Chuck and Adam, the gospel, how God compelled us to come to this event, and to every other event where large groups gathered, to share the message of everlasting life through Christ, and Him alone.

As the parade came to an end and the crowds broke up, the wind finally snatched Shelley’s sign and blew it across the street. I thanked her for her conversation, and discovered where her business was.

“Don’t boycott me,” she said with a smile, as she and Mary walked away. Marcos offered them each a gospel tract, and each of them politely accepted one. So did Chuck and Adam, and we shared a brief moment with them.

We left exhausted at the experience, but alive with the grace of our great God and Savior, and His faithfulness to shelter us and provide us an opportunity to engage four souls with the gospel. I had contemplated preaching on the street afterward, but the cross had done all the talking that morning.

I came away with an insight: sometimes, Dale Carnegie’s techniques are more effective than coming across like Schwarzenegger. Not every encounter with the gospel requires “going to guns.” Solomon wrote, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) And in the spiritually dark and oppressive bondage that Pridefest celebrates, the light of Christ shines brightest and a wooden cross is a more powerful message than any sermon.

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Responses

  1. Great post, thanks for the report.


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