Sharing the Faith at a Gay-Pride Parade

August 21, 2014 | 18 comments

Protesters at the Pride Parade

Last month I was going for a jog in Balboa Park here in downtown San Diego when I noticed the park was more crowded than usual. I headed toward the sounds of music and noticed more and more rainbow flags as I neared Cabrillo Bridge. “Maybe, just once,” I thought, “this will be a festival celebrating God’s covenant with Noah!”

Not so much.

It was San Diego’s 40th annual “Gay Pride Parade,” which this year boasted 300,000 participants who marched through San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood (known for its LGBT flair) to Balboa Park for a concert.

The participants were joyful and carefree—until they walked by a group of Christians protesting their event. The Christians, who I assume were conservative Evangelicals, held signs that said things like, “Jesus is the only way to salvation” and “Love is self-giving.”

They weren’t doing anything I considered offensive or outrageous, but I also thought their approach would not be very effective—and I was right.

An unexpected springboard

As the Christians preached through bullhorns, most of the LGBT festival-goers walked by laughing or saying things like, “You know you’re probably gay!” or “God is love!” They also said a lot of other things I can’t repeat without diving into indecency.

Others stopped to yell at the Christians or even just plead with them. One woman said, “There are real sinners down at the county jail. Why aren’t you there?” The Christian responded, “I go to the jail all the time. Lots of Christians do that, too. I’m here today to help you people.”

As the police stood warily nearby, I watched and observed alongside the festival attendees, getting a feel for the whole situation.

Suddenly I had a flashback.

Deja vu all over again

After college I used to travel the country with a pro-life group named Justice for All. We would setup exhibits with large pictures of unborn children before and after abortion and talk with college students about the pro-life worldview.

During those outreaches I would sometimes walk around and act like a student on campus. I wouldn’t lie about who I was, but I also wouldn’t immediately say who I was with, either. I would just ask students looking at the pictures, “So what do you think of this big ugly thing?” Pretty soon we were off to the races having great conversations.

So I wandered around the pride parade asking people who were staring at “the big, ugly Christians” a simple question: “What do you think of those guys over there?” I ended up having several conversations about the Bible, same-sex morality, and faith in general.

One young man, whom I’ll call Greg, was especially memorable.

What does the Church say?

I asked him what he thought of the Christians, and we began to talk, along with his two male friends. All three of them identified as being gay, and they asked me what I was doing at the festival. I said that my wife was out of town and I decided to go on a jog through the park until . . .

“Until the gays showed up!” one of the young men interjected.

“Something like that,” I said.

I explained that I worked for an organization called Catholic Answers and that my job is to explain and defend the Catholic Faith. One of them then asked, “So what does the Church say about me being gay?”

I was nervous but also felt the Holy Spirit giving me the right words and tone.

“Well, the Church makes a distinction between someone’s desires and someone’s actions. We can’t control our desires, and so they shouldn’t be central to our identity. You also can’t say someone is sinning just because they have certain desires because, like I said, you can’t control them. I wouldn’t say that I’m straight or that you’re gay, but that you and I are men made in God’s image with different desires for sexual intimacy.”

Wrong even for straight people

They nodded, so I continued.

“So our desires don’t define us, and they don’t condemn us. But our actions do define us, and we can be held accountable for them. Or, as Batman would say (switch to guttural Batman voice), “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

We shared a laugh.

“It’s actions, not desires. This is important, because the Church teaches that we shouldn’t use sex for a purpose it wasn’t intended for. That means it’s wrong for anyone to engage in same-sex behavior, even if they’re straight.”

They raised their eyebrows at the unexpectedness of what I said, and I went on.

What is sex for?

"For example, if a straight guy has been in prison for a long time and he just wants sexual release, he might have sex with a man, even though he says he’s not gay. But that would be wrong, because sex isn’t just for satisfying your urges. For me, the big question I ask when I think about tough issues like same-sex attraction is: What is sex for?”

To my surprise, one of the young men said, “Procreation?”

My eyes lit up.

“Yes! I mean, that’s not the whole reason, but for me it makes sense to say that sex is ordered towards making babies and uniting men and women for their good and the good of any babies they might create. That’s also why as a Catholic I’m against contraception, because it goes against what sex is for.”

Rather than be offended, the three young men pondered what I said and seemed to appreciate the reasonableness of it, as well as the fact that I didn’t just quote a Bible verse and rest my case.

A pebble in the shoe

We talked a bit more, and then Greg and I talked one-on-one for a while. We discussed his religious background and his decision to leave the Mormon Church (which was motivated by his same-sex attraction but also by critical examination of the Book of Mormon).

As our conversation came to a close, I encouraged him to visit the website of Courage, which I described as a nonjudgmental ministry that helps Catholics who have same-sex attraction lead chaste lives. I said, “They really try to meet people where they're at. They're not about 'praying the gay away.'” Greg said he was relieved they weren’t “like that” and said he’d check them out.

We parted ways, and I walked back to Balboa Park across the Cabrillo Bridge, remembering that conversion happens slowly, bit by bit. Sometimes the best we can do is plant a “pebble in their shoe” or a thought in the mind that will roll around until the person has an “epiphany moment.”

As I walked I also thought about how amazing it would be to take two dozen Catholics, well-formed in their Faith and trained to engage people in civil and compassionate dialogue, to an event like this. It would be a time to not try to win arguments but to win people and show that, even if we disagree about sexual ethics, we can still treat each other with respect and kindness.

Maybe next year . . .


After his conversion to the Catholic faith, Trent Horn pursued an undergraduate degree in history from Arizona State University.  He then earned a graduate degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy from Holy Apostles College....

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Katrisha Villarante - Vancouver, British Columbia

Hi Trent!

That's awesome. Have you heard of Catholic Voices? It's more media related and voices (media trained catholics) wouldn't attend a Gay Pride Parade to strike up conversations.

However, if you don't already know about it, I think you'd be interested in knowing it exists.

http://www.catholicvoices.org.uk/

Cheers,
KV

August 21, 2014 at 12:59 pm PST
#2  Joseph Bobek - Hollis, New Hampshire

Trent, it always amazes me how you can speak so extemporaneously! I wish everyone I know could speak to someone like you :). Keep up the great work!

August 21, 2014 at 1:11 pm PST
#3  Tanner Brooker - Keswick, Virginia

Trent, I'm 17 years old and am currently in the process of converting to the Catholic Church from Methodism. Your young conversion and dedication to the faith is extremely inspiring to me, particularly in the areas of morality because as most teenagers do I struggle with it sometimes and am constantly put down in classes like sociology because of my respectful opposition to same-sex marriage.

August 21, 2014 at 2:41 pm PST
#4  Daniel Marcum - Mansfield, Ohio

Trent,

I am a young Catholic man who has been trained in having civil and compassionate dialog through a training program that is probably similar to the one Justice For All used: I was trained with the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, which is a nearly identical group.

If you ever do create a group to do what you did at that pride festival, or something similar, I would love to do what I can to support it.

August 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm PST
#5  Mary Jean Nelson - Kennesaw, Georgia

Excellent approach! A caveat on your comment "I wouldn’t say that I’m straight or that you’re gay, but that you and I are men made in God’s image with different desires for sexual intimacy." I sometimes think that our over-sexualized culture puts needless pressure on young people to assume that strong feelings of attraction toward another person (of either sex) must necessarily be sexual in nature. God certainly gives each person a distinct way of seeking intimacy and distinct tastes in that regard, but interpreting such feelings as sexual (and assuming God is cool with that which he probably isn't?) may get in the way of the cultivation of close, non-sexual friendships, which would be a shame.

August 22, 2014 at 3:46 am PST
#6  Dan Madsen - Benalmadena, Malaga

Hi Trent

I am not a Catholic but I really appreciate, many of the answers and the knowledge I gain here on CA. I have a question. I have seen surveys that point to a very bad quality of life, reported by people choosing celibacy as a means of coping with Homoseksuality. what is your response to that?

August 22, 2014 at 5:13 am PST
#7  Matthew Cacciatore - Chandler, Arizona

Thanks for what you do Trent. I always try to pray for people that define their entire life as "gay". I know science cannot prove if a person is born "gay", but with my experience in life it seems to me that most people who say they are gay, are in some type of trial, or in rebellion from a problem in youth. They find comfort in the gay community, as it is so large now in the world, especially in the States. Growing up, I never, ever, knew of a gay person in grade school, all the way up to High School. Now days, children are so blazing obvious to show off that they are gay. A lot of it comes from media, what they watch on TV. There are so many TV shows (I won't name them) that glorify the gay lifestyle. Kids today think it is just normal, but it's not.

Thanks for all you do Trent.

August 22, 2014 at 6:49 am PST
#8  AJ Boggs - Buena Vista, Virginia

Dan Madsen:

Not stepping in for Trent in any way, but I would like to answer your question nonetheless; first of all, I am dubious of surveys aimed at homosexual celibacy because many of them are conducted by homosexuals who are hostile towards the idea of them not having sex, which means they choose unhappy examples to be a part of the survey. I recommend reading the testimonies of the celibate homosexuals at the link Trent provided, courage.org . They say that celibacy is the greatest aspect of their lives and crosses. These people are exemplary; not the many people who are unwilling to make sacrifices, whose desire for selfish pleasure in non-procreative sex is too strong.

August 22, 2014 at 7:41 am PST
#9  A L - Montreal, Quebec

this really works when both party decide to respectfully talk to each other. I just have a question: let's suppose that in your extended family there are some gay couples whom are very open about their relationship and that feel there is no need to be discreet about it.
how would you present these couples to your children and how would you explain their relationship to them. As I said these couples would not in any way decide to be more discreet in front of your children.

August 22, 2014 at 11:09 am PST
#10  Patrick Rees - Brookville, Indiana

Courage website is couragerc.org Also check out everlastinghills.org

August 23, 2014 at 6:03 am PST
#11  Michael Rogala - Chicago, Illinois

All of Rome sleep well at night knowing someone like Trent is defending the Faith. We are humbled by his erudition, the breadth of his experience and knowledge, his degree in History that serves him and the Catholics panting for the living water of his words. Heaven, indeed rejoices, and so does God that Trent is on HIS side.

August 23, 2014 at 3:06 pm PST
#12  david socha - newhall, California

Brilliant....All are welcome to the table...and you made them feel that way.

August 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm PST
#13  Pat Johnson - New Bern, North Carolina

GREAT article Trent. I try to include in my discussions of this topic the point that those of us who are single are also called to be celibate. We are JUST as accountable for our behavior in spite of what secular culture tells us. Those who are married also have strong restrictions on their expression of their sexual desires (no adultery).

August 24, 2014 at 5:32 am PST
#14  Pat Johnson - New Bern, North Carolina

Sorry. I meant to say that as a single Catholic I am required to be "chaste" (abstaining from sexual intercourse) not "celibate" (abstaining from marriage).

August 24, 2014 at 5:40 am PST
#15  kennedy maina - nairobi, Central

very encouraging..

August 28, 2014 at 2:57 am PST
#16  Dick Martin - Frazeysburg, Ohio

Lets see what God has to say.
Ephesians 2:1-3
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. We All were Born ; because of Adam's sin; His Nature ( God the Father's Nature) was changed. Thus all inherited The SINFUL NATURE from our New Father-" Satan". This is rooted in the homosexual statement , " I was born like this". This is the reason Jesus said; " you must be born again". When you become Born Again the above scripture can be applied to you. It's not Adam's sin that you inherit but your father's NATURE. You feel comfortable Sinning. It's Hard to please God if you have the wrong Nature. When you become Born Again it's easy to please God; and it hard to Sin. You do what comes naturally .
Romans 6:22-23
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

September 9, 2014 at 8:00 am PST
#17  Philip Paradi - Göteborg, Västra Götaland

I just don't understand why it's important to spread faith. Isn't it enough that you yourself belive?
And as far as sex, should we all feel sinful for enjoying sex? Especially when there is NO chance of making babies, as in foreplay and such.
I don't think anyone has ever NOT enjoyed consentual sex. If god created us, why makes us feel ashame of our urges and subdue our natural instincts our whole lives? It sometimes seem that it isn't worth It.
I'm young, enjoy sex and don't want babies. Which probably isn't that uncommon. Should we be excluded from the faith?

October 13, 2014 at 1:54 am PST
#18  Maryrose Pokorny - Colorado Springs, Colorado

Hi Philip! I wanted to take a crack at your questions--they're pretty big and there's not much room here, but I still think they're really important.
First, you asked why it's important to spread the faith. Well, as Catholic Christians we believe that the human race has been given a great gift: the opportunity to become sons and daughters of God through his son, Jesus Christ. Since this gift has been offered to everybody, we are compelled to share it with as many people as we encounter in our lifetimes. We do this three ways: first, by example, loving people wherever they'e at; second, by praying for ourselves and our world; and third, by teaching and sharing the faith with everyone we meet. When we do these things, we believe we are doing what Christ told us to do when he said "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20, New International Version).
Your second question was "should we all feel sinful for enjoying sex?" The answer to this is a great big NOOOOOOO! Of course you should enjoy sex! Sex is a good thing! However, this does come with some caveats: The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in paragraphs 372-373 that the sexual act is only to be enjoyed within the context of marriage between a man and a woman with an openness to the possibility of conception. This is confirmed by Christ in Matthew 19:4-9 (also from the NIV). You shouldn't feel ashamed of the desire for sex--it's part of your nature, biologically and spiritually. Shame only comes into the picture if you engage in sexual behavior that is sinful.
At the end of your post, you said something interesting: "I'm young, enjoy sex, and don't want babies." You're young--that's great, so am I, and I'm told we're at the time of our lives--and you enjoy sex--no surprise there, most people do--but you don't want babies? That last attitude doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because you said you like sex. Well, sex comes with babies. Not to be rude, but intercourse results in fertilization which results in conception. In nature anyway, it's a package deal.

October 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm PST

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