It’s not surprising that as we approach the GLBT World Pride in Jerusalem (August 6-12), we find increasingly critical and hostile rhetoric against the event. Jerusalem is no stranger to religious controversies, and the opposition to homosexuality is nearly universal among the major religions.
My understanding is that there are two major goals of the Pride events. The first is to provide support and encouragement for the GLBT community internally, and the second is to promote tolerance and acceptance. (Yes, I know this is an oversimplification). From the World Pride mission statement:
It is time to demonstrate to our community, to our neighbors and peers and indeed to the world, not only that we belong, but that our love and our pride can cross the harshest borders that divide people.
However, with the peaceful calls for love, pride, and belonging is an understated antagonism towards those religions which reject the GLBT community. There is no coincidence that the first World Pride event in 2000 took place in Rome with the intent to take their message “to the Pope’s doorstep.” Given all the locations worldwide where the native culture is more hospitable to the GLBT community, the initial choice of Rome and subsequent selection of Jerusalem is just as much a statement as the event itself. As the mission statement proclaims,
“In these times of intolerance and suspicion, from the home of three of the world’s great religions, we will proclaim that love knows no borders.” [emphasis added]
World Pride is not simply a matter of communal bonding or promoting tolerance, but a subliminal protest against intolerant religions. There is of course an intelligent strategy at work here. By assuming a greater challenge, the GLBT community can more effectively galvanize itself by breaking another barrier (if peaceful) or standing strong in the face of opposition.
But consider some of the stated themes of the upcoming World Pride:
- Our values are guided by tolerance, equality and pluralism.
- The parade in Jerusalem is conformed to the city’s nature in respect toward the local orthodox populations.
- The pride events bring a new inner-faith message of equality and tolerance.
- Obeying the law and avoiding violence and harsh criticism are some of our messages.
Given the underlying attitude towards religion, these statements are disingenuous at best. If the values are guided by tolerance, then a better location should have been selected. The parade obviously does not conform in respect to the Orthodox populations as evidenced by the vehement opposition. And if the theme is truly to avoid harsh criticism (unclear if it refers to giving or receiving) then why select such a volatile location?
My issue here is not questioning the right to assemble or even the right to protest GLBT’s treatment in the major religions. But I personally find it hypocritical to do so under the banner of tolerance. The choices of Rome and Jerusalem seems to be an “in your face” approach almost daring people to pick a fight. If the message is really about tolerance, then this strategy is counter-productive since the parade will most likely breed even more resentment.
I do think there can be a compromise between religion and the GLBT community, and I offered my own suggestions to that effect. But as I argued regarding pluralism, tolerance does not mean that other people must unilaterally accept you on your terms. There first has to be mutual acknowledgement and respect of each other’s beliefs and perspectives, and this would have to entail avoiding obviously antagonistic actions.
If one requests tolerance, one must be willing to give it as well.