“It’s 1 am, honey! Can’t you turn the light off?”

“Yeah. Sure. In a minute.”

My wife, Mary, had sensibly turned in for the night an hour before. I was still sitting upright, glued to my monitor. I continued in this way for another hour. I was ogling a trove of pictures on my computer.

I had intended to spend just a few minutes formatting pictures of the Blue Ridge Pride Festival for our website. But I became engrossed.

It wasn’t the colorful costumes and pretty people. It was the churches.  Local congregations had turned out in loving force for our second annual Welcoming WNC Procession. To see them smiling and waving in picture after picture touched me deeply.

Only a few weeks before our festival, a handful of churches had made headlines in Western North Carolina when they publicly damned a Pride picnic in Hendersonville. I cannot begin to describe the corrosive impact such pronouncements have.

Like many in the LGBTQ community, I enter a church with difficulty. I flinch. My pulse races. My neck tightens. My eyes dart everywhere, watchful for stranger-danger.

It wasn’t always this way.

My Relationship With the Church

Growing up, I went to church to feel the presence of God. I felt called, in fact, to the ministry, much as my father had. My friends teasingly nicknamed me “Reverend Tom”.

Today, I couldn’t feel further from God when I enter a church. Intellectually, I know that there are some wonderfully loving churches and congregations. But, to judge by the headlines, our pulpits and pews are dominated by those who preach otherhood instead of brotherhood,

Part of the problem is our prevailing culture of communication. Hate is something to be shouted in the village square. Love, on the other hand, is something to be whispered and practiced in private. How can love hope to conquer all when we muzzle it so?

That is why I couldn’t break away from all those pictures last night. To see such a multitude of faiths and faithful joining together in a public outcry of love gives me hope. I hope that we share our brotherhood more often.