Carl R. Trueman | Social justice demands our opposition to its celebration and symbols
A group representing Amazon marches in San Francisco’s Pride parade in 2017.Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Chiu (file)
If anybody wants to understand what is happening to the public square in America—indeed, if anyone wants to know how America, or at least her ruling class, wishes to understand itself, they need look no further than Pride Month. If the arrival of the Pilgrims, the founding of the nation, and even the contribution of Martin Luther King Jr. receive no more than 24 hours on the national calendar, the LGBTQ+ alliance has an entire month to party in the streets. And this street party is enabled by the countless commercial ventures that post rainbow flags in their windows and on their websites.
For anyone not completely hoodwinked by the erotic obsessions of our day, taking pride in one’s sexual identity—indeed, even considering sexual desire to be an identity—would seem at best pitiful and at worst a deep perversion of what it means to be human. Yet, here we are. And we should not underestimate the power of what it signifies.
It is a basic fact of history that if you control time and space, you also control the culture. The early Christians of the fourth century knew that as they slowly but surely claimed space in pagan Roman culture for churches and marked the rhythm of time with the development of the liturgical calendar. And all sides in our current political divisions know this as well. It is why debates about the naming of Columbus Day and the status of Confederate statues and the flag of the Confederacy are such contentious topics. These arguments are not just about the things themselves. They are about who owns time and space. In short, they are about who owns the culture’s memory and imagination.The Christian cause of this month should be opposing Pride Month and its flag in as public and strident a way as many have opposed racism and its symbols.
This makes Pride Month something with which no Christian should have any sympathy whatsoever. It marks the beginning of summer with a dramatic assertion of human autonomy and the sovereignty of individual desire. The rebels take over time. And with their flags and their parades they assert ownership over space—public, commercial, virtual, and even—via yards signs and symbols on social media posts—personal and private. It is not about what the state allows consenting adults to do in the privacy of their bedrooms. Far from it. Rather, June witnesses as comprehensive an attempt at cultural revolution as one is ever likely to see. And anyone who doubts this only needs to walk down M Street in Georgetown or visit Amazon.com and ask themselves what message the commercial signs in the shop windows or the rainbow banners on the website send to their children or why the assistant at the cash register at some bland clothing store still asks them if they would like to supplement their purchases with a donation to the Human Rights Campaign.
But there is a silver lining here. Pride Month does offer those Christians who are passionate about social justice a chance to reassure those of us who fear their commitment to such is always tailored to appeal to the broader tastes of the day. For if Confederate flags and statues are deemed social justice issues by many (a point with which I am sympathetic), how much more so is the rainbow flag? The use of the rainbow symbol should be particularly egregious to Christians. It is the primary instrument by which the LGBTQ+ movement asserts its ownership of the culture. And it is the means of telling those of us who dare to dissent that we should have no place in the public square anymore. It tears at God’s creation order and design for family relations and social stability. And it is also a blasphemous desecration of a sacred symbol, taking that which was intended as a sign of God’s love and faithfulness and of our dependence upon Him and turning it into an aggressive symbol of human autonomy and sexual decadence.
And so surely the Christian cause of this month should be opposing Pride Month and its flag in as public and strident a way as many have opposed racism and its symbols. Let us have many blog posts and tweets on the topic. And may we even have pointed op-eds and major articles slamming Pride by those Christians privileged enough to have access to the pages of The Atlantic and The New York Times. Social justice surely demands it. And I, for one, am looking forward to reading them all.
Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.