". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


5 Ways to Be Salt and Light during Pride Month

June 12, 2024

As gratifying as it is to see big corporations and sports leagues back off Pride Month, there are plenty of other ways Christians can — and should — be engaging the world this June. Pushing back on the tidal wave of rainbows, parades, and retail activism is important, but it’s just a piece of our broader calling. There’s also a very real human component to this debate that we need to navigate together if we’re ever going to see the deep cultural change that so many of us hope for.

On the “Outstanding” podcast, Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm talked to two incredibly courageous people who’ve walked away from the lifestyles society wants us to celebrate. Theirs is a story of redemption, of freedom from the grip of horrible bondage. But it’s also a roadmap for how the church can engage a hurting and defiant community from a position of understanding, compassion, and love.

Now a happily married mom, Rosaria Butterfield spent 10 years as a practicing lesbian and 20 as an LGBT activist. Walt Heyer surgically transitioned to live as a woman for eight years before embracing his true identity and marrying his longtime wife. Together, they offer important wisdom on how Christians should approach Pride Month on a more personal level.

1. Recognize that Pride masks much deeper pain.

It’s important to know that most people who identify as gay or transgender have been traumatized in one way or another, Rosaria insisted. A large percentage of these men and women have been sexually abused and are operating out of a place of deep wounding. Walt remembers falling for the lie that changing his body would help him after he was molested, “because I didn’t have a good trauma therapist. I didn’t know I was supposed to go to trauma therapy. I didn’t know that being sexually abused was going to harm me.” He estimates that 70-80% of the people who reach out to him about changing their sex have somehow been sexually abused like he was.

“We’re dealing with people who’ve suffered crimes, [and] nobody ever gets punished for these crimes, because a lot of times, it’s their family members or their friends or somebody they know. But nobody’s getting treatment for being sexually abused either — and they end up taking hormones and [having] surgery because they want to get rid of the pain.”

“My heart goes out to them,” Walt wanted people to know. “ …I see their lives as really broken,” because he himself has walked that path. “I was an alcoholic [too] … but I was trying to kill pain. And everybody that I knew was trying to kill the pain.”

Even the flagrant, openly rebellious, in-your-face crowds at these Pride celebrations are operating out of fear that “if they don’t keep reinforcing this idea that they’re fine just the way they are, they’ll probably crumble,” Walt said. They’re living “in spiritual darkness.” Some may be at war with God, and others are genuinely struggling with their identity, but by and large, they’ve all been hurt.

What should we do about that, Rosaria asked? “Should we pretend that people who have been traumatized just need stickers and parades? [Should they] simply be encouraged to re-enact the scene of their trauma out in the public square for the rest of us — or should we try to get them some help?”

Think about how we handle other physical and emotional problems in society. “You would never take an anorexic girl and say, ‘Well, I just think you need a sticker and a parade and maybe some liposuction and you’ll feel better.’ That would be considered barbaric. And yet we do the very same thing with the [LGBT community]. … And so the question is, why are Christians participating in the barbarism of Rome? It makes no sense. It is cowardly, it is spineless, and it is sinful. And it will be a sin that will be on the ledger of the Christian church as this literal parade marches forward.”

As everyone of us should know by now, Rosaria pointed out, this is “not just a recognition of ‘sexual diversity.’” LGBT Pride “is the reigning idol of our day,” she argued, “and idols demand religious worship.” At some point, we have to answer the question: Should Christians worship idols? “And the answer is no. In fact, what you have to do is destroy idols.”

2. Accept that you can’t fix someone, only Jesus can.

Over the past several decades, thousands of people have reached out to Walt after trying — and failing — to find happiness and fulfillment in another identity. Those are the “strugglers,” he says. “They struggled because of something that happened to them. And in all fairness, I don’t think they were deliberately living in defiance of God. They just didn’t know how to be embraced by God.”

These are ones who didn’t start out life saying, “I’m going to hate God.” They had horrible things happen to them, and they need to understand that “every single life out there can be redeemed.” But at the end of the day, “they themselves have to come to that place where they say, ‘I was broken by what happened to me.’ Every one of those people that is celebrating Pride …. has a story.”

As Joseph pointed out, the church should know better than anyone that this is ultimately a spiritual war. “And ultimately, we’re dealing with Satan, who is at war with God and his created order.” So it’s not coincidental that “the end result of all of these various paths of rebellion leads to no more babies, no more children, because that’s one thing that God created us to do and wants [because] it glorifies him.” Jesus is the solution to that, he urged, “not the embrace of the ideology.”

That’s the biggest thing Walt has learned working with people. “You can’t fix anybody. But your voice and your life can show other people how they can be redeemed and restored through Jesus. Because Jesus does it. He’s just using my life to help people.”

3. Live your own life joyfully and purposefully.

Speaking the truth in love is important, but our lives also need to reflect the evidence of it, Joseph emphasized. “If we’re proposing a better path — yet we live joyless, purposeless lives — people are not going to see that as something desirable,” he pointed out. “But if the life that we allow God to create in us and for us through submission to Him really does reflect the fruit of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering … that will be its own kind of argument that will lend credibility to the words that we speak when we try to tell somebody, ‘Hey, that’s not God’s plan for your life.’ And if you’re not living something that’s obviously better, they’re going to be like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’”

As Christians, we need to show an abiding joy in our own identity in Christ. That’s what attracts the outside world.

4. Reach out one-on-one.

If the church is supposed to be upholders of virtue, Rosaria puts it, “being hospitable to your neighbors is a virtue.” But how do you apply that virtue “in a post-Obergefell world when your neighbor might not want to get to know you?” That’s definitely a challenge, she admits. But our job as believers is “to go into the darkness with light,” and yet these days, too many Christians seem to have a “let’s-get-in-the-bunker-now approach.” It’s time for the grown-ups to enter the room and remind everyone: Christians aren’t supposed to be in the bunker. “We need to get out. And how do we get out? Well, we take the gospel literally to the streets,” she urges.

Have a cup of coffee with someone, Walt encourages. “I think you have to break them out and sit them down one-on-one and begin to reflect. And that’s what I’ve done when I have that opportunity. [It’s a] good practice [to] sit down and listen to them.”

Or get even more radical, Rosaria suggests. “You can invite them over to dinner — and you want to know something? They might just come. And that’s where you get to say, ‘Friend, the gospel promises you grace on earth and glory for eternity.’ Sometimes with the folks who have mutilated themselves through transgender activism, they really need to hear that glory is even better than grace. And they need to hear that in the New Jerusalem there is no mocking of God or mutilating of the body which God does love. He gave you a body for a reason.”

It’s about having relationships with people, she says. And the thing about neighborly friendships, Rosaria explained, is this: “If I have a strong relationship with someone, I can have strong words. I’m not disappearing. They’re not disappearing.” But remember, she continued, this isn’t about a debate on social media or in public. “These are private [conversations].” When it comes to unbelievers, “go into the darkness and bring people into the light.”

5. Be prepared to be rejected.

This is a movement that, by and large, is at “war with God,” Walt underscores. “It’s a group that lives in defiance of God.” The whole point of June is “showing their distaste for everything the church is about. … We’ve got people who live in sexual darkness [who] don’t want anybody interfering. ... Certainly they don’t want the church saying that it’s sinful.”

In other words, this is a tough crowd. “And we need to endure being spit on and sworn at and yelled at,” Rosaria added.

Walt gets plenty of hate mail. But he always responds, even to really challenging messages. He’ll say something like, “I understand that you don’t agree with me, and that’s perfectly fine. Someday you probably will agree with me, and then we can have a conversation. But for now, I don’t buy into all of the agitation that they’re trying to throw my way.” He persists in telling people that God loves them. Honestly, he thinks, “They’re afraid they’re actually going to find Jesus and their life is going to be redeemed and restored.” Yet even in some of the more heated exchanges, people will eventually write, “We got off on the wrong foot, man. I think you’re a pretty cool dude. Do you think we can be friends?”

Other times, it doesn’t end so neatly. But, as Rosaria tells people, “Don’t be afraid to be mocked. Do you not think your Lord was mocked?”

Unfortunately, she laments, some evangelicals have “bought the paradigm that gay rights activists gave to them, and they’re playing out that role. And this is where actual, real Christians — like the kind who want to go to heaven and the kind who want to actually [help and] save people from corruption and sin and hell — [need] to say, ‘We’re not in this play. We have a gospel message.’”

The surest way to make a difference is to be different. “Christians have to stop being cowards,” Rosaria insists. “[And] it’s cowardly to support things you know are just so wrong. So find your backbone, find your Bible, and get out there in the public sphere. The Great Commission … is to proclaim the gospel to the nations.”

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.