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A Pride Parade (And Other Reasons I Believe in the Resurrection)

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As a young child, I believed in the resurrection of our Lord because I was told about it from the day I was born.

At home, in church, messages about it on church signs – the story was everywhere during the Easter season deep in the Bible Belt.

I believed it as a young child because I was taught to believe in it. And a child’s innocence, wonder, amazement, trust and faith are powerful, glorious, beautiful and life-affirming things, aren’t they?

I believed in it as a child because of my innocence and childlike faith; and I believe in the resurrection today because of the joy, life, energy, laughter, love and faith I see in children at University Baptist Church in Starkville, Mississippi, as well as in children everywhere.

Church Easter egg hunts overflow with signs of joy, wonder and amazement. These are resurrection things!

Maybe that is why Jesus loved children so much, and why he seemed to prefer having them around over the “adults in the room.”

Maybe that is why Jesus so harshly scolded adults for ignoring and neglecting children, and especially for crushing their spirits and sense of wonder and hope.

“Woe to you who exploit, abuse, destroy or simply ignore the beautiful life-affirming joy, wonder, innocence and trust of little children!”

I believe in the resurrection because I catch a panoramic view of it in the writings and the witness of Martin Luther King Jr., and his stubborn insistence upon nonviolence and the transforming power of love and sacrifice over hate, ignorance and death.

I believe in the resurrection because it permeates page after page of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings and letters during the Nazi nightmare – even as he was approaching his own execution at Flossenbürg.

I believe in the resurrection because I, like some of you, have life-and-death, and death-and-life, experiences as described by Quaker author Parker Palmer.

He writes boldly and honestly about the depths of his own depression, about his own suicidal tendencies and the direct contrasts with his own experiences of the sheer beauty and joys of life: “As an adult who’s experienced death-in-life three times in profound depression, and was given the gift of new life each time – I know that resurrection in THIS life is a real possibility.”

Palmer asserts that all this says more about resurrection than anyone’s statements of theology.

I believe in the resurrection because I have been privileged as a minister to be with women and men as they are dying.

I have witnessed in some of them a tremendous peace that passes all understanding – an anticipation, a joy I have heard personal accounts of their glimpses of eternal light and wonder awaiting them.

I believe in the resurrection because I witnessed it in such colorful beauty and splendor in Starkville’s first-ever Pride parade (2018).

Listen to people’s coming out stories. Listen to everyone who is willing to share their story. Each one is unique in its own way, yet there are common themes of darkness, coldness, fear, anxiety and, for many (but certainly not all), feelings of defeat and despair, extreme depression, self-hatred and suicidal thoughts (and attempts).

Listen to their stories of having one’s life, one’s self, one’s very being, pushed and shoved deep down and hidden in shame, to the point of being dead inside.

Listen to their stories of coming out, of opening the door and emerging into a new life – like Dorothy opening the door of her black-and-white, tornado-ravaged Kansas farmhouse and walking out into the majesty and wonder and all the bright colors of the land of Oz.

I have heard Christian sisters and brothers share with me how it was the Holy Spirit, the Living Christ, their faith in God, that led them out of denial and repression and fear and shame and into life as openly gay and transgender persons.

I have heard them speak of their own personal experiences of the world trying to crush, exterminate and bury the life and love within them. They’ve experienced living death inside a bodily tomb.

And I have heard them speak of how the love of God in Christ has given them new life and how nothing has ever been the same since.

U2 has a great line – a nod to the biblical story of Noah – that says, “after the flood, all the colors came out.”

All the spectacular colors of God’s rainbow were out in full display in Starkville’s Pride parade, and all the bright colors of life are out in lives all around us and in the life springing forth all around us this Easter morning.

Christian writer Anne Lamott, like so many before her, reminds us as Christians that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world.

“All of my work in the last 28 years,” Lamott writes, “has been about becoming a resurrection story – slowly, painstakingly healing from the damages of childhood in a family where the parents didn’t love each other; the damage this culture does to children who are different; how the love of God, through friends, slowly helps us be restored to the person we were born to be.”

Did you catch that? “The damage this culture does to children who are different,” and, “How the love of God … slowly helps us be restored to the person we were born to be.” (Go ahead and sing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” you know you want to.)

Lamott reminds us that in the Living Christ we are all becoming resurrection stories.

I believe in the resurrection because in my own life I continue to experience love overcoming hate, grace overcoming law, mercy overcoming condemnation, hope overcoming despair, faith overcoming cynicism, and life overcoming death.

Because of the living Christ still breathing new life into this world everywhere I look, I still believe in the resurrection.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Montgomery’s upcoming book, “A Rabbi and a Preacher Go to a Pride Parade,” coming later this spring from Smyth & Helwys Publishing.

Bert Montgomery

Bert Montgomery pastors University Baptist Church in Starkville, Mississippi, and teaches religion and sociology classes at Mississippi State University.