It’s time to celebrate the right kind of pride

July 11, 2014 

Gene Robinson, former Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, described what Pride Week events mean to the GLBTQ community: “Gay pride parades are gatherings of the tribe .… It is a festival of joy for being created this way after centuries of being told that we are sinful, loathsome and disgusting.”

Tacoma Pride Week comes right after the Fourth of July weekend. Fireworks exploded into the sky over Commencement Bay as we joined the rest of the nation in feeling pride in our nation and for being part of this amazing evolving experiment in democracy.

We experience pride in other ways. Last month was a month of graduations. Parents, grandparents and friends felt pride at the graduates’ accomplishments. Summer is a season of many weddings. As a pastor, I see pride in a parents face as a son or daughter begins the next stage of their life.

Regionally we are still awash in Seahawk pride, and I believe the Mariners will sooner than later make the Northwest sports fan feel that regional pride again.

We have much to be proud about. I have much to be proud about: my family, community and congregation. I am proud of Tacoma.

But should I be proud? Isn’t pride one of the seven deadly sins, the most deadly of the deadly sins? It is well and good to affirm my LGBTQ friends and family and feel good about being an American but should I be proud?

On almost every list, pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins and the source of all the other deadly sins.

In Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” those guilty of the sin of pride have stone slabs placed on their necks that force them to keep their heads bowed for all eternity. Spiritually and theologically, pride is heavy stuff in Christianity and other religious traditions.

Does celebrating gay pride or national pride or Seahawk pride doom us, in Dante’s view, to an eternity of looking at my shoes with blocks of stone on our necks?

I don’t think so. I believe there are two types of pride: One is a deadly sin that leads to arrogance, lack of reverence and the breakdown of human community; the other is a sacred virtue — a healthy understanding of oneself that I think is essential to the well-being of the human spirit.

The deadly sin of pride is rooted in the ancient word “hubris” — thinking so much of yourself that you challenge the gods. Dante’s definition of this type of pride was “love of self-perverted hatred and contempt for one’s neighbor.”

The virtue of pride is different. It is grounded in recognizing human limitation while maintaining the ability to embrace the amazing wonder and beauty of one’s life and to, in the words of the poet Mary Oliver, “to celebrate our place in the family of things.”

The deadly sin of pride, hubris pride, celebrates ones nation, one’s family, one’s sports, one’s sexual identity at the expense of others, by denigrating and showing contempt for others. As a virtue, pride recognizes that others have gifts and possibilities even as we celebrate and feel good about our gifts and our possibilities.

The sin of pride is still deadly. Forgetting human limits threatens the well-being of the planet. Having contempt for the neighbor in order to love oneself destroys human community.

Yet there is another pride: pride that is a virtue, pride that celebrates the gift of one’s life not by pretending to be more than we are or putting others down so we can feel good but a pride that comes from knowing and embracing our place in the family of things as children of God, a little below the angels.

I celebrate that type of pride with my LGBTQ friends this week. I celebrated that type of pride in America last week. And I feel pride for my family, work and city most of the time.

Happy Pride Week, Tacoma

The Rev. Dave Brown is pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Tacoma.

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