Apparently, and according to many recent news reports, Russia is a very conservative country, with a strong commitment to traditional family values (whatever those are!). As least that is what one is led to believe thanks to recent draconian legislation that criminalizes gay pride parades and anything that is viewed as “propaganda” in support of gay and lesbian human rights.
Why is this happening?
There are many factors, of course, but I would like to give some of the “credit” to the Russian Orthodox Church. During the Communist era, the church was forced to go underground. No Communist country worth the manifesto it was established on would give much credence to religion or God. Thus the church had little or no say in the governance of the Soviet Union. Much has changed since “democracy” has come to Russia. It’s a twisted form of democracy because so much of the power of the country is held in the hands of one man—Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, Putin has allowed the church to emerge from the shadows and become a part of the fabric of everyday Russian life.
With the ascendency of the church, always looking for ways to keep people on the narrow path to God, the situation with our gay and lesbian friends in Russia has become precarious and dangerous. It is the church, after all, that has led the charge against gay and lesbian people, all around the world, based on a very narrow and false reading of the Bible. I am certain that Russian Orthodox priests are trumpeting the power of traditional family values, just like the REAL women’s organization is doing here in North America. And it is our gay and lesbian friends who suffer as a result.
What is to be done?
Well, already athletes who will be attending the Winter Olympics in Sochi are plotting ways that they might overtly and covertly support human rights for gays and lesbians in Russia. Painting fingernails in rainbow colours. Wearing rainbow pins and waving rainbow flags. Two female athletes from Russia, competing at the recent World Track and Field competition, accepted their medals and promptly kissed each other. It was a smooch tasted around the world, thanks to smart phones.
But is it enough?
Of course not! But these are responses that will be seen all around the world. And for we ordinary folk who will never reach a podium to accept a medal, our response must be equally relentless and unwavering. At every turn, we must take an opportunity to publicly state our support of our rainbow community of friends. Nothing less will do.
So with that in mind, could I invite as many of us as possible at Knox to walk in the Gay Pride Parade that is taking place in Calgary on Sunday, September 1st, beginning at noon in the downtown core. We were, after all, the first United Church in the City of Calgary to become Affirming, embracing joyfully our gay and lesbian friends and welcoming them into all aspects of the life of our Knox community. I plan to be there, wearing my rainbow t-shirt and walking in solidarity with our gay and lesbian friends in Calgary, in Russia and around the world. I hope you will join me!
If you’d like to join Knox and other affirming Calgary churches in the Pride parade, meet us at Olympic Plaza at 11:30-ish on Sunday September 1st. You will have time to go to church first.
You can march along with us, or you can watch the colourful parade as it passes by along Stephen Avenue between Olympic Plaza and Millennium Park. Make sure you cheer us on!
More info on Calgary’s Pride Week celebrations may be found on the Pride Calgary website.