Speaking in Tongues and Throwing Bricks, the Holy Spirit Is Alive at Pentecost—and at Pride

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson

Today’s post is from Bondings 2.0’s managing editor, Robert Shine, whose bio can be found here.

Today’s liturgical readings for Pentecost (Vigil Mass) on which this reflection is based can be found here. Please note that the readings for Pentecost for Mass on Sunday are different.

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Rom 8:24-25)

During this past week, I read about Target’s decision to remove Pride items from their shelves, or at least hide them in back recesses of stores. TikTok showed me the videos of anti-LGBTQ+ people dismantling Pride displays and harassing employees, actions that prompted the retail chain to pull back. I never believed rainbow capitalism would lead to queer liberation, so I feel ambivalent about this corporate dispute. Still, the news troubles me.

Pride Month begins in a few days, and the moment hardly feels celebratory. Because what troubles me right now is not really about Target or Bud Light or whichever corporation comes next. It is about the rising threat in the United States to not only our rights as LGBTQ+ people, but our lives—particularly people who are trans or nonbinary, and of these, particularly people of color. Overt violence is common, but, more common, is the “less obvious and less visible…slow motion violence of discrimination,” as the U.S. bishops wrote in a 1994 pastoral letter.

The hard-won gains of the LGBTQ+ movement in recent years are being eroded, and quickly. In their place are new laws prohibiting gender-affirming care, censoring school curricula, banning drag, and more. Today’s reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans speaks of hope. But for LGBTQ+ people and our loved ones in this historical moment, when so much is wrong, what does hope mean?

To look forward in hope, we need first to look back. For centuries, when homosexuality was pathologized and criminalized, many LGBTQ+ people existed much like Jesus’ disciples after the Resurrection—hidden away, the closet a modern version of the Upper Room. But the disciples began to preach the Good News, and Frank Kameny, one of the first LGBTQ+ advocates in the U.S., proclaimed “Gay is Good.” The respective movements began to be more visible and to grow.

Then the Holy Spirit burst forth—at Pentecost and at Pride. In Jerusalem, the disciples of Jesus spoke in tongues. At Stonewall, the friends of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera threw bricks. Common to both crowds was a divinely-inspired resistance to the oppressions that crush so many people—and a hope for a just world.

At this moment, LGBTQ+ people and allies in the U.S. find ourselves again in a time of uncertainty. Where just a few years ago the horizon of equality was coming into clearer view, that view is now much hazier and the horizon seems farther off.

St. Paul writes that we cannot hope for that which we see. Hope is about believing in the unseen. Today, far past the events of Jerusalem and Stonewall, we know what happened: Christianity flourished and the LGBTQ+ movement blossomed. But those early disciples and activists did not know what would come of their actions. They could not see what would happen. So they relied on hope.

To hope is a radical choice, not a warm feeling or fleeting emotion. To hope is to believe in God’s promise of liberation unseen, even when the evidence before us seems to prove otherwise. To hope is to join the disciples of Jesus and the rioters of Stonewall in saying “yes” to the Spirit of Justice’s movement among us.

Asked about our troubled world, a Catholic sister once said, “I’m hopeful, but not optimistic.” I, too, often lack optimism these days. But this Pentecost and Pride, I follow the disciples and activists before me in choosing to hope in the unseen. And to sustain me, I join their centuries-old call, “Come, Holy Spirit, come!”

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, May 28, 2023

3 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Well said , Robert Shine. The current angry tide of misguided righteousness reminds many of us of a certain age how swiftly the pendulum can swing backward. What if a gay person threw that Target merchandise on the floor saying it was corporate gouging of a select group of the population ? Would we agree ? The coming June Pride events could generate a new level of misdirected anger from (mostly) men who feel threatened. The original New York Stonewall uprising was in response to Police harrassment . The difference is that now, that anger has morphed into something more politically based and nurtured by a bizarre Old Testament spin. Some Pride events have been cancelled in anticipation of violence, I am reminded of San Francisco tourists who came on bus tours in the 70s to see the “queers” . Several enterprising chaps held up huge mirrors so the bus tourists could see themselves. Brilliant.

  2. Frank Dagostino
    Frank Dagostino says:

    It is indeed a scary time. However, taking a que from Our Lord and the early disciples I think, as a gay man, what the Spirit is calling me to do is to witness to the presence of Christ in my life by doing what Jesus did, “he went about doing good.” It seems small and insignificant but I truly believe in the power of kindness and unconditional love, even for those who vehemently oppose us for who we are. It is difficult not to ‘hate’ the oppressor but as Christians, who take our commitment to Jesus seriously, it is precisely this love and kindness and doing good that is the best witness of who we are. This does not negate direct political activity and even non-violent demonstrations and boycotts…but we leave hatred for the other out of the equation. Finally, but by no means least, as a Catholic Christian I truly believe in the power of prayer to change hearts and minds…..it’s not a quick fix….but I have seen so often the wonders God does thru the simple believing prayer of those who entrust themselves and needs and concerns to that Heart which loved us to the end.


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