This article was published in the St.Catharines Standard.
Mayor Rob Ford is breaking with a 13-year tradition of Toronto mayors marching in the Gay Pride parade. He announced he was going to the cottage for the weekend, and neither Ford, nor his staff, have explained why he doesn’t plan to attend any of the Gay Week activities.
In contrast, Premier Dalton McGuinty, a frequent Gay Pride Day marcher, writes in his letter of welcome to Pride Week: “On behalf of the Government of Ontario, I am delighted to extend warm greetings to everyone celebrating Pride Week 2011, hosted by Pride Toronto. As Ontarians, we take every opportunity to celebrate our differences and to embrace our tremendous diversity… Pride Week is a dynamic reflection of the rich, vibrant and inclusive society that we have built together.”
I am not a gay-basher. In fact I have taken some heat from fellow Christians, for being very accepting of gay people who attend the church I pastor. Yet, there is something hypocritical in all the attacks on Toronto’s mayor.
Gay rights are an established fact in society. Gratefully we live in a country where you can not be disqualified from your place of living or work because of sexual preference. But, let’s stop pretending that Gay Pride day is a solemn and politically necessary event. And while we stop the pretending, let’s also stop talking about the huge financial impact with estimates based on phantom numbers.
Politicians should have better things to do than to attend events that feature total nudity on the downtown streets of Toronto. Now, don’t think I am a prude. Some readers will know I grew up in Sweden in the late 60’s, where nudity was in vogue long before it gained any acceptance in Canada. I am not shocked. There are places in the world where nudity is culturally acceptable and I have held Gospel Campaigns in such places. No big deal.
However, in Canada, total nudity in public places is against the law, and one of the hypocrisies I am referring to is that the police just let it happen. Gay Pride Day is a big racy party, and I suppose no one is suggesting that wild parties should be outlawed. I just fail to see the need for elected officials to attend. They will better serve their constituents by taking the weekend off in order to be well rested and ready to tackle the real issues on Monday morning.
There is the argument of the financial impact from a supposed attendance by 1.2 million people, the number given by the organizers, while newspapers often use the 1 million figure. Expect it in Monday’s newspaper. No one is counting, but any non-intoxicated person realizes the actual number is only a fraction of what newspapers blindly report, unless of course we count every single person living downtown Toronto.
Imagine, if other groups in society would demand attention based on similar arguments. Think of the financial impact of church life in Toronto or any community; buildings are constructed, a myriad of community events that lift people out of drug addiction, criminality, poverty and gives them hope. Should it be mandatory that MPPs and city councilors attend church Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving to show society’s gratitude?
One prominent activist wrote regarding Ford’s non-attendance: “I say force him. Force him to do his job and represent for the city.” I say let Ford enjoy his Muskoka retreat and hopefully McGuinty and other politicians will learn from Ford, and find something more important to do today.
Finally, a word about Christianity.
Am I suggesting that Mayor Ford is a better Christian than Premier McGuinty? Not at all. The Christian message is that everyone is invited to come to God through Jesus Christ without pre-conditions. God loves gays and straights the same. Jesus “put away the sins of the world” and is “the Savior of the world”, and that obviously includes everyone. As far as being the “better” Christian, the only good one is Jesus Christ Himself. Therein lies the genius of the Gospel; Jesus Christ comes to live with His spirit inside of people, and that’s the only hope for Ford, McGuinty and the rest of us.