Over 500 followers of Jesus participated in an event known as God Has a Better Way in downtown Charlotte on July 25th, 2009. The event began at noon at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, where Dr. Michael Brown, director of the Coalition of Conscience, shared the goals and terms of involvement for the rally, described as a “Spirit-birthed response to Charlotte’s annual gay pride event.” After being required to sign their names to the terms of involvement before receiving red “God Has a Better Way” t-shirts, the group marched to the corner of Cedar St. and Trade St. for a time of worship, prayer, and preaching across the street from Pride Charlotte.
Among the news outlets covering the event was News14, which released a story that included an interview with a lesbian woman named Monica Simpson. Their article states:
One Pride Festival participant turned the tables.
“Each year, we have groups come to our pride celebrations trying to demonstrate their message of love, saying there’s a better way or we need to change who we are, and so this year I thought, what if we go to them? I think it’s time to flip the script, so to speak,” Monica Simpson said.
In the midst of the sea of red shirts stood Simpson, a yearly pride participant.
“It allowed me to see how much work still needs to be done on this earth as we really talk about the dream that god has for us to live as one and realize we are all connected as one,” she said.
What’s not recorded in the News14 story however, is that she gave this account prior to the event as the God Has a Better Way participants were on their way to their designated meeting place. Dr. Brown had this to say about what happened with Monica after the interview with News14:
She and about four of her group then came to the front of our crowd, right near the musicians, and began to worship with us. We even gave one of the ladies a jimbe to play to join in with our folks. After about an hour of prayer and worship, Monica came over to talk with me.
She explained to me that she didn’t even want to come over to our group because she had her defenses up, but what we were doing was “wonderful” and “radical love” and she “really felt God’s presence.” And she was thrilled with my expressed desire to sit down and dialogue. I have already emailed her with the hope that she and some of her church leaders will sit down together and talk.
Following a time of worship and prayer, Lou Engle of The Call led the group in a prayer of repentance for the sexual sin that has gripped the church in America, and Dr. Brown led a prayer asking for forgiveness on behalf of those in the church who have brought condemnation instead of love and hope to the homosexual community, asking God that their hearts would be filled with love and compassion instead. The rally participants gathered into small groups to intercede on behalf of friends and family who struggle with homosexual desires, and then many stayed to continue to worship and pray while others made themselves available for conversation with Pride participants by walking around the Pride event in groups of two. In addition to the main event, several small worship teams were located in other areas around Pride Charlotte, with God Has a Better Way leadership asking participants not to gather in groups larger than ten in these places to avoid disrupting the Pride event.
During the rally, a small group was gathered across the street in protest. Some of their signs included “There Is No ‘Better Way’ Than Being Human,” “Focus on Your Own Family,” and “God Is a Militant Transgender Feminist.” In an interview with the leader of this protest, the protester said that the last sign was written to:
Poke fun at the concept that there could be any better way than what is just the human way. We’re all people, and so to say that one way is any better than any other way is foolish, to say that there’s someone whose job it is to determine what that way is, is foolish.
The protest leader was confused however by the peaceful, loving event he was witnessing across the street, expecting something quite different after reading what had been said about Brown, Engle, and the people involved with God Has a Better Way in the weeks prior to the event (see the World Net Daily article Opposing rally has ‘pridefest’ fans enraged for some examples), saying:
If you compare their rhetoric to their presence … reading the publications they release, they come with a message of hate and intolerance, and the manifestation of that is clearly not violent, not aggressive.
Not knowing what publications he could have been referring to, we probed further:
VOR: Can you quickly talk about what you read that you thought was violent or
Protester: From accounts of “God Has a Better Way” demonstrations in the past,
where red-shirted individuals would scream hateful things at people or their
children, specifically about how they’re an abomination, or that they’re
less than human, or not human, [and also] the writings of several people that are part
of the organization.
One can completely understand the need to protest an organization that is doing these sorts of things year-in, year-out. But are these allegations true? Dr. Brown responds:
Everything the protester said is completely fictional. The only other time we had red-shirted individuals in the midst of a gay pride event was 2005, and they were required to conduct themselves in accordance with the same terms of involvement as the ones we handed out yesterday. Throughout the event, their conduct and speech were exemplary. In fact, their instructions were to make it their goal to be invited to someone’s house to hang out after the event as a friend.
Unfortunately, there were some quotes in the Charlotte Observer’s coverage of the event from Charlotte Pride participants (not the Observer reporter) that spoke of red-shirted protesters hitting people over the head with the Bible and telling them they were going to hell. The reality is that the story was so one-sided that the Observer invited me to write an editorial giving the other side of the story. My editorial was entitled, “Pushing the Hate Button Again,” and I pointed out how people accuse us of speaking hatefully rather than interact honestly with the things we say in a gracious spirit. (Click here to read the editorial.)
More unfortunate are the recent quotes in a wildly misleading article that appeared on the gay blog Interstate Q, where an anonymous source claims that we told the children of GLBT participants at Charlotte Pride in 2005 that their parents were going to hell, and it was this bogus report – note that it is anonymous and surfaces for the first time more than four years after the event! – that was repeated in stories on other websites, like Box Turtle Bulletin and 365Gay. Thankfully, these last two websites had the integrity to print my responses to these charges, despite our obvious differences, and Interstate Q allowed me to print comments refuting the false accusations. (Click here for the BTB article that includes my response, and here for the 365Gay article with my response).
As for the notion that the writings of several people that are part of God Has a Better Way leadership were hateful and violent, that is also 100% false and, sadly, fueled by some of the reports that were published on some of the aforementioned websites. The good news is that they are verifiably false, as opposed to the accusations and denials regarding the demeanor and speech of our participants in Charlotte Pride 2005. There’s not a syllable in anything I have ever written concerning LGBT issues that is either hateful or violent. (Of course, I am consistently branded as “hateful” for saying that, according to the Bible, homosexual practice is sinful and that I differ with many of the goals of gay activism, but by no rational definition can that be considered hateful). As for advocating violence, that is as mythical as me (or Lou Engle, another leader who participated in GBW) advocating that lambs go to battle and tear up lions with their teeth! (Just to be clear, I’m not calling GLBT’s “lions”; I’m simply exposing the absurdity of the “violent” charge.) Again, some writings having to do with spiritual warfare or the like were massively misconstrued in some recent gay articles, but Lou addressed that in a VOR interview and I addressed it in an article.
I must say, however, that some of the “violent” accusations were quite laughable, akin to the National Guard being called out because the Salvation Army was coming to town. I think readers would enjoy listening to my two-hour interview with a young gay journalist named Matt Comer where we discussed these very issues last week. (Click here to listen.) I think listeners will find it insightful that he agreed that in all the time he has known me and/or heard me speak, and in all my writings regarding GLBT issues, I have never once said or written anything that could be called hateful.
Towards the end of the event, an official statement to the media was read by Dr. Brown, followed by prayer and proclamation from Lou Engle for righteousness to be restored to the nation, and for the homosexual agenda to be carried no further, calling specifically for a “stone wall of intercession” to rise from the church concerning these issues.
During the prayer, a protester who had previously driven by the event honking and waving a “Stop Preaching Hate” sign, went across the street from the event and started shouting at the rally participants to look at her in an effort to disrupt the prayer. Intrigued by the sign, considering the love that other protesters had seen from the God Has a Better Way rally, we asked her what “hate” she had heard from the people preaching at the rally. She replied:
They’re preaching hate because they’re coming against who we are, they’re against who we are as human beings, it’s not really about gay rights, it’s about human rights, and they’re against human rights, obviously.
Thus, according to the protester, the GBW participants and leaders were “coming against who [GLBT people] are” when they say that God has a better way than homosexuality, and that this was “preaching hate.” Is this true? As mentioned in Dr. Brown’s article from 2005, the verb hate is defined as “to feel hostility or animosity toward; to detest.” Were the people at the God Has a Better Way rally hostile towards gay people? Clearly not. Were they hostile towards the ideologies and spiritual powers that propagate what they see as a “radical gay agenda”? Yes. And here-in lies much of the conflict and misunderstanding between the groups.
The event ended with GBW participants linking arms to form a “stone wall” of prayer, declaring together “IT STOPS HERE, GOD HAS A BETTER WAY!” After the event, one woman who had come to experience both Pride Charlotte and God Has a Better Way said of the latter: “I was blessed. I think everybody is loved here. This is a very moving event, that I think everybody should be a part of.”
Reports have been coming in since the event concluded that show that many Pride Charlotte attendees were quite open to and welcoming of receiving prayer from the GBW participants (whether they were in red shirts or not), and a few testimonies have been circulating of people at the Pride event coming to faith in Jesus and getting healed of physical injuries and ailments.
What significance will God Has a Better Way end up having? Dr. Brown had the following perspective: “I’ve been saying for years that God’s going to do something in Charlotte that’s going to get the attention of the nation. Believe me, this is the first salvo. By God’s grace, this is just the beginning.”
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