Editor’s Note: Published on TownHall.com on October 25th, 2010.
This past Wednesday, October 20, millions of Americans wore purple to show their support for GLBT youth in what has now been dubbed “Spirit Day.” Helping to spread the word was Facebook, which recently announced its determination to work against cyber bullying with the help of a number of prominent gay activist organizations.
This is surely an opportune time to listen, learn, and act. How many more young lives must be lost before we take a stand? The question is, Are we taking the right stand? Put another way, Is it possible to be caring, compassionate, and concerned while choosing not to wear purple and join the Spirit Day bandwagon?
Statistics tell us that between four and five thousand teenagers commit suicide each year in America. This works out to between 80 and 100 youngsters taking their lives every week, an absolutely jarring number. Why aren’t we hearing about the rest of these stories?
By all means, we should know about the kids who took their lives over gay-related issues, but why is it only deemed newsworthy when LGBT kids cut their precious lives short? What about kids who were bullied for other reasons, ultimately killing themselves? Don’t their stories merit attention as well? Isn’t the life of a straight teenager just as valuable as the life of a gay teenager?
But there’s something else that is amiss in the current calls to reduce or eradicate the bullying of kids who are gay (or, are perceived to be gay), and it is this: Our message should be “Bullying is bad” rather than “Gay is good.” In other words, our schools do not need to nurture homosexuality (or transgenderism); they need to discourage bullying and cruelty.
We know that kids are picked on when they are perceived to be weak or different, often because of appearance. Some of you remember being cruelly taunted because you were overweight as a kid, and such taunting of fat children continues to this day. Should we then design an “Obesity is good” curriculum? Surely, first lady Michelle Obama would demur.
Some kids are bullied because they have ADHD and struggle to fit in socially. Others are harassed because of a physical defect or abnormality. Others suffer because they are exceptionally smart, making their peers jealous. In each case, the solution is the same: We must teach our children that bullying is always wrong, and there must be penalties for wrong behavior.
The focus should not be on obesity or ADHD or a physical abnormality. The focus should be on discouraging wrong behavior – how would you feel if someone treated you like that? – and on teaching our children that every kid is special, also addressing the insecurities and struggles of the bullies.
When it comes, however, to the mistreatment of kids who identify as gay (or are perceived to be gay), it is different. We must teach that gay is OK. We must encourage preteens in middle school to discover their true sexual orientation, providing Gay Straight Alliances where they can “come out” to their peers without parental notification. We must even allow a boy who identifies as transgender to come to school wearing a dress, giving him access to the girls’ bathroom and locker room. (This is official school policy in San Francisco.)
Yes, if we want to stop the spate of gay-related suicides, this is the action we must take – or is it? The truth be told, not only have some groups politicized the deaths of these young people, they are also sending the wrong message. That is to say, if it is wrong to bully gay kids because gay is OK, what if gay is not OK? Is bullying of gays no longer wrong?
Gay activist educators should also ask themselves if, by encouraging kids to “come out” at earlier and earlier ages, they are adding to the social confusion of young people, perhaps even leading to more mistreatment at the hands of their schoolmates. We have even missed the main point of the tragic suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, namely that cyber-invasion of privacy is nothing less than criminal. (Rutgers, it should be noted, is well-known as a gay-friendly campus.)
To be sure, this is a teachable moment in America, but we are teaching the wrong lessons, also focusing on one bullied group to the neglect of the rest. So, rather than making our message “Gay is good,” let’s make our message “Bullying is bad.” And rather than launching a crusade against those who do not want to promote homosexuality in our schools (or, wear purple on Spirit Day), let’s join together to fight against cruelty and hatred, determining to treat all people with kindness and respect, thereby modeling this behavior for our children. Can anyone call this a bigoted proposal?
Posted in News, Sexuality & Gender Tagged with: anti-bullying, gay activism, glbt youth, same-sex attraction, schools, spirit day
On February 25th, I was invited to represent Voice of Revolution at a gay activist event at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte by Q-Notes editor and homosexual activist, Matt Comer. The event featured a lecture from author, businessman, and Faith in America founder Mitchell Gold on his book CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America (I later found out via Matt Comer’s blog InterstateQ that Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer had approved my invitation).
Gold delivered a heartfelt and stirring account of the difficult upbringing he and others had endured “growing up gay in America.” With a clearly pained heart, yet determined spirit, he recounted his own suicidal thoughts in middle school, how one young man he’d met dealt with his same-sex attraction by taking a razor blade to his chest to spell out the word “fag” in blood in order to “expel the demons,” (a technique which evidently his religiously based “ex-gay” counselor advised he continue), and how one woman completely cut off interaction with her lesbian daughter at the advice of her pastor, resulting in her daughter committing suicide.
Events such as these are indeed regrettable, and we need to take stories like these seriously as we examine how we as followers of Jesus deal with same-sex attracted youth. What are we to make however of Gold’s approach to parenting these youth when during the question and answer period following his lecture, he advised a high school teacher that she tell her students not to tell their parents they are same-sex attracted lest they bring them to (shudder)… an ex-gay ministry? That he desires to see parents of struggling teenagers closed out of the loop until they meet his approval as “gay-allies” is startling. Is this the face of mainstream gay leadership?
The biggest takeaway from the event however was Gold’s exhortation to the LGBT community to address the “big pink elephant in the room,” namely “the sin issue.” Gold is correct in stating that this is the core of the matter. If a person’s religion or belief system describes homosexual sex as a sin, then clearly this will affect how that person views homosexuality, and will indeed forbid that person from celebrating or accepting it in others. The question then is, since Gold and other LGBT activists want to destroy the idea that homosexual sex is a sin, how will they go about it? Will they come against those of us that hold to this belief, and tell us our faith is wrong in this regard? Or will they attempt to redefine our beliefs, so that it will appear that we were actually wrong all along when we believed the Bible (or other religious texts) taught that homosexuality was a sin? The first approach I can handle, the second however is where things start to get murky.
Which of these approaches will the LGBT movement take then? Following the event, I asked Matt Comer (who contributed a story to Gold’s Crisis book, and spoke at a follow-up event on Feb. 25th) the following:
During Thursday’s lecture, Mitchell Gold talked about the “big pink elephant in the room” that no one is talking about with regard to growing up gay in America, namely “the sin issue.” What do you believe is the best approach to deal with the belief in many religions and denominations that homosexuality is a sin? Do you intend to come against these religious beliefs, declaring that those that hold these beliefs are wrong in this area? Or do you intend to alter the religious beliefs so that they embrace homosexuality, regardless of what their sacred texts or traditions teach?
To which he responded:
When Mitchell Gold spoke of the “big pink elephant,” or the “sin issue,” he spoke of many LGBT organizations’ tendency to shy away from religious issues when engaging in debates on LGBT civil equality. The reason, I believe, is that LGBT people have experienced so much pain from religion and the church that they’d rather not address it or think of it.
Common experience shows us that those who know an LGBT person are more likely to support our civil and social equality. The reasons for this are clear: When one knows personally an LGBT person — whether it be a brother, sister, child, parent, other relative or close friend — a person is exposed to the truth: LGBT people are not the sick and sinful monsters the church has taught them we are. Rather, we are loving, dedicated members of our families and healthy, contributing members of our local communities.
All religion, and Christianity itself, is not monolithic. There is not one interpretation of Scripture or other religious texts. And, while we might disagree over theology or doctrine, we can all agree that no child should be harmed by those who love him. The truth is, anti-LGBT religion-based bigotry and prejudice causes damage in the lives of youth. Like other youth faced with loneliness and despair, LGBT youth fall victim to depression and mental illness or turn to drug abuse and suicide to solve their problems. Unfortunately, the rate at which LGBT youth fall victim to unhealthy behaviors is far higher than that of their heterosexual peers. Perhaps it is because LGBT youth often have nowhere — nowhere at all — to turn when they feel as though their families, friends, schools and school officials, faith communities and communities-at-large will not love them or accept them?
You asked me if it was my intent to “alter the religious beliefs so that they embrace homosexuality, regardless of what their sacred texts or traditions teach.” I challenge you to take a deeper look into Scripture, to come to really know God and his magnificently radical, inclusive love. I encourage you to understand and accept that one can have a relationship with God even if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. One mustn’t ignore Scripture in order to understand that God loves each and every one of God’s children, without reservation, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender-identity. One can live in peace in Christ and in fulfillment of the Gospel knowing that they are who they are as God made them, or that their loved ones are just as much a brother or sister in Christ as they. Perhaps it is the “tradition” that has betrayed God, and not LGBT people or the ones who love them?
But, to directly answer your three questions:
1. The best approach to dealing with the “sin issue” is to engage in direct, one-on-one conversations with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We all agree on at least one spiritual truth: Our God is the creator of each of us, the world around us and all in the universe, and God’s son, Jesus Christ, is our savior. With this agreement, we can have truly honest, brother-to-brother and sister-to-sister conversation, recognizing that while we disagree now, and might disagree in the future, on other areas of theology and doctrine, we are all one in Christ.
2. As much as you might believe I am engaging in sin, I believe the words and actions of those under the influence of anti-LGBT religion-based bigotry and prejudice are deathly harmful, both spiritually and physically, to LGBT people and especially to LGBT young people. For many, at one point including myself, these issues are matters of life and death: LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and those who come from rejecting, unaccepting families are nine times more likely to attempt suicide. As much as some might be tempted to see or frame these issues in the light of eternal salvation, these are serious issues of the physical here and now. People are dying, and the church has blood on its hands.
3. Christ taught us that there are two commandments upon which the entire law and prophecy must hang. First, that one should love God with all their heart, soul and mind. Second, that one should love their neighbor as oneself. I challenge you to take into consideration the personal stories and experiences of all the LGBT people you know, and even the stories in “CRISIS,” and ask yourself two questions: First, knowing that condemnation and rejection causes so much pain and despair in the lives of LGBT people, especially youth, do my words and actions serve to cause more pain and trauma, or are they creating a world in which LGBT young people can be healthy, loved, accepted and cherished, allowing them to grow into the fullness of their lives and live in peace with God and themselves? Second, if my words and actions are causing pain and trauma in the lives of others, am I living up to and living by Christ’s two greatest commandments?
Before I address some of Matt’s questions and exhortations (which I will do in a followup article), let’s first look at what appears to be his clearest answer to my question. Matt stated: “One mustn’t ignore Scripture in order to understand that God loves each and every one of God’s children, without reservation, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender-identity. One can live in peace in Christ and in fulfillment of the Gospel knowing that they are who they are as God made them, or that their loved ones are just as much a brother or sister in Christ as they. Perhaps it is the ‘tradition’ that has betrayed God, and not LGBT people or the ones who love them?” It seems from this statement that Matt is indeed taking the second approach, that “tradition” has betrayed God in calling homosexuality a sin. What tradition are we talking about? The tradition that God forbade even idol-worshiping pagan nations from engaging in homosexuality (as opposed to dietary laws for example, which were only for Israel)? The tradition that the Apostle Paul called followers of Jesus out of homosexuality (both male and female) numerous times in his letters? The tradition that Jesus reaffirmed male-female marriage as the divine order and clearly spoke against sexual immorality, which in a First Century Jewish context would have included homosexuality? We did not will these texts into being, and we dare not throw them away because some wrongly use them or others want them reinterpreted to suit their agenda.
Comer’s approach is directly in step with Gold’s. Consider the following statements made by Gold’s organization Faith in America, statements which they describe as “three basic truths” they’ve made their mission to propagate throughout the country:
• Religion-based bigotry and prejudice brings personal, social and spiritual pain and trauma to bear on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and that such harm is particularly oppressive to gay youth. This harm is brought to bear on gay Americans solely on the basis of sexual orientation and is most often justified and promoted by misguided religious teaching that is disguised as religious truth.
• History illustrates how in the past bigotry and prejudice disguised as religious truth has caused immense harm to people of color, women, interracial couples, religious minorities and society as a whole. The attitudes of condemnation and discrimination that once were produced by religion-based bigotry and prejudice toward minorities in the past have been rejected as wrong and morally indefensible.
• It has been established by both science and common sense that a person’s sexual orientation is an unchangeable and essential aspect of the human personality. Sexual orientation is as natural and innate as skin, eye and hair color, left- or right-handedness, and gender and therefore cannot be justified as a reason to subject a person to condemnation, discrimination and violence.
Are these really “basic truths?” Dr. Michael Brown, Director of the Coalition of Conscience, was shocked to see what they present as “truth,” responding thusly:
I don’t doubt that they believe what they’ve written, but do they really believe that by simply stating their opinions they have demonstrated their points? The reverse is actually true.
First, they make the utterly false claim that that the obvious and plain sense of the Scriptures (which always speaks against homosexual practice), not to mention God’s foundational male-female order, is “misguided religious teaching that is disguised as religious truth.” In reality, over the last forty years, no new evidence of any kind has been brought forth to change the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexual practice – not linguistically, archeologically, textually, historically, or contextually – and yet we are supposed to throw out what God’s Word states simply because our society has changed. This is exercising proper faith? It is actually working against true faith.
Second, they wrongly compare the misuse of the Bible in the past to hurt and persecute others with the right use of the Bible to uphold sexual morality and family stability. And they forget that while the Bible does, as stated, categorically condemn homosexual practice whenever it is mentioned, the Bible never says a negative word about people of color (some of whom apparently played an important role in biblical history), and it has much good to say about women and their role in the Church and the society. Where then is the comparison?
Third, they claim that “both science and common sense” establish the innateness and immutability of “a person’s sexual orientation,” whereas science has absolutely not determined that anyone is born gay and many of us personally know former-homosexuals (with science confirming their existence as well). Moreover, the whole argument that alleged innateness and immutability somehow justify behavior breaks down the moment we mention the forbidden subject of pedophilia, since the pedophile makes the identical claim about being born that way and being unable to change. To be perfectly clear, I’m not equating pedophilia with homosexuality. But I am pointing out the obvious: If we are to accept the one behavior based solely on alleged innateness and immutability, then how can we reject the other behavior, based solely on that same criteria?
And to think: Those making these self-evidently flimsy and false arguments are doing so in the name of true religion, branding those holding to the words of Scripture as misguided bigots. If ever light was being called darkness and darkness called light, it is here.
We welcome Gold, Comer, and the LGBT movement’s desire to address the “big pink elephant in the room.” We are hopeful the attention will work to refine our motives and sensitize us to the struggles of so many. We cannot change truth however. God really does have a better way.
Note: Given the breadth of Comer’s response, I’ll look at the bulk of his points in a followup article dedicated to that purpose.
Posted in News, Sexuality & Gender Tagged with: Crisis Book, Dr. Michael Brown, gay agenda, homosexuality, Matt Comer, Mitchell Gold, same-sex attraction, youth