This is Part 2 written by Kevin Harris – Director of Community Relations for The Marin Foundation. You can read Part 1 here.
Naming a problem prompts us to take ownership of it, while making it harder to ignore for ourselves and those around us. Thomas Friedman stated; “In the world of ideas, to name something is to own it.” Although he was referencing a different topic, I still feel that the general principle is applicable and can translate for our purposes in this discussion. When we take ownership of something, we are then held accountable for it and must seek to right what is wrong. I believe that part of the reason that the Christian community is hesitant to do this is because that would be a large burden to take on that would require an admission of how we have lent a hand in bringing about the current climate of homophobia. We would have to own up to our complicity in failing to act, thus being a part in fostering self-hatred, reinforcing shame, and making it more likely that another group feels like an “other” that is cast as inherently deviant by the broader Church. Our history of exclusive polices in the Church towards the LGBT community, tendencies to speak condemnation before uttering loving words of grace, and not being a place that feels like a safe refuge in general has not contributed to the emotional, mental, or spiritual health of the LGBT community in a positive way. But that does not mean that things have to remain the same.
Our kids take notice of what the adults around them are saying and they learn what to look down upon as culture is imputed down to them. So regardless of what we believe about homosexuality theologically speaking, we have to start figuring out together how we can address the issues that are leading to the bullying. We must start to let our children know that homophobic language, hurtful stereotypes, and bullying boys and girls that display some characteristics commonly associated with the opposite sex is wrong and those characteristics are not necessarily indicators of someone being LGBT. In all ways, it must be communicated that picking on and hurting those that are LGBT or perceived to be so is wrong. In the same ways, our leaders in the Church must pave the way in standing up to homophobia while striving to make the Church a safe place where those that are being bullied or hurt can be supported and loved. We must communicate God’s love for them and the deep sense of worth that they have as a result. And we must be in it for the long haul. The conversations will not always be easy, but we must be willing to plant ourselves in the middle of the constructive tension that will result and continue to persevere.
The quote “Any society, any nation, can be judged on the basis of how it treats it weakest members” seems to be supported by the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46. It tells of how Jesus will judge those when he comes back by how they treated and cared for the most vulnerable members of their society that could not care for themselves. If our children that are enduring suffering that see no other way out of their circumstances than contemplating suicide cannot be viewed as some of some of our most vulnerable members of society that Jesus identified with as the “least of these,” then I’m not sure who can.