Part 2: Time to ‘Name’ What Is Ignored

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.

Much love.

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  • I can’t thank you enough for speaking out against anti-gay bullying. Thankfully, I was homeschooled, so I never had to deal with any bullying over the fact that I was gay, but from what I heard, if I had gone to the local school, it would have been horrible, maybe enough to push me over the edge (I was pretty close, even without any bullying). I can’t imagine what it was like for the gay kids that did have to go to school.

    Also, you don’t know how nice it is to hear another Christian refer to the things Jesus said about the ‘least of these’ and relate it to how LGBT people should be treated. I’ve long thought that and after hearing story after story of kids subjected anti-gay bullying, and thought that this is absolutely the type of thing Jesus would want us to speak out against.

    I feel like a large part of the Church has gone silent on this issue, because of the really bad reputation it has for being anti-gay – it’s such a touchy issue, they avoid it altogether. However, it’s been long clear that some huge social injustices face gay people, and I’m happy that Christians like you are finally starting to speak out against them. If anything could start to reverse the statistic by the Barna Institute of 92% of youth thinking the Church is anti-gay, it would be a significant stand by the Church against anti-gay bullying. Continued silence will do nothing but make things worse. The Church has enough influence to make a significant impact here and to actually save lives. I really hope it does.

  • Adam

    I just came across this shocking survey on anti-trans bullying and thought I’d post it here:–Transgender-Students-and-the-Risk-of-Suicide.html?soid=1100409733839&aid=uKN5iQ_U6L4

    According to the article: “From our experience working with transgender people, we had prepared ourselves for high rates of suicide attempts, but we didn’t expect anything like this,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Our study participants reported attempting suicide at a rate more than 25 times the national average.” Forty-one percent of all respondents reported that they had attempted suicide, compared with a national estimated rate of 1.6 percent.”

  • I just want to thank you for all that you consistently write and do about this problem. I am barely wading into your waters, and people don’t like it. I can only imagine the amount of stress you must learn how to deal with on a continual basis. My heart gets so heavy when Christians get caught up in aspects of this debate instead of looking at the people involved. When something seems clear to you, it’s hard to understand how others can’t see it, too. Thanks for not letting the difficult part of your job stop you. What you are doing matters immensely, and you are definitely a pioneer. Thank you for continuing to clear a path for the rest of us. Some of us are following – even if it’s slowly. 🙂