Silence & Dialogue

The ongoing Q&A series with theologian Scot McKnight will resume on April 15th.

The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.

On April 15th, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network) is sponsoring the annual Day of Silence that started back in 1996 and proceeded to spread across school campuses around the country. On the homepage for the Day of Silence, it states that on the designated day that “hundreds of thousands of students nationwide take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools”. The card that will be handed out by students participating in this day is posted below.

In response to this event, Focus on the Family (FOTF) will be sponsoring the Day of Dialogue on April 18th. FOTF picked up the day last year after Exodus International, who spearheaded the campaign in 2010 and supported it for four years after the Alliance Defense Fund started the ‘Day of Truth’ in 2005 in response to the Day of Silence, decided to stop sponsoring the day. They decided to stop backing the campaign in light of the media attention devoted to bullying last year after a number of LGBT youth committed suicide. You can see the statement put out by Exodus International here.

On the website for the Day of Dialogue, it states that it is designed to promote dialogue and to encourage students to “express the true model presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible—who didn’t back away from speaking truth, but neither held back in pouring out His incredible, compassionate love for hurting and vulnerable people. His example calls us to stand up for those being harmed or bullied while offering the light of what God’s Word says”. The conversation cards that students will be handing out is posted below.

Along with these conversation cards, the Day of Dialogue is encouraging discussion about seven main topics over seven days including “having healthy relationships, developing a healthy identity, protecting others, experiencing God’s best for sexuality, understanding why gender is important, realizing that God cares, and having a relationship with God”.

While dialogue can be useful, we must be sure that the context and message are appropriate for the situation at hand lest we run the risk of perpetuating the existing disconnect. As you can see by the information posted above and on the website for The Day of Silence, they are focusing on bringing awareness to the issue of LGBT bullying and harassment and are communicating (with their silence that symbolizes the many voices that are silenced by such discrimination) that it needs to stop. The Day of Silence is not actively telling students to convince others that individuals are born LGBT, that that the bible blesses same-sex relationships, or that others should agree with their understanding of sexuality. But they are simply stating that it is not OK to bully someone specifically because they are LGBT and students and schools need to act appropriately to stand up to this specific type of harassment. I reiterate the purpose of the Day of Silence as it relates to their stand on a singular issue (bullying of  LGBT youth) as it appears that The Day of Dialogue is using their stand as a springboard to talk about their ideas on gender, God’s design for sexuality, etc. (see seven main areas above and on their website for more information). Even though the Day of Dialogue is being conducted specifically as a response to the Day of Silence, their opportunistic desire to dialogue about and share their beliefs is veering away from the original concerns being expressed in The Day of Silence. This could cause potential for distraction away from the primary matter at hand and there would be a greater chance to make strides in making schools safer for all youth including those that are LGBT if both groups were to focus their demonstrations on combating bullying of LGBT youth even if they differed in their respective approaches.

As it relates to the conversation cards posted above (and the broader campaign) for the Day of Dialogue when it comes to bullying, they state “I will stand up for students around me being teased, bullied or harmed for any reason”. As we saw after the cases of bullying directed towards LGBT youth and the suicides that drew national attention to the issue, it was repeated time and time again by representatives of Focus on the Family that bullying for any reason should be stood up to but it would be going too far to specifically address the bullying of LGBT youth while combating the core issues that bring it about. As I wrote about in previous posts: (Time to ‘Name’ What is Ignored Part 1 and Part 2) “This philosophy is ignoring the prevalence of LGBT bullying and is not going to address the root of the problem. We are not going to be able to get rid of homophobia if we do not actually discuss homophobia (and the fear/hatred of bisexual and transgender individuals for that matter). Can we imagine how effective it would have been to say that it didn’t matter why kids were being bullied and did not specifically talk about racism when schools were being integrated in the 60s’? If we do not address the underlying issues, they will continue to manifest themselves in forms of bullying. It is like only focusing on the symptoms while neglecting the disease that is making the person sick in the first place.”

Ideologies differ when it comes to beliefs about gender and sexuality, but if you hold a more conservative view on these topics it does not mean that you are capitulating to the beliefs of those you disagree with to simply say it is not alright to bully someone because of who they are or how they identify even if you do not agree with their world-view or way of identifying.

Please check out the Golden Rule Pledge that will be encouraging Christian students to pledge to “treat others the way they would like to be treated”.

For another piece on this topic that looks at Christians and the incarnational approach of Jesus, check out Wendy Gritter’s post here. (This post at does not reflect the views of Wendy Gritter or New Direction Ministries)

Much love.

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  • allsavedfreakband

    Marin has a tough road. LGBT, etc. don’t want him to be friends with Exodus ex-gay types and Bible bangers don’t want him to hang with sinners. He’s trying to do both. kinda admirable, dontcha think?

    but isn’t it hypocritical for Marin to (rightly) admonish evangelicals to get to know LGBT folks and calling them out on their hypocrisy while he refuses to meet with Alan Chambers publicly lest the LGBT folks consider him a Trojan (horse that is)…

    Kind of weakens his credibility when he challenges bible believers to hang with LGBT but he won’t hang with other believers whom the LGBT demonize. Doesn’t seem right!

    • Has Chambers been unsuccessfully trying to connect with Andrew and TMF?

      • allsavedfreakband


        I personally tried to broker a meeting between Andrew and Alan (and I have the emails to verify). At the time, Alan had heard through the grapevine that Andrew was trashtalking about him. I knew a close associate of Andrew’s from Willow Creek Community Church and suggested that Andrew and Alan meet face to face in order to cut through any second and third hand gossip.
        Alan was game and personally made an offer to Andrew (again I have a copy of the email). Andrew agreed but only under the condition that there was no publicity with it. Alan never wanted it to be a publicity activity, he just wanted to know what was true about what he was hearing about Alan’s views of him.
        Andrew never responded to close the deal and meet. Other staff members at Willow Creek told me personally that Andrew said in their presence that he would never meet with Alan because it would sink his ministry work. If Andrew wants to renege on saying that on the WC campus in front of WC staff members, I can bring forward their names and their recollection of what they heard Andrew say about “I’ll never meet with Alan Chambers”. I’d really like to hear Andrew address this directly and if he’s serious then see a follow through to an actual face to face with Alan Chambers.

        • Seems like a public calling out of a private matter to me. But whatever…

          • allsavedfreakband

            Interesting reply, Jon. It indicates where you are likely coming from. Private matter, really?
            I still don’t hear how telling others to meet with those they despise (Andrew telling evangelicals to meet with LGBT) jives with Andrew’s unwillingness to meet with outcasts of a different kind. In this case, Andrew won’t go near ex-gays because the LGBT community is so rabid toward them that they immediately dismiss anyone who associates with them. Since when is hypocrisy a private matter? Especially when those hypocritical actions have consequences. See new post below. But I’m guessing you could care less about my friends who were hurt by Andrew’s work. Cause if you cared about them you’d encourage Andrew to hear their pain. I hope you have people in your life that care about you.

            • allsavedfreakband: A couple quick comments and then I’m going to bed.

              I’m not sure how your friends are being hurt by TMF. Most often, Andrew and his folks are accused of being an ex-gay conduit by secular LGBT folks.

              But yes, this seems like a public challenge over a private matter. You threaten to name names but come here with a fake handle. Andrew and Alan may or may not ever meet in private or publicly. That’s up to them. There might be good reasons for one to not meet with the other. Or it might be a bunch of gossip.

              Andrew’s never come off to me as being unaffirming of ex-gay people. If the churches that you indicated before dropped their ex-gay groups, that’s them. Not TMF. If those people are members of that church, then they should go to their pastor and/or church council or equivalent governing board and ask to get the group reinstated.

              • allsavedfreakband

                Peace, Jon.
                Unfortunately, yes those members went to their church leadership but the leadership deferred to Marin. Unintended consequences…
                I am done talking about this publicly.

      • Not sure how I got brought into this. I have had conversations with Andrew and my staff has met with him in person–I couldn’t do to being out of town.

        All is well. Don’t make waves where there are none, freakband. And, hopefully no one is referring to me as a Bible banger either, 🙂 OUCH.

        • allsavedfreakband

          My bad, Alan for bringing you into my feelings and frustrations over what you know was a bad situation that is still painful. Glad you and Andrew are cool. I’m still haunted by my current friends who feel abandoned by their mega church because a consequence of Marin speaking to their pastoral leadership is they were abandoned in seeking change. I apologize to you and Andrew for stirring a pot that was apparently already resolved Mea Culpa- I’m clearly a sinner!
          And no I don’t see you as a Bible banger, I was just using the terms used in the culture wars.

          • Kevin Harris

            allsavedfreakband – I do work for The Marin Foundation and I can be reached at It sounds like Alan has already cleared this matter up, but I would like to hear about the ways that your friends felt abandoned by their church if you wouldn’t mind sending me a message to the email address I listed above. If individuals were hurt, I’d like to talk more about it along with talking to them if they would be open to that so we can at least try to make amends if they are in order along with letting those stories influence our future interactions with churches.

    • Kevin Harris

      While The Marin Foundation does not actively partner with Exodus International, Andrew has spoken with Alan Chambers before and other individuals that run in those circles. To my knowledge, there has not been a refusal on Andrew’s end to publicly meet with any leader whether more progressive or conservative as it relates to faith and sexuality. We are open to talking with and meeting other individuals in leadership in those circles along with inviting individuals that identify as ex-gay/post-gay to take part in our living in the tension gatherings or any other types of events that we put on and to become an integral part of our community.

  • Just one thought that seems to me to be lacking here.

    I understand that the Day of Silence is meant to be a move directed at awareness of bullying and seeking to end it. That’s a good thing. But when the proverbial “silence” is ended, then presumably there will be something in place of it, i.e., a statement that says, “Here I am, I am gay and I have a voice.” What will that voice be wanting to say?

    Is it so bad that the Day of Dialogue wants to give voice to students coming from both sides of the aisle? Is that not also a way of putting an end to the silence and of brokering something meaningful?

    It shouldn’t be about the war of “the days.” They should all (the Golden Rule Pledge included) point us to mutual understanding.

    • Kevin Harris

      What that ‘voice’ will have to say is secondary to the matter at hand here and I would even go so far as to say irrelevant. Even if individuals do not agree with what a voice or what certain individuals have to say, that does not change the fact that every individual (especially those who are being picked on and marginalized) should have a right to be heard and the climate that is causing harassment and pain should be challenged. The outcome is secondary to the fact that the inherent dignity of every individual should be honored.

      As it relates to dialogue, respective members of The Marin Foundation have put up post after post alluding to the importance of dialogue and we actively push for dialogue between individuals and groups coming from differing ideological viewpoints. But because I agree with you that we should be working towards mutual understanding, I do not think that dialogue as it is being used in this context to misdirect the conversation about the epidemic of bullying that LGBT youth are disproportionately on the receiving end of to conversations about God’s intention for gender, sexuality, or even sharing about the hope that comes in a relationship with God is appropriate. Yes, those are important conversations that individuals should have. But in this case they will most likely cause LGBT youth to develop only more animosity towards Christians that disagree with them as they are not only failing to raise their voices about how being bullied because of actual or perceived sexual orientation/gender identity is wrong (as they are simply making a blanket statement saying all bullying is wrong without getting to the heart of the problem), but are using the calls to end harassment as a springboard to talk about their own views on topics that are shifting the conversations away the issues initially brought forth by the LGBT youth and their allies.

      Rather than individuals in the Church talking about what they believe about God, sexuality, etc. (in this situation) we need to address and work to combat bullying of LGBT youth while acknowledging our own complicity (in our actions & silence) in the matter as their blood is on our hands to an extent.

      Now these conversations and actions should not be taken just so individuals in the LGBT community would be more open to talking about what individuals who disagree with them think about different topics as that would be manipulative, but I would be willing to guess that if individuals in the church stood up for them and owned up to their own wrongs in this matter, there would probably be a higher level of receptiveness in talking about those other topics outside of bullying.

      • Those are valid points, Kevin. Can we take a deeper look at this part of what you said:

        “But in this case they will most likely cause LGBT youth to develop only more animosity towards Christians that disagree with them as they are not only failing to raise their voices about how being bullied because of actual or perceived sexual orientation/gender identity is wrong (as they are simply making a blanket statement saying all bullying is wrong without getting to the heart of the problem. …”

        I thank a blanket statement that all bullying wrong is precisely what we do need. Students then can stand up for all those who are bullied in their schools, including LGBT peers. As it is, even you are calling LGBT bullying “the heart of the matter.” Is that not singling it out as if it were the most important form of bullying? Does that not, even inadvertently, give ammunition to those who say the issue is being politicized?

        A student who may be struggling with sexual identity but who is choosing to go in a different direction than one that seeks to have a gay identity affirmed — remember they are adolescents who are still forming their identities — also possessed that same worth and dignity. Do those kids have a voice in our schools? There is a certain level of discomfort with that viewpoint, even here.

        I believe the dialogue should be encouraged and that we should trust kids to do it right. We adults could certainly be better examples for them than we we have been.

        • Kevin Harris

          When kids kill themselves as a result of being bullied specifically for being LGBT, yes the homophobia and issues behind the bullying specifically need to be addressed. Otherwise those attitudes will remain and we will just keep saying ‘please stop bullying others for any reason’ as the underlying cause of the bullying will not be rooted out and addressed. That is a surface level solution to a problem that is much deeper ingrained in our society at large. The real problem most likely lies with the parents whom the children are probably emulating (as bigotry is more often learned by children rather than developed) or in the parents failure to address that making fun of someone for being LGBT is a problem if they learned it through some means communicated to them by society at large. As a result, we need to try to pick up the pieces where others have failed them.

          Do you think it would have stopped lynchings of African Americans in our country’s history if individuals just said ‘lynching is wrong for any reason’ every time it happened or any other racist action for that matter rather than working to combat the racist views and hatred/fear of which the lynchings and racist actions were only a manifestation? I could keep trying to express my thoughts in a different manner, but I think a majority of what I have to say is summarized in the posts I linked in this post, (Time to ‘Name’ What is Ignored parts 1 and 2) so I will leave it at that.

          Lets not imply that I or other individuals at The Marin Foundation believe that individuals that are choosing to go in another direction with their sexuality identity are not worthy of the same level of worth and dignity. If they start being harassed and it is ignored and individuals in the Church do not stick up for them, my response will be exactly the same.

          Dialogue should be encouraged, but a counter protest that is obviously reactionary in nature (as stated by the Alliance Defense Fund when they started it who then passed it on to FOTF after Exodus relinquished control) like the DOD is another thing.

          • Kevin, kids have been committing suicide for a long time, and not only for anti-gay bullying. By pointing out there are other motives for bullying, I do not in any way diminish the problem for LGBT youth. It is significant, and must be addressed.

            Yes, conservative and evangelicals need to come down off their high horses for a moment and realize they/we have contributed in some ways to the problem. But the GLBT community also needs to take a deep breath and realize that dialogue does not have to be a counter-protest. Every year on The Days, dialogue does take place whether or not people want it.

            My heart also goes out to the many kids who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts from traumas such as sexual abuse (even from teachers), which is another large elephant in the living room that is being ill addressed, if it’s addressed at all, in our schools.

            I was not planning to bring this up, but you issued a kind of challenge, so I will. Was not the Marin Foundation harassed by some gay individuals who protested when they learned that yours truly was to be interviewed (was interviewed, in fact) by you all? As folks here know, that interview did not see the light of day. I said I understood, and I do. But I think you’d be hard pressed to claim it did not constitute being ignored when other viewpoints in that interview series were aired.

            • Kevin Harris

              No, The Marin Foundation was not harassed by any gay individuals as it related to an interview with you to go along with the others that were posted on this blog. That would not have even been possible as the only other person that I even mentioned that interview to was my co-worker Nathan Albert. While I would like for more voices to be heard across the spectrum from those in the LGBT community to those in the ex-gay world as it relates to their personal stories and how they have unfolded, the desire and decision to not post the interview was completely mine as a result of looking over your prior conduct on this blog and interaction with other individuals commenting here and feeling that the best way to start telling the stories of others in the ex-gay community would probably not be to feature someone with a prominent place in those organizations like you (as featuring posts by individuals in places of leadership have a higher chance of being misconstrued as support of those beliefs whatever the side, or at least in my mind they do). I did post an interview with Richard that had chosen to pursue celibacy along with a mother that has similar views whose son came out to her (both while possibly disagreeing in some areas represented the view that you stated is being ignored in that they did not believe that God’s best for themselves or those they love is a same-sex romantic relationship), but the choice to not post the interview that you have mentioned (which I personally called you about to discuss) had nothing to do with ideology.

              My thoughts about this topic of bullying were not an attack on you, but rather me trying to just express my thoughts while asking a pointed question (about working to end harassment). Publicly trying to call me out without first sending a private email or making a call to fact check is not the best/professional way to go about matters, nor does it do anything to build trust.

              • Kevin, if it was not the specific interview that elicited a reaction, then the idea of discussing the issues from the perspective of a “former” was. You mentioned a group and even a specific name and associated them with being offended. If I misunderstood you, I apologize. I will not pursue it any farther.

                I do agree that if someone is interviewed, it should not be me. I have already said enough here. I just wish I had not been approached. I would have taken the opportunity to clear up (or at least try to) some misconceptions and broker peace. At any rate, to be invited and then uninvited is not exactly “kosher.”

                And for the record, I don’t have a prominent place in any “ex-gay” organization. I know people from across the spectrum, but I tend to feel more like I’m in No Man’s Land much of the time. When I was involved in ministry, that was through my church.

              • Kevin Harris

                I may have misspoken in mentioning a specific name as I did not mean to imply that they were offended but rather it would likely raise concerns if we decided to go ahead with the interview (as I did not mention the interview to anyone aside from one co-worker). And my wording with the ex-gay organization was off as we talked about over the phone I have the impression that you used to be in leadership in ex-gay circles in some capacity.

                I agree with you that it was not ideal to initially ask for you to do an interview and then to go ahead and not decide to not publish it in the end. You decided to answer those questions per my request and I appreciated the favor that that was, which made it all the harder after I thought and prayed about it for days before contacting you after I decided that it would not be in the best interests of either of us to go ahead with publishing the interview. For that I apologize as I never intended to hurt your feelings in that exchange. With that said, I am still not sure what this conversation in a public setting has to do with the topic of bullying at hand.

              • I wish it to go no farther, Kevin. And I accept your apology. I felt your statement about how you would view folks like me being “ignored” rather begged the question. I must have harbored a bit more hurt about it than I realized. But at least we have been able to clear the air, and I think that’s a good thing. No hard feelings, I hope. None on my part.

                It does point to how difficult “dialoguing” can be, and how sensitive we are about the issues and about perceptions. I guess that part is germane. 🙂

                This is no easy road.

              • Claire

                I do not think there needs to be a dichotomy betweeen denouncing bullying for any reason and spefically addressing LGBT bullying. It is possible to do both simultaneously.

    • chicagotist

      Ahhh, the woman who encouraged the unlawful kidnapping of a child.

      What wonderful participants to a dialogue.