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 www.loveisanorientation.com does not reflect the views of Wendy Gritter or New Direction Ministries)