Friday, April 10, 2009

Do Unto Others

April 17th is National Day of Silence, an event that encourages students across the country to remain silent in respect for those who have suffered bullying. Specifically, the event raises awareness for the violence that GLBT students face every day. No matter what your beliefs about homosexual behavior are, this violence is not mere propaganda. I witnessed it firsthand going through school, and the threat of it was what made me—and no doubt countless others—completely silent about my orientation or struggle, whatever you’d like to call it.

Now, a lot of Christians are not supportive of the Day of Silence. For some reason that I really can’t comprehend, they think that raising awareness about school violence perpetrated against gays and lesbians is equivalent to supporting gay and lesbian sexual behavior, which many (including myself) find sinful. I really don’t understand this at all. Sure, the advocacy groups that promote Day of Silence probably don’t like my views on God’s sexual laws.

Heck, I’m sure some people probably don’t think someone like me has the right to speak up against anti-gay violence. I think a liberal commenter on another blog once said I was “worthless” to that cause because of my conservative opinions. But I personally don’t care. This isn’t about what goes on in the bedroom; that’s another debate for another day. This is about what goes on in the classroom, the hallway, and the cafeteria, and I think everyone, no matter what their religious beliefs, can say, “Hey, no one deserves to live in fear in school.”

As an aside, I don’t think attaching yourself to an event makes you 100% supportive of everything those who created the event stand for. I remember when a Roman Catholic student group had a Day of Silence on campus to raise awareness for children killed in abortions. Many Baptist, Methodist, and even a few agnostic pro-life students participated. Surely they had major doctrinal differences, but they didn’t throw “the baby out with the bathwater,” as the saying goes. I think this situation is somewhat similar.

Now, others have criticized the Day of Silence because it focuses on anti-gay bullying alone, when bullying is a much bigger issue. I agree, but honestly, I think a lot of bullying in schools does have its roots homophobia or gender norms. It’s the small guy that can’t catch a ball that’s picked on. It’s the girl with a less feminine figure. The primary negative term that kids are called these days is the f-word. I’ve lived through that, and I’ve worked with kids for the past two summers and during the year. Trust me, I know.

Still, I can understand those who think that Day of Silence is too narrow—or whose conservative religious beliefs keep them from attaching themselves from an event that’s promoted by gay advocacy groups. That’s why I’m glad there is a response in the form of the Golden Rule Pledge.

There should be no agenda there on the part of the student; just a simple response to others saying that you’re going to treat another person the way you would want to be treated. To me, that goes beyond anti-bullying. That says, “Hey, I’m going to listen to you, even if I don’t quite understand where you’re coming from.” It says, “Hey, I’m going to reach out to you with the Gospel, because that’s my job as a Christian and the ultimate way to love another person.” It says, “Hey, I’m going to be humble and merciful and not attack you or anyone else—verbally or physically—because that’s simply not the right way to treat people.” To me, I think that pretty much sums up the Christian response to GLBT people. One that’s compassionate and truthful, and also takes the time to do that almost impossible (but necessary) task of putting oneself in another person’s shoes, if only for a moment.

12 comments:

naturgesetz said...

You make very good sense. And your example of the Day of Silence for victims of abortion is a very good illustration. But I also understand the reluctance to appear to support the sponsoring organization. So it's good to have the Golden Rule Pledge available as another way of supporting the good cause.

FJ said...

Jay

I read this post regarding bullying and believe me, I know exactly where your coming from. I was also the target of bullying during some of my early school years. I was a special education student due to emotional problems that I had when I was in school that were caused by my father. I was teased, taunted and called names all because the "regular kids" thought I wasn't one of them, though in reality, I was. Thanks for posting this.

I heard about your blog through TCM. I am also following yours. I also have one. Thanks for visiting when you get the chance. I try to post each and every night.

Thanks again for an insightful post.

RikFleming said...

Christians ought to be seeking to protect the life of all their neighbors, not just the Christian ones we agree with.

I would argue against the doctrines of Mormon, J.W.s, Muslims and Gay Theology proponents. But I'd also lay down my life to defend them from harm, in the name of Christ.

When I joined the Marines I enlisted to defend ALL Americans, not just the straight white Protestant ones.

I suppose that some conservative "Christians" oppose the day of silence because it may be viewed as for progressing a more general political agenda, not just the ending of bullying homosexuals.

After all, do we have a day of silence in protest against geeks getting bullied by jocks? (which was common when I was in high school, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away...)

Why not just a day of silence against BULLYING period? Why do gays get a special day while everyone else is ignored?

Fat kids, nerds and racial minorities get bullied too.

Rik

Jay said...

Like I said, I think a lot of bullying in school (especially geeks getting bullied by jocks) has roots in homophobia or gender norms.

And I don't think that everyone else is ignored. There are lots of anti-bullying events that go through schools. Day of Silence usually gets the attention because of the controversy surrounding it.

And if you want a day that goes against bullying in general, well, that's kind of what the Golden Rule Pledge is.

James said...

Jay, this story proves your point.

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/mom_says_springfield_boy_11_wh.html?category=Deaths+category=Education+category=Springfield

When I hear objections to these types of anti-bullying measures involving homosexuality, they are often ones that seem to paint these measures as indoctrinating children. Or that they are somehow going to embolden gay or questioning students and intimidate straight students. The reality is that anti-gay slurs are a very potent weapon used to shame and humiliate kids in schools. It doesn't even matter whether the kids being bullied are actually gay, it's still going to be thrown at them. That's why I do believe teaching about the pain which is caused by these slurs is important.

Brandon said...

I've always thought that if teachers in schools would emphasize the Golden Rule more, a lot of school violence would disappear. One of the schools in my area really emphasizes this and I can tell a big difference in how the students respond to each other there. They seem to be a lot more caring of each other. I plan to make this classroom rule number one whenever I become a teacher.

The problem I have with Day of Silence is that I think it's a backward approach to the problem. I'm not really sure it takes care of the problem at all. For starters, I don't think there should be only a single day out of the school year set aside for this cause. I think EVERYDAY should focus on this. No one deserves to be bullied or put down or anything like that. It really should be a bigger role of the teachers and school administrators to prevent this sort of thing from happening. If they see bullying, they should stop it. They should also teach more to the golden rule, and try better to make sure schools are safer places for students. But aside from that, I don't like the silence part of the day. I've often felt that it's better for people who disagree with each other to discuss their differences (with some civility). Doing this really can break down a lot of barriers--a lot of times, people will realize they're not as different as they believed. It's not really that I'm against DOS. I just think there are better ways of handling the problem.

Joshua Cookingham said...

Hmmm.....I'm kind of torn.

On the one hand I don't really see what being silent will do to help anything, if anything, wouldn't it be better to actually discuss things?
I've always felt that if you want to be accepted by society, the last thing you do is force a National Day on someone.

That said, i know how much violence IS leveled against homosexuals, and yes, it's wrong. There is no excuse for it.
But bullying of any type is wrong, and not all of it is rooted in gender roles. Most of it is either insecurity
or anger related.

The Bible calls us to speak the truth in love, maybe there is a way that can be done in silence, maybe not.

I guess I'll find out. Thanks for giving me something to think about Jay, God bless.

Jay said...

I think silence is a pretty effective (and very old) protest tactic. It's not like they aren't saying to discuss things. The DOS raises the awareness. The next days, weeks, and months are used for discussion. And in no way is it "forced" on people any more than Earth Day or religious holidays like Good Friday. If you don't want to participate, you don't have to.

Christopher Lake said...

Jay,

As a Christian who believes the Bible's teaching that practiced homosexuality is a sin (as I know you also believe), it grieves me that *any* Christian would *not* be supportive of the Day of Silence. I do not struggle with homosexual temptations, but I know all too well about being bullied in school.

I grew up in a small town in Alabama as a young man with a physical disability and an "adventurous" streak (I was an outspoken anti-racist punk rocker in the late '80s). These characteristics did not exactly ensure my popularity in school. Rather, they helped me to be a target for bullies. I am so glad that those days of torment are in the past, and now that I'm a Christian, I have forgiven my tormentors, but I will never (in this life) completely forget the pain.

I just wonder this: Why would any Christian who understands that he/she has been shown *undeserved* mercy by God not want to encourage simple, basic civility toward all people, *including* those actively involved in an overall lifestyle of sin? Do most American Christians truly believe that God has shown them undeserved mercy, and that in that light, they are to love others (while not approving of their sin, any more than we approve of ours)?

Jay said...

Hey Christopher! Thanks for reading and commenting. I think many Christians feel that since the Day of Silence is supported by many gay advocacy groups, they can't be a part of it. In other words, they're throwing out the baby with the bath water, and I just don't get that.

A. Friend said...

I think--and this may sound silly--that most American schools are too large, too co-ed and too heterodox (?).

I think that any sense of community goes out of the window when the school has too many students. Identity then becomes a matter of "us vs them" and "cool vs uncool".

I also think boys need a place to find themselves among themselves away from the pressures of sexuality that pervade many co-ed schools (girls probably benefit more).

Lastly, coming from a culture where school uniforms are required and are standard even in private schools, I cannot begin to tell you the difference that makes in terms of the culture of the school.

But, it appears to me that children run many of the schools in the U.S. and there can be no end to tyranny if children set the tone for the school environment.

The Vegas Art Guy said...

I am with you on this. Whatever your views on homosexuality, there is no place for that kind of violence.