Why Christians should support the Day of Silence

Editor's note: Agendas Aside, a Think Christian series on homosexuality and the church, also includes articles by Joshua Walters, Glenn Goodfellow, Jason E. Summers, Josh Larsen and Nathan Albert.

How should Christians respond to April 20’s Day of Silence, a student-led national event that brings attention to the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in schools?

It’s simple really. God says “NO” to bullying and abuse. In my reading of Scripture and leaning on Christian tradition, particularly the Heidelberg Catechism, the “No” does not turn to “Yes” when certain subgroups of our community are named. On this year’s Day of Silence, Christians should also say “NO” to bullying that teens suffer because of their sexual orientation. 

My reflections on this topic usually begin with the Heidelberg Catechism’s discussion of the sixth commandment: Do not murder. Structured as a series of questions and answers, the Catechism addresses God’s command in this way:

Question: What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?

Answer: I am not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor - not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture and certainly not by actual deeds - and I am not to be party to this in others.

Our neighbor is not just the people like us whom we like. She or he is the one we come across in the course of our daily activities. This certainly includes the ones we pass in the hallways of our schools and pass on the sidewalks and buses on the way to school. And the behaviors that the catechism finds offensive include the daily schoolyard practice of belittling, the common practice of offense gestures, the ordinary practice of demeaning texting that creates a culture threatening for gay and lesbian teens.

It even includes thoughts. If there is any way our thoughts say “you are not my neighbor” or say “you are not worth my kindness or my time,” the catechism would say you are guilty of breaking the law of God. 

I find it interesting that it adds, “I am not to be party to this in others.” Being a silent bystander is unacceptable. This is good news from our tradition and church to those who are often victims of bullying and abuse. Every church, school and parent can powerfully encourage teens to become a vocal neighbor when they see a person being bullied. It is simply a matter of being a good neighbor. 

But the Catechism goes a step further: 

Q. Is it enough then that we do not murder our neighbor in any such way?

A. No. By condemning envy, hatred and anger, God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful and friendly toward them, to protect them from harm as much as we can and to do good even to our enemies.

The call is not just for friendliness, but for protecting our neighbors as much as we can. This is not about vigilantism - going after those we fear. This is about making our schools and neighborhoods safe places for all. This is not making it a safe place for some who are like us, but for all - including our gay and lesbian teenagers.  

It is sad that the church has not always been a safe place for our neighbors. It is sad that members of the church have been known to treat our gay and lesbian neighbors with disdain and ridicule. Indeed, we ought to seek God’s forgiveness for such sins, perhaps even in the form of a school assembly.

Maybe this year, on the Day of Silence, we can listen to our Christian heritage and find the strength and commitment to resist the bullying that undermines the good news we want to share. And maybe instead of being a silent bystander we can become listening neighbors who seek our neighbor’s good. 

What Do You Think?

  • Is the Day of Silence common ground where Christians and the LGBT community should be working together?
  • Do you agree with the Heidelberg Catechism’s reading of the sixth commandment?
  • What sort of bullying because of sexual orientation have you witnessed/experienced? What would have been a proper Christian response?

 

Comments (13)

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The proper Christian response is to never support or participate in bullying or putting down another person. But this is where I think there needs to be a dialogue. There needs to be a conversation about this topic. Hence, this is also a Christian response: http://www.dayofdialogue.com/

Too often, groups talk or shout over each other instead of listening and trying to understand one another. This is key.
Of course Christians should be against bullying. And, I appreciate the use of the Heidelberg Catechism to expand on this thought.

However, can we lay off the bullying/anti-bullying meme? I live in a small midwestern town and about once a week one of my grade school aged children comes home with a paper about bullying. Remember when kids could stand up for one another? Can't do that any more. In its place we put all the attention on bullying and the bullies. In our fame obsessed culture this backfires and creates larger than life characters whose behavior we abhor.
Bob: We should only lay off the conversation about bullying when 11 year olds stop hanging themselves in closets because they've been bullied to the point of not seeing hope. I am encouraged that your children's school is taking a persistent stand. In my experience as a youth worker and a bullied child, this sort of attention from teachers does not make bullies famous but shines light into dark corners.
Hey Bob,

Thanks for your contribution. I'd like to push back on this a little, and I'll do with a personal story. When I was a kid in elementary school, I was bullied. I had a speech impediment, was a new transfer, and was a girl who was friends with boys (which, in elementary school in Podunk, South Dakota, is a no-no). What made me feel more alone was the fact that teachers did not address it until I fought back against my bullies. I knocked one of them into the snow after school, and it was only then that my teachers did anything to address the issue.

If my teachers had created an environment that made me feel safe, that made it clear that what those kids were doing to me was wrong, my two years of hell would have been much, much shorter. Maybe your kids aren't getting anything out of the focus on bullying in the school, but I can assure you, there's a little girl or a little boy in their class who is. As Christians, we're called to be kind and good to "the least of these," and a kid being bullied (whether it is for the perception of homosexuality or not) is certainly in that category.
Todd, My point is not to make light of those who suffer from the torment of bullies. Shining a light on dark corners is one thing. Dedicating large amounts of time and energy on bullying, making it a first class "subject" to be taught in grade school goes over board.

When I was in school, in place of bullying it was drugs and sexual predators. Guess what? Those are still big topics at the school as well. Now we have bullying in the mix. How about we teach/preach about all of the social ills (as a result of sin) in grade school and make education on subjects such as reading, writing, math, science, etc. the thing that gets taught at home? Believe it or not, we're headed in that direction. That concerns me.

A related anecdote. My (4th grade) son got kicked out of summer school his first day there because he pushed a kid away and went to tell a teacher that the kid was trying to wrestle him to the ground and hurt him. The kid my son pushed is a known instigator. The solution? The school kicks both children out of summer school. Zero tolerance as a result to bully policies within the school system. That is what we were told. So my son defends himself in a proper manner (even the principal told us that he did the right thing!) and he gets punished for it. Why? Because we can't tolerate bullying and my son's actions may have been perceived as bullying or behavior that would encourage others to start bullying other kids. Meanwhile this same school system narrowly escaped being taken over by the state due to ridiculously low test scores. And this is a small midwestern public school system, not like the larger city school system I grew up in that was plagued by far worse and wider spread issues. Yikes!
Dianna,

From talking to my son and daughter and their friends about bullying, they don't feel safer. In fact, in place of safety they feel what I would describe as paranoia. They are constantly afraid that a bully is just around the corner, or just the opposite, they are afraid they are bullying someone by not playing with them at recess or choosing to hang with one person over another.

Also note that with the over emphasis on bullying there are policies created that make it difficult for a fellow classmate to stand up for someone who is a target of a bully. The intentions of the education on bullying is well meaning but the result too often leaves a lot to desire.

Instead of focusing on bullying and the other destructive, hurtful behaviors we should focus on the golden rule at school, and all its implications. And at home and church we as Christians should stress to our children the Gospel and use tools like the Heidelberg Catechism to help disciple them. Catechising may be a dirty word in evangelical Christian circles these days but I sure wish there was something like it done in the evangelical church I grew up in 20+ years ago. :)
I don't think there needs to be any dialogue on this issue.

Bullying is wrong, period. Hating, harassing, rejecting, ridiculing, assaulting, or ostracizing someone for being gay or lesbian is wrong, period. Those things are sins—and it is the Christian's job to resist sin and stand against it.

It is sadly in line with Focus on the Family's history that they call for "dialogue" on whether or not it's okay to be LGBT. One wonders if they're going to go on to encourage "dialogue" on whether or not it's okay to be short, or wear glasses, or be of a different ethnicity than the rest of someone's school, or be handicapped, or any of the other categories that are often the source material for bullies engaging in abuse and oppression.

As Christians, Focus should be unequivocal in standing with Christ on the side of the oppressed and bullied and telling their oppressors and bullies that anything but complete and unconditional love is absolutely unacceptable for any follower of the Author of complete and unconditional love, rather than enabling those who are oppressing and bullying through a transparently-deceptive appeal to "dialogue."
Let me preface this by saying that I'm against bullying of any kind at any age. I, myself, was bullied in the 4th and 5th grades when I was a kid and I know the harsh emotions that come with it.

Having said that, we should NOT be supporting an organization like GLSEN. This only furthers the social idea that being Gay or Lesbian is just as normal as being "straight." R.C. Sproul contends that there is no such thing as a "homosexual", only those people who Practice homosexual behavior - and I agree with him. Homosexual behavior is identified as sin multiple times throughout the old and new testaments. It is disobedience to God's design and intention for our lives, therefore it is a sin, and it is NOT "normal." By supporting any effort by GLSEN, we are indirectly condoning and accepting homosexual behavior.

If we are to support anti-bullying campaigns, let's do so while NOT compromising the doctrine set forth in God's infallible Word.

The fact that GLSEN included "Straight" in their name should be a warning sign to all Christians that they are trying to hide their true agenda by including those who believe sexual relations are to be between a man and a woman. God defined clear roles for both men and women in the Bible; gender identity is a misnomer...if a person has male genitals, he is a man...if a person has female genitals, she is a female - end of discussion. We are all engineered by the Great Engineer to fulfill our role in society as designed. If you take the Form, Fit, and Function approach, you can clearly see that homosexual behavior is NOT "normal."

Only a nut and a bolt can hold something together. Two bolts or two nuts only fall apart. The foundation of society is the family unit, which relies on a marriage between a man and a woman. We will continue to fall apart as a society if Christians start or continue showing acceptance of homosexual behavior.
"Having said that, we should NOT be supporting an organization like GLSEN. This only furthers the social idea that being Gay or Lesbian is just as normal as being 'straight.'"

Regardless of your chosen interpretation of the Bible, from the perspective of our public school system, being LGBT should be viewed as just as valid an identity as being cis/hetero. Unless you think public schools should be enforcing your particular religious views...

"R.C. Sproul contends that there is no such thing as a "homosexual", only those people who Practice homosexual behavior - and I agree with him."

That's nice. So I assume you'd say you're not straight; you only practice heterosexual behavior. At any moment, you might choose to switch and be sexually attracted to members of the same sex, and start having sex with them... right?

"The fact that GLSEN included "Straight" in their name should be a warning sign to all Christians that they are trying to hide their true agenda by including those who believe sexual relations are to be between a man and a woman."

Why is it assumed that all "straights" have the same religious views as you do? I'm quite heterosexual, and I don't believe that sexual relations "are to be" between a man and a woman as some kind of essential quality of all humanity. For me personally, they're to be between me and a woman, but that's my orientation, not everyone's.

"We are all engineered by the Great Engineer to fulfill our role in society as designed."

The same argument was used for slavery, for denying women the right to own property, vote, or get equal pay for equal work, for denying the right to interracial marriage, and for denying the right of people of all genders, races and creeds to be equal under the law. Please tell me how your "argument from design" differs from those in the past who suggested that the Great Engineer designed those social structures we now (rightly) find abhorrent.

"Only a nut and a bolt can hold something together. Two bolts or two nuts only fall apart."

The Home Depot argument, really? I could come up with metaphors from hardware that could justify never mating, or three-way or four-way arrangements, or virtually any other configuration you could possibly conceive of. That's not evidence against LGBT equality—that's aisle 7 between the door hinges and the pneumatic staple guns.
Indeed, bullying on the basis of sexual orientation is always wrong. We need more dialogue, less diatribe. The persecution Christians have endured (and continue to endure today) should make us advocates for the weak, isolated, and vulnerable.

 

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