Carla: Okay Caryn, this is it. We’ve talked about it since we starting this blog and now we’re making it happen. Today is National Coming Out Day and we are going to say here what we’ve said to each other hundreds of times: We love and support our gay friends.
We’ve chosen this day to talk about homosexuality because it’s become painfully clear in the last several weeks that not talking about it is killing our kids.
The bullying that has lead to the deaths of at least five teenagers in the last couple of months, including at least two here in Minnesota, has centered on a kind of cruelty that cuts to the heart of a person’s identity. What makes this kind of bullying particularly damaging to kids is that:
1) It comes at a point in their development when they are trying to figure out who they are and whether or not they have any worth in the world. Teenagers are fragile, even in the best of circumstances. Their lives are fraught with physical and emotional changes that seem like they’ll never end. Their social lives are in constant upheaval. What seems trivial to us can be monumental to them. That means the words and actions of their peers have the power to do far more damage that we can imagine.
2) It hurts whether it’s true or not. Using sexual slurs like “fag” to label a child because of the way he dresses or his attitude or his voice or his interests tells him that whatever kind of man he’s becoming, it’s not okay. And he can’t win–once the label has stuck, there’s no getting it off. For some kids, death is the only escape. And that’s tragic.
We have to make it stop.
As people of faith, we are called to care for the forgotten, to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. We are called to welcome the stranger, to bind the wounds of the injured. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Right now, gay teenagers are the oppressed. They aren’t the only ones of course, but they are in crisis and we need to stand up and say “It’s over.”
We can do that by:
1) Teaching our kids that no matter what we think about homosexuality, it’s never okay for one person to ridicule another for any reason.
2) Teaching them that our God stands with the powerless and asks us to do the same.
3) Telling our schools we support their efforts to put a stop to this kind of bullying. It has often been Christians who have opposed including language that includes homosexual slurs in anti-bullying policies at public schools. We have tremendous power to ensure sure that all kids receive the same protection from bullying.
4) Changing the way we talk about homosexuality in our homes and our churches–in the last few weeks I’ve heard Christians refer to gay people as “junk,” “trash,” “defective,” “perverts,” and “damaged.” Talk about bullying!
5) Creating churches and youth groups that are places of safety and love for all people, no matter their sexuality, so that together we can become who God made us to be. We can only grow when we know we are loved for exactly who we are.
Obviously, my stance on homosexuality falls to the left of center. I love my gay friends and I believe God loves them, too, just the way they are. But even if you believe differently, I think we can all agree that gay teenagers need our love, our care, and our protection. And they need it now.
Caryn: I’m not sure that your stance on homosexuality (or the gist of it) is left of center. Because that would make MY belief that as Christians we’re called to love our neighbors–ALL our neighbors, gay, straight, rich, poor, fat, skinny, Socialist, Tea-Partiers, Christian, athiest, nice, mean, married, single, blah, blah, blah–left of center. And that would mean I think Jesus is left of center, and of course, we all know Jesus would vote Libertarian….. ; )
But really, I don’t like that this issue even becomes political for Christians because it’s such a simple call: to love. No matter what. No matter if you agree with someone or something. No matter if you even like someone or something. Just love.
So, yes, any time anyone feels unloved by the world, any time anyone is bullied or threatened by the world, we as Christians need to be there piling on the love. Like Jesus does. And wherever there is meanness and cruelty, we need to be shining the light on the horror of that. We need to step in and stop it. And then love the bullied –and the bully.
I do want to address suggestion #4, however. Take it to task maybe. Of course, there are Christians who call gay people all sorts of horrible things. But I’m not happy singling this out as a Christian issue. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I grew up in the church, went to Christian schools and a Christian college. Then I worked for a Christian company. I don’t ever remember hearing any blatant gay bashing. (With the exception that we ALL used to use “gay” as a substitute for “stupid” or “lame” back in the day.)
I realize it exists in subtle forms and in other ways, and I realize that many churches aren’t exactly courting the gay community, but I’m not ready to jump on the bandwagon and say this is a Christians versus the Gays issue. This bullying. Or even the hate thing. I don’t see it or hear it happening.
It’s important to recognize that homophobia knows no religious boundaries. Muslims, Buddhists, Mormoms, Athiests, Scientologists, Wiccans, Unitarians, Regular Non-Believing Sorts all have people who gay bash too. So let’s just be fair. (Though, it’s probably mostly men. Can we blame men?)
That said, BECAUSE we love Jesus and want to follow the guy who befriended Zacchaeus–who was at once a bully and bullied–we need to be nice and love. Always.
Carla: You’re right on #4 and I didn’t mean for it to sound like I think Christians are doing the bullying in schools or that Christians are the reason it’s happening. I don’t think that. But I do think we have been guilty of indifference or at least inaction because the issue of homosexuality can be contentious in our churches and our conversations. And since I don’t know how many Wiccans read this blog, I thought I’d stick with our core audience.
The examples I gave are exceptions to be sure and I know the vast majority of Christians don’t talk that way, but we need to stand up when we hear our fellow Christians–or anyone else–use such derogatory terms for another human being. We need to make sure we never let those kinds of words–or worse–fall from our own lips, especially in front of our children. One of those examples came from a letter to the editor in my hometown paper, a letter written by the wife of a Lutheran pastor in town. It’s not just the wackos who say these things, it’s that nice Norwegian lady who makes a mean hotdish. And I wonder if the people in her church will tell her that’s not okay, that it’s harmful and not at all Christ-like. I hope so.
Caryn: Well, of course a Norwegian would write that! You know how they are. Nothing but trouble, thinking they’re so cool with their fjords and coastline and their mountains and their elkhounds, getting the exhibit at Epcot Center, when Sweden is obviously the better country… I’m sure if she’s got Swedes in her church, they’ll be happy to set her straight–or, gay.