There is no joking around about this one: I’m furious. And my heart is shattered.
6 teens from across the country dead at their own hand. 6 teens dead at their own hand because they were mercilessly bullied. 6 kids bullied, 6 kids dead because they were gay. And those are just the ones we know about.
Today I add my voice to so many others, saying: ENOUGH! The violence against gay people must stop! And our culture which fosters and approves of violence against gays must change. Enough! 6 dead kids is 6 too many. And the Christian church – which I call home, and in which I serve as a pastor – must acknowledge its role in creating a culture that encourages violence against the gay community, must repent of that role, and must change.
I hope to have the video of my sermon from today on this posted here soon. A video that includes a surprise ending, when my congregation did something I’ve never experienced or seen or even heard of it doing before.
Until then, two things:
1) To all young people, wherever you are, who ever you are: I am your ally. And my congregation is with me on this. If you are being bullied, we want you to know that we love you and that you are not alone. And whatever is being said to you, isn’t true. God loves you. And so do we.
If you are a bully, we want you also to know that we love you and that you are not alone. We will help you with whatever it is inside you that is pushing you to hurt other kids. We love you. God loves you. And you are not alone.
And, of course, you don’t have to be a young person. All of this is true for anyone. If you are hurting, suffering, or have been victimized: you are not alone. We love you. God loves you.
2) I’m going to re-post a few thoughts on this from others.
Here’s one from Cody J. Sanders on Religion Dispatches:
Here’s the money quote:
A Theology of Anti-Gay Bullying
Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base. I find it difficult to believe that even those among us with a vibrant imagination can muster the creative energy to picture a reality in which anti-gay violence and bullying exist without the anti-gay religious messages that support them.
These messages come in many forms, degrees of virulence, and volumes of expression. The most insidious forms, however, are not those from groups like Westboro Baptist Church. Most people quickly dismiss this fanaticism as the red-faced ranting of a fringe religious leader and his small band of followers.
More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay).
Additionally, hierarchical conceptions of value and worth are implicit in many of our theological notions. Needless to say, value and worth are not distributed equally in these hierarchies. God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below. And it all makes perfect sense if you support it with a few appropriately (mis)quoted verses from the Bible.
With dualistic conceptions of good and evil and hierarchical notions of value and worth, it becomes easy to know who it is okay to hate or to bully or, seemingly more benignly, to ignore. And no institutions have done more to create and perpetuate the public disapproval of gay and lesbian people than churches.
If anti-gay bullying has, at any level, an embodied undercurrent of tacit theological legitimation, then we simply cannot circumvent our responsibility to provide a clear, decisive, theological response. Aside from its theological base, anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it calls for acts of solidarity on behalf of the vulnerable and justice on behalf of the oppressed.
But this imperative to respond reminds us that the most dangerous form of theological message comes in the subtlest of forms: silence.