As Ellen DeGeneres choked up while she spoke directly to young people being bullied, her words of longing for their future should be ours “Things will get better. You should be alive to see it.” I’m angry. These suicides cannot be brushed away. Justin, Seth, Asher, Billy, Tyler, Raymond, they should be alive to see it get better. My prayers go out to their families and friends.
But my anger cannot be quenched by prayer and grief. Ellen had one more tell-tale comment, “There are messages everywhere that validate this kind of bullying and taunting.” Permission is given to be violent against gay kids. Permission to bully LGBT people starts long before the first taunt is hurled or fist is swung. Permission is given by silence over incidents that then escalate.
In our United Methodist life, permission is given systemically in policy. Saying that homosexuality and Christianity are incompatible is violence. From policy to pulpit to pew to parents to persons, this injustice creates bullies who believe their faith favors punishment of people for the “sin” of being born gay. “Love the sin; hate the sinner” thought or spoken to folks over sexual orientation or gender identity is violence.
Yes, I’m angry. This climate creates bullies who need little support to begin bashing. A withheld hug, a hesitant consolation, a muted support, or plain silence, when our kids at home or in church are first treated differently make a fertile field for escalating violence.
We can make a difference all along the way. Do something.
In your church:
- Teach anti-bullying curriculum.
- Use Church and Society’s anti-homophobia curriculum.
- Rethink inclusion for your community and prevent violence: www.rethinkinclusion.org.
- Prevent suicide now: After the Fact by Wallingford United Methodist Church
Things will get better. You should be alive to see it.
Prior to RMN, Troy served for 13 years on the pastoral staff of Bering Memorial United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. He directed Bering’s on-site counseling center for those affected by HIV/AIDS. Outside Bering’s sanctuary in 1999, he performed a “street wedding” for a lesbian couple celebrating 25 years together and facilitated Bering’s equal treatment of all couples policy. He also coordinated Bible Study, mission trips, retreats, and nonviolence training. Facing a bomb threat with 50 other couples, Troy and Walter, shared promises and rings on Freedom To Marry Day, February 12, 2003 for their 5th anniversary.