A wake-up call

There’s a video clip going around my friendship corner of Facebook, of Ellen DeGeneres responding — movingly, pleadingly —  to the senseless death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide after being “outed” as gay. Please watch it at the link above, if you haven’t already. (Sorry, I haven’t quite figured out how to add video to my blog.)

There’s nothing I could possibly add but Amen.

And yes, I know, I know…. many church groups, including my own, are still figuring out their “positions” on homosexuality. It could be argued that the debate itself contributes to an oppressive dynamic, but can we at least agree that whatever time that conversation takes gives us absolutely no excuse to put off a major overhaul of behaviour, or the urgency of teaching our children firm and unequivocal protocols of behaviour about difference? Being gay is not a crime — or a sin. Harassing, outing someone without their permission, bullying, is never — never! — okay. Figuring out who you are, as DeGeneres says, is hard enough (remember being a teen?) without the added cruelty of bullying — for any reason. And gay youth who wish to live with integrity, with authenticity, will eventually come to their own conclusions about how they do this. But it’s their timeline, no one else’s.

There are many other names and faces, other stories, that could be highlighted in reference to this “suicide epidemic,” people who attempt to escape for various reasons, but most certainly often because of the harassment.

William C. Trench has some pertinent words:

For years, those who oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians have said that they have nothing against the Tyler Clementi’s of the world, what they are against is “The Homosexual Agenda.” This tragic event brings that debate into sharp relief.

The “Homosexual Agenda” is precisely this: to create a society in which young men and women do not jump off of bridges in a desperate attempt to escape who they are, because society has told them in a thousand different ways that who they are is not acceptable.

We who are Christians must bear a special responsibility in this effort.

I hope you’ll also take the time to read Trench’s whole post here. I don’t have much more than Amen to add to it either. Except to wonder, in light of DeGeneres’ wake-up call, and Trench’s call for angels, whether we’re awake, and alert to our assignments.

7 thoughts on “A wake-up call

  1. I don’t want to diminish this poignant appeal for compassion and tolerance, Dora, but there is one message in that I do think needs a gentle push back. It is the statement, “We who are Christians must bear a special responsibility in this effort.”
    I agree that wherever cruelty happens Kingdom people must stand beside those how are oppressed. I believe that for the Christian community the Good Samaritan would probably by the Good Gay Man.
    But the implication seems to be that the problem is the orthodox Christian position that homosexual behavior is immoral. I doubt that those who posted those cruel videos were motivated at any level by Christian morality. I doubt that the standard gay bashing has any origin in our faith tradition. The incidents that that hit the news in Vancouver, invariably seem driven by machismo and alcohol- not Sunday School gatherings.
    That is not to discount the fact that Christians do publicly make terrible statements and deserve our rebuke for doing so in the name of Christ, or that those who endlessly flog the hidden homosexual agenda need to be have more than a gentle push back. On those points I fully agree with you but I don’t think it helps to try to take responsibility for a problem that has different roots.

  2. Hi James — thanks for the comment.
    Let me push back gently as well. 🙂
    You may be right about the origins of the particular behaviours of the particular cases you cite; I don’t know. The origins/roots more broadly would be a long discussion, I think, in which I would argue that in any case there’s plenty of responsibility to share round.
    But, I’m reading Trench’s “We who are Christians must bear a special responsibility in this effort,” with an emphasis on “in this effort” — and that effort being, as he says, “to create a society in which young men and women [who are gay] do not jump off of bridges…” and on “how we should treat those who are oppressed, downtrodden, outcast, or otherwise despised.” And here we must certainly bear a special responsibility. Everything in the gospel points us in this direction. I would venture that the church so often checks the way of Jesus and the weight of Scripture at the door of its fears and “orthodoxy,” preferring to pronounce on the latter, afraid of the implications of right valuation of, and behaviour towards, other people.
    But what if Christians began there, as Jesus did, letting the implications fall where they may? The upsidedown-ness of the gospel message, the incarnation, the way of Jesus, salvation accomplished through the weakness and inglorious death of the cross — these are foundational to human rights. This is how God expresses love. So if we have this “treasure” surely we do bear a special responsibility in this effort.
    I found your sentence about today’s version of the Good Samaritan being the Good Gay Man both inspiring and telling. That it’s exactly.

  3. You and I have a long history of push and pull that I value deeply, Dora.
    Those of us who feel the pressure to modify an “orthodox” position on homosexual behaviour can get a little sensitive when it seems that every young person who jumps off a bridge due to bullying seems to become a defining instance of intolerance against homosexuality- and often with an implication of Christian culpability. I think the overstatement of this actually diminishes what we both agree on- we are commanded to treat every human being with the highest degree of dignity and that we are to advocate for the oppressed- and we must indeed, let the implications fall where they may. When understood that way- I have no need to do any pushing back on the Trench quotation.

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