Posted on Apr 19, 2013 by Tom Gilson
Today is the Day of Silence “to highlight the effects of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment” in schools. Parents and teachers, you may hear questions from your youth about this; I regret I did not post this earlier.
An End to Bullying
First, I want to register my full support for putting LGBT bullying to a final and complete end. I’m told by a source I trust that as many as one-third of LGBT teenagers consider suicide. That’s horrifying. It’s likely that peer mistreatment is a strong contributing factor. There was a bullying-induced suicide in the high school a half-mile from my home not long ago. Though this one was not LGBT-related, it sure has reminded me of the tragedy that can follow upon bullying.
Settling for Too Little on This Day of Silence
The Day of Silence involves a call to tolerance for people who are different. Some Christians probably think it goes too far. I don’t think it goes far enough.I think the LGBT community is asking for way too little, and settling for way too little.
I can understand why: the real thing is hard to come by. It’s beyond human nature. But we Christians believe in living beyond human nature, don’t we? Who is the Spirit of God within us, after all?
Tolerance: It Just Isn’t Worth Much
I’ve been cryptic so far; now let me explain what I mean. Tolerance is used in multiple ways these days. For some, it means accepting every idea as equal, not regarding my own opinions better than others’, and so on. But let’s set that aside from that start as just silly, okay? It’s not just wrong, it’s literally impossible. No person, sane or insane, could accept that what he disagrees with is rationally equal to what he agrees with. This view of tolerance would commit us to believing that the idea, no two ideas should ever be treated as equal, must be of equal value and worth to, all ideas must be treated as equal. So it would force us to treat ideas as equal and unequal at the same time! It’s just rubbish.
Let’s consider tolerance toward other people instead. If it means not bullying, that’s good — but only just barely. It’s a pathetic kind of good, a weak and wimpy one. In that sense I could “tolerate” everyone and hate them at the same time, as long as I kept my distance. But this is about the schools, where keeping a tolerant distance is not only rude, it’s impossible. To stand away relationally is itself a form of aggression. It’s impossible to do it without actively shunning a person.
Friendship, Yes: But Of What Sort?
The LGBT ideal instead ought to be that students could be genuinely friendly toward each other. That’s better than mere “tolerance;” it’s a move in the right direction of thinking about it.
But what kind of friendship do they have in mind? Gay activists’ consistent message is that it should be along these lines: “We can be friends, and it’s cool that your sexuality is different than mine.” But what of the student who doesn’t think that’s cool, after all? Here is where friendship is stretched and tolerance utterly fails. For friendship that cannot permit disagreement is hardly friendship at all, and friendship that forces conformity is a complete contradiction.
It’s time to drop the language of tolerance and speak instead of love: agapé love, Christlike love, the kind of love that brings the whole person into the whole relationship unconditionally. Love does not distance itself. It does not hide any part of the person, especially the person’s deep values and beliefs. It recognizes mutual differences and connects with the other person regardless, on the basis of our common humanity.
It is not love for me to come into friendship with a gay man and pretend I am something other than who I am. It is not love for him to ask me to do that.
Nor is it love for me to ask him to be other than who he is.It can be love, though, to try to persuade him that his views are wrong, for this too is an expression of who I am and what I hold true: it is a part of me that I would not withhold from him. I would expect him to respond to me likewise, and I would not consider it unloving of him to tell me he thinks I’m wrong, or even nuts or crazy, if he said it with a smile.
To Celebrate Our Common Humanity
This is what I think the Day of Silence should be: a day of speaking instead; a day of open, frank, mutual conversation. It should be a day when differences are acknowledged in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
I do not agree that we should “celebrate our differences,” when these differences so obviously mean that one side or the other is deeply wrong. That, too, is a strange form of silliness in today’s discourse. (It’s no secret which side I think is wrong: but then, why should I have to try to hide that? That is my point here, after all.) I do say, however, that we should celebrate our common humanness even with our differences.
A Call to Fellow Christians
I am not sure the LGBT crowd thinks this is possible. I’m not sure many in the Christian crowd do either: but we should. We should expect it, by way of Christ’s life in us. On this Day of Silence, and every day besides, we should be showing our LGBT friends that it’s not only possible, but real.
This is not “tolerance.” Tolerance is a weak and small thing, not worth fighting for. This is love instead.