(anti) anti-bullying?

mjkimpan  —  October 17, 2012 — 18 Comments


the jesus of the bible is the God-man who in the incarnation stepped into humanity and spent the recorded years of his public ministry standing in solidarity with the oppressed and the marginalized. he is a friend of sinners.

it was so surprising to the religious leaders of his day that he would dare to align himself with those who had been pushed to the outside that they actually plotted to kill him.

because of the radical hospitality of jesus and the example of his grace and kindness toward all people, anytime an organization claiming to promote the values and message of jesus stands up to fight against an anti-bullying campaign, a few eyebrows are sure to raise.

and some questions should be asked.

Mix It Up at Lunch Day is a program started by Southern Poverty Law Center 11 years ago, and over 2,500 schools around the country participate in the program each year.

the purpose is to break up cliques and prevent bullying.

but the new york times reported yesterday that this year, a conservative evangelical group is urging parents to keep their children home from school the day of the event.

they’ve publicly declared themselves to be anti-anti-bullying (sic). the leaders of the American Family Association are not only uninterested in supporting Mix It Up at Lunch Day… their website slider includes an ‘Action Alert‘ and asks parents to contact their children’s schools to complain to the school administration- or to keep their kids at home to avoid the event.

the reason?

according to the group’s website,

‘Mix It Up’ day is an entry-level ‘diversity’ program designed specifically by SPLC to establish the acceptance of homosexuality into public schools.’

‘The reality is we are not a hate group. We are a truth group,’ said bryan fischer, director of issue analysis for the association. ‘We tell the truth about homosexual behavior.’

here’s an inconvenient truth for the ‘truth group’ ::

• as reported in the article in the times, the suggested activities for Mix It Up at Lunch Day do not address gay and lesbian students. the official position of the organization itself promotes equal treatment for gays and lesbians.

equal treatment. as in, please don’t call them names, beat them up in the bathroom or continue the bullying that has contributed to the unprecedented numbers of students that are resorting to suicide rather than face continued and unchecked threats of violence, mistreatment and rejection from their peers.

mr. fischer of the AFA goes on to say, ‘No one is in favor of anyone getting bullied for any reason, but these anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior is not something that should be normalized.’

to summarize the ‘logic’ :: for fear that this anti-bullying campaign may inadvertently lead to the ‘tolerance’ of gay and lesbian students – which is apparently a bad thing? – they’re actively fighting against it. to them, all students being bullied means LGBT students being bullied, and that’s the important thing. if no students are bullied, then LGBT students aren’t bullied – and that’s a slippery slope to the normalcy of homosexuality in society.

therefore, according to the AFA, it’s best to be (anti) anti-bullying.

‘we are not a hate group. we are a truth group.’

here are some (more) inconvenient truths, taken from an extensive study released by HRC ::

• LGBT youth are more than two times as likely as non-LGBT youth to say they have been verbally harassed and called names at school. among LGBT youth, half (51%) have been mocked or name called at school for being gay.

• 17% of LGBT youth have been physically assaulted or attacked while in school.

• nearly six in ten LGBT youth (57%) say that churches or places of worship in their community are not accepting of LGBT people.

• 50% of LGBT youth that come out experience rejection in their own families.

• LGBT youth that experience rejection in their own families are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide.

• there are as many as 100,000 homeless LGBT youth on the streets in america.

remember jesus?

given these statistics (the whole report is available here), even if Mix It Up at Lunch Day were explicitly promoting equality of gay and lesbian students, i contend it would be UN-christian to boycott such a program on grounds it might actually work.

it’s no wonder, then, that the SPLC has recently added the AFA to its national list of active hate groups, which includes neo-Nazis, black separatists and Holocaust deniers.

remember jesus?

‘love one another.’

‘all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

‘to the extent you did it to even the least of these, you did it to me.’

this isn’t about taking a stand for being ‘right’ – it’s about standing up for the rights of others.

  • Andrea

    Jesus does not call us to stiff-arm sinners.
    An embrace works so much better than the cold shoulder.
    Standing in the gap and interceding on behalf of the lost is a much higher calling than judgement and condemnation leading to isolation and alienation.
    I am burdened for the AFA. I pray for a revelation of the truth of God’s love in that group.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      great insight :: ‘judgement and condemnation [lead] to isolation and alienation.’ well said.

  • David

    I now am very suspicious of any Christian who uses the the word Truth. I have heard it for the past five years in the organisation I have been involved in. What I have seen is that there is no love for others both outside and inside the organisation. It seems an excuse to condemn others. Jesus said follow me, and that is all we do. People look at homosexuality as some disease that they might catch, or something horrible might happen if they mix with them. But all people need Jesus whatever the secret or public sin. Jesus said prostitutes and tax collectors get into heaven before us, and we need to look at ourselves and see if there is anything wrong with ourselves first. Like I am seeing that there is a huge problem with porn and Christian men.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      i had a conversation last evening in which we envisioned a better future for the church –

      what would it look like if rather than focusing on an us/them mentality, harping on what ‘sins’ exist ‘out there’ we each focused on how we could better find and follow christ in our every interaction?

      what would it look like to celebrate the fingerprint of God – the imago dei – in each person?

      what would it look like to mirror the solidarity with the disenfranchised, marginalized and oppressed in our communities that we see in God’s incarnation?

      what if, rather than declaring things seen in others as sinful, i recognized the areas in my own life where i fall short, and was encouraged and inspired by my community to get back up and try again?

      i am convinced if we began to approach worship within our faith communities (as well as our liturgy, our structures and systems for membership, service and doctrine, et cetera) this way, we could quite possibly turn things upside down.

    • Ryan Copeland

      David, something horrible might very well happen to someone who gets to know LGBT individuals – They might find out that they’re actually real people who need a savior! How Horrible!!! Yes, I probably overuse sarcasm, but isn’t that what people are afraid of? They see a gay person by their ‘sin’, they don’t see the actual person and frankly many people want to keep it that way. It’s sad that we who are called to be the salt and light for the world are the ones pushing people away from Christ. You are correct, porn is a huge problem with ‘christian’ men, and it is a shocking reality check because according to God, sin is sin. there is no difference between looking at pornography and practicing homosexuality. I know many people would say that homosexuality is not a sin, but the way someone is born. Well, it is the way they were born, because we were all born IN SIN. just like joe schmoe, the porn addict was ‘born that way’. it’s in his genes because that is the broken sinful nature of all of us. If the church realized that, we may see people a little differently, more compassionately. Thanks Mike for the post.

  • Eric Masters

    I have to admit I’m baffled by how “tolerance” has become a dirty word in some christian circles. It doesn’t mean supporting those things, it implies nothing more than tolerating them- which by definition means treating somebody the same even if you don’t agree with them.

    I would go one further and say tolerance isn’t enough, we need love for the other. And there is nobody more “other” in our society than a homosexual.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      thanks, eric. i agree that particularly within the broader context and subculture of evangelical christianity we have systematically marginalized and even oppressed (as evidenced in the times article) the gay community more than any other group.

      one reason i’m so passionately engaged in the LGBT conversation is i believe it’s symptomatic of a larger, overarching problem within evangelicalism – that we struggle not only to ‘tolerate’ but (as you pointed out) to LOVE anyone who is ‘other’ than us :: whether those differences are socio-economic, racial, ethnic, regarding sexuality, philosophical or theological differences, inter-faith differences, et cetera. it all comes back to our false idol of what i call ‘group-ish-ness’ :: our addiction to binary, dualistic thinking – in/out, us/them, right/wrong.

      we won’t get any of those more nuanced relationships right if we can’t get the gay issue right. though our failure in this area is (in my opinion) symptomatic of a bigger issue, it’s still a glaringly obvious one – like an elephant in the room… and the world is watching with increasing interest.

      i am hopeful that as we make progress in debunking myths, helping in education and correcting misunderstandings and misinterpretations – that how we steer the ship toward envisioning a better future can serve as an example in the other areas that are in need of correction. one organization that i think is tremendously helpful to both sides of this bridge that needs to be built is the marin foundation in chicago. if you’re not familiar with it, check it out :: http://www.themarinfoundation.org

  • Erika

    I can’t find my exact status, but when the whole chick fil a thing was going on, I posted something like this: whether you believe homosexuality is wrong or not, we must agree that they are also human and as such, deserve basic human rights. I really don’t understand how treated this group of people with love and respect is going to harm our society. How is their equality hurting you? So infuriating. I feel like I can talk til I’m blue in the face and some people just won’t get it. Like if they change their minds about this one thing, their world will shatter.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      absolutely, erika. it was amazing to me when i spoke out during the chick-fil-a debacle that there were so many folks ‘offended’ by my words. (read some of the comments here :: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/op-ed/being-holy-age-being-right)

      the encouraging thing was that in the midst of a lot of name-calling and side-taking, there were also a few voices that envisioned a hopeful and better future. those comments are the ones that keep me going, and make up for 1,000 less supportive ones.

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