October 5th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

My Take: A Christian response to anti-gay bullying

Editor's Note: Warren Throckmorton, PhD is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Grove City College. Along with Michael Frey, he leads the Golden Rule Pledge and blogs at warrenthrockmorton.com. Don't miss an "AC360°" special report in collaboration with PEOPLE Magazine, "Bullying: No Escape," all this week at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.

By Warren Throckmorton, Special to CNN

The nation is mourning the recent suicides of three young teens, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown and Seth Walsh. Although each situation was a little different, a common denominator was that a central feature of the harassment the boys experienced was anti-gay name-calling.

Sadly, these boys join a string of other suicide victims who'd been subjected to anti-gay bias.

The tragedies have heightened the attention of the public on an already contentious debate about how to prevent anti-gay harassment. While everyone agrees that such bullying is harmful and must be addressed, not all agree about the means to that end.

Gay groups want to enact legislation which specifically includes prohibitions on bullying based on bias toward gays or those perceived to be gay.

Some Christian conservatives believe such laws communicate approval of homosexuality and thus disapproval of traditional Christian teaching on sexuality.

My view is that evangelicals need to put ideological worries aside and become part of the solution.

Addressing anti-gay bias doesn't require anyone to change religious beliefs about sexuality.

Current laws forbid bias on account of religion and yet I do not believe these laws promote my religion or any religion. Since religious bias is sometimes at the root of aggression toward others, laws set the boundaries of behavior in an explicit manner.

In the same way, it seems reasonable for schools to make clear that the boundaries of appropriate behavior exclude name-calling and harassment involving perceptions about sexual orientation.

Addressing such bias strikes me as an application of the Golden Rule - do to others as you would have them do to you.

Christians need not worry about violating their faith when schools insist on fair and respectful treatment for all. Anti-gay name-calling is hurtful to all students. Refusing to name the problem can create the illusion that such name calling is acceptable.

As a traditional evangelical, I may have some differences of opinion with my gay friends. However, such ideological differences don’t matter to a middle school child who is afraid to go to school.

There are many such children who need adults to care more about their well being than about religious differences. Adults need to focus on common values of respect and civility and take the culture war off the school campus.

This year, in my hometown of Grove City, Pennsylvania, local schools are implementing the Olweus Bullying Prevention program. The Olweus program has a proven record of success in reducing bullying and is rated highly by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

To help generate support for the program, assistant Grove City Area School District Superintendent Tom Bell reached out to the Grove City Ministerial Association, a non-denominational group of local pastors. Though not a minister, I was asked to co-represent the association in trainings designed to help implement the program.

While we have had to address fears generated by some Christian groups about anti-bullying efforts, there is hope that the partnership can work well for our kids. No one has been asked to change religious beliefs. Instead, core beliefs in the dignity of all people are at the forefront.

Just over three years ago, I started the Golden Rule Pledge to emphasize to straight evangelical students that following your faith means treating your neighbors well. That means all of them - even the gay ones.

At that time, some Christian leaders were recommending that students avoid school on the Day of Silence, a day in April where some gay and lesbian students remain silent during non-class times to dramatize the prevalence of harassment and bullying directed at them.

In my view, boycotting school only makes the situation worse. It seems to me that people of faith should lead the way in providing safe and respectful environments for all. To do this, you have to be there and you have to name the problem to solve it.

As we are seeking to do in Grove City, I believe our children need us to come together, community, church and school. Let’s live the Golden Rule in school.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Warren Throckmorton.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality • Opinion • Teens

soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. dcdrew8171

    Everyones savation is there own it's is not for any to gudge unless being qualified and I no of none of true honesty that can look in depth within and say I am.

    November 28, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  2. Rob

    This is bs.

    November 24, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
    • dcdrew8171

      you are just brilliant ! the flesh has spoken. You are the proof.

      November 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  3. Brad B

    The Bible itself is not flawed, just as the Quran and Torah are not flawed. It is true however that there are people of all religions who pick and choose, take things out of context, and use them to condone their own actions while condemming others. It is the people who are flawed. People who blame books or 'religion' for the ills of society need to take a good hard look in a mirror. Have the people that denounce these books, even read these books? If not you are only adding to the problem.

    November 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • Azize

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      April 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm |

    The bible is flawed, most people pick and choose what to follow, i havent seen any disrespectful child get stoned by elders lately. The bible was written by Man, and all men sin and have their own opinions, which clearly is shown in the Bible. Jesus never said anything against gays, it was apostles who did, why trust the word of a bunch of former thieves and liars?

    November 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  5. Criss Tareyton

    Some people of the church have many lessons to learn. One is; God made us all and the only one that can change any human being is Jah. No human can change another human being. When you talk about wash in the blood of Christ, born again? Only the Lord can do that, so stop trying to change those who are gay. Stop being judgemental, your ignorance is not building up the foundation of the church. It's taring it down. You forgot first they are human, second they are children. All you saw was gay, that means your blind and you should remove yourselves from the church for futher learning and teaching from the word of Jah. Your not feeding your souls, if you were your voices wouldn't utter words like a stupit and ignorant human being.

    November 16, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  6. Brandy Bucktook

    Loco Nutt,
    There are examples of people losing their jobs simply for the fact they oppose gay marriage, or the gay lifestyle. That is bullying. Simply because I disagree with the gay lifestyle it should not cost me to worry about my job, or my way of life. To create a culture that says you cannot say "That's so gay" or "That's gay", or anything that offends gays is wrong. You are than saying they are a superior society that says freedom of speech stops here. The LGBT uses the word "bully" to loosly to avoid any discussion contrary to what they believe.
    The LGBT talk is so absolute that it is damaging to these kids. To say people are gay and sciences proves it. Is to say there is no way out for them. Once they are gay there is no turning back. There is a point of no return. Once you are one of them, you will always be one of them. I say run from the LGBT. It is a Nazi founded belief system. Forcing everyone to believe as they believe and changing everyones view through aggressive programs such as the bullying prevention programs. This is one of the most harmful things I've ever seen. I do get harrassed and bullied for what I believe. I'm not trying to shut anyone up. The LGBT wants everyone to believe it's everyone elses fault for suicide. I believe it's the absolute beliefs of the LGBT which teens are running from which is the result of all the suicides we are seeing. Suicide is people running from being gay. Not embrassing it. If you are feeling gay tendencies, and you are reading this. Know that you are loved and there is a way, search spiritually and scientifically. Science is not one sided. If the brian conflicts with what the body says, Why does the body always win? Why can't we fix the brian and keep the body the way it is?

    November 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  7. Brandy Bucktook

    I'm against bullying but I'm not for a bullying prevention program. Bullying is something all kids endure, when you start to define words or specific expressions as bullying, you create a culture of singling out a certain group in society as being better than everyone else. Let's start to address suicide as the wrong solution to any situation. Let's let everyone know they are loved no matter what. Many people who have positions of leadership in their community/school/church push the LGBT agenda hide behind the word "bully" when they are confronted with disagreement. Religion or religious people are unfairly picked out as the cause of bullying when I believe people who are truely faithful to their religion speak only about their belief which so often is thought of as bullying. I've been accused of bullying when I've only explained my belief on the subject. It's wrong to accuse me of bullying. Also, there are plenty of examples in California where people lost their job for voting in favor of prop 8. Is that not bullying? Forcing someone to believe what you believe or you'll loose your job.

    November 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • Loco_NUTT

      Brandy ,you are completely mistaken,the christians have DIRECTLY spoken that gays are using this as an agenda. You obviously missed the direct quote OR are trying to conceal the truth. You are correct that many kids experience bullying BUT dont you think its time to cease this immature contolling nature by teaching that it is wrong and showing them that fear is not neccessary. Bullying is brought also into the adult scenario when they see that they got away with acting in this fashion. Bullying is NOT something that should be ignored when done for ANY reason whatsoever. I also know of christians who are bullied for being a christian...should that be allowed as well?? I think your opinion on that will be swayed by the fact that YOU are a christian ( or say you are ) but you show no sympathy for others. I would love to see your reaction to YOUR kids being bullied,I guarantee you would see it YOUR way and want them to stop...yet bullying of others is OK??? You are a follower with no ability to put yourself in the shoes of others.
      Also you say " Also, there are plenty of examples in California where people lost their job for voting in favor of prop 8. Is that not bullying? Forcing someone to believe what you believe or you'll loose your job." Noone knows how others vote so that was a totally ignorant statement made simply to support yourself and your wants. Nobody was fired for voting in any fashion. YOU ARE A LIAR!

      November 12, 2010 at 2:40 am |
  8. Loco_NUTT

    Let me also add.... anti bullying is NOT a gay agenda. It simply addresses the fact of fear imposed upon our youth based on things they know nothing about. Noone should be bullied as bullying is the opposite of free speech. Saying it is a gay agenda is simply an attempt to undermine anyones opinion but the person who says such things and represents bullying in itself. Why shouldn't antibullying be everyones agenda. Saying that is the opinion of one part of the whole is simply ignorant.

    November 10, 2010 at 1:40 am |
    • Nicole

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      April 4, 2012 at 2:30 am |
  9. Loco_NUTT

    Why is it that noone seems to know that the bible is a book,written by man himself-not GOD. It does have good lifes lessons but should not be held as the word of God because it isn't the word of God. It is the words of man. It simply has been touted as the word of God by people who like to control others (same as a bully) and the words therein construed totally different by each and every man alive. If you look closely it is easily seen that those who like to control spread FEAR of the bible. Those who like peace spread peace in the bible.
    This being the case then why cant ANY book be the word of God?
    We should teach our kids to prepare themselves for those who have been parented by bullies and will be bullies themselves. Kids mock what thier parents teach them most of all and the actions of the child will unavoidably mirror those of the parent. It is my opinion that the parents should be the ones responsible for the actions of thier kids. This applies to both sides and the suicideal child is the upbringing of the weak parent and the bully is the upbringing of the fearful parent. The kids are simply acting out what they have been taught.
    Fear of the unknown is common and that is what should be taught in schools. Those who are bullys are those who fear change and the unknown and are the true cowards of society. Teaching them that knowledge rather than fear is the acceptible will do wonders for society as a whole in many many many ways.
    It is the fear that we need to conquer-not each other.

    November 10, 2010 at 1:20 am |
  10. DC

    In continuation to my first comment, why do people point fingers at Christians are portray them as a threat? Really? Hell was just an "idea" created by Christians? THERE ARE PEOPLE WHOM GOD HAS CHOSEN BY HIS HAND TO LET THEM EXPERIENCE THE REALITY OF HEAVEN AND HELL AND THEY CAME BACK TO EARTH. The devil has decieved so many these days. Fine! But remember that Jesus Christ's second coming is getting nearer by the second. Of course an athiest would say thats its been over 2,000 years so why hasn't he come back yet. Believe me, he's coming back at an hour which we would not expect for him to come back. If people were to just read the book of Revelations they would see the truth and reality in it. REPENT from your sins because one day it will be just you and God alone on judgement day and there will be no escaping from the one who is righteous and knows your heart better than you do. And yes, I mean gays and lesbians will be held accountable for themselves for what they have done.

    November 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
    • CW

      @ DC

      AMEN AMEN...PREACH ON!!!! I read your other comment on dabbling in religion....being G-A-Y and saying your a christian.

      Like saying.....I'm a Democrat but I always vote Republican...Ha Ha. What a joke.

      November 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Selfish Gene

    Alright. Where were we?

    November 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • Jhopay

      Hay. :] Im New. Just Starting lol. Downloading the game. its almost done. maybe sonoeme should message me in the game and walk me thru it. just for the first few levels. and maybe we could like hang out or idk lol. im new to these games so please help me out. ill come back and post a comment later with my character name and all so you guys could message me in game.

      October 7, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  12. victor p. mcdaniels

    it is a sin,page 168 in the bible c.20 v.13 if a manalso lie with mankind,as he lieth with a woman,both themhave committed an abomination;they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

    October 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      don't mix fabrics, it is abomination. don't plant different crops next to each other, it is abomination. don't cut off your hair it is abomination. you pick and choose which verses suit your hate.

      November 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  13. lb

    I am a Christian, and also gay..There is just one question for all of you who seem to have all the answers, and preach that it is a sin to be gay, and that somehow this is pentence. If you believe the Bible is the Word of God, then it says in the Bible that we are all created in God's image, and He has made us! So do think that for one minute someone would CHOOSE to be treated like a second class citizen, would like to be bullied, would like to live in fear, would like to be called names??? No one of sound mind would choose to do that, yet there are millions in this world who are gay! Humans have made social rules for thousands of years, and have thought they were rulers of the world...not too long ago it was against the law for whites and blacks to have relations. Those people were Christians and Godly men who made those rules. Christians use alot of there own feelings mixed with biblical teachings to send a bad message, just like those who picked soldiers funerals! I think Christians have really forgotten why we were created, and why we are here. We will all have a judgment day don't forget!

    October 27, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
    • DC

      Really? Your Christian AND gay? Now tell me, if your really a Christian, then do you ignore the part in the Bible which it says a man shall not lie down with another as if he were a woman? Do YOU ignore this part and runaway from it or do you confess that it's true? A real Christian also believes that the Bible is without error and that it is the truth, because it's true.

      November 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
    • DC

      Oh and I also forgot to mention that your a hypocrite for saying that Christian's mix their feelings with the teachings of the Bible. You do not know Christ, because of your fruit. Yes I agree with only some of the things you mentioned like there being a judgement day. But you say your Christian and that Christians send out a bad message? Really? So in other words your making yourself look bad? Really, you should think twice before you posted what you typed.

      November 8, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.