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. Reallythough

    And why is it that CNN has an entire section devoted to belief when it never allows anything positive about belief to be written in it? As a Christian, I never see anything positive and if it is it' never where you can see it immediately. So I hold CNN responsible for helping to perpetuate and re-enforce negative stereotypes (which sadly, the more ignorant of so-called Christians brandish proudly and are quick to make front page news) about people who sole purpose is to spread love. Not this counterfeit hateful religion cult that you paint it as.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
  2. Reallythough

    I see waaaaaay more comments from gays and atheists beating up on Christians than Christians beating up on gays and atheists. Anyone else notice? You don't call that bigotry? Bullying is wrong. Every REAL Christians knows this. Ever think that those were just mean people? What makes them automatically Christian? I'll tell you if that's how they were acting they weren't.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
  3. Mark from Middle River

    Hi Peace –

    Mucho respect. The school of thought I do not totally agree with but some aspects does cause a person to think. You stated "It 'certainly' wasn't coming from the radical right wing republicans" but as a fan of history and a quick conformation, it was Senator Strom Thurmond (Democrat-SC) and Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat-W.Va.) who were very much against the civil rights bill. So at that time it was both Democrats and Republicans that were equally hurtful

    I am not attempting to insult your intellegence but at the same time you might need to open your mind to the possiblity that sometimes what folks feel are good acts do much more damage than direct assualt. Try this, last week a aid foundation demanded that the USA charities halt shipments of grains to Hatti because the people are becoming more used to "getting" handouts than returning to the farms that have been in operation for decades. Turn to NPR and listen for a African named Wyclef and hear how some African countries are refusing aid and turning to China because while the West wants to handout and make dependant China is at least willing to build factories and power stations. It is not a insult but it is one of those simple facts of life, teach a man to fish and he can feed himself. Check on the internet how the push for something as simple as welfare may have done more damage to the African American family than all the Strom Thurmonds put together.

    In the end while I might not agree 100% with this line of thought I can not bring myself to fully bow on my knees and thank someone or group that might think so much that I can not as much as the klan does.

    Proof is with this, African Americans claimed for years that their schools could not suceed or that our kids were being held back because of a unfair racist education system. This talk and line of thought is being rapidly dismissed with the recent African immigrants with their kids out scoring native African American kids by decent margins. From that single instance it makes me question who or what is holding down the African American community.

    Is it the klan guy on the school board who wants to remove Martin Luther King day from the school schedule? Or can it also be the "progressive" that keeps telling our kids that its not their fault but the racist system is what is holding them back and that you need to keep voting Dem because we are the only ones that can protect and save you.

    You call it crap, part of me might call it crap but there is a part of me that thinks that it might be true.

    October 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
  4. Regan DuCasse

    Well, okay Dr. Throckmorton, but that IS what I've been trying to tell YOU...for years. Glad you're coming around.

    October 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  5. Frank

    When it comes to bigotry and blind hatred, I think we should all take a cue from Depeche Mode, at least:
    "People are people, so why should it be? You and I should get along so awfully.
    So we're different colors and we're different breeds, and different people have different needs. It's obvious you hate me, though I've done nothing wrong. I've never even met you so what could I have done?
    I can't understand what makes a man hate another man. Help me understand.
    People are people, so why should it be? You and I should get along so awfully.
    Now you're punching and you're kicking and you're shouting at me. I'm relying on your common decency. So far it hasn't surfaced but I'm sure it exists. It just takes awhile to travel from your head to your fist.
    I can't understand what makes another man hate another man. Help me understand.
    People are people, so why should it be? You and I should get along so awfully.
    I can't understand what makes another man hate another man. Help me understand..."

    October 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Frank: Damm you. Now I have that song stuck in my head...

      October 6, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • peace2all


      Hey Frank, my friend..... Now you must know better than to bring 'music' into the blogosphere, as it will have a tendency to create a 'brain stain' with certain songs.. It's just not PC here.

      So, I am with my friend FROGIST on this one....: Dam-n you Frank....! Song is now stuck in my head too...! 🙂


      October 6, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • Frank

      Lol@Frogist and peace2all! My bad! But I'm not sorry! 😛

      October 6, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  6. Mark from Middle River

    The great thing is that the Africans have been coming and succeeding in general society. I pray that this will rub off on African Americans and many of the excuses will end. At that point the Libs will lose their favourite pets or charity cases.


    October 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • Frank

      The Right Wing doesn't really care about minorities, either. They only care about money and who will throw it at them. I think we should ditch both the liberals and conservatives. They're really the same and getting us nowhere.

      October 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Mark: "some members of the LGBT that "carry themselves" in a way that does not open the door as wide for bullying as others do"... And how is it that they "carry themselves"?
      "libs are equally as bad because many of them treat us as children" – Liberals treat black people like children? Could you elaborate?
      "Libs will lose their favourite pets" – Can't help but notice that you just said liberals treat black people like pets... was that what you meant to say?

      October 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Mark from Middle River

      I try to find common ground, but when you start bringing up things like 'libs treat black people like pets' etc... that's rediculous.

      Again, If it were not for the progressives, mainly liberal folk, of any race, black's and other minorities in this country would not be even close to equal footing and equality.

      It 'certainly' wasn't coming from the radical right wing republicans. All you have to do is look and read at their party 'tenents' and beliefs.

      While, I respect your choice of being a republican..... Please don't insult our intelligence by claiming a reverse version of the 'race card.'

      Just like in this article...... It is mostly the progressive liberals who are fighting against the hate and bigotry against gay/lesbian people. And... again, most research shows that 'republicans' and even more specifically the 'christians' are spewing the hatred and teaching it to their children.

      Mark-We were having an intelligent debate on this and then you brought up, by virtually most people's and solid research standards'.... purely ridulous assertions.

      Be thankful that the 'libs' that you are obviously not fond of have 'fought' for equal rights for you, and woman, and others...as the republicans have consistently cherry-picked the bible to use against you and other minorities.

      I am a liberal and have many friends different races, cultures, se-x-u-a-l orientation, and they are certainly not my 'pets'... but my equal.

      Wow... Mark... !!!!!! Where are ya' coming from with that c-r-a-p....


      October 6, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • Marcus

      Mark – You are wasting your time... Peace will never understand. And as far as fighting for civil rights... Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were both Republicans!

      October 6, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  7. Mark from Middle River

    hmm..... its not in the first half... must be during my right wing rant 🙂

    Lastly, I am a right wing Christian and after looking at a few articles here many African Americans carry many views that would be considered conservative Christian. I am the student of a few and growing amount of Africans and African Americans that really do not have that much love for the Libs that also see African Americans as some poor souls that must need the mighty great compassionate White community to save us. If the Right wing thinks we are less than humans because of what you call hate, then the libs are equally as bad because many of them treat us as children. Sadly many African Americans are so caught up and waiting for some one to save them that they are trapped and shackled within themselves. Example, look at Katrina.

    October 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  8. Mark from Middle River

    Hi Peace and also Frank,

    What I am saying is that, for example, I grew up in a community that had a sizeable Polish population. It was an amazing place to live because I heard the stories of persecution of Polish great grandparents and ancestors. Surprisingly the stories, I found in some ways, where similar to stories I had heard from older African Americans. Especially about the signs in stores denying services. Then by High School I met my first Jew and those stories echoed the same sentament. My best frind is Italian American and I know of some of the discrimination some of his ancestors faced.

    What I am getting at is that the "deck is stacked" against so many people in some ways or another and it can hit from any direction. It is not that LGBT would get harassed anyway was not my point. I apologize because typing on a iPhone PDA is not the best method for getting your thoughts across. My point is that I have seen some members of the LGBT that "carry themselves" in a way that does not open the door as wide for bullying as others do. If you go into many groups you will see the same thing and it is hard to predict. I have seen one Asian student get bullied and in the same school another Asian student did not.

    This why I do not fully hold to a specific group as a whole being bullied or harassed in normal society.

    October 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Frank

      You are right in that people will find almost any excuse to put you down. But I think what people are trying to say is that bigotry is ingrained into people from the time that they are children. Obviously, this isn't always true. A lot of the time what people hate the most is what they see inside of them.
      People need to raise their children to have respect for all people and to see the sacred in all.

      October 6, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  9. Mark from Middle River

    sigh ...

    Sorry Freak and Peace.

    "Mark from Middle River: Your comment is awaiting moderation. October 6, 2010 at 11:58 am"

    October 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  10. Marcus

    I propose a survey. I wish I had the means and know how to accomplish it... This stupid article makes it look like Christians as a whole or majority have no compassion, empathy, or love for fellow man if they are gay or lesbian. I would love to see a survey of Christians to see what percentage actually "Hates" gays and why... I would then like to see a survey of Gays and Lesbians to see what percentage "Hates" Christians and why.

    My instinct leads me to believe that a MUCH – MUCH higher percentage of Gays hate Christians, than Christians hate Gays... what do you all think?

    October 6, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • Chase Dorway

      This article, and a lot of others, are only snippets of Christians. And I think you are reasonably right. If you've read the poem about the elephant, I forget who it' by, but it talks about blind men that find an elephant, and feel different parts of it, and think it's something else. None were in the right, but none were in the wrong. That's how it is with religion. Most Christians are good people. The ones that are in the news are not those for the most part. f

      November 11, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  11. CatholicMom

    It is sad to say that being bullied seems to be prevalent even in the animal world. I think I know where the word ‘bull’ied comes from. Also ‘hen pecked’. But what is disturbing is we should be able to control ourselves better than animals might do, but we can’t seem to do it. No one animal has ‘hogged’ all the good point and so we must learn how to behave with love. Where is that love? It should be living in us if we all received the Sacrament of Baptism and live a life of concern for our brothers and sisters. Are we drifting farther and farther away from Truth?

    October 6, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • Frogist

      @Catholic Mom: I disagree that a sense of love and truth comes necessarily from some higher power. And I disagree completely that it is bestowed upon us through baptism. But I absolutely agree that we can all appeal to our higher intellects and emotions to curtail the prejudices that surround us. It will take effort and vigilance as well as love. But I don't think it is beyond us to reach out to those who are different with consideration for their humanity first before any other labels override us.

      October 6, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  12. brad

    It doesn't work that way. IF you tell your kids they're evil and bad, they're going to bully them. Saying "leave them alone at school" isn't going to affect the otherization that you've instilled in your children.

    This is Christians trying to make themselves feel better about their bigotry and it makes me sick.

    October 6, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  13. Mark from Middle River

    @ TJ Parker.

    I think almost everyone does this action or that for power and bullying is just another quest for power. I will wager this, since I have had the chance to know quite a few LGBT I will state this.... that these kids or young adults where bullied was a good chance they would have been bullied about something else. Being Gay was just what those who tormented them used. If they they had been straight it would have been something else. Because they wore glasses. Or they were Jewish, Christian or whatever. Maybe it would have been racial.

    All in all I think back to the Virgina Tech shooter and how it was reported he was bullied in grade school, middle and High school and then he went to a out of town college and ..surprise surprise the bullying followed him. Its just something that certain folks "give off" that opens the door for harassment from their peers. You see members of the LGBT community that each day function in society. They go to schools where they are the only ones but something about them folks do not see that gap in their self armor that does not offer an opprotunitty to bullies.

    The problem is though, when such a person gets to this stage of their lives there are two options that sadly we have seen too much of. The option of suicide or doing a Virgina Tech school shooting are just so horrible. So while we attempt to address these bullying issues with the bully aspect there has to be a bit of a study on those who are getting bullied.

    October 6, 2010 at 2:47 am |
    • peace2all

      @Mark from Middle River

      Hi Mark..! It has been awhile since we chatted..... I hope that you have been well...?

      As to your post, certainly there may be some areas to explore, however it seems to me that you are basically placing the blame on the 'victims' of the bullying. And assuming that they would be most likely bullied anyway. There may be something intrinsically in 'anyone' that causes them to attract such atrocities.

      However, it goes much, much deeper than that. LGBT people already have the deck stacked against them. Until our society, especially the christians (as studies have shown that the 'majority' of christians are vehemently against anything gay, as they somehow believe that god just doesn't care for such folk, so they(a lot of religious people), take it upon themselves to hate the LGBT's) stop teaching the hatred and ignorant fear-mongering of LGBT people, things will not really change.

      Glad to see that a lot of christian denominations are slowly starting to wake up and take a stand against such ignorance and bigotry.

      Because, as you know.....When one group demeans other's as less than, and especially invokes god and religion into it, those victims of abuse don't really stand a chance until society really fundamentally changes.

      You, I am sure, understand this, as 'black people' were not accepted... quite the contrary.. were tortured in the name of religion as being 'less than.' It took people of intelligent and empathic faith and other liberal progressives to turn the situation around and fight for equality, acceptance, etc... Because it sure wasn't the extreme right wing fundamentalist christians.

      I think you know this already... I'm sure...

      So, to basically insinuate that the LGBT people would be bullied anyway, is not a very good answer, in my opinion. It's kind of like blaming a woman who has been 'r-a-p-e-d'... which society often does. Well, they must have brought it on themselves.

      No, our society as a whole needs to and must collectively put a stop to teaching children that others *not* like them should be tortured and bullied in the name of god and jesus.... because they think it so.


      October 6, 2010 at 3:20 am |
    • Frank

      "All in all I think back to the Virgina Tech shooter and how it was reported he was bullied in grade school, middle and High school and then he went to a out of town college and ..surprise surprise the bullying followed him."

      I hardly think he committed mass murder and suicided because of bullying. He appeared to have dissociative ident!ty disorder. Which means that Cho really didn't exist anymore.

      October 6, 2010 at 4:33 am |
    • Frank

      It reminds me of when they blamed Columbine on bullying, when the truth of the matter was that Eric Harris was a sociopath, Dylan Klebold was teetering on the edge of the abyss and Harris pushed him over.

      October 6, 2010 at 4:38 am |
    • Frogist

      @Mark: You constantly surprise me. If these were Christian kids being bullied, would you have the same response of blaming the victims? Or would you be more likely to ask why it is that it's always the christians who are being put down? Please, surprise me again.

      October 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
    • Prettymuchjulia

      "I hardly think he committed mass murder and suicided because of bullying. He appeared to have dissociative ident!ty disorder. Which means that Cho really didn't exist anymore."

      Please take a moment to research D.I.D.

      October 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  14. TJ Parker

    Decades of vicious and vile spew from Christian evangelicals towards LGBT people, and suddenly they have a moment of remorse: call off the dogs, they're attacking our children too!

    Fundamentally, Christian evangelicals are frauds: this is not the Christ who said "whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers ..." or "do unto others ...". This is the flaw in a people who value faith over acts: because, guys, your acts have been truly reprehensible. Five suicidal kids are the tip of the iceberg: consider, if you will, the thousands over the last decades, who drew less publicity. That's some of the blood on your hands. Wear it proudly: you did all this merely for political power.

    October 6, 2010 at 1:11 am |
  15. Jimbo

    'and the King will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’

    October 5, 2010 at 11:54 pm |

    This is something that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. It is the adults that make this children feel less than everybody else with all this Christian beliefs that are just complete nonsense. But, if we want to go by the Big Book, we are all sinners. Here in Puerto Rico gay people are being chased and murdered. This year along there have been 2 murders of gay people. We all have to address the issue before it gets out of hands. Life is hard as it is without having people hating you for something that does not even concerns anyone.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Osvaldo: Unfortunately prejudice against gays is even more prevalent outside the US. Especially in lesser developend countries. Consider Nigeria and it's anti-gay policies. Certain countries still have anti-gay laws on the books. It's high time humanity stops putting limitations on the human rights of others who happen to be different.

      October 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  17. I am Christian

    People should never be bullied. I am a Christian and I love g-a-y people, and Jesus loves these people too. How sad what the world does, too much hate.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • Chase Dorway

      And I love you. Being Christian, I totally understand what you are saying, and agree with you with all of my beating little heart.

      November 11, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  18. Marcus

    I am a skeptic... I want to know who the Christian leaders are that this author is talking about? I also want to know what his take is on the Muslim response, the Jewish Response, the Atheist Response, the Wicken Response, the Hindu Response etc...

    October 5, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
    • Frank

      I would like to know the Wicker Man's response, myself. The Wicked man, as well.

      October 5, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
    • peace2all


      Just an FYI.... it is...'Wiccan'.... not 'Wicken'...


      October 6, 2010 at 1:39 am |
    • Prettymuchjulia

      I think the wicker man's response would be "why is my furniture so cheaply made, yet so prevalent?"

      October 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  19. Negu

    Eat not of the food of him who hath the evil eye.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
    • peace2all


      Please see my response to your posting .... a few above this one.

      Would love to hear you elaborate a bit more vs. quoting bible verses.


      October 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  20. Negu

    Stay away from the vomit of the weak minded. The Lord saith "Come out from among them and be ye separate.".

    October 5, 2010 at 5:01 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.