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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. DC

    Bullynig in schools should not be tolerated for anything in the schools, that said you also do not need to change/modify legistration for a policital agenda or for each group that gets bullied – just enforce current laws and this should be common sense for the schools.
    Outside the schools will be more difficult because it can be a catch 22 – people shouldn't be teasing or bullying other kids, regardless of what reason but then you'll get freedom of speech activists complaining it's their right to say what they want. I thnk there needs to be less legislation and more common sense.

    October 23, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  2. the Way

    I have read most of this thread and have one thing to say: Thank god I'm an atheist

    October 22, 2010 at 9:43 am |
    • CW

      @ the Way.

      I pray you come to God. You can be an atheist...one day...you'll get your chance to stand before GOD ALMIGHTY and explain why you believed this way. I hope you repent....b/c if you don't....the feeling of being Hell will but it will be too late.

      October 26, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • GrammarNazi

      Don't scorn god, dude. Play it safe and just accept that he may not exist. At the very least, you rest in limbo rather than being burned by a flaming sandstorm.

      Then again, I may have read Dante's Inferno a few too many times. 😛

      October 28, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      The concept of hell was invented by christians. so, good luck with it. hope it works for ya. We atheists will just decompose.

      November 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Selfish Gene:
      I prefer to call it being recycled! 😉

      November 5, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  3. sjohn

    The bible teaches us ho mo se xu ality is a sin. Just like it teaches of the other sins that people face. Preachers preach what's in the bible. They DO NOT preach to hate the gay person. Neither does the bible. The bible teaches us to accept the person just the way they are, but we don't applaud the sin. Its quite simple. This goes with any sin and sinner.
    @ Frogist – Never express their love for another person? I still cannot fathom why being gay is a sin. It hurts no one and damages nothing.
    Frogist, your argument is very naive. Do you realize a polygamist could use the exact same reasoning?

    "But even more than that I cannot understand why some christians are ok with violence against gays?"

    From my understanding of the debate, Christians just disagree with the application of anti-bullying policy. LGBT groups want to protect that group. While Christians want to protect ALL children and deal with the bully instead of protecting one group and leaving the other groups out. Don't you think that's a more reasonable method?

    October 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • nonesuch

      No.

      October 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • Frogist

      Actually I have no issues with polygamy either. If people are happy with sharing their partners and no one gets hurt, who am I to disagree?

      As for anti-gay bullying programs, I still don't see why Christians cannot get onboard with them. Seems to me the only reason is they don't want to be seen with anything that says being gay is normal and perfectly fine. Because I don't see how you can address the topic of bullying targeted against gay children without talking about gay children. You can't have programs that say, "just be nice to people" but don't adress why these kids were bullied. It won't have any teeth. It won't be relevant. It just dances around the real issue that people think being gay is bad. I think some christians are secretly, and openly too, happy with the world persecuting gay people. Then they can make the ridiculous claim that the pain gay people experience because of bigots is god's way of letting them know they are sinners.

      November 5, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  4. T. David Jones, Jr.

    Life in the military would have been difficult enough without the knowledge that the guy next to me in the shower might be viewing me with interest. Don't ask, don't tell is an absolute must. One could tell if a shipmate had other ideas or intentions!
    I was free to ignore and he was free to look elsewhere.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      You don't make a case. If they are gay, and look at you with interest, it will happen regardless if you know about it or not.

      November 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  5. OnTheRoad

    I remember growing up in the late 50's and early 60's in deep East Texas, sitting in a Southern Baptist Church and hearing all of the talk about what to do incase some 'Black' person might decide to come to 'Our Church'. It seems that some 'Christians' are always looking for someone to put down! Each year several thousand children are born in this country alone with both 'female' and 'male' body parts. If God has allowed this type of physical mistake to be made, why can't people accept that God might also allow a mental mistake to be made where someone is born 'male' but be mentally 'female'??????

    October 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • CW

      @OnTheRoad

      Your way off the road....GOD MAKES NO MISTAKES!!!!!. People are born deformed.....that is the way it is.....All I can say is read your BIBLE...no one was GAY where this SIN WAS ACCEPTED. READ!!!!!

      October 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  6. swapmeat

    Most reilgions espouse anti-gay entiments and actively lobby to repress the GLBTQ communities in America and the world. 3 monotheistic religions have proven time and again that they are no longer worthy of engaging in human rights discussions when their leaders continue to openly preach hate and intolerance of gays and lesbians.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  7. valiant

    hey in God we trust right no it is the devil you trust. please allow felons to be free too they are human. we are going somewhere do you know please advice me .

    October 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  8. Nelbrin

    While I am saddened by these tragic suicides and appalled by the behavior of these bullies. The idea that as a society we are becoming so ultra sensitive and insecure that we take our own lives because someone was mean to us is even sadder. Some are suggesting special anti-bulling policies and legislation are needed. Good grief people do you really think you can outlaw being mean to someone? If you are really that sensitive and insecure you need to toughen up or you won't be able to make it in the grown up world anyway.

    October 8, 2010 at 10:39 am |
    • weaselgal

      Okay, now I have to say something. Nelbrin, have you EVER been subject to bullying? Incessant name-calling, being shoved, slapped, punched, and kicked for no reason? Have you ever been set up to be publicly humiliated simply because someone didn't like you? I despise that sorry reasoning that this society has become emasculated because we have to be sensitive. Bullying is not a be-damned rite of passage for kids to suffer. It is not okay for a kid to come home with bruises inflicted by a bully, or to be called obscene names for being different. I spent my entire childhood up to high school dealing with that kind of brutality. I didn't protest because the few times I did, I got it even worse. I wasn't bullied over orientation; I was bullied because of my birth defects that disfigured my appearance. The victims are scared. They come to believe that NO ONE, not even family, will come to their aid. They are so scared they can't trust anyone. That's why they turn to such drastic measures such as suicide. I tried several times over the years and finally came to the conclusion my life was worth something after all. I share this story because I know with support and LOVE, we can defeat this. So, Nelbrin, you look me in the eye and call me a limp-wristed coward. You keep on spouting your crap about blaming the victims of bullying. I am living proof that hope is possible, that after so much suffering, life will get better. That is true strength.
      Whatever happened to 'do unto others as you would have done unto you'? Would you honestly enjoy having the snot kicked out of you for no reason? Just for existing? If someone doesn't like being beaten up, or called awful names, maybe the one doing the abuse ought to consider how THEY would feel if on the receiving end.

      October 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
  9. Brisonc

    "the ignorance and hatred of gays is fostered by the religious belief that gay people are sinners and therefore lesser human beings for being who they are"

    No , those that claim to be gay(there is as of yet no physical or scientific marker for gayness) are not "hated" for "who they are", but are criticized for what they do. We do not "HATE" alcoholics, we pity them and have compassion for them and want to help them to sobriety. We do not "hate" pedophiles or rapists, but have compassion and pity on them and wish to help them overcome what keeps them in bondage. There is no "ignorance" involved. Refusing to accept a fallen nature as being "how God make me" is wise discernment based on scriptural teaching.

    October 8, 2010 at 1:14 am |
    • peace2all

      @Brisonc

      Seems to me anyway, that right off the bat, you already have a biased pre-disposition on this issue.

      You are already presupposing by inference that..... gay's 'should' be criticized for what they 'do'....as you are asserting their behaviors or what they do on the same level or equivalent to ... murderers, rapists, pedophiles, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc..

      Those behaviors have *terrible direct tangible effects and consequences* on someone.... namely the person that was murdered, their family friends, etc...

      What *terrible direct tangible effects and consequences* do gays put on you or society....? Please be *specific* and don't quote the bible, or say.... It is just doesn't feel right to me.

      If.... you can answer it in that way, I would be very interested in seriously considering your thoughts on the matter.

      Peace...

      October 8, 2010 at 1:37 am |
    • T. David Jones, Jr.

      I beg to differ. the bottom line of this issue iis this: We all are sinners. Every man-jack of us. The big question is what thing have we prioritizes as more important than our relationship with almighty God? Are we pretending that He does not exist or have we met Him and just walked away? The world which is in the power of Satan says God does not exist. God is a figment of religious people"s minds. Actually we are a figment of His. And we are charged to seek Him while He may be found. And His grace through the redemption of faith in Jesus is the method to receive His patient love.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  10. Peter F

    Why do some Christians make their faith all about setting rules and laws for everyone to live by? Didn't Christ come to set us free from LAW? Good grief...

    October 8, 2010 at 1:04 am |
    • peace2all

      @Peter F

      Hey Peter...!

      One would think....? I imagine, maybe you can speak to this better than I, but don't a lot or the majority of christians live by what it says in the bible both OT & NT....which include laws or commandments. So, isn't that the 'code' that 'some' christians follow..?

      Curious...

      Peace...

      October 8, 2010 at 1:14 am |
    • Peter F

      @peace2all

      (Heya peace!!! How are you, friendo?)

      Yes they do! Unfortunately they fail to realize Christ set us free from the law. He says in the NT that the laws come down to loving God with all we have and loving our neighbors as ourselves. I don't see anything anywhere about how Christians need to enact laws that force non-believers to live by the moral code enforced by right-wing Christians... don't get me wrong, I disagree with their lifestyle, but gays and lesbians ought to be loved and respected the same as everyone else. It's frustrating... and I'm sure you'll be happy to know that I'm a Democrat AND an evangelical. I find it hard to get behind most conservative politicians these days, hehe.

      Blessings!

      October 8, 2010 at 1:28 am |
    • peace2all

      @Peter F.

      Back at ya' pal...!

      Thanks for your take on the question you posed. And, no... you didn't surprise me, as you had already made that horrible 'confession' 🙂 to me about being a Democrat and.. being a Christian.

      Hope you are well...

      Peace...

      October 8, 2010 at 1:45 am |
    • Know What

      Peter,

      "...Christ set us free from the law. He says in the NT..."

      Jesus said nothing in the NT. Those are the words of 4 evangelists and Paul of Tarsus. Jesus (whoever he was) did not write one word... not one mark.

      Don't you think that if this person was the son of "God" and was bringing the most important message since the dawn of mankind, he would have done a better job at confirming his message than having it written down decades after he supposedly said these things?

      October 8, 2010 at 1:50 am |
    • Know What

      p.s. And that's not even mentioning allowing it to be unreliably translated and interpreted every which way over the centuries...

      October 8, 2010 at 1:59 am |
    • Peter F

      I fail to see why that is such a stumbling block for you. Two of the two of the gospel writers traveled with Jesus... and many, many people saw him and heard him teach. It's not like he was in a small room with just a couple of people. Jesus was in and around the world!!!

      As far as what was written down... do you think Alexander the Great recorded his own history? How about Charlemagne? Just because Jesus didn't write the gospels (which I think is actually very wise), why does that mean we have to discount everything they testify about him? The four gospels serve as accounts of his life of teaching, death and resurrection. They are not all the same because they are different POVs. Neato!

      October 8, 2010 at 2:39 am |
    • Lenard M

      Wow, you really don't get it, do you? The bald truth stares you in the face and you just laugh it off like it means nothing.

      I hope you don't operate heavy machinery with that lack of awareness. You could be a real hazard to others, did you know that?....why am I bothering? You can't or won't deal with the real world. Fine. Welcome to America. Don't vote during your stay here – we have had enough of that nonsense already.

      October 8, 2010 at 4:15 am |
    • Know What

      Peter,

      Who knows how much that was written about Alexander the Great of Charlemagne was embellished to fit their reputations. Besides that, we are not asked to base our lives (and the supposed hereafter) on the accuracy of those writings.

      No, the NT does not do an adequate job at authentication. A "God" would know this.

      October 8, 2010 at 4:26 am |
    • Know What

      ...*or Charlemagne

      October 8, 2010 at 4:30 am |
  11. Mark from Middle River

    It is interesting, are you folks talking about all Christians?

    October 7, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Mark from Middle River

      Hey Pal... Respect to you too...!

      I am posting my response here, since a bit of a thread has happened since we got on this discussion.

      I just wanted to say, I certainly understand your perspective.... One of my friends, who happens to be black has mused on similar sentiments, but not quite so radical.

      Also, using the 2 government officials that you mentioned that happened to be libs. that voted against 'civil rights.' I think that may be a very bad sample.

      Again, I would assert, if you went back and looked at the voting records of who passed the civil rights bill, the 'majority' would be the Democrats or Liberals.... Definitely not the Republicans. Using 2 that voted against.. bad sample. We could look at the 'majority' of republicans back then who voted against, and what is your guess as to how many of them (republicans) voted 'against'...?

      Second, I am for peace.... and if I see a black person or anyone for that matter... white, black, asian, female, gay etc... being oppressed, I will fight for justice and equality, but not out of some kind of liberal guilt..... or for the metaphorical pet keeping as you said. Or, the real agenda, is to keep you weak. Definitely NOT so my friend... at least from me and the many, many family and friends, and associates of mine.

      I hope that we can agree on at least those points...? As I am white, and I have had relatives that marched 'with' the panthers back in the 60's and other groups for civil rights... so it is in my blood. And the ones, 'mostly' march with Dr. King, and others, mostly were liberals .... not republicans. (majority)...

      Well, Mark....as always, I enjoy finding common ground, and intelligent civil discourse and debate where we both learn from each other.

      As always... Peace....

      October 8, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • Chase Dorway

      I respect both of you!

      November 11, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  12. notfromfla

    The church is hypocrytical. They talk out of their ass and their mouth at the same time. But their used to ATM.

    October 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  13. Anonamoose

    Wow, think about it... the entire concept of an omnnipotent, omniscient, singular diety concering itself with the biological emotions of one of its creations. Why would a God be jealous, hate, love, etc. Those are all biological responses associated with the development of human emotions and intelligence. If God made man in his image, that implies God already had all those emotions... but why? Why would you hate, or love, or be jealous, etc. if you were the only singular existance? There would be nothing (animate or inanimate) to direct these emotions at (unless of course, you were psycho...) Here's a better theory... man created God in his image, with all the emotions and tribulations of human existance.

    October 7, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  14. Muneef

    There was a story of a Prophet that was sent to nation or society of Gays & Lesbians to preach and remind them to take penitence. The prophet of God was Lott which you call Luka and the place was in Jordan, Dead Sea Area.
    The Quran has their story and how God saved the prophet and his believers,followers out of the city before having them in catastrophe that wiped them from the face of earth!?
    So now since no religion accepts these acts which are forbidden by God as a one of the biggest sins then would that mean establishing them a new party,religion or would be joined as to under the umbrella of Druids?!

    October 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  15. Damon

    What ever happened to WWJD? Christians are supposed to be good people.

    October 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • Chase Dorway

      I can't talk for everyone.... but as regarding being a good person.... I try the best I can.

      November 11, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  16. mabel floyd

    hey peanut--well said.

    October 7, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  17. Peanut

    Christianity has got a lot of problems with itself right now- and it's followers are the primary source of the problem. How are we to know what Jesus or his followers REALLY meant in the Bible. I've read it- it's encrypted and it's not meant to be taken literally. Back then people were uneducated and were narrow minded- I think we've come a long way from that and we need to step up and take charge of what we do to others. Different is not a bad thing- besides Jesus was different and in many ways bullied. So- for all of you pro-christian anti-gay people you are no different than the Romans who crucified him. Think about that for a while.

    October 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
  18. Mark from Middle River

    Freedom – When you find a answer please let this Black Republican know. I grow tired of being told that I am traitor to my race and or that I am a Oreo cookie.

    October 7, 2010 at 1:54 am |
    • Chase Dorway

      I'm not being racist, and I hope you don't take this like it... but there are lots of oreo cookie kinds. You have mint, peanut butter, reverse, vanilla (even if it doesn't really taste like vanilla), chocolate, and others. You are not a traitor, unless you are, then you are. But because of that, you're not a traitor. Now I want an oreo... probably a pumpkin, I heard they're on sale 😉

      November 11, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  19. FREEDOM

    I feel trapped by society when I accept others and love others for who they are but as soon as I say I disagree and have a different belief then in disagreeing I am suddenly.....having "hatred and intolerance." If I have love for others, show respect toward them but want to be my own person and have my own unique opinion....how on earth is that hating and being intolerant? I would have to say....society makes no "accept"ion and exception for people who live and love as I do.

    October 7, 2010 at 12:37 am |
    • Peanut

      Freedom- saying something is different than causing actions that lead to another person's death.

      October 7, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  20. Mark from Middle River

    Hi Frogist –

    Many apologies on late responce. I didn't see your question. If it were Christian kids, obese kids, black white or whatever. This is why I pointed out the other persons I have witnessed being harrassed. You and many think is groups where as that I have seen one kid, such as the Asian kid I mentioned , getting bullied I have seen others in the same school not get bullied. This goes for a few gay students that I have seen not get bullied in the same school.

    This is why I believe that there might be something about the indivdual being bullied that you must factor in, even in a small amount. I personally lean on the possiblity that some kids and even adults lend themselves more open to being bullied. That statement does not mean that it is right and it does not mean that it can not be corrected.

    Try this Frogist, ever wonder why folks are surprised when they hear of militant Jewish settlers. Or what about the somali pirate ship that decided that it felt safe challenging a warship from India only to find themselves almost in two? Ever wonder why folks like Bin Laden used to say how frightened and how we Americans would turn at the first sign of combat. It is sorta like Reagan said in folks naturally expecting certain groups or persons to be passive.

    There is something of passivity that maybe some folks give off. It might be the Christian kid or even the atheist kid, it just does not matter. Turn of the beacon anouncing that the child is passive, has to be part of the solution to bullying. l

    October 6, 2010 at 10:15 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.