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October 21st, 2010
07:00 AM ET

My Take: Christianity not to blame for anti-gay bullying

Editor's Note: Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and author of Stronger: Trading Brokenness for Unbreakable Strength (David C. Cook, 2010).

By Jim Daly, Special to CNN

Bullies are, and always have been, a sad reality of life. They are also, courtesy of a handful of tragic news stories in recent months, major headline-generators right now. In the wake of the highly publicized suicides of some young gays outed or taunted by bullies, those who pick on people they perceive as “weird” or “weak” have rightfully come under fire. But so has the Christian faith, and there’s nothing right about that.

It has been suggested by some that Christianity itself is to blame for these tragedies - and that is its own separate tragedy. The train of thought goes like this: Churches and organizations like the one I lead, which believe Scripture places homosexual activity outside of God’s design for human sexuality, are responsible for the bullying of gay students and, by extension, their deaths.

As provocative as that narrative may be, and it certainly has ginned up quite a lot of controversy of late, it is not accurate. Not only is Christianity not to blame for attacks against gays and lesbians, when properly interpreted and practiced, it is the cure for and solution to the mistreatment and abuse of anyone, for any reason.

If there is a single golden thread woven through the Bible and the faith it informs, it is this: when it comes to human rights and how we treat each other, no person is superior or inferior to the next. Yes, sin exists; and God does not condone it. But he does embrace the sinner - and that means every one of us. Scripture makes it clear we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), yet makes it just as clear (Romans 5:8) that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So, to violate the dignity of another person, in any form or fashion, is to contradict the very basis of Gospel-centered living. And to suggest that an orthodox understanding of Christianity encourages abuse against homosexuals is a sad misreading of the very tenets of the faith.

Unfortunately, professed non-believers are not the only ones prone to misunderstanding and misapplying those tenets. The truth is, some self-described Christians do not act in Christlike ways toward those who are different than they are. Some think God sets certain behaviors aside as “super sins”; homosexuality, they believe, is of a higher (or lower) order than adultery or covetousness or lying or gossip; put more generally, they save their harshest judgments for the sins they don’t struggle with themselves. That is not biblical Christianity in practice.

Those who earnestly seek to emulate Jesus understand it is a matter of applying both his word and his deeds to our lives; that's why Christianity is often described as a "walk" - it requires two legs, truth and grace, to make any forward progress. That means, since we've all fallen short of God's glory (his truth), we must regard each other as more than just the sum of our sinful behaviors (his grace).

In the end, it's the graceless behavior of bullies - against homosexuals or anyone else - that should serve to remind both Christians and non-Christians why Jesus came to earth at all: It is his way, exclusively, that provides the power to transform hearts, minds and actions.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jim Daly.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality • Opinion

soundoff (504 Responses)
  1. chris jones

    Those of you scream there is no God and there is no such thing as sin, you have made yourselves God . Your own wisdom is so great, wait till it catches up with you.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • Scott

      I have heard a lot more Christians saying people scream this than I have people screaming it.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • me

      Yeah, nothing says "jesus loves you" quite like " repent or roast in hell screaming", eh?

      October 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Chris Jones: you are a fool. I know the Bible says I am a fool, but the Bible is wrong. Open your eyes, realize that your religion is based on the dying wishes of the Roman empire that decided it didn't want to die so it assimilated the religions of a few desert shepherds that was growing in the area and turned it into the state religion so they could continue on into the future. Understand that the book you think is flawless is full of contradictions and fallacies. Understand that science has PROVEN beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt that the world is much older than 6,000-8,000 years and that God does not need to be involved in order for the universe to make sense. Religion is what man had in the dark days when he looked up at the world around him and didn't understand it. We understand it now. There is no need for your myths and legends. Your religion has done nothing but destroy the world and keep it in darkness. Give up so the rest of us can move on in peace.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  2. Nick Oh

    Isn't the point of the article that in God's eyes, nobody is better or worse than anybody else? No sin is better or worse than any other sin? Salvation thru grace is all that we have to make it to heaven and God and ONLY God can judge sin? If we profess to be Christians (Christ-like) then we need to show the love of God to ALL people. Period.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
  3. Matthew

    Wow, an entire article on the "One, true Scotsman" fallacy.
    Fail.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  4. G

    Hi J Quest- I agree with you that the fault is with the people doing the bullying. I personally do believe in a God, but not in the same way some Christians do. I feel there are many Christians that misuse the Bible (which I should point out is not God, and was not believed to be the Word of God until the 1800's) in ways to support their own personal biasis. I am sorry if I sounded annoyed, but I have seen so many people use the Bible (which is a library, not a book) and picked small parts from it to make their points. Also, belief in God is absurd, but me believing it does not make it wrong. As Kirkegaard likes to point out, using logic to prove or disprove God is ridiculous. God would not exist in the realm of this world, which logic is based on. Its just faith. I can't prove God exists or disprove God exists. Frankly, it doesn't matter to me if people believe or don't. I'm more concerned with people misusing the Bible to promote hate, which you are not doing. I do feel Focus on the Famlily does though. I do apologize if it seemed I was attacking you personally. I did not mean to.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
  5. Thank You

    Leo, can't believe I used the wrong word. Please replace with *Foul*. Thanks!

    October 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  6. Leo

    Christianity has been one of the great historical bullies. All of your simpering about the goodness of your religion is nothing but posturing. Your religion condemns people for being themselves, and your religion's members torment those people they judge to be "sinful." Yes, you and your malicious mythology ARE partially to blame for the deaths of these people, and no amount of rationalizing is going to change that.

    The world would be far better if people got away from such limited and limiting myths.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • Tofer

      I agree with you Leo. I'm going to say one word to support you saying the Christians have a long history of being bullies: CRUSADES

      October 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
  7. MikeMaz

    Religious mumbo jumbo double talk. When an insitution the size of the Christian Church tells young teens that their behavior, which no matter what you say is part of their makeup and not a choice, is wrong and a sin, you are making them feel bad about themselves, that somehow there is something wrong with them.
    That my friend may not be "bullying" in the exact definition, but you are complicit inmaking them feel bad about themselves and you should be ashamed of yourself.
    Christianity is a freaking joke...but you and your moralistic preachy BS organization is even worse.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  8. Jewel

    To quote Ghandi "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christianity. Your Christianity is so unlike your Christ".

    As for "Oh us Christian's aren't responsible".... BULLpoop. Yes... you are. Stop trying to get our of your guilt by rationalizing it. Sick person!

    October 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  9. LiveandLetLive

    So... basically the article says Christianity isn’t to blame, but Christians are to blame…. Hmmm, maybe we should say “Christian Extremists” or “Muslim Extremists” or “Jewish Extremists”…. Yeah… there we go… It isn’t the religion it’s self that is the problem, it is the religious people that are the problem… Hmmm… interesting…

    October 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • ZeroProfit

      Well yeah, what Daly presents is sort of like the gun debate. It's like saying – Guns don't shoot people; people shoot people.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  10. Thank You

    Jim, thank you for taking the time to share your heart for people. I completely agree with you that bullying on any level is wrong, and it is completely unfortunate and a loss when someone decides to end his or her own life. All life is precious and sacred, regardless of how you feel about that life.

    If you look at Christ's love for people and His interactions with them, you see a man who was humble, loving and bold at the same time. He chose to love all people and interact with them on many levels of life. Never once did he "bully" anyone for how He perceived them, nor did he condone something that went against His Father's desire or design. This was the beauty of His life, but also something He ended up losing His own life for.

    There are many people who skew or distort the reality or nature of any form of group; whether religious, a certain race or even the LGBT community. This muddles perspective for anyone outside that group. As someone who has met Daly, and knows his heart for people, I can assure you that he is kind, sincere and passionate about caring for ALL people.

    Unfortunately, when a man like Jim Daly expresses fully and openly his heart, we are allowed to post in a comment forum, blasting what he has said. How is this any different than the bullying that most of you cry fowl for? Remember that diversity and tolerance is embracing all people and all beliefs. You don’t have to agree with everything, or anything for that matter. But it does mean you have to respect them, and remember that they are a person, just like you.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • Matt

      Mr Daly is not being bullied, he is being disagreed with–there's a difference. No one wants to silence Mr Daly, we just want to respond to his contentions–it is perfectly legitimate to do so.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
    • Thank You

      Matt, if I went into school, and walked up to a gay student and told them I disagreed with them and wanted to respond to their contentions, would I be considered bullying them, or simply responding to them?

      This is simply my observation, but I am thankful for your thoughtful response.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • Leo

      Cry fowl? Do you mean chicken, turkey, or duck?

      QUACK QUACK.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
    • Thank You

      Leo, can't believe I used the wrong word. Please replace with *Foul*. Thanks!

      October 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
    • Oh Please

      If you go up to the gay student just because they are gay and they haven't said or done a thing to you, then yes, you're bullying them with your religious views. Part of respectfully disagreeing is not engaging the other person with a holier than thou standpoint to begin with! Just disagree in your head, and move on. There's no need to go up to the student and start a conversation about how you feel that your beliefs make you a "better" person than they are. From what I can see, most if not all GLBT just want to be allowed to follow their beliefs without having yours imposed on them–that means they won't engage you in a conversation about how you disagree, they just want you to not do the same for them. When you don't, they defend themselves, and rightfully so.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Thank You:
      The difference is that a gay student is living his life in peace, while Daly is publishing his opinion on a public forum which is opening a debate. A gay person doesn't open a debate just by being gay and going about their own business.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  11. Julie Labrouste

    “Bullies are, and always have been, a sad reality of life” that callous hypocrites in “our” society CHOOSE to defend because they don’t want to spend the money necessary to actually protect, “our most precious resource", regardless of whether they are gay, straight, Christian, etc. If people REALLY cared then they would REALLY protect children and stop making excuses.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  12. therm

    LetoAtreides – "Until all sides of the transgendered debate are willing to address each other..."

    What is this supposed to mean? That gays are supposed to address the xtians and meet them halfway...on what? Are they supposed to admit, somehow, maybe, that being gay is not genetic and can be "fixed"? Would that make xtians happy to accept them? May a little pledge that they have to say, that they will try really hard to turn themselves around, hmmm? Xtians don't believe that the issue is genetic so how could those two mutually exclusive views address each other?

    October 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • ZeroProfit

      "Christian don't believe that the issue is genetic"...Really? Can't I be Christian AND believe that people are born the way they are? See, you have to stop generalizing based on the idiocy of a few. Please.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ZeroProfit: Do you believe that people are born gay and are you christian? And how does that match up with Focus on the Family's insistence that gays can "change" and no longer be sinners?

      October 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
  13. Focus on this, tard

    If you could reason with religious people there would be no religious people.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • Luke

      Thanks, Dr. House.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • Leo

      RAmen!

      October 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Calvin

      It sounds like you need to get out more. Stop drinking the coolaide.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • capnjammer

      @Calvin: Who's drinking the Kool Aid here? It seems to me that you are the unable-to-be-reasoned with sort (ie. Christian). This would indicate that it is you who have partaken of the proverbial Kool Aid.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  14. Hypocrisy... of the commenters

    Any logical person reading the hate-filled comments posted to this blog (which represents a sincere attempt at dialogue and understanding) will see the hypocrisy. Seems it's the same folks with the "NoH8" bumper stickers who are the ones making hateful accusations and name-calling. They are doing precisely what they say they condemn.

    Very sad.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Oh Please

      So, defending oneself against others that seek to use religious scriptures to create second class citizens is hypocritical? How exactly? Typical social conservative standpoint–attack, then claim the victim attacked you first in order to appear superior.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • Matt

      Not at all accurate. We're responding rationally. I don't hate Mr Daly, but I do hate what he stands for when it comes to gay people. Pointing out someone's hypocrisy or bad intent does not equate to hating them.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • Ddubbya

      personally, i have no name called.

      i have, however, experiened 10 yrs of bullying and harassment from kids (up to and including death treats and attempts on my life) that were all Christian.

      in the churches that I was raised, it was not uncommon for the hatred of gay people to be displayed not only by it's own congregation, but at the pulpit as well. and, i don't mean stating what the texts state. i mean talking about how gay people are disgusting, should be killed, should kill themselves, etc.... these are not the sorts of things any Christian should ever utter, let alone teach to their children.

      i understand how reading some of these comments can be hard for a real Christian. you most likely do not appreciate those that claim to be Christian but can't tow the line. my sincere sympathies go out to you. these sorts of people give your entire religion a bad name. is is unfair that you should have to be associated with them.
      but, there is hope. denounce those people. distance yourself from them. make it known to everyone you know that you will not sit by and allow those sorts to further destroy your religion or continue to push people away.

      we all have a role to play. if we sit by and allow such things to happen, we are just as responsible as those that commit such acts.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • capnjammer

      I love peace, but I hate Adolf Hitler. Is that really hypocrisy, considering Adolf Hitler was the very living symbol of war and hatred? As such, Christianity has come to be the bastion of hatred and bigotry in America, so I clearly am not the biggest fan. I hate hatred.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      I have posted this video on other sites but I see many new names on the postings here and think it is worth posting again…People need to know that God especially loves gays….
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0sILSapUUc

      October 21, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  15. Matt

    Wow, what a surprise that a Focus on the Family minion will disclaim any responsibility for creating an anti-gay environment. Mr Daly is nothing more than a self-righteous hypocrite. He has forgotten that James Dobson, the founder of FOTF, blamed Matthew Sheppard for his own murder. I have yet to hear a Christian conservative ever condemn anti-gay violence without also condemning gay people. It is telling they cannot separate the two statements. True Christianity does preach love for everyone and condemns and works to end violence in all its forms. But Daly et al do NOT practice true Christianity. What they are really about is political power, and gay people are a convenient pawn in their political game.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Mark

      Please point to evidence of your enormous claims.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • Matt

      Mark, I would if you could be more specific...

      October 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Mark – please research things that are made quite public and easily available for yourself and take your head out of the sand. When people claim something bad about Christian leaders in the public eye, it's more often than not true, but I know your ilk have this thing about not believing it. Even if Matt did show you his sources, you wouldn't believe them.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  16. therm

    AD – We can only wish and dream that xtians would get "the message" that's being conveyed. Maybe then they would actually give a crap about someone else on the freeway, or in the mall. And maybe we wouldn't have so much trash to clean up because they wouldn't litter, and maybe even run a business in a socially acceptable way instead of all for one and screw everyone else. And what about being modest; jeez, most xtians could sure use a heapin' helpin' of that.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  17. Johnny B

    Christians who say that they are Christian typically display Un-Christian behavior.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • cindy

      Yes, alot do and there are also alot who do act like a Christian should. There are good and bad people in every walk of life.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • Mark

      Wow, great use of a stereotype!

      October 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • capnjammer

      @Cindy: interestingly enough, most people who "don't act as a Christian should" according to you are using the same book, and say that you are the one interpreting it wrongly. Actually, Paul and Jesus both were quite clear about being militants, selling everything you own to buy a sword, leaving your family and friends, and setting out to make others believe as you do. It's unfortunate that Christians don't listen to the thing Jesus said about "If you aren't accepted, shake the dust off your feet and leave those people alone." And it's a pity you didn't listen to what Paul told you in Scripture: "Women are stupid and should shut up." He said that quite frequently, too.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  18. LetoAtreides

    I applaud the author's clarification about Christianity. After reading some of these comments, it is clear that the "hatred" and "root-of-all-evil" namecalling does not come from a religion or doctrine. Until all sides of the transgendered debate are willing to address each other in patience and respect, the issues will not be worked out.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • Kate

      @LetoAtreides

      Ummm, do we want to know why you narrowed the topic down from gays to transgendered people in specific?

      Just sayin'

      October 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  19. Tofer

    Another article trying to justify something by widening the scope so large and broad that any defiensive rebuttal is easily overplayed. No, perhaps Christianity in itself may not be the original source to bullying, but yes it is for most of those who do the bullying. What I mean by that, is those who do not truly understand ALL of the facets of the bible and apply their own "ideals" and "interpretations" to it use it as a weapon to attack those who do not share the same lifestyle or views. Of course, I know this because of the times I have been tormented, chased, spit on and called names, nearly every time has been from someone attempting to poorly quote the bible and back up their bigoted opinions with improperly quoted scripts from the book. Christianity has evolved into a such a weapon of righteousness these days, as a way to make people feel superior to others who appear to have more faults or live a "lesser" life, which promotes these actions. Back in the day I used to attend a church with a friend, knowing I was gay, because the pastor never blamed others for problems, talked about people who were cause for such and such of a problem. Instead, he simply talked about how each person listening could go about making themselves a better person.
    So, again, I say that while Christianity in it's truest form may not be directly responsible for the actions we have seen lately, it is used by those who do the attacking. Christianity is a very sharp knife sitting out in the open. You can either use it to peel an apple to eat or stab someone you don't like. Unfortunately, I don't see it being used to peel many apples.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  20. Sarah

    I think the problem is many Christian groups fight against equal rights. If someone is fighting your rights based on the fact that they believe you are morally wrong, that is inherently bullying.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:54 am |
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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.