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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. theoneummah

    yeah and you know christianity isnt to blame for the annihilation of native americans... no.... or the cause of WWI or WWII no christianity isnt to blame for that... the treatment of african slaves because there skin is darker then yours noooo christianity had no part in that either...

    Matt. 10v34
    do not suppose i come to bring peace, i did not come to bring peace but a SWORD
    (paraphrasing)

    October 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Theoneummah,

      The Truth is the Sword.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  2. furiousdee

    What Christians don't get is that by classifying someone because of a behavior they are born with, you tell them and the rest of society that he/she is lesser than. That doesn't sound very Christian at all. This guy is just trying to justify his hatred of gays while at the same time dodging any blame organized religion may shoulder.
    He is a coward – he founded a WHOLE organization that believes the only true family is born of a man and a woman. That is some truly strong opinion against those who don't fit that mold. Teach children that only one kind of family is legitimate and you get bullies.
    That's what Christianity teaches about gays.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  3. Bill

    This article shows you that you are totally ignorant of what most mainstream christians practice and support, and of what happens to gay people on a regular basis.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  4. Dastius Krazitauc

    "So, to violate the dignity of another person, in any form or fashion, is to contradict the very basis of Gospel-centered living. "

    To make the claim that gay people are anathema to "family" and "family values", as Focus on the Family consistently does, violates the dignity of gay people.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  5. Dave

    Fair enough. It does not matter who gets bullied or why. The bullies are ALL BAD PEOPLE. They can be Christians, students, politicians, your neighbor, boss, coworker, friends or even family. They're rotten, awful people just the same. That's what bullies are.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • The Anti-Hoff

      you mean like what america has done and is still doing to foreign lands? "Take capitolism and like it you primates..."

      October 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  6. matticus

    Christianity might not be to blame but "Christians" sure are.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  7. Grant

    Anyone else noticing the hate coming from those who disagree with the opinion peace? Did you also notice the complete lack of hate from those who agree with at least part of what was said?

    I have been a Catholic for 35 years. Not once, not ever, was I told to hate a member of they GLBT community. We are taught to love them, just like we are to love all of our fellow man.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Bioartchick

      Disagreement and hate are not the same thing. Hate is personal. Disagreeing with ideas is not. And NO IDEA deserves to be immune from criticism just because a lot of people agree with it.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • Grant

      bioartchick – have you read the comments? There is A LOT of hatred in there

      October 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Bioartchick

      Thats how you choose to react to it. If you read the comments and have any sense of where these people come from, it is not about hating christianity, it is about not allowing a defunct enterprise the privilege of immunity from criticism. There would be no difference in the emotional fervor of a classroom of literary scholars discussing Plato. I didn't say that everyone was spitting roses, but I don't think your reaction is necessarily warranted. Pay attention to what they're saying, and stop thinking about how icky it makes you feel.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • MK

      @Grant

      "I have been a Catholic for 35 years. Not once, not ever, was I told to hate a member of they GLBT community. We are taught to love them, just like we are to love all of our fellow man."

      MAYBE you don't hate them... but really, you don't accept them and you think that they are sinners and surely they are doomed to he!! if they don't change their ways and they need you and your ilk to save them and they surely aren't as good as you in god's eyes and everything they ever were and are is wrong...

      Is there really a difference??

      October 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • geekgirl42

      I'm gay and I don't hate Christians any more than I think most of them "hate" me. You say "love the sinner, hate the sin" but I don't consider my being with the person I love and living my full truth to be a sin. Only Christians seem to have a problem with what I consider to be the full expression of the fundamentals of who I am. Being gay is not just about having s*x with people. It's about who you fall in love with. If you knew me personally, I would tell you the story of how I met my "partner" (can't call her wife just yet). The experience of meeting that person, of feeling that spark develop into love...that's one of the most beautiful experiences a person can have. If you've never felt it, you might not understand at all. But even if you have, you might not think that what I feel is real because we're both women. I have no way to prove to you that it's real, so you might counter that I just "think" I'm in love, and I'm being "deceived". But that's the crux of the problem I have with the whole "love the sinner, hate the sin" argument. When you go through life every day hearing people degrade the most important, wonderful relationship in your life to something less than real, something ugly and to be ashamed of, it is painful and hurtful to those who are simply living according to who they are. You think you are being neutral when you say you love the sinner, but what you're really doing is calling me a liar. You're saying that I don't love who I say I love with all my heart. Because if you could see through my eyes, just for a few minutes, you'd understand why we get angry at people who marginalize us into freaks and "sinners" just for living truthfully.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      MK,

      This is what the Church has to say.....

      What did you say about 'in God's eyes....?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0sILSapUUc

      October 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • Frogist

      @geekgirl42: Bravo for putting it so beautifully! And I hope that in the extremely near future, you will have the opportunity to call her your wife if that is what you want.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
    • MK

      @CatholicMom

      Now the church is claiming that god loves gays better because they suffer?? But you see, gay people wouldn't have to "suffer" and be "victim souls" if they were simply accepted. The fact that you call these people sinners is not at all accepting. I was a catholic for 30+ years, so you can't tell me that gays are accepted.

      October 22, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  8. Elle

    Of course Christianity is not to blame for bullying, bad parenting is. Even if a child grew up in a "Christian" home that was extremely anti-gay, there are still ways that a child must conduct themselves when they're at school. Bullying is not appropriate in any setting, let alone school. When you send your child to any school they have to carry themselves in a certain way. They learn at -home- how to conduct themselves in that setting. And in all honesty most if not all the bullies I have witnessed in my lifetime didn't care anything about religion.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  9. Doug

    Almost every Democrat supports Bullying in schools not just by students but by faculty as well toward any and every student who dares to not march along to liberalism or dares to question the liberal marxist ideology gospel.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • Bioartchick

      Wrong. DEAD WRONG. Teachers just endorse a reality based outlook on life, decry wishful thinking and irrationality. If you don't agree with those things then YOU have a problem. I refuse to let your anti-intellectualism go unanswered. Your ideas are WRONG my friend.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
    • Pretzel Logic

      Doug, you don't by any chance have methamphetamine and guns in the house do you? You are completely unstable.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • Doug

      Thank you bile art chick and prezel lib, as a conservative I could never understand the mind of that liberal teacher in Alabama who killed all those people or the guy who stormed the Discovery Channel building, but the posts of you two like-minded libs gives me some insight into how the mind of a hate filled soros-bot lib thinks, thanks.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bauhaus

      Doug,

      This is ridiculous and you know it.

      Name ONE specific example of how a public school system has 'bullied' a student for not following a LIBERAL program or policy (and provide a reliable source for your data).

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

      Well the research (Jean Baker) does suggest that kids in schools only demonstrate the very behaviors that are modeled by them in the schools. I dont know about liberal policies, but look at the research. Bullying occurs in environments where there is a negative school culture...just saying

      October 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Doug

      What happens to students who don't march along to the liberal ideology like Celeste Finkenbine a student in a public school in the P.R.O.M is beyond ridiculous and completely unAmerican, but that state is filled with Democrats who would jump at the chance to exterminate people like Celeste and other Americans right of center.

      The intentions of those who are pretending to challenge what they know is true is not that well disguised here. I'm going to stop with the undeniable truth and facts now, I have made my point, and I don't want to create the next Amy Bishop.

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

      You are going to use an extremist who is willing to murder people as an example of the typical Democrat? You sound like an extremist who has a few screws loose and is about to go ballistic on someone. As a person who grew up and lives in the South, I can guarantee you that our schools force a Republican viewpoint on students, if anything. We had to listen to more religious views than political ones. My teachers definitely didn't force me to be a Democrat. I grew up and decided to think for myself and being a Democrat is what logically followed.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Doug: Since you provided no links, I looked up Celeste's story. I find that while the teacher's choice of movie might be distasteful to some, I have no objections to it. It was an assignment to look at different forms of persuasion. And as we know Michael Moore's movies can be a lesson in that. Celeste could have done as she was assigned and ripped the film to shreds through her own conservative looking glass in her own paper. Everyone has been given questionable assignments for homework. As for being graded fairly, we have all had teachers on our backs who were decidedly unfair. An appeal could have been brought to the principal if she was not graded fairly. AND she was given an alternative assignment. My only objection was that a teacher would call a student a "teabagger". If in fact that actually happened, seeing as the only links I could find were from Celeste's point of view, I wonder if it did. But if it did, hurling abuse at those you are being paid to instruct should not be tolerated. And according to the principal, the incident would come under review and the teacher would be up for termination. Please explain to me what is so unusual in this story. And how this is asking Celeste to "march along to the liberal ideology"? Also if I have missed a piece of the story please provide a relevant link.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  10. Holly in Houston

    "So, to violate the dignity of another person, in any form or fashion, is to contradict the very basis of Gospel-centered living."

    Well Jim, You better have a chat with your fellow chruch leaders because they are the ones who are preaching hate toward GLBTs. See Uganda for an example of the hateful, ugly, side of Christianity in action.

    Focus on your own family, Jim and leave the rest of us alone.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  11. Tino

    Of course it is not Christians fault... they never do anything that is against their religion. Except for maybe molesting children, not providing for the less fortunate (who needs Universal Health Care), having affairs (love those televangelists!), condemning others since they don't believe as they do (thanks Pat Robertson and the 700 Club). Other than that, they act just like Jesus!

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

      How can you blame Christianity for the actions that go against Christianity taken by those who claim to be Christian? Are you also aware that those who claim to practice other faiths do terrible things? And get this there are those with NO faith that do horrible things too! I wonder what we can blame that on!

      October 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
    • Tofer

      Elle , let's get back to the point. The article is about Christianity and anti-gay bullying. I'm pretty sure the article isn't about every other type of bullying out there. The road we are on is pretty straight and narrow, stop trying to put so many twists and turns in it.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  12. Andrew Berryman

    I grew up suffocated with "christianity."

    Christians can deny their prejudice against Gay people all they want. I've been in the fold. If it isn't blatant it is implied.

    Organized religion has little to nothing to do with producing or becoming a good person. At most it segregates and breeds fear and hatred of other groups of people.

    One's own spirituality should have nothing to do with any other person's actions of beliefs.

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

      Speak for yourself Andrew. I grew up in a Christian home with loving and caring parents. My sisters and I did excellent in school. In fact throughout all our years in school, our parents have never once had to be called due to behavioral problems. Most bullies that I've seen don't even care about religion. They behave the way they do out of low self-esteem and in effort to seem cool. Sorry for your issues but Christianity can't be blamed for all of life's problems.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Holly in Houston

      I agree with Andrew- organized religion has caused much pain and suffering to humanity. It's time to treat them like every other business and tax them. Especially the mega-churches. Private jets? Limos? Multi-million dollar homes? Please. These guys are only out for people's Benjamins, not their souls.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • MK

      Ditto, Andrew. I always had the feeling that I was better than others since I belonged to the church. And for the longest time, I thought that either you were christian or you weren't...I wasn't even aware of other religions. And if you weren't Christian, you were a lowlife and doomed to he!!. Although I had never heard the words that being gay was wrong, I absolutely knew that the church did not tolerate it. And, as ashamed as I am, I agreed.

      All I can say is, thank god I got out of there.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Bioartchick

      Amen Andrew.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  13. Nick Toper

    Here's the commonality I see in most of these comments: People whose problem isn't with Jim Daly or any other Christian, but rather with the Bible and the God of the Bible. As a Christian, I realize there is probably nothing I can do to ever be *liked* by people with these views, aside from renouncing my belief in the truth and infallibility of the Scriptures; but I also view my responsibility as a follower of Jesus to not give them any extrabiblical reasons to further reject God. That means, as Daly suggests and I think models well, regarding those who are of a different faith, ideology or lifestyle than me with grace and respect.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Thank You

      I love what you have to say, thank you for sharing.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Oh. Holy. Crap. This argument again. "People don't hate me, they hate Jebus." You need to shut up. Your little "group" is the most tolerated group and the largest majority in America. We don't hate God, mainly because most of us know that he only exists in your deluded minds. What we hate is a group of people running around telling us that we a re going to burn in hell because we aren't exactly like them and getting legislation passed in their favor that cuts out our rights. Do you understand now how fatally flawed your argument is? Just because your pastor says so from the pulpit on Sunday morning doesn't mean it's true. I used to use the "they don't hate us, they hate Jesus within us" line when I was a preacher, and let me tell you, it is SO old, and SO tiresome, and SO wrong on every possible level. Get your head out of the sand and actually look for a moment from the other side of the fence. We don't hate you, YOU hate US, but you don't even realize it because you're so wrapped up in the doctrine of "love the sinner, hate the sin."

      I'm sorry to tell you, but all the little one-liner zingers your preacher uses are stupid and wrong. They only exist to make you feel better about your hatred.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • John

      @cap You love contradicting yourself. How you said we hate you but not vice versa. Your last line had all those hateful words in it. It puts no light on your argument.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  14. Doug

    Not a single Christian in all of America hates any gay person even 1/1,000th as much as a majority of Democrats hate all Christians.

    Go by the facts, read the words and see the actions, the truth is the truth.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Focus on this, tard

      WOW, You sure knocked THAT strawman to the ground.

      Dont break your arm patting yourself on the back.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
    • Jeff

      Wow, that is a supremely hyperbolic statement that ignores reality completely. If a person was to look to the fringes they would find those that hate Christians a lot and those that hate gays a lot, and neither speak for the majority. The majority don't really care either way because they have better things to do with their time.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Pretzel Logic

      I'm very glad you didn't stoop to ridiculous hyperbole in your comment. Really makes you look intelligent and thoughtful.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • Diane

      You troll all the CNN articles just to make hateful, ridiculous and unfounded accusations against Democrats, don't you? The funny thing is that you just make yourself, and therefore the Republican party, look like a bunch of narrow-minded, hateful idiots.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  15. bear0402

    The Bible also has no problem with Slavery. So that means that God has no problem with that either, since we are using what the Bible has to say as the final word on almost everything.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  16. Scott

    We wouldn't want people of faith taking responsibility for their actions. In other news, people of faith don't have to feel guilty for hating people that are different.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  17. Pan3

    Typical Christian hypocrisy!

    October 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  18. stevie68a

    The murder of jesus is a gay bashing. A crucifix is a voodoo doll. I tell christians, what goes around, comes around.....

    October 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  19. autom

    We're lucky that Christians pick and choose which passages to follow. Most of them ignore the parts about stoning children, owning slaves, making wive's subservient, and killing men who lie with men as with a woman.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
    • Grant

      The fatal flaw of your little ranting there is that you fail to realize that Christ was the New Covenant, meaning the ideas you mentioned (stoning, slavery, subserviance, etc) was out the window.

      Nice try though. Jesus still loves you.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Grant: So why wasn't being gay "out the window" too?

      October 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
    • PGR

      I agree that Christianity by itself does not promote this, but many who claim to be Christians do. I personally know someone who has taught her daughters to hate their Dad because he is hom-ose-xual. She knew he was hom-ose-xual when they got married yet she thought that they had "prayed" through it. When the marraige broke up she because very hateful and trashed him every chance he got, saying that he was going to burn in hell and the like. She did this because she was angry over the divorce, but she used the Bible to back up her hatred of him.

      She even drove her daughters over to his house and had them toilet paper his yard and they ended up getting arrested over it. This woman has used the Bible to back up her craziness and hatred many times over, such as when some of her daughter's friends went through different phases such as dressing "goth" or experimenting with different hair colors. So while I agree with you that true Christianity does not promote the hatred and bullying of those who are hom-ose-xual, I believe that there are plenty of people who are using the Bible and their own twisted interpretation of Christianity to back up their hatred and bullying of those who are "different".

      I have witnessed this personally and my daughter has been a victim of this behavior as well just because she decided to wear black nail polish and lipstick for a while. She has since outgrown this but we got really tired of people telling her she was "going to he11" for it. People are really hateful now days and in the vast majority of cases that we have personally witnessed or experienced it, the people doing the hating were using Christianity as their validation.

      I don't hate Christians, even the especially zealous ones. I just wish that they would stop trying to impose their beliefs on my and my family and stop with telling my kids they are going to hell for a little bit of makeup that washes off. The goth phase was temporary for my daughter, but the memories of someone that she liked and trusted condemning her to he11 has stuck with her.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • Frogist

      @PGR: I'm so sorry for what happened to your daughter. I had number of similar run-ins with "Christians" when I was in school. And shockingly one of my best friends also pulled out all her evangelical hatred on me on a couple occasions. I always knew she had some of that superiority complex in her personality. But her religion gave her carte blanche to wear it on her sleeve. Thankfully, sometimes the religion and the att!tude doesn't stick. People can grow out of that too.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  20. RB

    Some of you are missing the point of bullying. Bullying is not a "gay" issue. Bullying is about the misuse of power in relationships. It is about hate and status. Gays and Christians should find themselves arm in arm on this issue instead of on opposite sides of the aisle. As others have noted in the comments kids/people growing up hating Christians is no different. Hate is hate regardless of what side you are on. We are all called to defend others whether we agree with them or not...and we wonder why our children cant get this right...we are doing a poor job of modeling to them on how to care and treat each other.

    Thank you Jim for having the courage in acknowledging this and hopefully open the conversation to put our pain and hurts aside.

    An additional thought for Christians: as Jim noted, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Would I be willing to stand in the gap for someone I might disagree with and "take the pain?" Christ did, so should we.

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

      @RB:"Bullying is about the misuse of power in relationships." Yes, this is true. But in American society, Christians are the ones with the power which some, like Daly, weild unwisely and irresponsibly. And apparently without consideration for the deaths of those who are different from them.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:25 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.