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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. Justin

    We HAVE to make a bigger deal out of this! it IS religions fault!

    October 21, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  2. David

    @Andrew: Maybe I should have clarified myself. While you may believe you are God's ambassador on earth, you do not speak for him or her to the extent that you decide who is good or bad, or right or wrong in his or her's eyes. Again, it all comes down to the fact that when our lives are over, humans will not judge our ultimate fate. That decision falls only in the hands of God. Too many people in all religions believe they have the right to tell us how wrong, bad, abnormal, immoral, or what second-class citizens we are.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  3. andrew

    This is what the Bible says:

    16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  4. NL

    The Bible also frowns upon using your left hand, with about 25 negative references towards this practice. So, when did it become OK for Christians to openly be left-handed? Certainly the Bible would never forbid something that was natural, and part of our 'design', right?

    October 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  5. sumday

    If I told a person on the street to go jump off a bridge and they did am I responsible? If I told them to go rob a bank and they did am I guilty of robbing a bank? If I say hey go do drugs and they do am I responsible? At what point does a person become responsible for their own actions??? I just don't understand how a person becomes guilty for the actions of another? If a person says they don't like gays and that person commits suicide then it was their own fault! Trying to place blame on the living for the illegal actions of the dead (killing one's self is illegal- it is still considered by law murder) is wrong and missplaced. The gay movement sadly tries to do just that- shift the blame of the actions of suicide on to the living as if somehow everyone else is responsible for the emotional health of someone else. imagine if I killed myself bc a gay person called me a bigot would they (the gay crowd) take ownership of my death? yet when a gay person commits suicide they want to blame it on someone.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Tofer

      @ sumday you are so missing the point it isn't even funny. It's call a majority bullying a minority. Sure, if a stright kid was a a school that was predominately gay school and one of the gay students turned on his webcam while he was going to have "relations" with a girl to make fun of him for having "relations" with a girl. Then yes that is bullying and it is wrong. I think that's pretty simple.
      The fact is, these kids are betting bullied day after day by many students and that is not right. It is not just a one time thing where someone says "Hey, pink shoes are stupid, you're a loser" and they go and harm themselves. This is something they cannot change and are being picked on and bullied because of it. Have you ever been chased in a car, stalked and followed from a store/restaurant, prank called, things left infront of your door, messages left on your school locker and on your car by the same group of people trying to intimidate you for something they don't like? If not....then hush. Trust me, it is scary and wrong.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • Frogist

      @sumday: Way to be obtuse and blame the victim. How Christian of you??

      October 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  6. Susan

    Organized religion: the oldest scam on the planet! How many people have suffered and died for this crap? The Bible in particular has been used to justify everything from war to domestic violence to animal cruelty. If this is truly the "word of God", then I want nothing to do with him!

    October 21, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  7. shayne

    My son is 15 years old. He's been bullied several times in his life...to the point where we changed schools.

    He's not gay. He just refuses to conform to the group. He's quiet, and bullies mistake that for weakness. He stammers a little, and bullies mistake that for mental retardation.

    We're Christians...and we've had to teach him that it takes more courage to stand against the crowd than to stand with the crowd. I myself was bullied at school. I was a white kid in a mostly hispanic school. I wasn't ever given the chance to give or receive friendship because my skin color was hated. I was being abused at home (no my parents were not Christians...I wasn't raised in church) and all of this went on for 3 years. Funny thing is, I bet if I saw one of those kids who bullied me today, they probably wouldn't remember my name.

    Thankfully, by the grace of God I survived. My son will survive. But for all of those reading this article who have ever been called a filthy name, been publicly crucified for your sins, those of you who have been made to feel ostracized or "different" because you don't follow the crowd...please know that this will eventually pass. Don't end a gloriously beautiful life based on the snap opinions of people who are just as hurt and weirded out by life as you are.

    And please above all...don't let the hatred win. Live. Live well and love well.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  8. Massman

    Sumday – there is no gay movement – it's known as the HUMAN RIGHTS movement and it has been going on for centuries! As an American I am supposed to be free from religius oppression (yours) and when you imply that I am intolerant of those who do not accept me you make your biggest mistake – I do not need your acceptance or your belief system. I do need to live my life as an equal under the law. I am Gay, Married, Christian, the father of two wonderful children and not about to let you demean me for being different than you.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  9. Reallythough

    Freedom of religion and the practice thereof is guaranteed int the first amendment.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  10. Reallythough

    I see CNN is up to it's old tricks. Anything spoken about love is moderated but Christian bashing is allowed unabated. Your true colors are showing CNN.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • ZeroProfit

      True. I had a message about Love still awaiting moderation. Let's see if they let this -gasp!- message of love and faith through.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
    • capnjammer

      ReaLLY/ they let this tripe article through, didn't they? And just to let you know, most of my messages are still awaiting moderation too, you evil, ignorant, judgmental monster. I think it's good that people are finally getting a chance to speak out against religion, which has been immune from criticism for so long even though it has literally destroyed the fabric of society.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • Frogist

      Seems you guys are new here. The filter this blog uses is archaic and "moderates" any words that are considered bad... even if they are within other words. So circ-um stance has c-um, const!tution has t!t, an@lyze has an@l... and any mention of s-ex has to be spelt with breaks. Also posting too many links in one post is flagged as spamming I think. There are other things to note. So recheck your posts for these, and stop being so paranoid.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
  11. David

    For those of you who are not gay or lesbian, let me remind you of a few things:
    1). If you are not gay or lesbian you have no idea if we were born this way or chose it, regardless of what any research or religion says. No one knows.
    2). Don't act or profess to act as if you know what we've gone through to accept the fact that we're gay or lesbian. You don't.
    2). When people are told they are wrong, abnormal, and somehow less than human long enough they eventually begin to believe it. No wonder some kids these days are so messed up from bullying they commit suicide
    3). Stop quoting the same tired bible verses and acting as if you are God's ambassador on earth. You're not.
    4). When all is said and done, you are not our judge. God is. So stop acting as if you're God.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • ZeroProfit

      @David, I agree. But, I wonder why it is that those people of God – no matter religion – that embrace all races, creeds, orientations go unnoticed while people who try to play it like they are God's Ambassador get ALL the attention, therefore
      1. Empowering the wrong people
      2. Building a network of lies
      3. Saying they know God's word best?

      For example, I've always had issues with authorities. They are humans like you or I. For example, the Pope. It is really great that a guy committed his life to Christ, but so have many people. He is a human, like you or I. No, I'm not going to kiss his ring. Or rich preachers, the Jim Baker's and Tammy Faye Baker's of this world. They are humans like you or I. By giving the press to them, it empowers them. Not just the Baker's, I mean, watch TBN some night (if you want to puke). All white teeth, fresh hair-do's, new suits. This is not the image of Christ. Not if you ask me. LOVE is. Not some late-night preacher. Jeesh. Nor some "focus on family". Here's the funny thing – the more I come to know the Christ, the more I dislike organized religion. Too much politics. Humans mess stuff up.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • andrew

      but David, as a Christian I am God's Ambassador! 2 Corinthians 5:20. Read it in context and you'll learn something.

      "18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's AMBASSADORS, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. "

      October 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Andrew, you are an evil person. Literally, an evil, ignorant monster. Just because a book says you are God's ambassador doesn't make it so. The Torah says the same of the Jews, and the Quran says the same of Muslims. You are NOT. That is a tactic used by the evil animals who started your religion to usurp power. You have no special authority, and you should be dealt with harshly for saying that you do.

      Jesus also said in John 10:30-36 that you ARE a God. Read it. It's there. It's also in Psalm 82:6. I bet you don't believe that, and will come up with every excuse to say it's wrong, because it doesn't fit in with your particular belief system, but you will defend to the end your right to judge and tell others they are sinners bound for hell and that you are the very mouthpiece of God on this earth.

      So indescribably evil...

      October 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  12. Cedar Rapids

    'when properly interpreted and practiced'
    Aye, and there's the rub.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  13. Matt

    Seems like Jim is missing the boat here. if my neighbor's house burns down, I don't go around telling everyone how I wasn't at fault, how I regularly take precautions to ensure that my home is free of fire precautions, how even if my home did catch on fire I have an alarm system that will immediately notify the fire department to minimize damage, etc.; rather, I HELP(!) my neighbor put his life back together in ANY way that I possibly can.

    So here we are, with this recent rash of suicides. Don't spew this garbage about how Christianity isn't to blame. Tell Christians that they are CALLED to action. That they should not harbor bigoted feelings towards anyone. That they should go out and become friends with people of different backgrounds and learn about their life stories, difficulties in their lives, etc.

    As Christians, we are not called to sit around on some make-believe throne judging other people. I don't even think that we are called to try to defend our faith with words; go be an example and let your faith speak for itself.

    We are called to live our lives as Jesus lived his life. What would Jesus do - not what Jim Daly is doing!

    October 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Matt: "I HELP(!) my neighbor put his life back together in ANY way that I possibly can." AND "go out and become friends with people of different backgrounds and learn about their life stories, difficulties in their lives, etc." AND "go be an example and let your faith speak for itself. "
      I'm liking your brand of Christianity! It's way better than Jim Daly's...

      October 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  14. Andrew

    You can say that you don't think your particular form of prejudice doesn't lead to others taking action on that prejudice but I disagree. Focus on the Family's message may not be "hurt gay people" but it's definitely not "accept gay people" so based upon this message and the fact that you are spreading a "message" you must at least accept some responsibility for peoples actions who take your message and turn that into action.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  15. RhondaGC

    @Kate and others–

    People make these kinds of distinctions all the time. I hear people (especially liberals) who often say "I support the troops, but I don't support the war." How is that any different than what he is saying here? He is saying that you can recognize that it is wrong to mistreat other people without necessarily agreeing with or supporting everything those people believe in. I personally think it's a valid (and necessary) distinction. Some people are not going to be happy until everyone in the world agrees with them on every issue. And those who don't agree with them are automatically written off as "insensitive" or "unthinking" or (the favorite buzzword) "intolerant." Well, I think what the author is advocating here IS tolerance at its best. He says, "I don't agree with you or your lifestyle, but I completely support your right to not be harmed for it." What many people call "tolerance" is actually "acceptance that my belief is equally as valid as yours" and it's not the same thing.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  16. ZeroProfit

    I am not surprised to see the usual here. A bunch of folks upset at those that misinterpret a book that preaches Love.

    People are so easily threatened by religion because it has been soooo taken out of context.
    Love, Faith, Hope. When Obama says it, that's just great cutesy stuff we all cry and stamp and cheer. When biblical roots of the Love, Faith, and Hope appear – UH-OH! Better get out the dogs! Better burn some Christians, those terrible, terrible Christians!

    One would do well to explore oneself and figure out why you are so threatened by the mere mention of "bible" or "christ". Seems the problem is yours, not the author if this article's.

    What a clear double standard just cause folks are so afraid of something. Maybe being wrong? Maybe threatened because they fear Love? Maybe they are just scared. Who knows. But it sure is sad.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ZeroProfit: The only thing I have to fear is the hypocritical Christian zealots like Daly and his organisation who cannot see how destructive their "church" is being towards people who are not damaged or lesser or sinners just because FOTF says they are.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
  17. BrianBowen

    @Ddubbya

    Oh, wait, just read you are with Focus on the Family – NEVER MIND

    You people don't give a damned about gay people unless you can use them to your political advantage.

    In fact, I can almost see the smile on your face now, knowing gay people are dying.

    ***********************

    I agree with everything you're saying except that part about them smiling because gay people are dying. I'm certain that organizations like FOTF are extremely UPSET that gays are dying.......

    Because that means their prospective target customer base is shrinking, and nobody will be left to buy all their books and DVD's and ex-gay therapies that teach folks how to "pray away the gay."

    October 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  18. charles bowen

    I was raised catholic ,Became a christian because the catholics took over the second floor in heaven. Now I'm a Buddhist .I personally have met more con artist and liars in the christian faith than any other faith i can think of except Islam. MY advice Be a buddha and find peace in your pathetic christian ,catholic, and islamic lives . Dont buy the religious lie! Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    October 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  19. scroo yoo

    The problem is free speech.Just like people expect muslims to denounce their fanatics,christians should not only separate themselves from their extremists,but we all should tell those bullies we are tired of respecting their 'rights' when they clearly have no respect for others

    October 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  20. Tooonz

    All through school I was picked on because i was different. I was just a shy kid who wanted nothing more to be left alone. There were several altercations that ended with me in tears and several other boys in the principals office. I didn't want to be, but there was no denying I was different. I always stood out from most other boys my age and there was nothing I could do about it. You can't change who you are. No I'm not gay, I'm just tall. I was picked on and harassed not because of some religious conspiracy. It came donw to one fact. I WAS DIFFERENT. I had friends who were picked on because they were poor. I had friends who were harassed because they were rich. One of my best friends always had jokes cracked about how short he was. People seem to have forgotten what middle school and high school was like. You could get a wedgie just for being a freshman. The sad and sorry fact is that kids, religious or not, if not properly raised will pick on anyone who stands out. I also have to wonder where the parents were of those kids who committed suicide. Where was the teaching of self worth and the unconditional acceptance on thier part.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • Magic

      Tooonz,

      Well said, thank you!

      October 21, 2010 at 1:34 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.