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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. Patrick

    As an out and proud g a y Catholic, I must admit that I agree with the point you are conveying with this article (with the exception that Scripture places h0m0s*xual activity outside of God’s design for human s*xuality, which I disagree with full heartedly…. Sorry but I was made in his image). When I look at my core religious beliefs (and the Golden Rule in general), I was always taught to love thy neighbor and do unto others as they would do to you. This is something I try to follow everyday, some days being harder than others.

    The core beliefs with Christianity are a positive thing; however, as you pointed out, there are Christians that distort the teachings of Scripture for hate and anger. Luckily for me, this has not been the case in my upbringing nor in my life today. I has raised Catholic and provided Catholic education from preschool till I graduated from my University. In every instance, every authoritative figure I interacted with that knew or suspected my true self treated me with love and respect. Unfortunately, I know this is not the case with most others and for that I am truly sorry. I only wish they still are able to experience the love that God (or any other belief in a higher power) can provide in their life, even after being hurt by these supposed religious ‘experts’. But you CANNOT let this discrimination and hatred fester inside you nor let it turn you into one of them.

    After being part of the g a y community for the better portion of my life, I will also admit that there are bullies within our community who also spew hate and anger for things they might not quite understand. This cannot go unnoticed and we must all learn from these tragedies (g a y or straight) that demeaning someone because of their beliefs/lifestyle is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

    I will admit, that I struggled with my religion while I was coming out and yes I did have several moments where I thought it wasn’t worth dealing with. But let me tell you, it was my beliefs that helped me the most to overcome those depressed feelings (along with friends and family with the same beliefs) and come out the other end a stronger person. And now I am in a happily committed relationship with another g a y Catholic man (yes there is more than one of us). 10 years ago, I never thought in a million years I could honestly write that sentence, which just goes to prove that yes, IT DOES GET BETTER!

    Yes, organized religion can be a dangerous thing (as with any big business); but if we could all take a step back and really look at what the true beliefs and values they can bring, then I think we can all become a better person. I might have a childish point of view on this matter, but when have you ever seen a toddler filled with as much hate as most grownups.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  2. Thad

    The church has been the leading persecutor of gay people (and women, etc... for that matter) since it became a 'state' religion in the 3rd century. Conservatives and fundamentalists of the current day spew nothing but condemnation for anyone who does not believe the way they do (sounds a lot like radical islam doesn't it). There primary mission is to save your soul and the way they do it is to bully and scare you from the pulpit and they don't care what consequences those hateful messages might lead to.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  3. Patrick

    my comments are perpetually stating, "Your comment is awaiting moderation."

    How do you get it approved??

    October 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  4. no longer gay-born again

    Your opinions are just that sin is sin doesnt matter gay or straight (thats acting out tempatation) Temptation is not sin its the doing
    Luke 10:27 (This is the solution)
    And Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
    This is the greatest commandment of christianity. . Parents teach this to kids , teachers, teach this to kids Church leaders teach this to believers. Turn off your tv 's once a week and do acts of kindness to EVERYONE. Dont pass on your anger/hate issues to the next generation. The spirit behind relgion is dark and suppressive. A life lived as Christ( DO a LIFe Exchange) is love ,acceptance, grace, forgiveness, P E A C E. YOU CAN'T HAVE THESE THINGS ON YOUR OWN EFFORTS. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qtRHVTSboo

    October 21, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  5. Ron Nospam

    Then the vast majority of self-proclaimed Christians would appear to be hypocrits. Of course, that's no great surprise to non-believers!

    October 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  6. KDW

    Really CNN my comment is still under moderations b/c of the the word hom0s3xual. Let me fix that by reposting and writing the word out like a 12 year old would.
    s all of Christianity to blame for hatred of LGBT people? No. Do most churches do enough to counter the hatred that exists of LGBT people? No. People have rightly pointed out that quoting Leviticus as a citation of why hom0s3xuality is wrong is very disingenuous. Leviticus prohibits lots of things that we don't even think of as being sins (wearing fabric of multiple threads, sleeping in the same room as your wife during menses). Christians should admit that the idea of what sins are has evolved over time and should ask themselves "Why do I consider hom0s3xuality to be a sin, when I don't consider wearing fabric of more than one material a sin?" Most other sins outlined in the OT that are still considered to be sins are detrimental to others (lying, stealing, adultery, killing). Thus it is easy to see why they are sins and even people who are without religion would say those things are wrong. If a person wishes to change the minds of those who are not religious they have to be able to explain why something is a sin without quoting the Bible. Since I don't believe in the Bible and, as I have already illustrated, there are many parts of the Bible that even Christians don't seem to think need to be followed you need to come up with reason outside of the Bible as to why hom0s3xuality is wrong. The other issue I take is that whereas the author says all sins are equal he fails to see that saying that who you are is inherently a sin is detrimental to those who are LGBT. While Joe down the street may occasionally lie he is not inherently a liar. He can pray for forgiveness and try not to lie again. Whereas someone who is gay is inherently gay. There is no amount of self control that they can use to keep from being the way they were born. And there is lots of scientific evidence showing that people that are gay are born that way. Personally I think as long as Christians stick with the dogma that hom0s3xuality is a sin without being able to give an adequate explanations as to why, they will never win an argument on this topic and they will be sending a subtle message to those who are gay that are less than those who are not.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  7. JJ

    So many Christians just don't get it... seriously. I understand hating sin and all that, but sins are by choice. In church, we are taught to hate sins and that is good...it gives us morals that make feel bad about cheating...beating someone up, etc, but what you Christians don't realize is that many people who are gay, know they are gay when they are 5 or 6 years old. With sins, they are a thought that comes across your mind once in a while and go away very fast, but being gay is something that you think about, even as a child, multiple times a day and cannot stop.

    I grew up in a Catholic family and am gay... I went to bed so many nights crying and so upset because I couldn't stop sinning. I knew at 5 years old that I would go to hell, no matter what, because I couldn't stop sinning and several nights I wanted to commit suicide, but was too scared of the pain.

    Bullying is not just taunting...it's not just pushing them down...it's making them feel like less than human. It's making a five year old think about killing himself. It's making families disown their children because they are gay and can't stop "sinning"

    October 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  8. Ben Wilson

    If a fat or ugly kid gets picked on at school is that religions fault?

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

      Are you assuming that the parents are Christians and they are not teaching their kids to love one another?

      October 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  9. leo

    It may not be some Christians fault, but yes it surely is tied to religion in THIS country. How you can say it isn't is beyond me, but really seems like the author is just trying to absolve himself and his beliefs. Not saying the author has done anything wrong, but what he believes in is responsible, whether he likes it or not.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  10. Diane

    I am a Christian myself, but I do think that traditional Christian views could be partially responsible for the hara-ssment of h0m0se-xuals. Like the writer said, children and teens traditionally torment those they see as "weird." They are going to continue to see h0m0se-xuals as "weird" if Christians keep perpetuating the idea that hom0se-xuals are sinners. Worse than that, most Christians don't seem to believe that h0m0se-xuals are worthy to worship with them unless they hide who they really are and "turn straight" (as if that is even possible). The worst is when people who call themselves Christians tell h0m0se-xuals they are going to hell and God hates them. God doesn't hate anybody, and no person has the right to judge another and tell them they are going to hell. When kids see this type of bullying, they think it is okay to hara-ss their peers for being different.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  11. Brian

    "when properly interpreted and practiced"

    So if someone commits some attrocity "in the name of Islam" it is because Islam is a bag religion and teaches people hatred, but when someone commits an attrocity based on their christian teachings then it is because the person was not taught Christianity correctly. Nice double standard there.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  12. Eoak

    Religion is just a waste of time.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  13. Tony

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

    Well who else is there every time any gay equality legislature is on the table? You've got parents who go every Sunday and listen to one hypocrite after another drill into people's heads that being gay is a sin, that its wrong, that there is a terrible place for gay people. Yet somehow you expect that backwards thinking to remain in the church? No it follows these parents home where they reinforce that hate in their children.

    "If mom and dad don't like gays then why should I?"

    October 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  14. Eric C

    it's like saying...don't blame the arsonist for the fire.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  15. Melissa

    Lol, if you believe its not Christians fault, you're just an idiot.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  16. junkiebev

    opinion: yes it is

    October 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  17. Russell

    "when it comes to human rights and how we treat each other, no person is superior or inferior to the next." Except for women, whose place is in the kitchen obeying their husbands.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  18. Juni

    Why is this terrorist allowed to post on CNN? I'm appalled.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  19. josei

    I am in agreement w/ Mr. Daly and his qouting Romans. We all have fallen short. We all need to ask for forgiveness. It is not right to blame all of Christianity for gay bullying. It is just a few, loud, vocal few that scream we are bad people. Why? Because I didn't wake this morning and say, "I think I'll be straight today." But, these people ("Christians" in qoutes to differentiate them from actual Christians.) can make a decision to persecute people, bully them, hate them and try to make them feel less of a person because of how God made them? This is not Christianity. If these "Christians" really cared (and those that blindly follow without reading the bible and thinking for themsleves) then they would put their energy into finding loving homes for all orphans, helping stamp out poverty/hunger/abuse and praying/working that we can find cures for cancer and AIDS that have taken loved ones from all of us.

    When I have asked these "Christians", 'Are you a Christian if you are persecuting people/being mean to people on earth or are you one that tries to show love and understanding to others that are not the same as you.' I get the answer that, "we [they] are showing us tough love." Really now!?! If Jesus showed that same mean spirit would you now be following His way. I think not.

    The 10 Commandments state:
    1) I am your only God;
    2)prohibit worship of other gods before the Lord, and the making or worshiping idols;
    3) threaten punishment for those who reject the Lord and promise love for those who love him;
    4)forbid misuse of the Lord's name;
    5)mandate observance of the Sabbath and honoring one's parents;
    6) prohibit murder,
    7) no adultery,
    8) no theft,
    9) no false testimony, and
    10) coveting of one's neighbor's goods.

    Now, please show me where in here that it says, "No Gay." But, "wait!" You say, "It falls under adultery." Maybe, but if I am dating someone and only being with that one, then it really doesn't fall under adultery, now does it? It does? So why is your hatred not towards thsoe straight Christians who had pre-marital/adulterous relations? It seems they are sinning, but yet no public bullying of them is occuring. Hmmm

    Are you "Christians" also saying that God did not make us ALL in His image? Now, I was pretty young (what a few seconds old at the time, but still), but don't remember asking God to make me have the feelings I have so I can have "Christians" try to put me down and bully me.

    Do you remember asking God to make you straight? Or at least, not Gay, because you are not strong enough of a person with God?

    Oh, you want to bring up Sodom and Gomorrah? Fine. Do you think it was only what your dirty mind is thinking of? Really now. How about not praying to God, having false gods, idols, raping pillaging, coveting, theft, married men w boys/girls (and the flip), animals, you name it. Now, for a second look at what I listed. Doesn't this look like the 10 commandments? Interesting, yes?

    Oh, but now you want to state in the Old Testament that God said men shall not lie with men, etc. Okay, let's go with this one. Was it God or a human leader at the time? No one knows for sure. Even if it was with God have you read the scriptures before and after it (I don't mean just a James King version of the Bible, but the scriptures.) to see what was going on? It was in the Old Testament and it is not a 10 commandment. Now it gets more interesting....

    So, to summarize the "Chirstians." You "Christians" like to bring up the Old Testatment and tell us non-straight people (or Christians who do love us) that we are sinning and qoute Sodom & Gomorrah. Right? You do this a lot.
    This means that you are also telling the rest of the world that you are card carrying slave owners & beat your daughters and wives every day. Wow! I mean WOW!

    If you "Christians" stopped trying to put people in boxes then your world would grow exponetially. You would see al the love and color that God meant for us to see. You would bask in His love, and in turn, love others freely (not that way! Jeez!) and openly. Could you image what we could , what we will, accomplish in a world like this?

    I can. People who know me, well, know me, love me, respect me. These are Christians, from varrying faiths, etc. – straight and gay. They are friends from elementary school all the way up through my life. They are my parents and family members. They are also people at the stores/resturaunts/etc that applaud the way I handle nasty situations.

    One final question for all. If you love God (insert his/her name here based on your faith), believe in God & feel love from God, then why would you not go out into each day and (being like God) show love to others?

    October 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  20. David

    @Kate

    Couldn't have said it better myself

    October 21, 2010 at 2:20 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.