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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. tombapilot04

    I suppose Christianity is not to blame for the abortion doctor's murder either. Not even just a little. Not even though the killer's reason was in the name of his religion.

    I completely disagree. There are Christians who do good in the name of their faith and there are those who do evil in its name. You don't get to attribute your religion only to those good deeds. You cherry-pick your outcomes just like you cherry-pick your bible.

    October 21, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
  2. Nick Toper

    Whoa, I'm not expert, but didn't capnjammer just commit a hate crime by threatening to burn Focus on the Family's headquarters down?

    October 21, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  3. Nick Toper

    I'm no expert, but by threatening to burn down Focus on the Family's headquarters, isn't capnjammer guilty of a hate crime?

    October 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  4. Nick Toper

    I'm not expert, but by threatening to burn down Focus on the Family's headquarters, didn't capnjammer just commit a hate crime?

    October 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  5. Phillip K

    I find the original argument laughable at best.

    You can dress it up in any sort of 'hate the sin, love the sinner' talk but that sentence right there shows the prejudice within Christianity towards the GLBT population. It may not be bullying, but it's most definitely demeaning regardless of the intention. Who are you to claim that I am a sinner because I'm gay? I don't claim to understand God's plan nor do I believe that the bible is the word of God. If I was created in God's image, then God must have made me this wayi and this is all part of the divine plan. Who knows. I certainly don't and not a single soul on this Earth does.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  6. kmjii

    I admit, after that a time I stopped reading the comments (who has time to read 400 comments?)

    However, the ones I've read (from Christians and those who aren’t alike) have saddened me.

    I can't say that, in the past, I've never bullied someone; but I can say that I have been bullied. Sadly, our education system is not properly equipped to handle these issues. One disagreement (between groups), seems to be that by telling someone that their actions are wrong, you are bullying them. I am confident that bullying is much more than that, but it is a grey line. However, I now attempt very careful with how I interact with those I disagree with and how I say what I feel. I hope that none will have reason to say that I have bullied them.

    It would be wrong of me to walk up to someone (who's sin I know) and just inform them that their sin is wrong. Why is it I feel this way? It is because I'm a sinner too. Some of us (Christians) need to take a look at Matthew 7:3-5. I know I have a giant 2×4 sticking out of my eye, and it sure makes it pretty hard to see that speck clearly. As Paul says in First Timothy 1:15, “of whom I am the worst”, at the end of the day… I consider MY wrongs (past, present and future) alone the worst.

    The other disagreement at its core is the difference between choice and being born with it. I'm fairly confident in saying that God only knows this (I do not know, nor do I make any claims to know). However, this leads to another issue. I will not knowingly say that someone's actions that I disagree with are "okay." It is a sad thing that our society has gotten to the point where we are not willing to hear that we are wrong or disagreed with, and in reaction become offended.

    While I do not hate those who live the LGB life style (and believe that I am called to love them as Jesus would) and know that they are no less a person than I, I will never have a part in a ho-m-se-ual marriage. Why is that? When you "allow" the marriage of those who practice the behavior, then it seems you are saying that behavior is "okay." This is why I hope that you will never see a Christian church involved in one of those marriages. 2 Timothy 4:2 "Preach the Word" I will not preach a sermon here about preaching, so to keep it short I will say that pastors are called to a high level of expectations. For one to participate in an act that contradicts biblically based beliefs would be a sad thing for that pastor.

    Sadly, many Christians take approaches that push people away, and give them (good) reasons to dislike us. Until we get our act together, in marriage, in our communities, and in our nation... we are giving them more reason to have disbelief and discriminate against us. It is a sad thing what some of us do "in the name" of our "religion" ;while it would be easy to find myself condemning them, I know that when I judge in the end times I’ll be judged by the same stick I judge others with (and I will fall short)

    We can sit here and debate religion, education, and bullying, ad nausea, but I hope part of this is a more articulate response than some provide regarding the resistance to ho-m-se-ual marriage

    October 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
    • kmjii

      In regards to the quotes along the line of accusing the author of saying "we don't condone, but we understand"

      I have a hard time understanding why someone would intentionally be taking excerpts completely out of context, and using it to harm another emotionally or physically. That kind of event is sad, and I wish it would not happen. We all have our own flaws to deal with though, and there is not much I can do to help prevent it other than to attempt to set a "good" example

      October 21, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  7. John

    I love you atheists and gay people! (I try to love everyone as best I can!!!!) I'm a Christian btw.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  8. John

    Christianity is based on Jesus. And if Jesus were to roam about today, he would accept gay people no matter who they are!
    People can make their own decisions, the Bible doesn't say to go out a persecute others, but to love one another! I just wish people got this through their skulls!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  9. Zaidi Ademeit

    Neither is it a help.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  10. dawn

    Like

    October 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  11. Frank

    Anyone who is a bully or does anything to tear another person down is not emulating Christ. It's pretty simple. People in general just need to learn some common decency and respect.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  12. Greg

    Calling for understanding and tolerance while denouncing in the most absolute fashion Christianity, Jim Daly and Focus seems a bit ironic, doesn't it? We're actually not even talking about tolerance anymore, are we? It's about personal prejudices, emotional wounds, and yes, judgement with minds already made up and a forum to vent it. Intolerance yelling for tolerance isn't going to cut it.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  13. Franz

    Jim Daly's media-savvy publicist probably wrote this Op-Ed. There are many factors at play as to why someone bullies, but I wonder why the pastor choose to 'defend the faith' rather than condemn the reasoning for it?! Oh yeah, the Bible says it's true!?! I'd feel sad for such simple-mindedness if it weren't doing such a great job of underminding our nation. Arrogant ignorance.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  14. Reality

    What needs to be posted on every church, temple and mosque door and also on the Focus on the Family website:

    o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    October 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  15. Susan

    Jim has described the issue very well. I appreciate his perspective on this issue. We as a nation have been moving further and further away from the Christian teachings so that many individuals no longer know how we should be living with each other.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Excuse me? Ignorant much? Christianity has its dirty little paws everywhere. Gay marriage is illegal because of Christianity, and it's only right that gay people fight back, but you take this as an attack against Christianity. This country was NOT founded on Christian principles, and all of the founding fathers wanted to make absolute certain that religious doctrine held no sway in legislature. People don't fight against you because of your beliefs, they fight because their const-itutional rights are being infringed upon. IF ANYTHING, this nation is moving dangerously close to being TOO caught up in the Bronze Age myths and legends of the Bible, and it's people like you who are destroying this country and this world.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Frank

      You do realize that not everybody who is against gay marriage is Christian and that not all Christians are against gay marriage, right? All LGBT people do not support gay marriage, either.
      Stop generalizing and making everything black and white.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  16. Mike, not me

    The blog has messed up again I know I hit reply the second time

    October 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
  17. Reality

    What needs to be posted on every church, temple and mosque door:

    o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    October 21, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  18. capnjammer

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but I had to put this out there...

    I know that most of you Christians have a Strong's Concordance available to you. Do me a favor and look up 1 Samuel 20:41. "“And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.” Now, use your Strong's to look up the word "EXCEEDED." Go ahead. I'll wait.

    Got it? For those of you who don't have a Strong's Concordance available to you, EXCEEDED is from the Hebrew "gadal," which means to grow or become larger. Yes, that's right, David, the "man after God's own heart," was having an affair with Jonathan. Saul even says "You're my son in law twice" after Jonathan performs a traditional wedding ceremony between himself and David.

    Go figure...

    October 21, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
    • Anita

      Capnjammer...that is not ever been a proven fact. Here is an excellent breakdownn of those passages

      http://epistle.us/hbarticles/davelament1.html

      October 26, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
  19. Josei

    2 funny! Couple of friends told me that they couldn't see my post, either of them. So I re-post again and now they see 3. Anyone else have the same problem of disappearing posts that re-appear only when you re-post?

    October 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  20. Josei

    I posted this originally @ 2:23pm. CNN removed it. Bout 45 minutes ago I re-post and now that 2 is gone.
    Can the moderator please explain?

    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 3:57 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.