Oct 142010
 

Along with every other concerned mama, I’ve been watching America’s response to the bullying related suicides closely. People seem to be quite shocked by the cruelty that’s happening in America’s schools. I’m confused by their shock. I’m also concerned about what’s not being addressed in their proposed solutions.

The acceptable response seems to be that we need to better educate students and teachers about what bullying is and how to react appropriately to it. This plan is positive, certainly. But on its own, it seems a little like bailing frantically without looking for the hole in the boat through which the water is leaking.

Each time one of these stories is reported, the tag line is: “kids can be so cruel.” This is something we tend to say. Kids these days, they can be so cruel. But I think this is just a phrase we toss around to excuse ourselves from facing the truth. Because I don’t think kids are any crueler than adults. I just think kids aren’t quite as adept yet at disguising their cruelty.

Yesterday I heard a radio report that students who are most likely to be bullied are gay kids, overweight kids, and Muslim kids.

Hmmmmm.

I would venture to guess that at this point in American history, gay adults, overweight adults, and Muslim adults feel the most bullied as well.

Children are not cruel. Children are mirrors. They want to be “grown-up.” So they act how grown-ups act when we think they’re not looking. They do not act how we tell them to act at school assemblies. They act how we really act. They believe what we believe. They say what we say. And we have taught them that gay people are not okay. That overweight people are not okay. That Muslim people are not okay. That they are not equal. That they are to be feared. And people hurt the things they fear. We know that. What they are doing in the schools, what we are doing in the media - it’s all the same. The only difference is that children bully in the hallways and the cafeterias while we bully from behind pulpits and legislative benches and one liners on sit-coms.

And people are sensitive. People are heart-breakingly sensitive. If enough people tell someone over and over that he is not okay, he will believe it. And one way or another, he will die.

So how is any of this surprising? It’s quite predictable, actually. It’s trickle-down cruelty.

I don’t know much. But I know that each time I see something heartbreaking on the news, each time I encounter a problem outside, the answer to the problem is inside. The problem is AWAYS me and the solution is ALWAYS me. If I want my world to be less vicious, then I must become more gentle. If I want my children to embrace other children for who they are, to treat other children with the dignity and respect every child of God deserves, then I had better treat other adults the same way. And I better make sure that my children know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in God’s and their father’s and my eyes, they are okay. They are fine. They are loved as they are. Without a single unless. Because the kids who bully are those who are afraid that a secret part of themselves is not okay.


****


Dear Chase,

Whoever you are, whoever you become. You are loved. You are a miracle. You are our dream come true.

Chase, here is what would happen in our home if one day you tell your father and I that you are gay.

Our eyes would open wide.

And we would grab you and hold you tighter than you would be able to bear. And while we were holding you we would say a silent prayer that as little time as possible passed between the moment you knew you were gay and the moment you told us. And that you were never once afraid to tell us. And we would love you and ask you one million questions and then we would love you some more and finally, I would likely rush out to buy some rainbow t-shirts, honey, because you know mama likes to have an appropriate outfit for every occasion.

And I don’t mean, Chase, that we would be tolerant of you and your sexuality. If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, Chase, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated. People, every person, Is Divine. And so there would be celebrating. Celebrating that you would be one step closer to matching your outsides with your insides, to being who you are. And there would be a teeny part of my heart that would leap at the realization that I would forever be the most important woman in your life. And then we would tell everyone. We would not concern ourselves too much with their reactions. There will always be party poopers, baby.

We just wanted you to know this, honey. We’ve worried that since we are Christians, and since we love The Bible so much, that there might come a day when you feel unclear about our feelings about this. Because there are a few parts in The Bible that discuss homosexuality as a sin. So let us be clear about how we feel, because we have spent years of research and prayer and discussion deciding.

Chase, we don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. Your parents are Christians who carefully choose what we believe and follow in the Bible. Some will tell you that this approach to Christianity is scandalous and blasphemous. But the thing is, honey, that the only thing that’s scandalous about this approach is admitting it out loud. The truth is that every Christian is a Christian who picks and chooses what to follow in the Bible.

Several years ago I was in a Bible study at church, and there was some talk about homosexuality being sinful, and I spoke up. I quoted Mother Teresa and said “When we judge people we have no time to love them.” And I was immediately reprimanded for my blasphemy by a woman who reminded me of 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. But I was very confused because this woman was speaking. In church. And she was also wearing a necklace. And I could see her hair, baby. She had no head covering. All of which are things that are sooooo totally against the Bible Rules. * And so I just assumed that she had decided not to follow the parts of the Bible that limited her particular freedoms, but to go ahead and hold fast to the parts that limited other people’s freedoms. I didn’t point this out at the time baby, because she wasn’t a bad person. People are doing the best they can, mostly. It’s best not to embarrass people.

What I’m trying to say is that each Christian uses different criteria to decide what parts of the Bible to prioritize and demonstrate in their lives. Our criteria is that if it doesn’t bring us closer to seeing humanity as one, as connected, if it turns our judgment outward instead of inward, if it doesn’t help us become better lovers of God and others, if it distracts us from remembering what we are really supposed to be doing down here, which is finding God in every human being, serving each other before ourselves, feeding hungry people, comforting the sick and sad, giving up everything we have for others, laying down our lives for our friends . . . then we just assume we don’t understand it yet, we put it on a shelf, and we move on. Because all I need to know is that I am reborn. And here’s what I believe it means to be reborn:

The first time you’re born, you identify the people in the room as your family. The second time you’re born, you identify the whole world as your family. Christianity is not about joining a particular club, it’s about waking up to the fact that we are all in the same club. Every last one of us. So avoid discussions about who’s in and who’s out at all costs. Everybody’s in, baby. That’s what makes it beautiful. And hard. If working out your faith is not beautiful and hard, find a new one to work out. And if spiritual teachers are encouraging you to fear anyone, watch them closely, honey. Raise your eyebrow and then your hand. Because the phrase repeated most often in that Bible they are quoting is Do Not Be Afraid. So when they tell you that gay people are a threat to marriage, honey, think hard.

I can only speak from my personal experience, but I’ve been married for eight years and barely any gay people have tried to break up my marriage. I say barely any because that Nate Berkus is a little shady. I am defenseless against his cuteness and eye for accessories and so he is always convincing me to buy beautiful trinkets with our grocery money. This drives your sweet father a bit nuts. So you might want to keep your eye on Berkus. But with the exception of him, I’m fairly certain that the only threats to my marriage are my pride and anger and plain old human wanderlust. Do not be afraid of people who seem different than you, baby. Different always turns out to be an illusion. Look hard.

Chase, God gave you the Bible, and He also gave you your heart and your mind and I believe He’d like you to use all three. It’s a good system of checks and balances He designed. Prioritizing can still be hard, though. Jesus predicted that. So he gave us this story. A man approached Jesus and said that he was very confused by all of God’s laws and directions and asked Jesus to break it down for him. He said, “What are the most important laws?” And Jesus said, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love others as yourself.” ** When in doubt, Chase, measure all your decisions and beliefs against that. Make damn sure that you are offering others the same rights, courtesies, and respect that you expect for yourself. If you do that, you can’t go wrong.

Chase, you are okay. You are a child of God. As is everyone else. There is nothing that you can become or do that will make God love you any more or any less. Nothing that you already are or will become is a surprise to God. Tomorrow has already been approved.

And so baby, your father and I have only one specific expectation of you. And that is that you celebrate others the way we celebrate you. That you remember, every day, every minute, that there is no one on God’s Green Earth who deserves more or less respect than you do, My Love.


“He has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” ***


Love, Mama


PS. We thought we should mention, honey, that if you’re straight, that’s okay too. I mean, it’d be a little anti-climactic now, honestly. But your father and I will deal.

PPS. All of the above holds true if you are overweight or Muslim too. No problem on either count.

PPPS. As daddy read this essay, I watched his gorgeous face intensify. He teared up a little. Then he slammed the letter down on the kitchen table and said emphatically and without a touch of irony, “DAMN STRAIGHT.”

Which, when you think about it honey, is really the funniest possible thing daddy could have said.


Love you Forever.






Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  442 Responses to “A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On”

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  2. I, personally, would have quite a different response. I would hug him/her and listen, and then I would explain that they have a choice when it comes to how their desires define them. They are designed with a gender and God has given them a body beautifully designed to work with the opposite gender. How they feel about that won’t change that truth. As for love, it is a function of our humanity, not our sexuality, so don’t fall for the lie that because you are attracted to the same gender you can’t love and make a life with someone of the opposite gender. And finally, no matter what they choose to do, God’s grace is sufficient and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

    • Well said. I will do the same.

    • Oh Sara. Oh Jessie. Well said? How sad. I find it almost impossible to believe that you didn’t learn from the essay/letter to a child. And when you decide to have your dialogue, your way, with your child (who is undoubtedly gay b/c God has an amazing sense of humor) then you too, like so many before you, will alienate your child and make them feel unworthy of basically anything and risk your child taking their life. How very sad for your child. Just like you said-it’s a choice. You’ve made the choice to be ignorant.

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  4. […] Melton’s blog Momastery before (here) and I hope you loved it and her as much as I do. I read this one today and wanted to pass it on to my TGFW followers. The topic is relevant (bullying) and the […]

  5. Being relatively new in my walk with Jesus and relationship with my God, I’ve struggled with calling myself a Christian proudly. I love Jesus, but I have had immense trouble identifying with a label that has represented conservative political ideologies that espouse judgment, intolerance, close-mindedness and ignorance. I have spent hours wondering, researching, trying to figure out how the church has become so far removed from Jesus’ actual teachings. I have fumbled trying to put into words my ideas about being a straight, Christian woman who is an advocate for the LGBTQ community, who isn’t anti-abortion, anti-divorce, anti-tattoos. Jesus does not call us to be anti-people, but for-people, to love them, accept them, serve them. I just wanted to take the time to thank you, for your beautifully written letter that provided me with words I needed to bring to life the ideas floating around in my head. I am humbled by your courage. Thank you, God bless.

    • And do you not see how intolerant, judgmental, close-minded, and ignorant your statement is? It’s ok to call people those things, as long as they have beliefs that don’t line up with yours? The truth is, we don’t get to decide who is right or wrong in these issues. Jesus does. And he makes it clear in his word. He hates murder (abortion), divorce, homosexuality and sin. You can’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe and to ignore. It’s all or nothing. And if you search a little deeper into the scriptures, you will see that some of the things are written strictly for the nation of Israel to follow, not for the whole world. It’s not that Christians pick and choose. Some of us care deeply about accuracy and study more than others, that’s all.

  6. “What I’m trying to say is that each Christian uses different criteria to decide what parts of the Bible to prioritize and demonstrate in their lives.”

    I couldn’t agree more! Very well written! I always have had a problem with the black and white interpretation of the bible. You said it well. I’ve always held to the belief that I am not the judge – God is – and my job is to love others and show them God’s love. Thank you for sharing this!

  7. I just want to add that celibacy and chastity are things that every one of us is called to at one point or another. Its my understanding that until you are united in marriage, as one man and one woman, eachand every one of us is called to live a celibate and chaste lifestyle. That’s no sex before marriage, no homosexual or heterosexual activity of any kind. Its true that some are called to a further life of celibacy if their vocation dictates, but staying away from sexual sin isn’t just for priests and monks and religious sisters who have taken vows, and heeded a calling. Just a thought on one of your statements…

  8. A friend of mine is a pastor for a Presbyterian church as well as a biblical scholar. Here is one of his facebook posts that I think you might be interested in:

    Langdon Hubbard
    May 13
    My heart broke last week when I heard the news that one of the young people in our community, whose family I know, committed suicide. While there was no suicide note, it was known that he had been struggling with the fact that he was gay. His family and their church had been supportive of him. But for a reason we may never know, he felt that living his life was more difficult than ending it. And now we have lost a wonderful, talented, loving human being. We are the less for it.

    I woke up in the middle of the night early this morning thinking about him and so many other young people (and older ones too) who do not feel like they belong because of their sexual orientation. And in spite of the progressive direction of our society in terms of acceptance of gays and lesbians, including a dozen states now supporting marriage equality in one form or another, the voices of condemnation toward gays, particularly in the church remain strong. In some cases they are getting stronger.

    As a Christian for over 50 years and a pastor for 33 of those years, I have struggled over the years with how to address what the Bible says and doesn’t say about homosexuality, and came to the conclusion 18 years ago that the Bible actually doesn’t say anything against gays and lesbians (thanks actually to a conservative evangelical biblical scholar who was simply being honest and set me straight). The Bible often sounds like it does, but that’s largely because of errant translations and misunderstandings about the culture of biblical times. For instance, if a translation of the Bible has the word “homosexual” in it, you can know instantly that it is an inaccurate translation because the word “homosexual” and the modern concept of homosexuality actually was coined and developed in the late 1800’s. There is no Greek word for how we understand homosexuality today. And as to using ancient Levitical laws from the Torah (the first five books of the Jewish scriptures) to condemn gay people, as Christians we simply do not live by those laws any longer (please see Paul in Ephesians 2 for more on this).

    Our big hang up, I believe, is that we’ve confused homosexuality with pedophilia. Obviously pedophilia is wrong. But here’s the thing, pedophilia is found roughly equally among heterosexuals and homosexuals. Gay people have been wrongly condemned for centuries now because of a mistaken identity! The Boy Scouts, whom I have written asking for a change in their policy toward the inclusion of gays, are a prime example of just one group that doesn’t understand this. They would be far more likely to protect young boys if they focused on heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles, than singling out all gay people, most of whom are decent, loving, caring human beings.

    After 30 years of studying the Bible on this issue I have come to believe that the case against gay people (as we understand homosexuality today) in the Bible is truthfully non-existent. However, a strong argument can be made for a case against pedophilia, or more specifically pederasty, which is the practice of the slavery of boys for the sexual pleasure of adult men (particularly evident in I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10), and which was rampant in the time of the Apostle Paul in the Roman Empire.

    There is no doubt that the Bible calls for chaste, moral, responsible sexual expression, and that applies to all people, gay and straight alike. I’m still quite conventional in that I believe sexual expression is meant for marriage, but I have also come to believe that marriage equality is therefore the best expression of family values, so that all people can enjoy the blessings of marriage, gay and straight alike.

    I believe the day will come when we will all look back on these times and wonder what all the fuss was about. Even as we changed our minds about slavery and civil rights, the day will come when most Christians will accept gay people as equally human and loved by God. That day is not yet. But I pray for the day when it will be. I simply do not want to hear of another precious child of God ending his or her life because of who God has made them to be.

  9. Bullying. I was bullied incredibly in high school. In fact, most of the bullying came curtesy of the untouchables: the footbll team. Most of the football players didn’t bully, but most of the bullying came via football players. It wasn’t secret, and everyone knew what bullying was. What is shocking is that it is taking “bullying suicides” for it to be addressed. Somehow we have missed 30 plus years of high school shootings, I imagine most of which have been motivated by bullying. ( That doesn’t make it OK.) This sudden response by the media and the education system itself, that this is somehow a new phenomena is what is amazing.

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