By Brian Pengelly, New Direction Ministries of Canada
April 17th is the International Day of Silence, a day on which students around the world will take a vow of silence at school to draw attention to the bullying, harassment, discrimination and abuse that GLBT people face at school. Over the last 13 years, this event has grown from a project at one university to one of the largest student led actions in the United States.
As it has grown in size it has gained a great deal of media attention, and has left many Christians wondering how they should respond to the Day of Silence at their school. On the extreme end of the perspective some groups have suggested keeping your children home that day, or having students walk out of class if others are allowed to not to speak in class. The stated purpose of suggested walk-out is to protest the “politicization of the public classroom”. However, protesting the students being silent by removing yourself from the classroom seems hypocritical to me. I would think that skipping class or especially leaving the classroom in protest is actually a worse disruption than what these groups are supposedly protesting against.
Other groups have attempted alternative Christian responses. There is the “Day of Truth” where Christian students are encouraged to gather and have events that talk about what the Bible says about homosexuality. Still other Christian groups are additionally planning counter-events and in some cases protests. While it would seem those who are organizing these events are well intentioned, I think Christians trying to hold counter events both distract from the important goal of stopping bullying, violence and harassment against LGBT students and gives the appearance that Christians support or don’t care that such discrimination occurs.
In some cases Christian groups have even implied or directly stated that bullying of LGBT students is not really an issue. I understand that some Christian groups are wary of statistics and stories coming from GLSEN or other gay organization, but using that as an excuse to pretend that this isn’t an issue is unacceptable.
I am a conservative evangelical youth pastor who believes that the Bible teaches that same sex erotic behaviour is outside of God’s plan for human sexuality. My conviction on this matter is not just theoretical, it is one that as a person who is same gender attracted I live out every day and one I have personally sacrificed to uphold. And as a conservative evangelical pastor I want to stand up and dispel any doubt over the question of whether LGBT students face bullying, discrimination, harassment and violence. The answer is YES they do!
The truth is that when I was a student questioning my own sexual identity in grade 9 I was beat up because of my orientation.
The truth is that I was lucky, because compared to many of my gay friends, I got off easy.
The truth is that I have talked to hundreds of youth across North America who have been called names like “fag”, “homo”, “sissy”, “dyke” and “lesbo” every single day.
The truth is that often teachers and administrators see this happen and do nothing about it.
The truth is that many students (like me) will never report the harassment and violence they face because they are scared and ashamed. So even if and when school administration will listen, they often don’t hear about the extent of it.
The truth is that it can often be Christians who perpetrate the bullying and name-calling.
I went to a Christian school. It happened there.
This is not just my experience. This is SO common. I have seen it in schools. I have seen it in churches, I have seen it in youth groups. I have talked to HUNDREDS of young people who have told me their stories.
This is REAL.
And when Christians pretend like it isn’t, we bring shame on the name of the Lord who we claim to follow.
When we stand by and let others speak out for justice while we do nothing, we fail the Kingdom of God.
When we actively oppose, or distract from those seeking justice we prove to a watching culture that our claims to love gay people are a lie.
This is REAL. This must STOP. We are part of the problem. Change starts with us.
That is the TRUTH about the Day of Silence.
Read Brian’s Story Here