By Brian Pengelly (edited for 2012)
If you are a student, or work with students and are wondering about practical things you can do on the Day of Silence here are a couple ideas:
This might seem odd advice given that many people will be silent, but at many schools there will be presentations or assemblies. Many Christians feel they should avoid these activities, but I think that the presence of Christian groups and individuals is very important. It is possible that you will not agree with everything that is said. That is okay. But listen to the stories being told. Think about how we as Christians can be allies in the battle against bullying. If you are part of a Christian group you could perhaps consider having a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance (if there is one at your school) come and talk about their experiences in the school. The point of this is not to argue with them but to listen and understand their experiences.
2) The Golden Rule Pledge:
Warren Throckmorton and others have put together a project known as the Golden Rule Pledge. In many schools on the Day of Silence students hand out cards when spoken to telling people why they are not speaking and asking them what they will do to help. The Golden Rule Pledge site contains cards that Christian students can download and use to reply by pledging to “treat others the way I want to be treated”. I think this is a good starting place. Christians participating in this should spend some time thinking about how “treating others the way they want to be treated” means actively helping protect others not just promising not to bully them. It is not enough to not perpetrate injustice – one must actively seek to prevent injustice.
I think it is important for Christians to own how we individually and as a group have often been part of the violence against gay students, or have been complicit in allowing it to happen. Many LGBT students have stories about how Christians were the ones who treated them the worst. The Day of Silence is a good time for Christians both collectively and individually to take time to repent of this. This might be publicly, like a statement made by a church or Christian club in a newspaper. It might be individually. I heard of one Christian who on the Day of Silence simply wore a black T-shirt with the words “I am sorry” on it. This led to many wonderful conversations with other students. I believe there are many creative ways this could be done. But remember: repentance is more than words. Repentance is also a change in both attitude and action as well. If we repent and then continue in the same ways, our words mean nothing.
I believe that the Day of Silence is a worthy cause, and that Christians should be seen as individuals who stand up against injustice wherever it occurs, and whoever it impacts. Many Christians fear that doing so will send a signal that they support homosexuality. In my own experience, others were very able to understand where we disagreed, and thus were even more impressed when I stood up to protect and care for LGBT individuals. In fact, I found that my gay friends were much more willing to listen to my beliefs about sexuality when they saw my beliefs connected with a concern for justice and care for them.
Stopping bullying, violence, harassment and discrimination should be something that all of us can agree with, and all of us should work towards.
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