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It's our biblical responsibility

Sitting in a New York City airport terminal, I listened as my daughter told me through tears that her cousin had come out to her the night before as being a lesbian.

The two of them had been sharing a hotel room for the last few days, and I knew my niece was going to take the opportunity to tell my daughter what she had told me a few days earlier. The news was not a surprise to either of us, but what did surprise me was my daughter’s reaction. Why was she crying? She had numerous gay friends, including her best friend and roommate. She was a vocal advocate of gay rights and had attended numerous rallies and events in support of the LGBT community. Why was this particular news coming from her cousin so upsetting to her?

I quickly realized—when she sobbed, “If anyone does anything to hurt her, I’m going to punch them right in the face”—that she was not crying because she felt her cousin was somehow no longer the person she thought she was. She was crying because she knew her cousin, who she loved dearly, was going to inevitably suffer the bullying that comes with living as an openly gay person. She had seen so many of her friends endure this type of bullying time and time again, and it was not a question of “if” but a question of “when” her cousin would be bullied and hurt.

Nine out of ten gay teens have reported being bullied at school because of their sexual orientation. And, although there is no national data regarding suicide rates among the LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transexual) population, largely because there is no agreed-upon percentage of the population that is LGBT, about 34,000 people in this country commit suicide each year, and it is widely agreed that approximately 30 percent of all completed suicides have been related to sexual identity crisis. Additionally, gay teens are four times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual teens and are eight times more likely to commit suicide when they experience a high level of rejection from their families at home.

When we think of a bully, we imagine mean-spirited and hate-filled people with ignorant views and a need to intimidate others, but members of the LGBT community would say most, if not all, of the bullying they suffer comes from church-going Christians who spout Scripture to justify their hurtful words and actions. They are subjected to cruel, merciless taunting and humiliation from people who truly believe their hurtful words are messages from God. These bullies don’t see themselves as bullies, but their words hit at the very core of another human being and rob another human being of his dignity and self-worth.

LGBT bullying needs to be recognized for what it is—a theological issue. Because it is, in fact, based in theology. LGBT bullying would be unimaginable absent the anti-gay religious messages that drive it. So, if it is a theological issue, then a theological answer is necessary to put an end to it. Basically, the church holds the key to ending this type of bullying that has caused so much pain in the lives of gay people and their families. And although it is understandable that our churches are afraid to take an active stance on the issue of LGBT bullying from within the church, the comfortable silence comes with a cost. Put in the simplest of terms, the longer we put this off, the more young people die.

Hebrews 13:3 tells us to remember those who are mistreated as if we ourselves were suffering. Imagine the devastating hurt that comes to gay people when they are told they are uniquely unworthy of love because the Bible dictates it to be so. How aware are we of the depth of pain our LGBT brothers and sisters have endured and our own contributions to that pain? And are we suffering that pain with them as if it were our own?

One of the best-known parables of Jesus is that of the Good Samaritan, and it can be invoked in the argument for action on the issue of the church and anti-gay bullying. In any instance of bullying, there are always three parties: the bully, the victim and the witness. This is certainly the case in this biblical story found in the Book of Luke. Obviously, the bullies are the robbers who have already left the scene, and the beaten man is the victim. But in this story, we are focused mainly on the witnesses. The story does not tell us what brought on the inaction of the Levite and the Priest. Perhaps they were feeling an aversion or disgust for the bleeding man. Or they may have been afraid a similar fate might befall them if they were to stop and assist him. They may have even felt some guilt for their inaction that is not revealed to us in the story.

But it is the Samaritan, the witness who took action to help the beaten man, who possesses the traits we want to teach our children. If not for the Samaritan in this story, the man would surely have died on the side of the road.

It is a lesson on the responsibility we have to care for all of our brothers and sisters who are victimized. Jesus asks the lawyer which of the three—the Samaritan, the Levite or the Priest—was a neighbor to the man, and the lawyer responds, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus says to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Sidney Gatch
Member, Lexington UMC, Lexington, SC


Publication: South Carolina United Methodist Advocate; Date: April 2015; Page: 18


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