just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Day of Diversity (revised for EHS newspaper)

Day of Diversity reflections
Sr. Miller

Recently I read an essay by a Christian writer, sociologist, and minister who was reflecting on an incident that occurred when he was in high school. These are the sad details of that story.

Roger was gay, we all knew it, and we all made his life miserable. When we passed him in the hall, we called out his name effeminately, we made the crude gestures, we made him the brunt of cheap jokes. He never took showers in PE, because he knew we'd whip him with our wet towels.I wasn't there, though, the day they dragged Roger into the shower room, and shoved him into the corner. Curled up there, he cried and begged for mercy as five guys urinated on him. The reports said that Roger went to bed that night as usual, and that sometime around two in the morning he got up, went down to the basement of his house, and hanged himself.

I am a Christian. I am trying to live my life in community with others who seek to follow the ways of Jesus. I believe the Biblical story provides a moral reference point that reveals a way of living that is True and Good. I believe that Christianity is not, however, just about right beliefs, but also about right living. This way of living is not summed up in propositional statements or moral beliefs, but rather is lived out in the context of a living relationship with God and the community of his followers—the Church. Christianity is not about lobbing moral hand grenades at those who chose to live in ways that go against our deeply held beliefs and values.

I don’t believe that Jesus would have participated in the kind of harassment that Roger experienced. I don’t believe the Bible supports treating individuals, or the community they represent in such a degrading, hateful way. Jesus addressed the sinful condition of individuals, but he always did so in a spirit of compassion—treating the person with dignity.

April 13 was a “Day of Diversity” at Ephrata High School. It started out as a day of silence to increase awareness of harassment and discrimination against the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transvestite (GLBT) community. A group of students met with our principal to protest this type of day at the high school. They felt like it went against their beliefs (Christian), and brought undue attention to one group, whose lifestyle they did not wish to promote or condone.
The day unfolded with an underlying tension that was palpable. Those who supported the "Day of Diversity" wore black clothing displaying messages of tolerance that were clipped on or written directly on their clothing. Others who did not support the "Day of Diversity" made their views known as well. Some wore t-shirts that had messages like- "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve;" or other shame-based wording (which I can't remember exact quotes). Several people showed up in front of the school with picket signs and sandwich boards condemning those who practice a homosexual lifestyle, and referencing John 3:16.

I cringed when I saw these expressions of Christianity. I respect the right of others to express views different from my own. This is not about the democratic value of freedom of speech. However, I cringed because I believe many Christians missed the point of this day at Ephrata High School.

This was not a Gay Pride day with an agenda of brazenly promoting the homosexual lifestyle. This was not a day to flaunt eroticism, or sexual orientations that go against Christian moral beliefs or faith values. This was a day to recognize that some groups are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and harassment. Many times they are socially ostracized. The issue of the day was to address this kind of unjust treatment of anybody, not to promote a particular lifestyle or sexual orientation. It was a day to affirm the right of every individual to be treated with respect and dignity.

It is disturbing when Christians use the Bible as ammunition and treat other human beings in a spirit that does not represent the spirit of Christ. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe that at the very least those of us who call ourselves Christians can agree that all human beings should be treated with civility and dignity.

I am convinced that Jesus would not urinate on anyone, no matter what their sexual orientation, or ideological perspective. Nor would he condone this type of behavior. As Christians, we must be able to engage our culture in ways that do not de-humanize those whose lifestyle and perspectives go against our faith and values. Christ calls us to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. Can we do any less with our neighbor—the homosexual who is being mistreated, or anyone else who is a victim of harassment and mistreatment?