Thursday, April 30, 2009

Selective Hearing in Our Churches and Dead Children, Sacrifices to Our Homophobia

Most likely, somebody will be angry after reading this post. Late Tuesday night at I posted on the suicides of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Herrera, two 11-year-old boys who endured repeated bullying at their schools with taunts of "you're gay."

So far the comments have been thoughtful in response, but one in particular drew my focus. Southerngirl who writes at MommyCan commented on the trouble she has getting "church folk" to see that words have power. To me that says some "church folk," if she means people in the Christian church, are not reading their Bibles because verses such as these, James 3:1-12, clearly tell us to watch what we say because words indeed have power.
3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well. 3:3 And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to get them to obey us, then we guide their entire bodies. 3:4 Look at ships too: Though they are so large and driven by harsh winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination directs. 3:5 So too the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze. 3:6 And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence – and is set on fire by hell.

3:7 For every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and sea creature is subdued and has been subdued by humankind. 3:8 But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 3:9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people18 made in God’s image. 3:10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters. 3:11 A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it? 3:12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a vine produce figs? Neither can a salt water spring produce fresh water. (verses from NetBible, New English Translation)
As in all of life, humans have selective hearing. In churches that declare they live by the Word of God, it is no different. Some people, for instance, don't pay attention to the verses above because James begins the passage mentioning teachers. Therefore, they conclude that the verses only apply to them if they want to be ministers or pastors. They are wrong.

Believer or nonbeliever, there's a human tendency to not look inward but outward and compare ourselves to others, see what's wrong with them instead of ourselves. We find ways to build ourselves up and look for loopholes whenever possible to avoid accountability of own actions.

I've observed that we tend to single out the the sins of others when reading about sin in the Bible and readily ignore the sins that most of us commit daily. We think of our sins as the "ordinary, excusable" sins. These are the faults we find harder to vanquish in our own lives, the ones we'd prefer to think of as little sins--little white lies, a little bit of pride, a little envy and coveting of our neighbor's lives. Those other people over there, we think, have the big sins. We watch and point out who we think is more sinful than we are, who's actually sleeping with her neighbor's husband, who got busted for theft, who's a drunk, who's a hooker, who's a homosexual aka "sodomite" for you old school church goers.

Personally I think this is one of the main reasons plenty of us, me included, will be shocked at the Judgment Seat to find God didn't think we were any better than those "other" people after all.

If you don't believe in God from a Christian perspective or were not raised going to a Christian protestant church or even that you reap what you sow, you may be clueless about now regarding this post. If you don't believe in a higher power period, then this is probably not the post for you, and that's okay. I have other posts on this blog and you're welcome you to read them, especially if talks about the religious beliefs make you uncomfortable.

Furthermore, this post is not a post to debate whether to be gay is a sin or not. This is a post saying that the Bible is full of so many sins that each of us commit with regularity (and that can all be traced back to stubbornness and pride) that all of us risk salvation when we wag the finger at others or at least show we may not love Jesus like we think we love Jesus.

And how do we point our fingers most often? With our words.

Neither is this a post to debate doctrine such as irrevocable salvation or once you've accepted Jesus you've been saved forever because there's plenty of scripture to suggest that while you may say you've accepted Jesus and even attend church each Sunday, treating others badly is a life that does not reflect that acceptance and your faith may be a sham. Yes, we have an Advocate and may seek forgiveness, but it's clear that we shouldn't fool ourselves and "play with God."

What's clear is that the only lives we may judge are our own, and even that judgment is suspect for those who believe the Bible is the Word of God because Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" The answer to that question is not we humans.

And then there's that sticky verse, 1 Peter 4:15 that lumps people who meddle into the affairs of others with murderers and criminals. The concept that gossipers, tattlers, and busybodies are as horrible as other criminals is repeated in more than one New Testament verse.

Why don't people who spend time teaching their children that homosexuals are going to hell also spend time teaching those same children that bullies and people who name call, humiliate, and condemn people will be damned likewise? Could it be because if they do teach the whole story their children will know those parents fail the holiness test also?

I've spent time focused on Christians, but I know Christians aren't the only group with members who encourage homophobia or to treat people who are gay or who appear to be gay with contempt. I addressed Christians because I know more people who claim to be Christians. I grew up in the Church, and I think that we dishonor the Word of God when we deny that word have power or promote any idea that ridiculing and bullying others is acceptable in God's sight.

Words have power. It's not coincidence that God is likened to a Word.

Link: "Two Children Bullied to Death--Sacrifices to Our Homophobia"


Southerngirl said...

Thank you for that Nordette. I just have not been able to put any coherent thought together in response to this tradegy. My history with this goes wayy wayy back. I grew up with 2 kids that we all knew in Kindergarten were different. So I never bought the Gay is a chocie thing. My mom being a minister has led to some pretty heated conversations on this matter within my family. I am the "different one" already so I keep my mouth shut most of the time. But these babies bring out so much greif in me becuse I can still remember Boy A's face when the teachers would yell at him to stop running around with us girls, Or the day he was told in the front of the entire 2nd grade class to stop acting so girlish. This crap led to a vibrant outgoing kid who barely spoke to anyone by the time we got to highschool. The bullying was relentless for him. And he got it from the adults who told him they would leave him alone if he acted right (whatever the hell that means) to the kids. We spent some time in a summer program together and he told me he envied me for being able to leave home early he said he was NEVER coming back to our hometown. I can say that the summer after our senior year was the last time I saw him. A lot of this meaness is learned in our churches and until we admit it and correct it Christian will be a dirty word to too many people.

Vérité Parlant said...

A lot of this meanness is learned in our churches and until we admit it and correct it Christian will be a dirty word to too many people.That's is truth!

Thank you for visiting.

msladydeborah said...

Stick and stones may break my bones...but words will never hurt me...Yeah right!

I don't know who thought that rhyme up to counter verbal attacks but it definitely is way off base with reality.

Words have the power to create. We know this as adults. What children don't know is the fact that while they are developing in life there are times when words seem to be the ultimate definition of who they are. Who knows what will happen to any individual until it is revealed?

As far as the body of believers go..I find it interesting that too many Christians do not openly discuss contemporary issues period.
Even when those issues make their way into the midst of the church.

I am often amused when my mother raises up a contemporary idea in her church. She has stunned many a member with her stance on birth control, premarital sex and sexuality. It has not often made her popular but at her age I don't think she honestly cares. She is pro-birth control. She acknowledges that just saying no is not effective enough to keep people from having sexual contact. She also realizes that there are some folks who hide their sexuality because of the stigmas surrounding their preferences.

I just recently heard one of my preschoolers call another one gay.
It was due to the fact that he was playing with a little girl. He was the daddy and he carrying their baby to the car. An act I'm sure his own father does frequently. It made the little boy angry and upset. I had to ask if the name caller knew what gay meant. His answer was definitely based on adult observations. "It is a man who acts like a girl." This particular child is from a single parent household. So he really has no frame of reference about how a father interacts with his children.

But the fact that he was too quick to label the other child really bothered me. It indicates that there is already a bias being instilled within his value system.
One that may not honestly be justified as he grows up and encounters other males.

The sad part is the fact that while children are developing there are certain stigmas that they just don't know how to handle.
It is so sad to know that there are children who feel death is the only way to escape.

underOvr (aka The U) said...


I don't have a lot of background information on these two boys but their suicides are tragic and a stain on all of us.

I think that the ritual of hazing is something that has always been a part of school life. I'm not condoning it; simply acknowledging the reality that many experience it.

I don't attend church. I don't have any anger towards God or those who worship in a sanctuary. I will say, "I do not think it appropriate to parse out what scripture says to support a belief."

When the bible declares, "God is love", it is not qualified which says to me that God's love is not exclusive. When someone says, God loved the world to such an extent that He gave His only Son, again that is not exclusive.

The message of religious exclusion is no different than some professing christian's assertion that Blacks are a cursed race by God or that non-muslims are infidels.

Anyone who takes solace in having a belief system that excludes humans who like you are loved by God while two young boys are dead need to have a talk with God. Something's amiss.


Vérité Parlant said...

Preschoolers, Deborah?

I'll apply to that what I said to a commenter at Blogher: The thing is (the bullying by calling gay) may not have even been about sexual-orientation, but that children have taken the word "gay" and extrapolated from society's negative attitudes about homosexuality that "gay" means anything weird, bad, lame, gross, or too-effed up to bother understanding. What does that say about what we've taught the next generation?With preschoolers calling each other gay, I think the above assessment applies as well.

Yes, I'm sure some members think your mom is the oddball because she's not getting in the box with everybody else.

Thank you, Deborah.

U, I know exactly how some Christians would respond to what you've written. They'd say they hate the sin and not the sinner. And my response to that would be that from the way these children are reacting, you're not making clear the distinction. And I'd still want to know why they choose to focus on other people instead of themselves when meditating on whatever they call sin.

And I think you're right about taking solace in exclusion. It does seem that some people focus more on "I'm in and you're out" than how to be a more loving human being.

Revvy Rev said...

The church certainly is guilty in this regard, however there is a whole bully culture that emanates from the highest levels of government, throughout the republican party, and throughout society that gives rise to such varied responses as Rambo or Columbine.

The church does beat up folks with the bible, but the US arrogantly shoves its ideology down the throats of others, feels that it has a right to take their oil, or kill to take what they want. Some of the retaliation against our country may be a result of that attitude.

In addition, the recently passed legislation below indicates the anti-gay feelings at the highest levels of government and necessitated the anti hate legislation which passed the House on April 29:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday approved an expansion of federal "hate crime" laws -- an effort that former Republican President George W. Bush had opposed.

On a vote of 249-175, the House passed and sent to the Senate a bill backed by the new Democratic White House to broaden such laws by classifying as "hate crimes" those attacks based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability.

So yes, the church is guilty but they are a microcosm of society's attitudes. Their larger sin is that they should be counter-cultural aka salt of the earth or city on a hill.