Monday, October 04, 2010

Quote of the Day

Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base. I find it difficult to believe that even those among us with a vibrant imagination can muster the creative energy to picture a reality in which anti-gay violence and bullying exist without the anti-gay religious messages that support them.

These messages come in many forms, degrees of virulence, and volumes of expression. The most insidious forms, however, are not those from groups like Westboro Baptist Church. Most people quickly dismiss this fanaticism as the red-faced ranting of a fringe religious leader and his small band of followers.

More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay).

Additionally, hierarchical conceptions of value and worth are implicit in many of our theological notions. Needless to say, value and worth are not distributed equally in these hierarchies. God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below. And it all makes perfect sense if you support it with a few appropriately (mis)quoted verses from the Bible.

With dualistic conceptions of good and evil and hierarchical notions of value and worth, it becomes easy to know who it is okay to hate or to bully or, seemingly more benignly, to ignore. And no institutions have done more to create and perpetuate the public disapproval of gay and lesbian people than churches.

If anti-gay bullying has, at any level, an embodied undercurrent of tacit theological legitimation, then we simply cannot circumvent our responsibility to provide a clear, decisive, theological response. Aside from its theological base, anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it calls for acts of solidarity on behalf of the vulnerable and justice on behalf of the oppressed.

. . . In the current climate, equivocating messages of affirmation are overpowered by the religious rhetoric of hatred. Silence only serves to support the toleration of bullying, violence and exclusion. In the face of what has already become the common occurrence of LGBT teen suicide, how long can we wait to respond?

– Cody J. Sanders
"Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue"
Religion Dispatches
October 2, 2010

Recommended Off-site Link:
A Lack of Empathy Helps LGBT Suicide Thrive - Judy Shepard (, October 1, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Dave Navarro to LGBT Youth: "We Need Your Voices"
Confronting Classroom Homophobia
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People
A Girl Named Sara: A "Person of the Resurrection"
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection
"A Valiant Effort"


Mareczku said...

So what has the Catholic Church done to fight anti-gay bullying? Have any bishops spoken out against it?
Have any bishops commented about the recent suicides? Have any bishops spoken out on the need of love and acceptance for our gay youth? I really want to know of some positives from Church leaders in these matters.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Good questions, Mark!

The bishops are displaying a total lack of moral authority and leadership on this issue. Sad but true. I guess it's up to the "priesthood of the baptized" to lead the way!