Thursday, April 27, 2017

Those Oppressed Conservative Christians & The Day of Dialog

Friday, April 28 is the conservative Christian Day of Dialog in public schools. DoD is organized by the Christian group Focus on the Family with assistance from the anti-LGBT hate group, Alliance Defending Freedom. Focus' project manager is Candi Cushman. To put it succinctly, Cushman is an anti-gay bigot. Day of Dialog is a response to GLSEN's anti-bullying program Day of Silence.

Focus on the Family perceives that anti-bullying programs threaten the rights of Christian students. That would only be true if Christian kids are wed to the belief that they have a right to bully their LGBT peers. Because this is a response to the Day of Silence Focus on the Family concentrates a great deal of energy on human sexuality. As they explain on the website:
This event equips students to exercise their freedom to share their deeply held biblical beliefs about God’s design for marriage and sexuality in a loving and respectful manner–especially when these topics are already being addressed in a one-sided manner on campus.
There are some things that aren't subject to debate. That “one-sided manner” means that educators express views that conform to science. Sexual orientation and gender identity are neither a preference nor a choice. Conservative Christianity enforces the utterly false notion that sexuality is voluntary and can be changed with a deliberate effort. In effect this shames student who are portrayed as making bad choices. The “doctrine of bad choices” facilitates and excuses discrimination and bullying.

Just as Evolution is not a controversy (no matter how much they protest otherwise) and man-made climate change is real, natural variants of human sexuality are well understood by science. There might be different theories about how they develop but their nature is well defined. It is not a viewpoint and there aren't two sides.

It is important to understand that, for some kids, school is their safe space. In this advanced culture we still have parents who kick kids out when they come out. Yet, as GLSEN points out, “56 percent of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 38 percent because of their gender expression. … Nearly a third had missed a day of school in the last month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.”

Image from the Student Guide
The Day of Dialog is intentionally provocative. It is an organized hissy fit. The real point is to demonstrate that they have the right to say these things so they are saying them. Indeed, they are permitted to be offensive so long as it is not during class time and does not create a disruption. And they are doing this because a gay advocacy group sponsors an anti-bullying event which they perceive to target Christians. It is psychological projection. (Denying some aspect of their own behavior while assuming that others or adversaries are engaged in the very same behavior.) This is confirmed with the guiding principles that are published on the website.

The first of these:
Understanding Our Constitutional Rights. No student should have to feel ashamed of—or like they have to hide—their deeply held biblical beliefs when they walk in the school door. That’s why it’s so important for students to understand their religious-freedom rights, which was a cherished principle our Founding Fathers were willing to give their lives to protect. In general, students have the right to talk about their religious beliefs, pray, read Scripture and invite other classmates to join them in these activities—as long as the actions are voluntary, student-initiated, not disruptive or coercive and take place during non-instructional time.
The above embodies the all to familiar meme of the persecuted Christian with one hand thumping a bible and the other waving an American flag. No one wants to make kids ashamed of their religious beliefs. Moreover, no one  is stifling constitutional rights. What is permissible is not necessarily appropriate or even tasteful.

That is followed by:
Having Confidence in Your Right to Speak. By educating yourself–and helping other classmates learn–what your rights are, you are helping to empower students nationwide and paving the way for God’s truth and compassion to be expressed. …
Restating it a third way:
Having Healthy Relationships. The best model for relationships comes from Jesus Christ in the Bible—who didn’t back away from speaking truth, but neither held back in pouring out His compassionate love for hurting and vulnerable people. That’s what real love looks like: It demonstrates firmness and strength—the kind of strength it takes to be willing to die for someone or to share a difficult truth—but it is communicated with day-to-day gentleness and kindness.  
This is a recurring theme: Gay/trans people are hurting and broken. What follows is an excuse for verbal bullying by redefining real love to mean intimidation and shaming. They make expressions of homophobia a virtue while telling kids that they are kind ones for offending gay students. It turns politeness on its head. Furthermore there is the arrogance of insisting that their truths are the truths. That requires more than a small amount of selective observation. They have created entire industries to combat scientific truths regarding human sexuality, climate change and evolution. The simple fact is that no LGBT child has ever been helped by someone preaching the gospel. The greater likelihood is that they have been harmed.

A little later on:
Experiencing God’s Best for Sexuality. Sexuality is a precious gift from God—he created it! That’s why God designed the very best possible plan for our sexuality and relationships, which He revealed in His Word. The Bible presents a road map for our relationships that enables us to avoid pitfalls that cause pain and physical harm and to instead experience the joy of genuine and fulfilling intimacy. It was God’s idea that sexual desire would move us toward intimacy with another and toward a relationship that brings unity, pleasure and new life. And God designed marriage as the one place for that sexual desire to be expressed. In fact, in the physical union of a husband and wife, there is also a spiritual union that occurs. Marriage between a husband and wife is such an important relationship, that God used it all throughout the Bible as a picture of what our relationship with Him is supposed to be like.
This is childish ignorance. Their deity authored their bible and thus it is inerrant. Of course there are thousands of errors in scripture from the story of creation to the age of the universe to the notion that the sun orbits Earth. The idea that being a sexual minority causes pain and does physical harm is not only untrue; it is highly offensive. This is nothing new. For centuries Christianity asserted that black people were inferior to whites. The belief that Jews killed Christ culminated in the Holocaust. Now it's gays. Furthermore, their definition of marriage is offensive not only to gay kids but also to children whose parents are gay.

That's right - Ambush a classmate
They are perfectly entitled to believe all of this. They are even entitled to say all of this. That doesn't mean that they should. Imagine an orthodox Jew sharing his superstitions with a kid eating a ham sandwich. Keep in mind that this is unsolicited speech.

Then there are all of the answers to challenges. For example:
Challenge: What if I’m gay and can’t change. I’ve always felt this way. I think people are born gay.
They offer some options:
You can assure the person that you are listening to them, you hear what they are saying and you believe them when they say they have always felt this way.

But the fact is that nobody knows how same-sex attractions develop—it appears to be a combination of factors (from biology to individual temperament to culture to environment). There is no proof that it is purely genetic.
First of all, how sexual orientation is formed is irrelevant to the scientific fact that it is innate. Then they intentionally over-complicate things. In point of fact sexual orientation is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In science “environmental” means anything that is not genetic (for example the birth mother's hormones).
You can explain that the real issue, for those who follow Jesus, is not about changing from “straight” to “gay” <sic>, or what kind of sexual identity a person has, but about having a relationship with God. And as our relationship with him grows, we learn to manage our feelings, desires and behavior according to His best plan for us. (For background, read Who Am I? Finding Your Eternal Significance).
They want a child to express the utterly stupid proposition that sexual orientation is comprised of feelings, desires and behaviors that can be managed. Sure.

But it gets even worse:
The fact is that many people have experienced great changes in their lives and voluntarily chosen to align their feelings to God’s best plan. (See Real Life Stories and Hope for Those Who Struggle.)
Right. Sexual orientation is voluntary. Ergo I am not a Christianist bigot. The links are to hackneyed pray-away-the-gay aphorisms. Gay kids should not have to struggle with their sexuality. If they do it is likely due to the judgments of others whose religion supposedly prohibits being judgmental.

Moving right along:
Challenge: Isn’t this just really about the fact that you have something against homosexuality? Your religion is discriminatory and hateful.
How could a gay kid possibly think that conservative Christians have a problem with gay people? Hard to imagine I know. After some biblical happy-talk:
You can also explain that you believe God has outlined the best plan for human relationships and sexuality in the Bible. And that this plan is meant to provide us hope, blessing and the best possible intimacy. So it’s worth at least considering what the Bible says about these important topics.
What the Bible says about human sexuality is subject to interpretation. Without indulging in a lengthy treatise, in ancient times homosexuality was assumed to be pederasty. They love the word “plan” and it usually goes unchallenged. It is not a plan or anything like a plan. There is a dearth of strategic thinking in scripture.
Challenge: What’s wrong with the Day of Silence? Don’t you care about people being bullied? Don’t you want to prevent people from committing suicide?
The stock answer:
You can reassure the individual that you absolutely believe bullying, ridiculing or harming others is always wrong in any circumstance. And that it can have tragic outcomes that should never happen, and that you want to do everything you can to help prevent these terrible things from happening.
“Who, me?” Telling gay kids that they are choosing bad behavior by being gay is not ridicule? It does not have the potential for harm? If they want to prevent bullying then they should stop bullying. They can believe in the sanctity of fluffernutter for all I care. Keep it to yourselves!

If that doesn't work:
Explain that you agree with them that bullying needs to stop and students need to all stand against it. But that when it comes to beliefs about sexuality and relationships, you turn to the Bible and your relationship for God for specific guidance. And you’d like the opportunity to have a conversation about that.
That makes absolutely no sense. What it says is that “my bullying isn't bullying because it is derived from my religious beliefs.” By that logic the Klan, which is a Christian organization, should not be considered a hate group.

And if that still doesn't work:
You can respectfully challenge your listener with this statement: I think we can all agree that true tolerance creates a climate of respect for all viewpoints, including faith-based ones like mine.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not points of view. Moreover there isn't an equal footing given that LGBT students are very much the minority. While being LGBT is not a viewpoint, religious expressions are and they are voluntary — suitable for restraint.
Challenge: Do you think homosexuality is wrong? Are you against homosexuality?
Politely explain that you want to be honest and open about the fact that you’re a Christian and you believe that what the Bible says about sexuality—that it should be reserved for a man-woman marriage relationship—is the best and most loving plan for individuals, children and society as a whole.
In other words, the answer to the question is “yes.” And it is not a goddamned “plan.”

Of course we have to get to transgender people:
Challenge: You say the Bible made people male and female, but what about those who don’t feel like their biological gender matches with how they feel?
You can explain that, while you are not a gender and sexuality expert, you think the Bible has a lot of good things to say about sexuality—like the fact that we were created by God, male and female. And that masculinity and femininity reflect important things about God’s character—like justice and mercy, strength and beauty, nurture and protection. You can invite your friends to talk about those ideas.
Translation: Transgender people do not really exist. It's also an argument from authority. Belief in the ancient screeds is no more valid than a belief that eating chocolate covered cockroaches prevents cancer. Actually there is a greater probability that the latter is valid.

One more:
Challenge: The Old Testament says a lot of things are wrong that we don’t follow today. So isn’t what the Bible says about sexuality just outdated for today’s society?
Christians believe we are free from these laws because Jesus was sacrificed on our behalf, fulfilling all of the demands of the law that human beings couldn’t possibly meet. The Bible tells us that we are no longer under these restrictions or requirements.
That has become the excuse but it is factually incorrect. Jesus was probably circumcised and he probably kept kosher. In about 50 CE Paul was proselytizing in Asia Minor and he had a predicament. In order to become Christians people had to submit to painful surgery and give up foods that they had been eating their entire lives. Therefore, Paul simply changed the rules making it easier to get converts and grow the religion.

Then this bit of BS:
The Good News is that God gives us the power to overcome sin. He works in the hearts of all who believe in Jesus to bring forgiveness, restoration and transformation.
In other words, you do not have to be LGBT. It is your choice to be LGBT. By the way, this whole notion of Christian supremacy (which is a pretext for Christian privilege) also pisses off Jewish kids while they are at it.

In the end this enterprise is admittedly self-centered. The message is less important than the people speaking it:
Day of Dialogue is a nationwide, free-speech initiative and website for students in public schools and colleges. Sponsored by Focus on the Family, the initiative equips students to exercise their religious freedoms on campus—and is designed to empower Christian students who have a heart for sharing Christ’s love and express a biblical perspective on current-day issues with peers.
There is little care for the effects of their demonstrations and no appreciation for the fact that these students are very much the majority. It is devoid of empathy for LGBT students who are further marginalized. These LGBT kids do not have the ego-strengths that adults have (or should have), they may already have lower self-esteem and they are inexperienced in the art of confrontation. Eventually they will learn how to confront these self-righteous idiots in a way that makes the gay and trans kids feel better about themselves. Eventually.

Meanwhile, if you know an LGBT kid you can explain what this is all about — and give them a hug. Send them off with the certainty that they are the critical thinkers who will one day be in demand. Their success is only limited by their intellect, work ethic and ambition. I don't care much for Apple but I wish that they made Tim Cook loose-leaf binders, book covers and phone cases. —I assume that school kids still use loose-leaf binders or is that a stretch from the past? I am more certain about books (perhaps) and phone cases (definitely).

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