Peggy Johnson’s son knows what it is like to be a friend. He also knows being a friend can hurt. Literally. According to a report in the Seattle Times, a fellow freshman friend of Johnson’s son was being harassed at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie Valley, near Seattle. One night Johnson found her son texting his friend, “Just stay by me.”
On November 6, during the school day, the two freshmen entered the boy’s locker room to change after P.E. Then taunting began, including anti-gay slurs and Johnson defied the bully. At that point, an older student assaulted Johnson’s son, leading to two broken teeth, a broken eye socket and a concussion.
The theme of the bullying reported in this incident is all too familiar: A student is bullied because he is perceived to be gay. Mount Si High is no stranger to the controversies surrounding anti-gay bullying. Two years ago, local pastor Ken Hutcherson led a protest of Mount Si on the Day of Silence, a day supported by gay advocates as a way to raise awareness about such bullying. Last year, there were no protests but nearly a third of student’s stayed home on that day.
Sadly, the Seattle Times article juxtaposed the protest from Christians against the very real consequences of antipathy towards gays at Mount Si. I do not blame the reporter for doing so. I believe the mistake was with the protestors. In their zeal to stand up for their religious beliefs about sexuality, they left themselves open to the charge that they do not respect gays as image bearers of God.
In 2008 and again last year, I looked for families in the Mount Si district to become involved in the Golden Rule Pledge. I found several who lived close to the district but no one stepped up to make that pledge. I will always wonder if the GRP could have made even a small difference there.
I am not suggesting that the attacker was a Christian who protested the Day of Silence. I don’t know anything about that. However, I do know that in bullying situations there are victims, perpetrators, bystanders and heroes. I believe there are too many Christian bystanders and too few heroes. Many students know there is a problem but do nothing.
Some Christians have become fearful of anti-bullying programs because social conservative groups have warned parents that “bullying prevention” is code for pro-gay propaganda. Groups like Mission America have scared parents that anti-bullying means pro-gay. On Mission America “risk audit,” school’s score lower for having an anti-bullying program. Various groups have promoted this “audit” to their constituencies as a way to combat what they view as pro-gay instruction. I have talked to some of these parents who trust these groups. Some protest without knowing much about the programs they oppose. Other parents, out of fear of looking liberal, shrink away and become bystanders, allowing the problem to persist.
Peggy Johnson’s son was not a bystander and it cost him. In relation to the bullying problem at your local school, which role are you playing?
31 thoughts on “Mount Si High assault and Christian bystanders”
I’ll just not respond to it. Perhaps we can find peace in that way.
LOL!!! How many debates on this website have centered on ex-gays admitting to their homosexual orientation and that even those who have married aren’t really heterosexuals. Peculiar notion indeed!!!
Yes, please do get to your other things.
I won’t debate, yet again, your obsession with the peculiar notion that someone somewhere demands that people “identify with” or “assume” and orientation.
I’ll just say that this scenario exists solely within your own imagination, and let it be.
Alas, we’ve missed each other by a mile again and are straying far off course. I found an ideal in what Warren said…that we should not assume sexual orientation…and, because the ideal intrigued me, I juxtaposed it against our obsession with orientation. It wasn’t a matter of “missing Warren”. I found a revealing nugget and quoted only that nugget because I was quite intrigued by the ideal that we should not assume sexual orientation but then, sometime later, often before the age of 21, we seem to demand that people ‘identify with’ or ‘assume’ an orientation…and, even if they don’t, we have a tendency to do it for them. I thought we could maybe learn something by examing that.
But I’ve got other things on my plate that I keep putting off because yet another comment is directed my way…I really must get to them.
I think you misread Warren’s comment. He was not challenging the existence of sexual orientation but rather was saying that if the entire “moral” component of an anti-bullying program was limited to “except that one cannot assume sexual orientation and one should not disrespect someone due to perceptions of orientation”, then this is not a threat to conservative Christian teaching.
And I’m finding it peculiar that you complain that I did not address your question right after telling me that you find no value in discussing it. I find that to be a bit of a mixed message.
But as the current message is a complaint about being ignored, I’ll try to address your question:
First “one cannot assume sexual orientation” is not a “value”. It is not a principle or an ideal or a goal, it is simply a fact.
As for “insisting that everyone has one”, it’s difficult to address that objecition without rehasing our last conversation. I suppose for me it’s a bit like a conversation objection to the idea that everyone has an ethnicity – I’m not always sure what to do with declarations of that sort.
Sure, I understand that not everyone “identifies by their ethnicity”, whatever that could be taken to mean, but that seems to be a bit of an anomaly. And it would be more than a little peculiar if every time a discussion about ethnicity arose this person insisted “I deny the existence of ethnicity”.
Wouldn’t you find it odd if that were to occur?
Here’s what I find difficult about your objection to sexual orientation: you are fine with the idea that there are same-sex attracted persons and persons who are not same-sex attracted. On that we agree.
And I understand that you would greatly object to being called “gay”. And I think that your objection would be well founded – many of the assumptions that come with that phrase do not apply to your life, your goals, your views, or your perspectives.
I’m less convinced about your objection to “homosexual”. I think it is a far more clinical term that does not include assumptions about behavior, beliefs, views, or goals. But I can respect that your personal history lends to your objection.
But here’s the problem: I would say that SSA is your sexual orientation. You don’t like that. But while using SSA is fine, it is your… what, exactly. You have an SSA __________ and Warren has an OSA __________.
I don’t think “temptation” or “struggle” or “problem” work exactly, because Warren’s opposite sex attraction is not in and of itself a problem.
Maybe something like: my “attraction” is same-sex attraction and Warren’s “attraction” is opposite sex attraction. Would that be acceptable to you?
Sorry, I don’t understand your point at all. Warren brought up the point (which I quoted), I couched it in terms of ‘identifying with’, you picked up on that and handed me’ “Identifying with” sexual orientation’…and you and I have already discussed that we can’t discuss.
Very cool, though, how we can go on like this and act like I never asked a valid question in the first place.
I’m sorry, Eddy. I meant that I found it odd that you reintroduced the topic of you objection to the term “sexual orientation.”
But, as you say, there’s likely to be nothing to be gained by going over it yet again.
You don’t have to have lived very long to discover that this world contains plenty of people who are rather odd in all kinds of ways, but in my experience well-adjusted people don’t identify “by” or “with” their sexual orientation, be it heterosexual, homosexual or whatever. They just happily accept it as being one part of their identity or personality and are happy for others, whatever their orientation, to do likewise. That’s as it should be.
I didn’t. Warren did. That’s what that little blue box quote box indicates at the start of my post.
OK, fair enough.
Though it does make me wonder why it is that you brought it back up. Perhaps you wish to state your opinion, but not discuss it.
No, it doesn’t. We’ve had that conversation before and got nowhere. Since it was rather recently, I don’t see why pursuing it again today would yield better results.
I think we can elimination the “identifying with” sexual orientation on the same day that we cease “identifying with” race, sex, religion, and ethnicity.
That sounds fair, doesn’t it?
Sorry, Linda. Not clear.
(1) Do you oppose bullying on the grounds of sexual orientation (actual or assumed) or not? If you do oppose it, what is the objection to having an anti-bullying policy that includes sexual orientation?
(2) Do you oppose discrimination against teaching and other staff on the grounds of their sexual orientation (actual or assumed) or not? If you do oppose it, what is the objection to having a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation?
At what point do we move from the admirable value of
to insisting that everyone has one and must identify by it?
The question may sound facetious but it is one of the pressures of adolescence and young adulthood.
Is the line between the respect involved in ‘not assuming’ and the demand to identify very clearly drawn…or are we hopelessly caught up in assuming anyway and just refrain from pronouncing our assumption?
Linda – On your site, the rating scale is as follows:
Earlier in the body of the paper, you do identify programs that identify sexual orientation in one place but not another. I appreciate the clarification but I don’t think it changes my essential point much. In some programs sexual orientation might be mentioned because the state requires it or the district requires it. There could be no teaching on the issue at all, simply a recognition that perceived sexual orientation is the source of much bullying. If parents reject bullying programs that mention sexual orientation they might be thwarting something of value with no moral teaching component at all – except that one cannot assume sexual orientation and one should not disrespect someone due to perceptions of orientation — simply because sexual orientation is mentioned. I maintain that parents should only object to actual indoctrination or restrictions on free speech or religious freedom, not what might happen.
Someone forwarded this post to me, and I once again, must shake my head at the distortion, and it seems intentional.
Warren claims here that Mission America’s Risk Audit decries “anti-bullying programs.” No. The truth is quite specifically, we oppose anti-bullying programs that include the category of sexual orientation. You can go to our web site here and read for yourself: http://www.missionamerica.com/agenda.php?articlenum=63 .
The reason is because such programs virtually always end up sending the message to kids that the only way to prevent bullying is to embrace homosexuality. Wrong. You can simply punish cruel behavior. That works, and you don’t end up endorsing sin.
Eddy – They missed school for one day. Ok, they weren’t bystanders that day. They were outside the school standing by while other kids went to school but they weren’t in the school standing by.
Warren, there’s our problem. You have just redefined the word ‘bystanders’. Up til now, it meant someone who was right there…standing by…a witness to what happened. And you’re now suggesting that those who ‘avoided school’…i.e. weren’t on the scene, weren’t anywhere close,…saw, heard and witnessed nothing…you want to call them ‘bystanders’ because they weren’t present. Color me befuddled.
Bystander: a person present but not involved. (italics mine) That one’s Wiki. If anyone can find a definition of ‘bystander’ that even hints at ‘not being present’, please, please provide it.
Eddy – 30% of students did not go to school on the Day of Silence and the year before Christians led a protest. Christianity as practiced by Ken Hutcherson was behind the avoidance of the DOS and the protest of it. I would call those who avoided school bystanders. We know there is a problem there and a bunch of people leave the scene. I am willing to go all the way out on a limb and think that some of those people know of some bullying based on perceived sexual orientation.
However, even if it cannot be proven at Mt. Si, I made a point about Christian groups equating anti-bullying with pro-gay. If that is not a situation ripe with the creation of bystanders, I don’t know what is.
Bottom line: I cannot find any justification for the way that the Christians I identified have handled this issue. No matter how good their motives, Christians there have not provided basis for being perceived as leading the way against bullying. This is the big picture and the point of the thread.
I am also aware of Mt. Si High’s history and see a possibility of uncaring Christian bystanders.But I also see a strong possibility of NO bystanders at all or no Christian bystanders. I identify with the problem of not being able to ‘discuss this story’ simply because only one part of it is factual and another major part is conjecture. That’s the problem I set out to address. To this point, we still haven’t got the facts only theories of probability, yours and mine, and both with the potential of being a tad tainted by bias. But certainly, when we can’t separate fact from supposed fact, the waters always get murky and discussion convoluted.
North Dallas Thirty,
I am familiar with your long pattern of disrupting behavior at other websites. I do not engage with you regardless of where you seek to cause disruption.
I am familiar with Mt. Si High’s history and cannot discuss this story as though it does not exist. So perhaps you can imagine a scenario in which there were no Christian bystanders. I cannot.
The comparison to drug users is offensive on a number of levels.
1) If I had used such a comparison, I’d already have an assortment of retorts blasting me for comparing the trans individual to someone using drugs.
2) If an individual were discovered using or in the possession of drugs or alcohol IN the shelter, they would be kicked out.
3) It ignores most of what I said relating to volatile reactions to sexual ambiguity (for lack of a better term) in a close and somewhat intimate environment even after a) you dramatized the circumstances where the trans issue was discovered (in the bathroom) and b) I labored the point and some of the concerns with that Bible school illustration.
Homeless and intersexed is an issue that they haven’t figured out how to accommodate. When I worked with street ministry years ago, there were a variety of issues that would rule out one shelter or another. I know shelters that won’t accept people under a certain age or a woman with a child? Is it a bigotry or bias against children? against family? Or simply a matter of the structure of the facility?
I’m with you in your attempt to raise consciousness over the issues faced by the intersexed; we differ when you try to insinuate and inject motives into the situation. All I’ve tried to point out is that there may be/may have been reasons behind the exclusion that aren’t bigoted.
Victims of what, Timothy?
Because one can certainly argue that you slandered all Christians who attend this high school by stating that they all think tormenting and beating up people is morally justified.
Because one can certainly argue that you slandered all Christians who attend this school by claiming that none of them obey the Golden Rule.
Then again, we should remember that the point here is not to assess the situation; it is to pick up a bloodied body and wave it like a flag as “proof” of how evil and awful all Christians are. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that you jumped to the usual predetermined conclusion that Christians are to blame for anything that happens to a gay or lesbian person, that Christians were all at fault, and that all the Christian students at Mount Sinai are awful, evil, horrible hypocrites.
Eddy – are you saying that this kid would have been safer on the street?
Yes, it’s a difficult situation. But they take in drug addicts, and other “difficult cases”.
They also deny they discriminate. They wouldn’ t get public funding otherwise. What they did was also blatantly illegal, by state law. It doesn’t seem to matter.
To them, this boy – for that is what he appears to be and identifies as – is a girl, because of his documentation. Or rather, from their viewpoint, she‘s a girl (hence my use of the mixed pronouns). But because of “her” masculinised body, they threw her out. As a “transgender”, “she” could be tolerated, even if relegated to sleeping on the floor while beds were available. But for the Intersexed, there’s no room at the inn. They just lie and say there is.
It’s not just the malice: it’s the dishonesty that’s endemic amongst such “Christians”.
I get the other bashings, Timothy. I understand why the news made the connection that it did. My point went to taking it even a bit farther and presuming that there were Christian bystanders when nothing in the story indicates there were.
This sounds like a rather large school. You get a picture in your mind of a gang of guys following another down the hall and bystanders standing by doing nothing. Well, truthfully, unless there was a mezzanine that offered a view down on the traffic flow, when you’re behind a crowd all you see is their backs…and unless people are shouting, you don’t really make out what anyone is saying unless they are talking to you. I used to try to hook up with my friends during change of classes and even when I knew what route they were taking to their next class, we rarely could find each other. If you’re heading in the opposite direction, you don’t notice much unless the flow of traffic stops or if some exaggerated movement takes place.
My point was about the presumption that there were bystanders and the judgement of them. It wasn’t just a remark made in passing…it was the theme of the topic thread. When it’s the theme, I do expect a little more meat on the bones. And nothing other than conjecture indicates there were ‘Christian bystanders’. Even your rebuttal switches from the physically violent bullying incident to the likelihood that people may have overheard taunts in the preceding weeks. I maintain that while it’s a possibility, it isn’t as likely as you think. I was verbally bullied a lot in high school and it was almost NEVER where it could be heard by anyone other than the bully and his cronies.
By the way, sometimes a bystander is doing something and you aren’t aware of it. I have ‘intervened’ in a number of altercations over the years without drawing attention to the fact that I was intervening. I see a young woman alone at the bus stop being approached by a man. I stop and pretend I’m waiting for a bus too. I usually don’t have to say a word…just the presence of another person tones the approacher down. On at least two occasions, I saw women being advanced on in bars and I could tell that the advances were unwelcome. I gave them a look that acknowledged that I could see what was going on and then went and pretended that I knew them. There’s also been times when I’ve seen an intoxicated gay-appearing person wandering through a ‘trouble zone’ on their way down the street or waiting for a bus…and I’ve sometimes walked with them or near them to create a buffer from the bad guys…or pretended to wait for the same bus. But I don’t confront the bad guys if I can help it and if the person’s noticeably intoxicated I don’t try to converse with them either. I just stand nearby as a silent and sober witness until the bad guys go away.
Disclaimer time: No I am not suggesting that all gays get intoxicated. Minneapolis had a number of gay bars that were located right on the cities main thoroughfare. But, quirkily, the bus stops were never in front of the bars…always in the next block. Two of the bus stops were quite normal at rush hour and then went unsavory as the evening progressed.
It may also be worth recalling that the principal of Mt. Si quit at the end of the 2008-2009 school year over the Gay-Straight Alliance because
If you did not see any Christian bystanders in the news article, you may have missed this part of the story:
As I’m sure you know, Mt. Si is in a community with a very strong Christian affiliation and quite conservative. One third of the students stayed home on the 2008 Day of Silence in protest.
Wouldn’t you agree that it is unlikely that the gay taunting in the hallways went entirely unnoticed by all of those Christian students?
And, unlike the key club or the band, we as Christians have a higher obligation. If we do not stand up for the victims, then what good are we?
Oh we may be saved on our way to Heaven, but what kind of light are we shining on the world? It we can be counted on to always be there making folks lives more difficult but we never can be found when an ally or protector is needed, then are sending a very sad message to those around us.
We can say all we want about “good news” but when all we bring is bad news to those around us, it can hardly come as a surprise that the nation is becoming increasingly skeptical about the place of the church in society.
I see “Christian bystanders” cited in the title but can’t find anything about bystanders of any persuasion in the news report. Are we presuming that there were bystanders–and that some of them were Christians?
Granted, the scenario seems to suggest bystanders but the actual scene took me back to my own high school days of being harassed (it fell short of actual bullying) in the locker room. Anticipating harassment I chose a locker in a corner far from the center of things. What I failed to consider was that this also isolated me and screened me from the view of those in the showers or in the other rows of lockers. A friend of mine was in the same class but had his locker two rows over. He was aware-and came to my defense-out in the gym or on the field but was clueless about the locker room harassment.
Another defensive move of mine was either to beat the rush into the locker room and get out quickly…or to dilly-dally outside hoping that most of the crowd would be done and gone already.
Both of my defensive moves could also work against me. Already isolated in a corner with a blocked view and without many witnesses.
I’m not defending anybody; I’m simply suggesting that to critique “Christian bystanders” when we don’t even know if there were any seems a bit of a stretch.
Frankly, I would have chosen the word “Predictably” rather than “Sadly”. Is there sadness over the juxtaposition? Hardly. It makes excellent fodder for yet another broad slam against those nameless and faceless ‘uncaring Chistians’ and hypocrites.
Is Johnson, the defender who was himself attacked, a Christian? Where did he get his sense of being his brother’s keeper? Again, the news report doesn’t address it. For all we know, this could well be a story of a Christian who paid a steep price for defending a victim.
I am outraged at bullying! But I don’t see what’s gained by continuing the generalized characterizations. Does it build a bridge? heighten understanding? clarify the truth? open the doors for communication? It seems to only build a stronger ‘us vs them’ mentality.
From the news report, it seems that even the victimized youths did not bring up the sexual orientation angle for several weeks. Yet we portray those alleged Christian bystanders (who may or not have existed) as failing to respond because the bullying was gay related (which, if they existed, they may or may not have been aware of).
Bullying is both tragic and horrific. But I don’t believe we serve the anti-bullying cause well by narrowing the parameters as this topic did. In my school, you got bullied for a lot of things…wearing glasses, being a nerd, being a hippy, being a ‘goody two shoes’ or Christian, perceived to be gay, being little, being non-aggressive, being too bookish, being in the band. And most of the times that I got bullied or harassed, there were few, if any, bystanders other than the main bully and his entourage.
Tragically at this school, no one, other than Johnson, stood up. Not the Debate Club, not the band, not the Future Teachers of America, not the Key Club, not the Honor Society. But not even knowing IF there were bystanders, we take another opportunity to lay the responsibility on the nameless and faceless Christian hypocrites who stood by and did nothing.
Any Christian who witnesses any act or words of harassment or bullying ought to follow the lead of the One they profess to follow…He laid down His life…He made Himself of no reputation. He saw a woman about to be stoned after being caught in a rather serious sin but He stood up to her accusers and attackers. There is none who is righteous, no not one. And there is only one true judge.
Re Zoe’s story of the youth expelled from the shelter. It would be my hope that such shelters consider alternative housing for people who are intersexed. I note that in one sentence Zoe referred to the youth first as a ‘he’ then as a ‘she’. When we consider that many homeless youth have other emotional or behavioral problems beyond homelessness, it might be unrealistic to expect them to develop a sensitivity to those who are intersexed. In a group living environment, the chances of being confronted visually with the issue are increased. The potential for an unacceptable violent response is very high.
The Bible school I attended years ago was presented with a bit of a ‘sticky wicket’. A post-operative transsexual (male to female) applied for enrollment. After becoming a Christian, he concluded that he shouldn’t have changed his birth gender after all and went back to living as a man…but still had the breast implants and the results of the castration. I knew about the fact that he had applied and was extremely curious how the administration would respond.
By way of what I can only describe as a ‘divine coincidence’, I was seated in the auditorium just in front two of the school’s administrators prior to a service. They were discussing the dilemma that his application had created. They had no issue with excluding him from enrollment but were wrestling with where to house him. To house him in the women’s dorm (which corresponded to his body) would be an affront to how he now perceived himself. To house him in the men’s dorm would put his roommate in a very close living situation with a roomie who had a female body. It gave new dimension to that Christian term ‘stumbling block’. That was all I got to hear but I was glad to know that they were thinking it through. When the new term started, I learned of their decision. They housed him with an ex-gay figuring 1) that the ex-gay would have a greater understanding of the man’s unique situation and 2) that the ex-gay would be least likely to stumble over the sight of the female physical characteristics.
I realize that this story speaks of trans rather than intersexed but it does appear to dramatize, at least in part, the issues faced by the homeless shelter. Had they been flush with funding or if they had more than one intersexed client, it may have justified creating a third housing environment…male, female, intersexed/trans. But without that option, how could they ensure that the physical safety of that youth would not be compromised?
Warren – I’ve seen more Christian behaviour from GLBT groups than from organised Christianity.
I’ve seen a lot of very anti-Christian behaviour too, from individuals in both groups. I’ve seen some Christians who are the genuine variety; but they appear outnumbered by those who are not. I think, I hope, that the vast majority are quietly doing the right thing, but when 600 kids stay home like that, it’s obvious that those who hold un-Christian views are by no means a tiny minority.
The worst offenders are what we in Australia call “Fundies”. But unfortunately, the Catholic church has recently started to actively persecute Intersexed people, an area they were neutral on until very recently. A pattern of behaviour, top-down, is emerging internationally. It appears to have started when his His Holiness made tow very unfortunate speeches, one labelling those who blur the divide between male and female a “threat to the human ecology” – vermin by any other name – and another calling legislation to give them human rights an “attack” on God’s Creation.
A pogrom to purge intersexed clergy has been recorded, the American Catholic Bishops now formally abandoned their neutrality on the subject, the Indonesian Bishops Conference is now calling for certain Intersexed people to be imprisoned for fraud – those who are 47,XXY and appear male – all Intersexed people are being purged from Catholic forums on the net, and even homeless youth who are IS are being expelled from Catholic shelters.
Before then, he’d been compelled to sleep on the floor in the corridors, as they thought she was just Trans.
This is not an isolated case. A chill wind is blowing from the Vatican for us.
In this case I think it was a very fair juxtaposition.
This was not just a Day of Truth school. This was not just a “we disapprove of this message” Christian response.
This was a protracted multi-month attack on the gay students of Mt. Si by Ken Hutcherson. He tried to get teachers fired. He even sent his daughter in to “monitor” the Gay-Straight Alliance group.
On the day of silence he showed up with a bullhorn and media.
This was the singular most aggressive anti-gay-student action in the country, the only most noted by those who attack Warren’s efforts to show Christ’s love rather than the church’s fist.
Hutcherson created, nurtured, cared for, and encouraged a culture of intolerance and hostility to gay students. It is not coincidental that a gay or supportive student was then tormented.
Oh how I wish there were Christian kids at that school who said, “ya know, I disagree with gay people over how God wants us to live, but I know he wants me to treat others the way I want to be treated.” Well, I really wish there were 600 of them, instead of 600 who stayed home.
Maybe then these kids wouldn’t have thought it was morally justifiable to torment this boy or to beat his friend. Maybe, just maybe, that would have been thought of as unChristian and immoral.
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