I am gradually getting reports of how the Golden Rule Pledge was implemented around the country. This report comes from Meryl, a young woman who is a youth leader, UNC-G student, and singer-songwriter. I have the entire article posted at the Golden Rule Pledge website. Please give it a read.
As a result of the Golden Rule Pledge effort, I have met some really great folks. I am only going to mention one with this post but there are many more. I hope to share their experiences at the new Golden Rule Pledge website soon. I did want to here share one very early report from JK, a student at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. JK was an early supporter of the Golden Rule Pledge and as you will see, used it as a springboard to mobilize Christian groups on her campus for outreach. She wrote to me today (Saturday, the 26th) with her experiences of the day. It is long but well worth the read…
Yesterday was the Day of Silence. A national event where students on their campuses are silent for the entire day to bring awareness to the silencing of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students. This community has been daily silenced by the name-calling, bullying, and harassment simply because of their sexuality. Many Christians are confused about how to respond to this day because they do not agree with homosexuality, but they do agree that hatred based on it is not acceptable.
This year I decided to get involved. I went to Campus Crusade for Christ as well as Intervarsity Fellowship to present the idea of participating. They both said they wanted to participate but I was absolutely astonished when Campus Crusade said that not only did they want to support it as individuals, but as a ministry. When I heard this, my heart was pounding- it was a prayer come true.
I can’t give you a count of how many students from the ministries actually participated. It might have been one, or many. But to me, it was their sincere desire to do something that really hit me hard. I have long been frustrated with the Christian community’s response to the GLBT group. When Crusade called me, a little piece of anger towards the church was cast away.
Students at our school chose to participate by duct taping their mouths shut in complete silence, and when people asked why, handing them a slip of paper that explained. While I was more than fine with doing this, I wanted to do more. I wanted to make it clear that not only do I love them, but Christ does also. So I made my own slips, not to preach, but to break down the walls between the Christian and LGBT communities. The slips I made said this:
“Today I am pledging to be silent to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment experienced by LGBT students.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Luke 6:31
As a follower of Christ, I believe that all people are created in the image of God and therefore deserve love and respect.”
Yesterday morning, when I went to the SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) table to receive my piece of duct tape, I showed them my slips and told them that several ministries would be participating as well. The look on their faces was priceless. They were shocked, but ecstatic. This alone would have been enough to make my day.
But there was still more to be done. Eric Heistand from Campus Crusade for Christ had the idea of bringing a flower to the head faculty advisor of SAGA. We left flowers and a card that read,
“Dear Mary Ballard and SAGA: As followers of Christ, we want to stand beside you in silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment on college campuses around the world directed toward the LGBT community. We believe that all people have been created in the image of God and therefore have infinite worth and dignity. May these flowers and our silence be a symbol of our desire to show true love and concern. May they also be small step in breaking down some of the walls that sometimes divide us. In silence we stand with you, JK, and Eric Heistand on behalf of Campus Crusade for Christ.”
At 5 pm, the students who participated gathered at a theatre to break the silence by letting a scream go and then talking about their experiences. I was 10 minutes late due to a nap, but when I got there people greeted me with hugs, handshakes, and smiling faces. I discovered that Mary Ballard, the teacher who we gave the flowers and card, read the card aloud to the community.
People came up to me shocked. Over and over, people said to me, “Thank you. You don’t know how much this means to me. I’m amazed. Thank you!” The students seemed really surprised that a ministry, especially a Christian ministry would do that. I talked with several students, but one student spoke with me for a while. She told me that she was so surprised and couldn’t believe her eyes that she had to read the card twice even before it was read aloud. I’m so grateful for the relationships that were begun yesterday just by pledging to be silent for less than 24 hours. Later that night I went to eat with several of them and hung out until the wee hours of the morning. It was wonderful.
To those of you reading, I wish I could tell you in person because this day deserves more than a short summary. Yesterday, the LGBT community saw something revolutionary- they saw Christians loving them and more than that, they saw the love of Christ. What would happen if next year, hundreds of Christian students walked around with duct tape in silence?
I have to tell you about how I felt yesterday walking around in silence with duct tape. I felt humiliated at times, and other times proud. You see, everywhere I went, people stared. I felt like a leper, completely stigmatized from people. In fact, I was experiencing what the LGBT community has experienced for decades.
As I was walking to my dorm, I realized why 30% of LGBT students report having missed one or more days of school per year out of fear. Walking by a dorm, someone opened their window and yelled a derogatory statement to me. I was scared. There was such anger in his voice that I was fearful to walk by the dorm again later that day. I was reminded of Lawrence King, a 14 year old who was murdered because of his homosexuality just two months ago.
Yesterday was amazing. The best day of the year by far. The truth is, this group has been disappointed by the church. I know that as people read that, some will become angry with me. ‘Not my church’ they will say. But when “Christians” hold signs on campus that read, “ God hates Fags.” and “fags burn in hell,” the LGBT community associates that with Christianity. Many people have told me that they have never said anything derogatory to the gay community, but the problem is they haven’t said anything at all. You see, half of the church is screaming hate at them, and the other half is silent. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that silence is powerful. The failure to not say anything, has said a lot.
This [Golden Rule Pledge] was a great first step for me to get out there in ministry. So thanks so much to you!
I don’t know how to end this note, but hopefully there won’t be an end. This is just the beginning…
I have to tell you, I am moved and humbled. I am proud of those Campus Crusade and IVP ministries and others like them around the country who stepped away from fear and up to the plate. More stories to come…
We may see more of these t-shirts around on Monday since the
7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals instructed the district court to order the Neuqua Valley High School to suspend its ban on the “Be Happy, Not Gay” T-shirt while a civil rights lawsuit in the case proceeds.
Given the ingenuity of adolescents, we will see this envelope pushed further and further (“Be smart, not Christian” is sure to come).
I have seen this issue less of a free-speech matter (you can go outside and say, “Be happy, not gay” and no one will arrest you), but how much school administrators can limit speech in the service of school order. I have not seen this as a religious free speech issue since there is nothing inherently religious about that t-shirt. I think schools will have more of these kind of issues to adjudicate and some may just throw up their hands and let anything in. Some will perhaps let nothing in. I don’t know but as much as I am a defender of free speech and religious liberty, I am not happy about this outcome. I figured the court might decide that the boy had a right to wear the shirt, but I do not believe it would be right to wear it.
I think our Golden Rulers should keep passing out the cards on Monday.
It is rare that I would quote the ACLU, but I thought that this list of tips from them on the Day of Silence and related matters looked fair.
1. You DO have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at a public school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. If your principal or a teacher tells you otherwise, you should contact the ACLU national office or GLSEN (Benny Vasquez [email protected], 646-388-8055).
2. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak. If you want to stay quiet during class on Day of Silence, we recommend that you talk to your teachers ahead of time, tell them what you plan to do, and ask them if it would be okay for you to communicate on that day in writing. Most teachers will probably say yes.
3. Your school is NOT required to “sponsor” Day of Silence. A lot of schools this year are announcing that they aren’t sponsoring Day of Silence due to pressure from national anti-gay groups. But Day of Silence is rarely a school-sponsored activity to begin with — it’s almost always an activity led by students. So don’t be confused — just because your school is saying that the school won’t officially sponsor or participate in Day of Silence doesn’t mean that it’s saying you can’t participate.
4. Students who oppose Day of Silence DO have the right to express their views, too. Like you, they must do so in a civil, peaceful way and they must limit their expression to non-instructional time. They do NOT have a right to skip school on Day of Silence without any consequences, just as you don’t have a right to skip school just because you don’t like what they think or say.
Those who say the DOS is a disruptive activity may not realize that the organizers communicate this to the participants. I was not aware of it either. I do not think this is widely known.