Day of Dialogue

This Friday, April 20th, marks the annual Day of Silence, an LGBT-espousing observance in America’s public schools and now on college campuses. Day of Silence was inaugurated twelve years ago by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GSLEN). On this day, GLSEN encourages students to “take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.” The idea, as Michael Brown puts it, is “standing in solidarity with LGBT youth who are silenced through bullying and harassment.” Day of Silence activities are generally coordinated through GLSEN-organized student clubs called Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs).

But are LGBTs really forced into silence?

Consider this incident that played out over recent years. Scott Savage was a librarian on Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus. As a member of the university’s First Year Reading Experience Committee in 2006, he suggested four books for consideration as freshman reading. One of them was The Marketing of Evil, by David Kupelian, which contains one chapter on homosexuality. Three professors objected to the selection, but they didn’t stop at blackballing the book. They took great umbrage with Savage himself, as their subsequent actions revealed.

Two professors filed formal sexual harassment charges against him. One wrote to the OSU-Mansfield faculty that he was, “deeply saddened – and THREATENED … You have made me fearful and uneasy being a gay man on this campus. I am, in fact, notifying the OSU-M campus, and Ohio State University in general, that I no longer feel safe doing my job. I am being harassed.” Four days later the faculty voted unanimously (with nine abstentions) to put Savage under “investigation.”

“The fact that there are one or two unhinged professors out there – that’s not news,” said David French, the lead ADF attorney defending Savage. But the fact that, by a unanimous vote with nine abstentions, the faculty would classify a book recommendation as threatening sexual harassment warranting investigation suggests exorbitant pressure to silence certain views on homosexuality.

The next question becomes, Why?

Michael Brown relates a poignant admission from a young gay blogger named Matt. As he explains in his book, A Queer Thing Happened to America, Dr. Brown had conducted a public forum devoted to the theme, “Can You Be Gay and Christian?” Local gay and gay-affirming clergy had been invited to present their views and engage in public dialogue. Many declined, but Matt had attended, and before the evening was over, he took the microphone:

“You had some very good points, and they were couched in very compassionate language, but for a person like me, throughout this whole thing, all I’m going to hear is, ‘the queers need to die.’”

This is a breathtakingly candid confession. In other words, as Dr. Brown paraphrases, “No matter what you say, and no matter how compassionately you say it, I’m still going to hear hatred coming from your lips.”

This is why certain views on homosexuality must be silenced? Notice that the complaints, “All I’m going to hear is, ‘the queers need to die,’” I am being “threatened,” and “I no longer feel safe” are not responses to any name-calling, bullying, or harassment that took place in the specific incidents which gave rise to them. They’ve either been made up in pursuit of an agenda, or they’re coming from somewhere else. In Matt’s case, they’re coming from within. Either way, there clearly is suppressive silencing going on, but it’s taking place in the name of “anti-bullying.”

Reject Silence; Let’s Talk
A peaceful, silent statement against name-calling, bullying, and harassment is a fine thing. But there’s a better option than silence. For the second year in a row, many students are doing silence one better and, without name-calling, bullying, or harassment, engaging in a Day of Dialogue by being prepared to communicate the Judeo-Christian view of sexuality. “This event helps students have an equal opportunity and a safe space to express a faith-based point of view in a loving and respectful way,” said Candi Cushman, director of Day of Dialogue. According to the Day of Dialogue website:

The Day of Dialogue gives you, as a student, the opportunity to express the true model presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible—who didn’t back away from speaking truth, but neither held back in pouring out His incredible, compassionate love for hurting and vulnerable people. His example calls us to stand up for those being harmed or bullied while offering the light of what God’s Word says.

Instead of remaining silent, an invitation is extended, Let’s talk! Teens are good at that anyway, and certainly something as important as sexuality deserves an open discussion.

“People were interested to get both sides,” said Kaitlin, a 16-year-old high school student in Michigan who participated last year. “They were open and really wondering what we had to say. God has the best purpose for us, even when we may not know it on our own.”

Yes, God has the best purpose for us. So this year consider saying No to silence, and instead, say Yes to dialogue.

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