Content Warning: intense depictions of bullying, suicide
So someone shared this short film with me last week and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.
The creative premise is a world in which homosexuality is the norm and heterosexual people are bullied and marginalized. I’m not sure the film even needs such a premise to be effective, (in fact, it may distract from the main point a bit...and I hate to think there are people who need it to be reversed in order to empathize), for what really moved me was its depiction of bullying, which is based on real reports from LGBT kids.
With or without the gay-straight “flip," I think the film helps viewers understand better what it’s like to be in the minority, to be different. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about what it’s like for gay kids to overhear their parents talking about gay neighbors with derision and fear, for example, or how narratives about judgment and hell can be processed by kids in some pretty destructive ways. I hadn’t thought much about what it would be like to have a gay son or daughter either.
The film is meant to be provocative, of course, so not everyone will like it. But it reminded me of one important, reality-based fact: Most people begin to recognize their sexual orientation when they are just kids, when they are young and vulnerable like this little girl. So when we, in the Church, discuss homosexuality as though it were an issue faced by “other people” who are “out there,” when we resort to stereotypes and language about hell and judgment and damnation, we may be doing serious damage to the most precious and vulnerable among us. Even our casual conversations with one another can be picked up by little ears and internalized in destructive ways. We must never forget that there are kids struggling with the implications of their sexuality in our pews, in our classrooms, and at our own kitchen tables.
I am reminded of Jesus’ strong words about having to give an account for our careless words and about the consequences of making any of these little ones stumble.
This is one reason why the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent condemnation of the Boy Scouts was so upsetting to me: It targeted kids. It sent the message to young gay boys that they are a problem, unwelcomed in the church and a “threat” to their friends. As if they needed one more voice telling them that! As if they needed the bullies to have one more excuse to pick on them!
Still, I am hopeful that things will change for the better, and that the next generation will lead the way. I’ve spoken at several events for Christian teens in my travels, and let me tell you, to a person, they find anti-gay bullying abhorrent and are very concerned with how the Church has treated their gay friends. I’ve already heard from a mom whose son came home from the Scout meeting in which he and his friends were informed that the church that sponsored them was pulling their funding because the Scouts no longer discriminate against gay boys. The Mom said her son was angrier than she’d seen him in a while. But he wasn’t angry at his gay friends; he was angry at the Church.
So if I harp on this topic more than you would like, it’s because I’m rooting for this generation and I long for them to find a place in the Church. There have been too many secrets, too many bruises, too many suicides, and too many broken families already. Let’s be careful with our words, our assumptions, and our attitudes. What makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it casts out, but who it lets in, and the true mark of our holiness as a Church is in how well we love the least of these.
If God blesses Dan and me with a child who is gay, I would want that child to know without a doubt that he or she is loved unconditionally. I would want her to know nothing could separate her from the love of God in Christ. I would want her to know that she isn’t broken, she isn’t an embarrassment, she isn’t a disappointment.
May I be part of creating a world in which I will not have to protect her from the bullies.
And may I be part of creating a world in which I will not have to protect her from the Church.
So let’s discuss this short film.
How did it affect you? Did you find the heterosexual/homosexual “flip” effective or distracting to the message? Was it unfair in its portrayal of religion?
And do you think things are getting better for gay kids? How can we discuss issues related to homosexuality while still making the Church a safe place for young people to be honest about their sexuality?