Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Silence. . . .

This morning, I decided to follow-up a conversation I had last weekend with a concerned mom by penning a response for the April 2010 edition of our CPYU Parent Page. Here's what I wrote. . . . and I'd love to get some dialouge going on this. . .

A few days ago I was speaking on youth culture at a church that sits directly across the street from the local high school. I had challenged those in attendance to reach out to the large population of broken and confused kids who walked the halls of that school each and every day. Afterwards, a woman shared a concern and asked a question. She explained that she was part of a group of Christians who were working to get the school to ban the upcoming “Day of Silence.” “What can we do to stop it?” she asked.


If you’re in the dark regarding the “Day of Silence,” here’s an explanation: Founded in 1996 at the University of Virginia, the “Day of Silence” is billed by organizers as the largest student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Scheduled to be held on Friday, April 16, hundreds of thousands of students in middle schools, high schools, and colleges across America will take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage their schools and peers to address the problem of anti lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender behavior. The event is now officially sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

After pondering the woman’s question for a few moments, I offered a response that I think surprised her. My response was rooted in a couple of realities. First, but not foremost, there’s my own experience of harassing people during my high school years, something rooted in my own adolescent insecurities. You know – putting others down to feel better about myself. While I’m ashamed to admit it, my behavior included harassment of peers who were rumored to be homosexuals. Second, and foremost, is my understanding of who God is, who He’s made people to be, and who He’s called His followers to be. . . especially to those who, like you and me, are sinners desperately in need of God’s saving grace.

And so I told her this. . . First, I believe that God has established sexuality as a good and wonderful gift that is to be experienced and celebrated with great freedom within the bounds of His order and design. Because our world is fallen and broken, there will be sinful distortions of that plan that we are to avoid including adultery, fornication, pornography, sexual abuse, lust, and homosexuality. . . among other things. We are to teach these truths to our children without hesitation.

Second, banning the “Day of Silence” only deals with symptoms of deeper issues. Shouldn’t we be concerned about the hearts from which the issues come? And while we’re talking about hearts from which the issues come, what about the hearts from which hate and ignorance flow. . . . especially when those hearts belong to those who claim to follow Christ?

Third, we can’t force anyone to follow Jesus. Only God’s Spirit is able to draw people to Himself. While we can’t strong-arm people into the Kingdom of God, we can and must choose to follow Jesus ourselves. Following Jesus means facing our Pharisaical tendencies/sins head-on, while loving sinners as Jesus has loved them (and us!. . . because we’re in that group too). Loving on sinners is our calling, just as our calling is to hate and avoid sin.

Finally, I asked her this question: “Have you ever thought about acting on your rightful concern by sitting down and spending some time getting to know and listening to the kids who are planning the ‘Day of Silence’ at your school?” She paused. . . as I guess most of us would. . . and said “no.” I then challenged her to find out the names of the kids, invite them out to Starbucks, and then sit with no agenda other than to listen and love.

What would happen if we would stop working so hard to “protect” our kids by legislating morality, and start “providing spiritually” for our kids by modeling how to take the Gospel to those who are hungry for Heaven? I’m learning that while it’s easier to wish and work away differences I might not like, Jesus is calling me to go as His ambassador to people He’s called me to love. Then, He’ll take care of the rest.

13 comments:

Travis Deans said...

Great answers Walt! Thanks for posting this!

brian said...

Good article. thanks, we do need to be doing a lot more listening and loving before we have anything to say or do. We need to be listening, loving, saying, and doing for the Glory of God.

Anonymous said...

Love your response.

David said...

Thanks Walt. I often find myself wondering where the line is between tolerance of behavior and acceptance of a person (while disagreeing with their lifestyle). Gradually, I have been coming to the understanding that it is by God's spirit that we listen and speak. There must be moments of loving confrontation and invitation to God's way (within relationship) balanced with compassion and patience for someone who has experienced stresses in life that I do not know and cannot understand (because I am not them!).

I have been coming to the realization that people are not equations to be solved (so there is no standard approach across the board)... and so my response to each person must be as personal and unique as they are... listening to them and to God as I walk with them through their experiences, challenges and joys.

Thanks for the reminder... I fear that it doesn't match what much of Western Christianity believes, but I believe it is faithful to how Jesus lived and approached sinners every day.

Thoughts From Jeff said...

One of the best articles that I have read in a long time, thanks.

Jon said...

Thanks Walt for bringing this to everyone's attention. I was just working on putting together a discussion for our youth group on April 11. I would encourage all youth workers to spend that week discussing how Christians should respond. You've given some great insight. Also, I got a great booklet from the Pittsburgh chapter of Harvest USA on the subject. I'm trying to find out if they have it in electronic format so I can pass it along. I'll let you know.

Anonymous said...

OK Walt...here's my 2 cents:

I worked for many years in a Public HS setting as an Administrator. I have had annual conversations about this event for quite some time - with people on both sides of the discussion.

What I feel is desparately missing from this conversation is a missiology that would empower, equip, and stir compassion in the hearts of pro-hetero teenagers and children. The best strategy (by FAR) is for kids that live in this world every day to be equipped with theology and praxis to engage their peers.

My question to the lady in the story would have been, "Which of your students (in the Church) are leading the Christ movement at their school(s)?" I am all about equipping parents, but this particular conversation is desperately in need of some Christian student leadership.

Just my thoughts...

CB.

chbrooks@worldvision.org

Billy Ferrell said...

Great response Walt! Thanks for putting this out there as a challenge to us all. I recently heard a quote from Billy Graham that I think I think hits the nail on the head. When asked how he could possibly still befriend and support a well known public figure after a great moral fall, the great preacher said, "Because it is God's job to judge, the Holy Spirit's job to convict, and it is my job to love." Judging and convicting aren't in our job descriptions as Christians! Loving is!

Leanne said...

This is a great insight that we as the Church get to have in the lives of students everywhere. What if we were to go into a conversation with no agenda but God's love to be shared? It would radically change the perception of the Church and the tension between the Church and GLBT community ...

Justin said...

Great stuff Walt. Why so much fear and anxiety is produced by something the bible addresses with less than 100 words always astounds me.

Your answer cuts to the heart: Jesus was incredibly compelling to outsiders so we should be too.

mistered said...

Walt

Thanks for posting and encouraging this women along with all who read your blog to love in the name of Christ.

How easy is it to love our friends but Christ called us to love even our enemies. Then when you consider that all believers were enemies of God it should make the type of the sin the person exudes fade into the back ground.

Thanks for the reminder that the Christian's purpose of being placed in the world is to have the ministry of reconciliation.

Anonymous said...

I like your point that we need to address the issue of our own ignorant and hate-filled hearts BEFORE we attempt to "straighten others out."

Tammi said...

Thank you for bringing to mind the need to love and listen to our youth. This should be a top priority for all of us. On a larger note; however, I don't believe this is necessarily directed towards the youth. The problem lies in the organization's ability to infiltrate their message into our public schools in a way that other organizations are unable to. For instance, See You At The Pole is allowed, but only before or after school. Students are not allowed to have a day of silent prayer in observance of the Christian values throughout the entire school day. A Day of Silence allows the students to basically not say anything for the entire day during the official school day. This can and has disrupted other students learning, especially in group work in the classroom. So the question is "Why do we allow this for one group organization and not another?" Each organization should have this right, or none of them should. Should we allow this for any organization during the actual school day or should these activities be kept to before and after school? Maybe a DAY OF DIVERSITY would be a good solution....whereby we pick one day out of the year and let every organization express their views/ thus letting youth voice their viewpoints.