This Friday marks the twelfth consecutive annual observance of the Day of Silence. From the official site:
The Day of Silence, a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment — in effect, the silencing — experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies. This year’s Day of Silence will be held in memory of Lawrence King.
DoS has become a hotly contested front in the culture war, as evidenced by all the strategizing among conservative Christians on how best to deal with the DoS (which they see as an attempt to legitimize behavior they oppose). Some conservative leaders have called their followers to keep their children home from school on Friday. Others have sought to institute a “Day of Truth” to draw attention to their beliefs about sexual identity and gender expression and to counter the message of those who keep silence. The American Family Association has asked parents and teachers to use their influence against schools that support the DoS and to force students to abandon their vows of silence or face disciplinary action.
We believe the teaching of Christ in the Golden Rule should guide our actions and attitudes regarding all. We also believe that we should work to make school a safe place for all students. Thus, we advocate students spread a message like this on the Day of Silence:
This is what I’m doing:
I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated.
Will you join me in this pledge?
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).
The Day of Silence cards passed out by the students observing the event will ask, “What are you going to do to end the silence?” meaning what will you do to help secure a safe environment for GLBT identified students. This group advocates that we answer that question with a commitment to their safety and the safety of all based on the teachings of Christ.
A safe zone is where the teachings of Christ are truly observed. GLBT students and peers as well as other who appear different have been the target of harassment, violence and scorn. We believe this is wrong. The church should lead the way in combatting violence and harassment in schools. A variety of options exist on the DOS, including silence. Whatever option one chooses, we do not encourage protests, divisive actions or criticism of others. One way to live out our faith is to treat others fairly and with respect.
This, I think, is a good thing.
Edit: Maybe. Alex Blaze makes a very good argument at the Bilerico project that this is unethical “counterprogramming”:
The idea is that Christians are supposed to against all violence, and that they don’t have to be OK with the gay to be against anti-gay violence.
Of course, in the process, they erase queer identity from the day, students who specifically are targeted for expressing themselves. These students need specific protection because the problems they face are unique, so countering that is problematic since it looks like an attempt to sweep the violence they face under the rug.
But it’s more than that – it’s counter-programming. And when someone already knows what one group of people has scheduled and sets up another celebration, event, or remembrance for the same time and the same people, no matter what it is, the intention is clear: to prevent people from participating in the previously scheduled event.
I need to think more about Alex’s argument. When I first read about the “Golden Rule Pledge,” my context for thinking about it was very personal. Many of my friends and colleagues (and even a few family members) disagreed with my decision to pursue gender transition on religious grounds, and I respect their feelings on the matter. And yet none of them would sanction violence against me. How, I’ve wondered, can they express their opposition to violence against me without compromising their beliefs? Having read Alex’s article, I’m wondering how joining me in my observance of the DoS would compromise those beliefs. Is it really necessary for someone to say, “I agree violence against LGBT people is wrong and should be stopped, BUT I still think homosexuality and gender variance are sinful?” Why not just say, “I agree violence against LGBT people is wrong and should be stopped?”
I would hope that Christians on both sides of this issue can at least offer one another sufficient grace to cover the complexity of it.
Another edit: Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin has written an excellent critique on the “Golden Rule Pledge” that has pushed me over the edge on the topic. He lists four problems with this response to DoS:
- It is counterprogramming.
- It appears to be motivated by opposition to homosexuality rather than opposition to violence.
- It perpetuates the false Christian vs. LGBT dichotomy.
- The “Golden Rule” cards do not actually address violence; they are too susceptible to exploitation for the purposes of hate.
Jim sums up:
The Golden Rule is one of those wonderful aphorisms which serve more as a Rorschach test than a standard. It can mean whatever anybody wants it to means, allowing it to a provide a “nice” cover for those who have no intention of changing their attitudes or behavior. It’s too easy for the Golden Rule Card to become a sanctimonious, self-righteous and passive-aggressive reaction to the Day of Silence. It allows them to claim the moral high ground — a high ground which by their definition is not a level playing field.
Thank you, Jim and Alex, for helping me think through this.
(Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin.)