Is it safe to be a gay or lesbian teen in Northfield?

I just saw an AP story on the NY Times website titled Gay Councilman’s Plea to Bullied Teens Goes Viral about this YouTube video (“Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns reaches out to GLBT teens with a personal story and a message of hope.”)

This video should be shown to all our middle and high school-aged kids in all our area schools. It’s the best suicide prevention tool I can imagine.

119 comments to  (Including 20 Discussion Threads) Is it safe to be a gay or lesbian teen in Northfield?

  • 1
    Griff Wigley says:

    Back in 2007 I authored a blog post here titled:

    How gay-friendly is Northfield?
    http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/1394/

  • 2
    Phil Poyner says:

    Griff, it makes me thoroughly sick that the topic of bullying of any sort continues to have to come up. When is our country going to grow up and realize that glorifying violence, particularly violence against “the other”, is unhealthy for our society…and particularly for our children?

    That having been said, I believe that the message that “things get better” is one that EVERY teenager could benefit from hearing.

    • 2.1
      Patrick Enders says:

      “When is our country going to grow up and realize that glorifying violence, particularly violence against “the other”, is unhealthy for our society…and particularly for our children?”

      Probably not ’til after football season’s over, at least.

  • 3
    kiffi summa says:

    Joel Burns said: “there is a conversation to be had…”

    who will have the courage to have it?

    We have a church in our community that does not approve of a gay lifestyle; that is their right.
    However … will we , as a community, have the courage to recognize their right to that opinion, as well as the courage to confront an opinion which degrades those with personal values which differ?

    Will we, as community, or as individuals, have the courage to say we disapprove of ANY degradation of a person’s right to define his or her self, as is true to their own nature?

    The term “Equal rights” covers a lot of areas; we must have the courage to separate what we believe is right in principle, from the fear of treading on another’s religious belief by speaking for what we believe.

    Joel Burns was right: there is definitely a conversation to be had…

  • 4
    Jane Moline says:

    Kiffi: A church has a right to their beliefs but I do not think we have to extend them much in order to air their “free speech” rights. If they were as disparaging to any other groug--women, blacks, jews, hispanicss--we would be all over them to keep their message from leaking out of their corrupted church. We would shun them socially and we should be shunning them now.

    • 4.1
      john george says:

      Jane- I agree with your discription of “disparaging” for many fundamentalist groups. Some of them remind me of the story about the fellow who was ship-wrecked on a deserted island. To keep himself sane, he built some buildings and had his schedule of “chores” to do. When rescuers finally found him after a few years of searching, they were amazed at his complex. He pointed out his house and barn and grainery and his church. When one of his rescuers asked him about a another building in the distance that he had not named, he said, “Oh. That is the church I used to go to.” In other words, he couldn’t get along with himself.
      I believe there is a great need for those who profess faith in Christ to begin living what is written in the Bible. If we say we believe it, then it should cause some changes in our lives. Bullying, no matter upon whom the focus, is anti-Christian. Take a look at John 8. Would it be acceptable to “bully” someone who says he interperets I Cor. 9:10 as saying the homosexual lifestyle is sinful? What if they believe this but still reach out and help Gay individuals with their daily needs, such as food, shelter and companionship? Just as a few extreemists are giving a bad name to Islaam, so are a few extreemists affecting Christianity. But, there is a revival coming.

    • 4.2
      Griff Wigley says:

      John, yep, I agree.

      The thing about this issue is that folks who are opposed to gay marriage can still be concerned about gay youth being bullied.

      I liken it to people who are opposites sides of the abortion issue can still collaborate on programs to reduce teen pregnancies.

      • 4.2.1
        john george says:

        Griff-
        As I have thought more about this, I’m not sure the “bullying” issue is related to the Gay issue exclusively. In fact, I’m not sure that bullying is “the problem.” It is a symptom of a problem with the bully. As long as we approach this from a victim perspective rather than a perpertrator perspective, the problem will continue. If we continue to focus on the victim, it still leaves an impression that, “there must be something wrong with me or I wouldn’t get picked on.” When we focus on getting to the bottom of the problem with the bully, then that person can get the help he/she needs. I think your analogy to the abortion issue is spot on.

      • 4.2.2
        Cynthia Child says:

        I’m unclear John, are you implying that the bullied shouldn’t be helped because they will think of themselves as a victim?

      • 4.2.3
        David Ludescher says:

        Griff,

        I think John has a point. The issue isn’t about gay youth being bullied; the issue is about children being bullies. I can’t think of any good reason for a child to be a bully.

        If religion does play a factor in the discussion, it may be that most religions teach that forgiveness and redemption are the solutions, whereas more modern theories tend to focus on retribution and punishment.

        In that sense, I think your headline is misleading. In Northfield, it is probably more widely accepted to be a gay than to be a fundamental Christian.

      • 4.2.4
        Griff Wigley says:

        John, bullies of all kinds need help, as it’s emotional/behavior problem that needs to be addressed and usually best with a family approach. Kids don’t develop into bullies for no good reason.

        Likewise, some kids have trouble standing up for themselves and tend to get picked on. So sometimes they can be helped to be more assertive.

        But some bullying can also be exacerbated by institutional and cultural norms so I think it’s worth examining those situations.

        So yeah, we could have blog posts on a variety of special types of bullying, eg:

        In Northfield, is it safe to be:

        * a black male?
        * obese?
        * a fundamentalist Christian?
        * an atheist?

        I raised this issue about gay and lesbian youth because kids in Minnesota and around the country are committing suicide. So it seems like it warrants special attention.

  • 5
    kiffi summa says:

    I have a question… and I know I’ll get a lot of crap from asking it, so go ahead; I’m prepared.

    Why is it that so many members of what might be called Christian Right, or Evangelical Churches believe it is better to homeschool their children?

  • 6
    Jane Moline says:

    Kiffi: I really think that belongs on a different thread-maybe one in general about home schooling.

    I think we should stick to gay-friendly question--and I think the religious belief questions that are related.

    • 6.1
      kiffi summa says:

      Have to disagree on this one , Jane, I think… Some parents who have strong religious ties to Churches that discriminate against any they decide are ‘other’ or less ‘worthy’ for any reason, decide that their children are better off not associating with elements of society that they/their church don’t approve of, or consider to be detrimental to their kids environment in some perceived manner. Therefor, do think it is relevant to discuss all issues which may surround the disparagement of any person, for any reason.

  • 7
    john george says:

    Jane- I agree. There are probably as many different reasons parents homeschool their children as there are families doing this.
    Kiffi- If you look at some of the homeschool organizations out there, there are many that have no affiliation with any type of right-wing or fundamentalist groups. In fact, some of the offspring of my rebelious 60′s generation are proponents of homeschooling for the same reason their parents (my generation) shunned authority when they were young.

  • 8
    Mary Schmidt Foote says:

    If you haven’t already seen the, It Gets Better Project Project started by Dan Savage, you need to. This is an amazing way to reach out to LGBT teens who do not feel like there is any hope.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject

  • 9
    Jane Moline says:

    I really think it is important to identify areas of common ground--what we think is acceptable behavior. No matter what your religious beliefs you don’t want to teach your children to be bullies and pick on other kids. (Well, most parents, at least.)

    I do think it is worth exploring what language is used in religious settings because I do think it can contribute to the atmosphere of making it “OK” to pick on certain groups. It makes the religious message that much more difficult as it can, will and has been twisted by ignoramuses to validate their bullying.

    I am absolutely shocked that parents have raised such cruel children. Where are the parents in these situations.

  • 10
    Cynthia Child says:

    Griff, thanks for posting that video. Initiating complex discussions is something LGN does well. I applaud you for it.
    I think it is imperative that school administrators watch the video. They have the power to stop the bullying. I don’t know about Northfield, but I do know cases in another small Minnesota town where nothing was done for years about the bulling of a young girl. I saw first hand how it affected her self-esteem, school performance, and general attitude. That school is lucky I’m not a parent.

    It is a really good question to ask. I hope that there are other teens that would comment on the question. Is it safe to be gay in Northfield? I know it isn’t safe to be a young black male. But that is a discussion for another day.

  • 11

    Several Points here:

    I can identify with the gay issue, not because I am gay, but because I have had to deal with bullies throughout my life in one form or another and I call it -- not being able to accept different, or anything outside the bully’s normal circle.

    I was held down in fourth grade and punched in the stomach several times because the teacher told the children I had an appendectomy. Jumping rope, being smart, wearing glasses, can all be the cause of severe bullying.

    The point is, if the bullying kind can find one difference, they will make a point of letting you know all about how it is they can’t understand your difference. Being gay is just one of many issues people have with people. And they aren’t all just kids that do the bullying.

    When the bullies take it too far, and decide to commit murder, that’s not bullying, that’s a criminal offense. And when the bullied take it too far and
    commit suicide, that is also very wrong and illegal in some states.

    The Catholic Church has open doors to all people. They just don’t want gay marriage, according to their beliefs. In Catholicism, they also don’t want marriage outside the faith unless you both agree to raise the children as Catholics.

    Last time I looked, just about every religion has strict rules concerning marriage.

    The concern that the Catholic Church has is about being told what to believe
    by the government, as the government has said it might or would (not sure which) take away the church’s tax exempt status if the Church refuses to marry gays.
    This is something that no one should tolerate from the government. There’s is a little thing called separation of church and state as mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

    Now, I am simply explaining my understanding of the situation. Besides the fact that I would not like the government to tell religious organizations what to believe, I don’t care what other people do, as long as they don’t do it to me. It’s none of my business what people do in their private lives as long as people consent and don’t hurt each other too badly.

  • 12
    john george says:

    Cynthia- I’ll start a new line here, as that other post was getting pretty long. No, I’m not saying that the bullied should be ignored. I do believe, though, that if all the focus is on their “victimhood”, then this would reinforce their struggles with being “different.” All any of us want to have in our society is a sense of value and belonging. There has been so much focus on “individuality” in our whole society that I think it is little wonder that some people, young or old, battle with a sense of not belonging. If we just take a look at nature around us, we see that pretty much all animals have some varying degree of connection with a “flock” or “herd.” Perhaps this is too simplistic, but I believe there is some truth to the old adage, “There is strength in numbers.” I’m not convinced that the whole concept of “multiculturalism” reinforces a person’s sense of belonging. Just because we enjoy the company of those of like mind, faith, race, or experience does not make us “racist” or “intolerant” or weakens society. This should not give us a springboard for hurtful accusations, but it also should not be a source of condemnation. It is, I believe, a part of the natural order.

    • 12.1
      kiffi summa says:

      John: you said “if all the focus is on their ‘victimhood’, then that would reinforce their struggles with being ‘different’.”

      The problem here is perspective.
      Who creates the “victim”? those who would perceive that “difference” as unacceptable.
      “A sense of value and belonging” comes from society NOT discriminating against those that some might consider”different”.

      “Natural order” is a dangerous phrase that can be used to enforce all sorts of discrimination , or elimination of free choice.

      You say you are not convinced of the positive aspects of “multiculturalism”… Then how can you comfortably live in this country where MANY have gathered to become essentially ONE?

      • 12.1.1
        john george says:

        Kiffi- The answer to this question is quite simple, “Then how can you comfortably live in this country where MANY have gathered to become essentially ONE?” For a couple hundred years, people have legally imigrated to this country to become Americans, not to re-establish their own country. Assimilation and the current application of multiculturalism are divergent ideas. In fact, the term is relatively new, first being used in 1941.

    • 12.2

      John, I really disagree with you here. Having a subculture and supportive community makes you “different” in a positive way. No matter how accepting everyone else becomes, no matter how much sex-ed classes are improved (and there’s much progress to be made), inevitably, gay and lesbian students know that they are wired in a different way sexually than most of their peers. Having access to a supportive community turns that into a much more positive thing.

      In general (referring to Griff’s initial question), I would say that that is the general issue in Northfield. Northfield is a safe place, and I think quite accepting. But, I don’t feel that there’s a defined community here. If we’re talking 4% of 20 000 people (and possibly higher than that, since I would guess that Northfield’s college students are somewhat more likely to be gay than the general pop), that’s 800 people, and definitely a place where more of a community could be built.

  • 13
    Obie Holmen says:

    This is a social, secular issue with strong religious overtones. Ever since the Hebrew priests wrote the “holiness code” of Leviticus around 2500 years ago, Judao-Christianity has traditionally characterized “lying with a man as a woman” as an abomination. In recent years, several denominations of Judaism and Christianity have moved away from this traditional view toward an open and affirming policy of inclusivity. Others have persisted with a policy of “hate the sin but love the sinner.”

    To what extent has religion been part of the problem? Has the traditional view given implicit license to bully? Has the traditional view contributed to the sexual angst of our youth struggling with identity issues?

    What is the implicit message of the policy of “hate the sin but love the sinner?” Is that policy part of the problem or part of the solution?

    • 13.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Obie,

      That is one way to look at the problem. However, the most significant concern to be addressed is that youths are taking their own lives.

      To suggest that religious points of view are causing the problem grossly oversimplies both the problem and the solution. I think we need to be careful that you don’t send the implicit message that it is OK to commit suicide, that being gay makes it OK to commit suicide, or that being bullied is a cause for suicide.

    • 13.2
      Obie Holmen says:

      David,

      ?? Not sure how you’re reading my comments to suggest suicide is ok.

    • 13.3
      David Ludescher says:

      Obie,

      Does the traditional view of religion make it OK to bully? No. Are kids bullying because religion gives them implicit permission to do so? No. Traditional religion says the exact opposite.

      You state that this is a secular issue with strong religious overtones. I disagree. The issue is about suicide, not sexuality or religion.

      There has been quite a bit of focus upon the reasons given for the suicide (sexual orientation and/or bullying), and hardly any focus upon why kids would believe that suicide is a valid option to any problem.

      “Suicide is not an option.” would be a much better message than “It is (not) safe to a gay in Northfield.” or “Kids are committing suicide because religion isn’t more tolerant.”

      • 13.3.1
        john george says:

        David- I agree with you. As far as the revisionist theologians in vogue today, see Jude 1:4. The whole thing about suicide and bullying are tangents to the original title of this thread, “Is it safe to be a Gay or Lesbian teen in Northfield.” In fact, a separate thread titled, “Is it safe to disagree with anyone about anything in Northfield” might bring just as lively a discussion.

      • 13.3.2
        kiffi summa says:

        John: time for Bible studies… all of Jude is a general Salutation; the Warnings of History to the Ungodly.

        In your opinion, what is the specificity, the nature of the “ungodly men”, in verse #4?

        P.S. I don’t think the correct citation is “1.4″ as there are only 24 verses of Jude, which is not divided into chapters… or does my confirmation bible fail me?

      • 13.3.3
        Barry Cipra says:

        Kiffi, if you Google on “jude 1:4″ you’ll find you get all kinds of hits for the fourth verse. It’s standard to cite Bible passages in the form “Book x:y” with the convention that x=1 when there are no explicitly numbered chapters.

      • 13.3.4
        john george says:

        Kiffi- The “specificity” here can best be summed up in another passage, Mark 7:6-13 ( Barry is correct. Mark has more than one chapter). Men were twisting the scripture around to get out of their responsibility to it long before Jesus’ time. In fact, you can trace this predisposition of the sin nature back to Genesis 3:11-13. When the Gay theologians redefine cannonized scripture to justify their own sin, then this is how I interpret their actions. For me, it is a matter of faith in the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to the writers of the Scriptures, but that is another horse that has been thoroughly beaten on this blog.
        Back to the issue of bullying, I still believe it is a symptom of greater underlying problems, and if the underlying problems do not get addressed, then the bully will not be able to fully control his behavior. It will become a suppressed trait and surely manifest itself in the future.

      • 13.3.5
        kiffi summa says:

        John , you said: “when the gay theologians redefine cannonized scripture to justify their own sin…”

        Does that then mean that any theologian who tolerates a gay lifestyle is tolerating sin?

        I have heard from a former member that Rejoice church had a committee to consider separating from the ELCA, and that it was over this very issue, i.e., that the ELCA does NOT condemn a gay lifestyle.

        If that is true, and your Church, Rejoice, will not tolerate a gay lifestyle, and indeed considers it a sin, then how do you reconcile these conflicting positions?

        How would you teach a child that you do not tolerate a gay lifestyle, because it is ‘sinful’, and yet make it clear to that child that they must not ever disparage a person who they might perceive as gay?

        ***I am NOT trying to enflame this discussion; I simply don’t see how one can pursue this anti-gay agenda and also avoid allowing a child/teen to be confused enough by the teachings of parent and church to feel that a gay person is “sinful”, and therefore not as ‘good’…. and therefore possibly setting up a situation for bullying.

        The “”hate the sin;love the sinner” method is a bit hard to take if you’re the sinner whose actions are hated…

      • 13.3.6
        john george says:

        Kiffi- First off, I would have to know how you define “tolerance.” When we each use the term, I perceive that you are infering something different than I. I am not a post modernist in my thinking. I adhere to the tenet that there is an absolute truth and that it is based upon Biblical teaching. I do not believe that “right and wrong” are relative situations based upon the particular person’s perceptions at any particular point in time.
        Secondly, I am not, nor ever have been, a member of Rejoice Church. What they do with their relationship with the ELCA is non of my concern.
        Since my brother-in-law is an ELCA pastor, I have a little knowledge of some of the internal debates that have gone on in that organization. It centers around how the person interprets I Cor. 6:8-10. I still like the way he posits this argument when he says that he cannot find any scriptural support that homosexuality is part of the “new self” in Col. 3:10. The gay theologians I have read claim that since God made them that way, then they can’t be sinful. As I understand it, the point of disagreement is not that the ELCA does not CONDEMN homosexuality, but that they do not regard it as part of the original sin nature of man, and therefore in need of redemption. I’m sure there are readers out there who have been involved in some of these discussions that can articulate this better than I, but this is pretty accurate in a nut shell. Beyond that, I’m not sure what you are refering to as conflicting positions.
        As far as what I taught my children regarding those in the Gay lifestyle, I taught them to accept these people just like they would accept any other person caught in sin- with love and compassion. Just as they themselves needed to repent and accept God’s provision for themselves, so they need to offer this same opportunity to others. And, no matter how the person responds, they still need to exhibit this love toward that person. Does this help you understand where I am coming from?

      • 13.3.7
        kiffi summa says:

        John: Thank you for you serious and thoughtful reply; I am very sorry for having misidentified your Church affiliation. Actually, that is none of my business; I was pursuing the possibility of one action leading to a related POV.

        My version of tolerance would be to accept any differences of personal choice with a gracious regard and respect for one’s right to make personal choices, have personal opinions.
        My ‘tolerance ‘ would fail if someone overtly harmed me , or my family or loved ones, because they disagreed with my personal choices.

        I do disagree with your assumption of there being absolute rights and wrongs that are dictated by Bible tenets, IF those rights and wrongs are not supported by the civil law we live under.

        But that is into the area of personal choice and I respect that, although I must say :-) your selection of Bible verses do not provide proof for me.

        Thanks again…

      • 13.3.8
        Phil Poyner says:

        I’m not terribly thrilled with the phrase “gay lifestyle” either, although I realize it’s in common usage and the user doesn’t necessarily “mean anything by it”. Unless people consider holding a job, paying taxes, paying mortgages, shopping for health benefits, etc, etc, as somehow being part of a distinct lifestyle, then I’d say most gay people I know are just like anyone else. In my experience the “gay lifestyle” is mainly a media creation. Flamboyant exceptions do not a lifestyle make! ;-)

      • 13.3.9
        john george says:

        Kiffi- You are certainly welcome. I wasn’t trying to convince you of believing as I do. That is not my job. It is the Holy Spirit who works in us to renew our minds. I was only giving a few scriptures as example of what I base my thinking on. It was certainly not a thorough exigeses.

        Phil- I do differentiate the gay lifestyle from the non-gay. All the things you mention have to do with how we relate to our society. These are common among all of us, but I’m not convinced that this is what the gay community is clamoring for. All these things are available to them at this time. What I do hear them saying is that they want to be considered the same as heterosexuals, not just equal to them. This is where I have a problem with their argument.

        The other concern I have was voiced by Kiffi in post 17, “I vote for ZERO tolerance: whether in the schools, on the streets, or embedded in a church sermon,” and in 13.3.7, “I do disagree with your assumption of there being absolute rights and wrongs that are dictated by Bible tenets, IF those rights and wrongs are not supported by the civil law we live under.” This idea that civil law supercedes Church doctorine concerns me more than a little. Who is going to dictate what can be expressed in the pulpit by the pastor? The Supreme Court? And, how does this align with the separation clause? And, since Islaam takes a much stronger position on what to do with gays who decide to live openly (stoning instead of repentance), who is going to venture into the local mosque and tell the Imam to tone it down a little bit? Not me, I’ll gaurantee you! If the state chooses to accept gay marriages as equal to mine, it will not affect me, nor my children, nor my grandchildren at all. If they choose to force my church to perform and bless their union, then that violates my conscience and bothers me a whole lot. I simply have not heard any assurances from the gay community that they even understand this or have any ideas for safeguards to be put into place that it will not happen.

      • 13.3.10
        kiffi summa says:

        John: I doubt that anyone is going to try to “force” your pastors, in your Church, to express anything but what they truly espouse.
        That is the point of the ‘separation clause’. In religious practice, a person may hold to their beliefs; the state may not tell them what to believe, and they may not try to enforce their belief upon the ‘state’, SEPARATION is the key word :-)

        Therein comes my problem with the Mormon Church spending over 22 Million dollars influencing the vote on Prop. 8 in California ( legalizing gay marriage). That 22 million dollars could have been spent alleviating some societal ill; instead it was spent proselytizing against a societal choice.
        They did not honor the Separation.

      • 13.3.11
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        The “separation” clause is designed to protect citizens (including citizens organized into churches) from government interference in their church affairs either by encouraging or discouraging a religion. It is not intended to keep churches out of government.

      • 13.3.12
        john george says:

        Kiffi- Perhaps the Mormon church believes it was investing in eliminating a “societal ill.” I don’t know any Mormons, but if I did, I would ask them. It depends on how a person defines “societal ill.”

        As far as the government not “… (trying) to “force” your pastors, in your Church, to express anything but what they truly espouse.”, I truly do not trust that will not happen. You only need to look to Canada to see what is going on there.

  • 14

    As for the video, I wouldn’t want my child or student to view this video as a message of hope because it made me feel like this man was not all that over the bullying, or very happy with his lot in life.

  • 15
    Cynthia Child says:

    Goodness this is all getting very academic. The bottom line is bullying is a problem. Is it a problem in Northfield? If yes, how can we solve it?

  • 16
    Phil Poyner says:

    Is it a problem in Northfield? According to the last MN student survey in Rice county 39% of 6th grade girls report being bullied in the past 30 days and 44% of 9th grade boys report bullying someone in the past 30 days. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/mss/countytables/rice07.pdf I don’t think it would be unreasonable to conclude that the Northfield school district has similar numbers. Do those numbers indicate a problem? I’d say they do, but that’s a judgement call. Now, can we solve it? I’m going to be the pessimist here and say we can’t…I think our culture encourages bullying. And even more so it elevates the idea that “dealing with it well” is to be admired, and is seen by many as the “optimal” solution to bullying. See this comment thread from the NN: http://www.northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=53001

    • 16.1
      Cynthia Child says:

      Phil, thanks for posting that information. I disagree and am dismayed if people believe there is nothing to be done. I don’t believe that a problem simply cannot be solved or at least reduced.

      There are good youth programs ‘out there’ that teach kids how to communicate and defuse bullies. Several years ago the Girl Scout Council offered to facilitate one in the Northfield School system. I was not directly involved so I do not know what happened. Perhaps the district has an anti-bully program now.

      I agree with the NN commenter that there is merit in the idea that kids need to learn to protect and defend themselves rather than expect ‘the system’ to do it for them. But to go to either extreme (expect the child to handle it or have the child expect someone to do it for them) is unhealthy for the children involved.

      Those stories of youth suicides has touched me deeply so I cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t want to immediately do SOMETHING to reduce the problem. I am not a parent but if I were I would (of course try to teach my child some of the techniques to diffuse bullying) but I would also demand that the school district address the problem. And I repeat, maybe it is already. I just want to convince others to be less passive about it.

  • 17
    kiffi summa says:

    Anecdote from last week…. As I was sitting on the front porch swing reading, on the afternoon of one of those beautiful warm days last week, my 4th grade neighbor came up on the porch to chat.

    “whatd’ya do in school today”, I asked.
    He replied, “We made posters for the 1st graders to help them with some problems.”
    “What sort of problems?” I asked.
    “Bullying, “he replied.
    I went just a tad ballistic, but in a manner I thought my little 9 year old friend could handle.

    After some discussion, we moved on to cutting open a big cactus that had broken off one of the pots on my porch, just to see what it looked like inside, and maybe to diffuse the intensity of our previous discussion.

    It continued to bother me… the 4th graders making posters to help with the 1st graders problems: bullying.

    I vote for ZERO tolerance: whether in the schools, on the streets, or embedded in a church sermon.

    • 17.1
      john george says:

      Kiffi- I think I understand your statement, “I vote for ZERO tolerance: whether in the schools, on the streets, or embedded in a church sermon.” If you are saying that people should be taught that bullying is never acceptable, then I agree. My only concern with the term “zero tolerance” is that it often slams the door shut on helping that individual who is guilty of bullying. These people doing this, whether young or old, have a sociopathic disorder. If they are never confronted about their motivations and resolve them, then I think they are a walking time bomb. To say bullying is not acceptable behavior is one of those “Duh” issues to me, but it evidently is not, given the recent reported incidents of bullying.

      • 17.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        Glad to hear your opinion, John… but how does that “slam the door shut on helping that individual that is guilty of bullying” ?

      • 17.1.2
        john george says:

        Kiffi- Thanks for the opportunity to expand upon my opinion of “zero tolerance.” What I have observed of the way zero tolerance is applied, mainly in school settings, is that the student is expelled for a period of time, sometimes a year, depending on the particular infraction, but I have not heard what counseling or “treatment” he/she receives during that time. On the surface, this appears to be punitive. If there is follow-up with the expellee, then I am not aware of it (possibly because of privacy issues with a minor). A for instance I will cite is the young man from Randolph who forgot to take his hunting rifle out of his pick-up before he drove to school. Having grown up in a small farming community where hunting was common, I can understand the oversight. This wasn’t some deviant bent on revenge, but an upright student and young person in the community. Because of the zero tolerance policy toward weapons at school, the student was summarily expelled. This whole approach seems counter productive to me, and it appeared to waste a lot of people’s time and money getting the thing resolved. That is where I am coming from with my statement, but with more facts, I can be pursuaded otherwise.

  • 18

    Suicide is a bad reaction to stress of any sort in any body. The brain chemicals and the personality reach a coping limit. When people go for help, they are told,
    it’s up to you, it’s your life, your choice…trying to empower someone who has become powerless with those types of philosophies is, well, worthless.

    We have to understand the chemical element of it and say, hey, get a good meal,
    take a walk with me, drink some water, tell me all about it, I will listen. Tel the person to wait a few more days and see if they still feel that way. Then, move to change the situation.

    Once people start feeling really badly, they stop eating, forget to drink water, which throws them off balance even more than the bullying or whatever stressor, they may take drugs, or alcohol to self medicate, but it’s just another round of imbalancing chemicals to add to the mix.

    A few years ago I called a suicide hotline number that the government and other agencies give out because I was doing some research for a article, and one person on the other end was new, first day, and the other person, was like, protect the new suicide phone answering person. You know, I would have been feeling bad about how I called for help and disturbed this poor phone answering person, can’t do anything right! If we are going to help, let’s really help and not add to the problems.

    When I was ten and twelve years old, I lost two adult in-laws to suicide and always felt bad that I couldn’t do anything for them. I lost a friend in high school who was an epileptic to suicide. It really hurts all of us when we loose
    people to suicide in more ways than one.

  • 19
    Robbie Wigley says:

    There is a new Google You Tube Video on “It gets better”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYLs4NCgvNU&feature=player_embedded

  • 20
    kiffi summa says:

    re: 13.3.8… Phil makes a terrific crossover connection here (with the Juan Williams thread) with his remark about the use of the term “gay lifestyle” which John had used above… and then what the person meant in what they said…
    Did John mean to isolate those following a “”gay lifestyle” into discriminated-against ‘other’; did Juan Williams mean to isolate muslims on an airplane into discriminated-against ‘other’?

    I tend to think both comments were made in a conversational mode… then the question isolates itself into: How do comments voiced need to be taken … in context of the situation? as stand alone opinions?

    Obviously, each situation carries different nuances … obviously we will not all come to the same interpretation each time.

    I still wonder how a child whose family and church speak against homosexuality is able to SEPARATE the teachings of their closest environment from their civic responsibility to the common good?

    Is telling that child not to treat another person badly even though their family/church says that person’s actions are sinful… well , does that then negate the worry about being ‘sinful’?
    If you//your church tries to create the less sinful world it finds acceptable, then I see a confusion as to the role that churchgoer , child or adult, is to aspire to, unless it is also admonished to never seek to influence or condemn another’s choice, only to follow the prescription of the church in one’s own personal life.

  • 21
    kiffi summa says:

    If anyone was listening to MNPR last night from 5:30 to 6 PM, it was obvious that SOMETIMES there is a grave and irrefutable connection between the Evangelical Churches’ teachings, and the bullying and resultant teen suicides.

    Those who believe in the “sinfulness” of homosexuality must use their beliefs to evaluate their own choices, and not visit their opinions on those outside their belief system.
    The commitment to transform those outside their belief system is an affront to the respect due to the values of others.

    I do not ask them ( Those that believe in the “sinfulness” of homosexuality) to change: I ask them to keep their edicts within their church.

    • 21.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Kiffi,

      Once again, the tragedy is teens committing suicide.

      Evangelical churches views on homosexuality has the same causal connection to these suicides as Islam has to the world trade tower bombings -- none. The causes are much deeper and the solutions more difficult than silencing Christians or Muslims.

      What caused Muslims to bomb the world trade centers was not the Islamic belief system, but the opposite -- a perversion of the beliefs. Kids who think it is OK to bully, call names, and declare the sinfulness of others are not practicing a true Christianity. What they need isn’t less Christianity -- they need more.

  • 22
    Curt Benson says:

    Kiffi, thanks for pointing out the MPR program. Here’s a link to it:
    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/npr.php?id=130837802

    • 22.1
      Obie Holmen says:

      Curt,

      Thanks for the link. I featured the MPR program in my own blog today.

      • 22.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        So… what does one do faced with Churches who have accepted the goals of the “Transformation Movement” which as I, admittedly superficially, understand it, is to accept the ‘Great Commitment’ to enact the “Great Commandment’ , which is to proselytize the word of God , as those churches understand and believe it?

        If one is committed to the idea that they must ‘transform’ society into what matches their particular religious beliefs, how do they avoid proselytizing against homosexuality? and create a great moral dilemma for their young people?
        (please don’t give me the “hate the sin;love the sinner” argument) … it just doesn’t play out that way all too often. Witness the ‘testimony’ of these suicidal children.

        If I am misunderstanding this movement/ commitment, please correct me…

    • 22.2
      john george says:

      Kiffi & Obie- Here is a link to a You Tube clip of a play put on for freshman orientation at Gustavus Adolphus. Please ignore the commentary about it, as I know you will find it offensive, and take a look at the presentation of the skit itself. My opinion of the lady commenting about it is that she is maybe naive at best.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQVQ2HBsiqs

      Ths is in direct response to your comment in 22.1.1, Kiffi, when you said, “If one is committed to the idea that they must ‘transform’ society into what matches their particular religious beliefs, how do they avoid proselytizing against homosexuality?” Replace the word “homosexuality” with the word “Christianity” and you have exactly what is trying to be accomplished by this presentation. This is what many of us here are talking about as the aganda behind the GLBT. They are trying to change all rest of society who are not like them, and I find this focus both threatening and offensive. As Chuck Colson said many years ago, they are not looking for my permission to live their lives as they do. They are asking for my praise.

      The son of one of my good friends attends GA. He was given an opportunity to present the Biblical perspective on a panel discussion of the gay agenda. There were 5 other people on the panel, all GLBT members. They attempted to intimidate him and shame him during the presentation rather than listen to him and present their reasoning in a kind way. So much for this idea of dialogue. If the GLBT community wants to dialogue with us, they need to listen and demonstrate some respect, IMO.

      David- I agree with your comment in 21.1 about bullies needing more of Christianity, not less. As I said earlier, we who believe Biblical teaching need to start demonstrating it in our own lives.

      • 22.2.1

        (Rather amused that the woman cites an example of accepting-but-not-embracing behavior as not being discriminated against with housing, since both Gustavus and St. Olaf literally design their housing schemes around heterosexuality.)

        I will say that the skits she was so scandalized by are perfectly normal at Olaf as well. But I don’t think she needs to be too concerned about a room full of 18-year-olds being suddenly seduced into a new sexuality because of a corny college theater skit.

        The son of one of my good friends attends GA. He was given an opportunity to present the Biblical perspective on a panel discussion of the gay agenda. There were 5 other people on the panel, all GLBT members.

        I’m inferring from your post, John, that the student who wanted to present the “biblical perspective” was straight. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it: no matter what side they’re on, straight people do not have the same authority as queer (gay, bi, etc) to discuss these things. I wouldn’t go to a feminist organization and pretend to have a better understanding of women’s issues than women. Why do so many heterosexuals (and that includes those in this discussion) feel they have authority to pontificate on homosexuality?

      • 22.2.2
        kiffi summa says:

        John: I am simply not going to get into tis whole ‘thing’ again with you.

        I am NOT denying your right to believe whatever you believe.

        I HAVE asked: is it not confusing for a child who is taught that homosexuality is a ‘sin’ to leave those feelings in their family /church and NOT take them into the public school.

        You have not replied to my question , regarding that moral dilemma for the child.

        I am NOT telling you that your choices about your personal life are ‘sinful’; therefore substituting the word “Christianity”, as you suggest, is irrelevant.

        NO ONE is asking for your, or Chuck Colson’s “praise”; they are simply asking to be left alone with their personal choices… to live their life as they choose without being condemned.

      • 22.2.3
        kiffi summa says:

        Sean: in reply to your 22.2.1… Heterosexuals feel the need to defend their homosexual friends, family members, and even all those who they do not know… on the basis of living a moral life which does not discriminate against others for their personal choices, as long as those choices do not cause grave harm to other members of society.

        I do not think any heterosexual commenting here is intending to “pontificate”; I think they are trying to persuade that a more human rights POV may come to be held.. even by those who think their interpretations of Biblical teachings are being violated.

      • 22.2.4
        john george says:

        Kiffi- I didn’t mean to sidestep your question. I do not think there is a dichotomy in presenting traditional Biblical interpretation to young people and also present a loving relationship with the gay community. Part of it is how I happen to interpret sin and God’s provision for it. We all fit into that category of needing His provision.. I’m sure there are people who take a particular Biblical verse and twist it to excuse their owmn POV and actions. I think the same can be said for the gay interpretation of the Bible when they say their struggle is with “intolerant” people rather than their own attractions. Just as I do not condone bullying of gays, I do not condone bullying of we Christians, either.

        Sean- Why have a panel “discussion” of an issue if only one side is presented? Where is the opportunity for opposing views to be presented and critical thinking to be applied? Would a panel composed of all gay people be able to present an accurate portrayal of conservative Evangelical views? I don’t think so. This panel I mentioned was purported to be an occasion where both sides of the argument could be presented. It actually played out more like intrapment.

        I’m sure this same sentiment is at St. Olaf. I have no presuppositions of their positions on campus. I have had quite a bit of interaction with Olaf students over the last 13 or so years and have had the privelege of having some of them live in my home. That is why I said I thought the commenter on the video was naive at best.

  • 23

    [...] kudos to Locally Grown Northfield blog and its commenters, here is a link to yesterday’s program on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), which [...]

  • 24

    I’ve not yet seen a persuasive argument that the Bible even condemns gay relationships, even sexual ones, except when they’re part of the rituals of competing religions. I find all the talk about “the Biblical perspective” worrisome; what happened to taking responsibility for the way in which different groups choose to approach the text?

    • 24.1
      john george says:

      Peter- What do you mean by this question, “…what happened to taking responsibility for the way in which different groups choose to approach the text?”

    • 24.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Peter,

      In the context of this discussion, I think the Bible is clear that bullying, taunting, etc. is not acceptable. So, I don’t know why people are trying to place blame for these suicides on Bible-thumpers.

    • 24.3
      kiffi summa says:

      I think it is clear that as Peter says, different faiths may approach/interpret Biblical text differently.

      I personally find it arrogant for ANY group to think they have a direct phone line to the ‘mind of God’ (if such a thing exists) and that all others are out there wandering in the ignorant wilderness until saved.

      I don’t mean to be personally offensive to you, John, by the use of the word arrogant.

      But the entire issue of what the Bible, as a historical document, actually represents is an issue way too big for here.

      I think what is important is to what degree of responsibility should religious beliefs be held, IF… as in the MNPR story linked to back in this thread … those religious views used by teens to taunt other classmates should be held responsible.

      That’s why I keep trying to center on the teens who find the belief system they are tutored in to be in conflict with broader human rights, those that the law agrees with… as well as the responsibilities of the adults who instruct those teens as to the differences between their religious Belief and the Law.

      • 24.3.1
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        I think that it would be better to center on the teens who are committing suicide. How can we get them to understand that their lives are worthwhile no matter what the taunts are, or what there problems are?

        I think it sends the wrong message to our kids to suggest that it isn’t safe to be a gay or lesbian teen, and to suggest that the teens committing suicides are “victims” of the taunting.

      • 24.3.2
        john george says:

        Kiffi- I think a case could be made for the difference between corporate responsibility and personal responsibility with the issue of bullying. A good example that we are trying to wade through right now is with the whole terrorist issue in the world. Just because some people misapply tents of Islaam to justify their acts, does that mean that the whole Islamic community is responsible for their acts? According to what they are saying, it is unfair to do this. I think the same can be said for blaming the Christian community for the misdeeds of some who misapply the scriptures, as David said above.

        David- I agree with you that the focus should be on those who are considering suicide. They need to somehow be convinced that there is hope for them. I know this seems simplistic, considering that there are many variables that motivate a suicidal person, some of them real and some imagined, but hopelessness is something to be reckoned with. I must say this, that if I were a teenager right now, I wouldn’t have much hope for my life considering all that is going on in the world right now. Not everything in our environment can be controled. We need to focus on those things that can be and figure out how to live with those things that cannot be.

      • 24.3.3
        kiffi summa says:

        John: I AM making a distinction between what I consider to be Christian Beliefs, and what you consider to be Christian beliefs; we have had this discussion before. I do NOT consider your version of Christian beliefs to be the sum total of Christianity. If you recall, I was offended by your statement some time ago that implied I could not be a Christian unless I agreed with your version of Christianity, which is certainly not in synch with my religious upbringing.

        So.. I am not lumping all Christians together; I am saying those who call themselves The Christians, and who view homosexuality as a sin, are causing a lot of pain for others, and possibly confusion for their own children.

        Look at what has happened this last week in the news stories around Clint McCance, who is the Vice-President of the Midlands school board in Pleasant Plains, Arkansas. Mr. McCance said he would disown his own children if they were homosexual, and he repeatedly encouraged LGBT youth suicide.
        His comments are available online in numerous places.
        Human Rights Campaign was alerted to his comments by a 1998 graduate 0f Midlands High School, who was appalled at this person being on the School Board.
        The entire issue was reported on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s show last Tuesday, and then followed up with an interview with Mr. McCance.
        *** I warn you, if you watch Mr. McCance’s ‘rant’, the language is appalling.

        The U.S Dept of Education head, (A.Duncan ? sorry, I forget the name) denounced Mr. McCance’s speech as completely inappropriate for a person who was supposed to be an educational leader.

        Mr. McCance has now resigned from his elected position on that school board.

        So… if this sort of position is NOT favored by certain church communities they need to denounce it as NOT part of their ideology. If a church community cannot do that, then they need to be openly confident in expressing… and being ready to defend … the influence they may have on any societal segment.

      • 24.3.4
        kiffi summa says:

        David: I totally agree that it is better to center on reenforcing the value of life to a troubled teen, and I would hope that we could do that without them having to have a self perception of being a ‘victim’.

        But when these kids are so impacted by the tauntings of their peers, that is not enough. We must have the courage to not let religious elements who would denigrate personal choices prevail in driving a child to feel worthless.

        Many of these kids may have other problems which they are finding it impossible to deal with; however that does not lessen the responsibility of one human being to NOT contribute to, or justify the suicidal feelings of another.

        The bottom line for me is this: a person of a particular religious belief does NOT have the right to pass judgement on another person who has a different value system. Period.

      • 24.3.5
        john george says:

        Kiffi- You express this opinion (and it is an opinion, not fact), “…I am saying those who call themselves The Christians, and who view homosexuality as a sin, are causing a lot of pain for others, and possibly confusion for their own children.” You have every right to this opinion, but I just don’t agree with you. I don’t thimk you have universal emperical evidence to support this, just as I would not have universal emperical evidence to refute it.

        As far as this Mr. McCance in Arkinsas, I would liken him to Bin Ladin. One thing I have noticed is that any outcry from the gay community is broadcast across America, but I don’t see any reporting in the secular media about the outcry of religious groups against these types of actions, even though they are being made. The reason? Propaganda is alive and well in the media. The intent? To make certain Biblical references hate speech and therefore not protected under the first amendment (and that is just my opinion).

      • 24.3.6
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        The bottom line is that we have to address why kids are committing suicide, and how we can change that.

        There there is no causal connection between religious beliefs and bullying, and between bullying and suicides. What we are seeing is an apparent correlative connection.

        What is good about the video is that it focuses upon the vulnerable teen and improving self-esteem.

      • 24.3.7
        Phil Poyner says:

        A thought-provoking quote I’ve seen recently:

        “When gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are wrong. Our concern about the sinfulness of homosexuality is not rooted in fear, but in faithfulness to the Bible — and faithfulness means telling the truth,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a leading evangelical voice, wrote at his website.

        “Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear,” Mohler wrote.

        “We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.”

  • 25
    Jane Moline says:

    Fortunately, Phil, there are many Christians who do not believe the bible says that homosexuality is a sin.

    Even though it is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments and Jesus never made even one small remark about homosexuality, there are those who have twisted the words of the bible and claim that, after much discussion and interpretation, the bible says homosexuality is a sin. That is what it is--twisting the words to a meaning they can use to put down a specific group of people. (Note that many bible scholars who have read the bible in its orignal language(s) claim that the “popular” anti-gay wording is not there in the original language.)

    If Christians were claiming that slavery was good and right and supported by the bible (which many did in defense of the south during the Civil War) you and me and everybody would be telling them they are not allowed to practice their belief outside of their church or home--and that they cannot own slaves no matter what they think their bible says.

    Yet we somehow confer our tolerance of these unsupported and “false Christian” teachings regarding homosexuality. Not me.

    The continued persecution of gays and lesbians by these radical religious people result in tacit approval of bullying and worse. Their claim that they are “hate the sin, love the sinner” does not excuse their behavior. This persecution includes the overt attempt to pass their religious views into laws--JUST LIKE RADICAL ISLAMIST--so that they can force their religious beliefs on all the rest of us, including the denial of marriage rights and family rights. In the catholic church, they are denied sacrements and are hounded by propaganda campaigns like that foisted on the community by the current bishop--an absolute attempt to enter religious law into secular law by influencing the election.

    These are not “casual links” to bullying. They are an invitation that it is OK to brand the gay or lesbian boy or girl as a sinner. Children are not going to understand the nuance anymore than the child brought up by Republicans who claim that all Democrats are evil socialists--they want to support their parents belief. For thsoe more susceptible to the pleasure of picking on someone, their parents weird and outlandish beliefs about homosexuality are an invitaion to do much worse than avoid playing with them.

    As I have said before, all you homophobic radical christians should keep your teachings to yourself. It is sad that you are passing on your twisted beliefs to your children.

    Note that there are many more non-homophobic Christians out there than the radical kind.

    • 25.1
      john george says:

      Jane- You might take a look at Matt. 10:14-16. Jesus does refer back to Sodom and Gomorrah, which is portrayed in Ge. 18:20 as exceedingly sinful. Their sin is laid out pretty graphiclly in Ge. 19:5. To say that Jesus made no reference to homosexuality in any of His teachings is not completely accurate.

    • 25.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Jane,

      “Causal” links, not casual links. Religious beliefs are not causing suicides.

      I think we have to be careful of accusations of what evils religions have caused or is causing.

      For example, at the time of the Civil War, slavery was the law of the land by virtue of Dred Scott, a 1857 United States Supreme Court decision. While the law considered black people to be property, faithful Christians did not. 1800 years earlier, Paul exhorted Philemon to treat his slave as a brother. So, Christianity was way out front of the law.

      And, it was hatred of the Jews by the Germans that precipitated the Holocaust, and the killing of millions simply because of their religious beliefs.

  • 26
    Jane Moline says:

    After reading more of some of the responses, I find it laughable that there is this misdirection of concern--don’t focus on our religion teaching that gays and lesbians are bad--no no no--help the poor teenage so they won’t succumb to the taunts and cruelty of their classmates.

    This is beyond hypocritical--it is the problem. The reason why these kids are being teased is because the teasers are sure that it is OK--and the teasers learned that at home--probably from their homophobic parents.

    • 26.1
      john george says:

      Wow, Jane. Do you really think your hate is justified? And, does it foster dialogue and understanding? Are you not trying to bully me and those who believe as I do into some sort of false shame for what we believe? Wow!

      • 26.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        See, John… no one is bullying you,only disagreeing with the beliefs that you take outside of your personal life IF you believe you should try to foster those beliefs on others.

        You never seem to understand that all that is being asked of you is to not take your personal beliefs outside of your personal realm, and then justify doing that.

        By the way, in Matt.10:14-16, in 14 Jesus is referring not to Sodom/Gomorrah but to “that house,or that city”; in 15 he says “it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgement than for that city”. and 16 only cautions the disciples to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”.
        So whatever “that city” is, it is worse than S and G.

        Yes, be “harmless as doves” … good advice.

      • 26.1.2
        john george says:

        Sorry, Kiffi, but this quote sounds like a taunt to me, “…I find it laughable that there is this misdirection of concern–don’t focus on our religion teaching that gays and lesbians are bad–no no no–help the poor teenage so they won’t succumb to the taunts and cruelty of their classmates.” And, Jane, I don’t mean to be sidestepping you. I’m only citing the comment to which I was reacting for clarity.

        Also, it would seem Jesus reference in v. 15 would infer that there was an understanding amongst His audience as to the severity of judgement against those who would reject the disciples’ words. He was using Sodom and Gomorrah as the benchmark. When I cite a scripture, I try to include all the verses pertaining to the thought. Therefore, the reference is vv. 14-16.

  • 27
    john george says:

    Here is a link to an interesting article in today’s Strib concerning teen suicide:

    http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/106355813.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU

    Two quotes stood out to me,
    “In the rush to answer the “why” question — why teens take their own lives — there is often too much emphasis on single factors such as bullying, prevention experts say. While bullying must be addressed, Reidenberg said there is no research to suggest it is any greater a risk factor than divorce, substance abuse, social isolation or other problems.

    Mental illness is the most proven risk factor.”

    And this one,
    “”There is no one single thing that leads to suicide, but a lot of people look for an easy answer when suicide happens,” said Phyllis Brashler, suicide prevention coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health…But too much focus on one group can be problematic as well, she said. The Oct. 3 suicide of an Anoka-Hennepin student, she noted, involved someone who wasn’t bullied or gay. “I don’t want the public to get the sense that it’s normal for gay and lesbian youth to attempt suicide,” she said.”

    I think this perspective brings a little balance to the whole issue of teen suicides and the struggles of gay teens. These suicides are not the fault of any particular Biblical interpretation. But it is apparent from some of the comments above that we need to have a better understanding of what the Bible lays out for we Christians to be in this world.

    • 27.1
      kiffi summa says:

      John … I think you left out a very important declaration in the article you quoted:
      “there are a disproportionate number of gay teens dying by suicide, so advocacy on their behalf is important, Brashler said.”

      And in the paragraph above that quote, Ms. Brashler states that 3 of the 6 Anoka suicides were gay teens.

      When you see what I have added to your quotes out of the article you reference, I think it is clear that people should read the entire article, rather than the quotes we each selected, which reinforce our POVs.

    • 27.2
      john george says:

      Yep, you’re correct, Kiffi. That is why I gave the link and didn’t just quote from it. I was only pointing out two statements that stood out to me. There is a balance between the quote that you selected and the last one I cited. All the youth committing suicide need some intervention.

  • 28
    Jane Moline says:

    Kids bully those that they see as “different.” When we, as a community, foster an environment where those who are “different” are identified as not as good as the rest--then we are tacitly approving the bullying and everything else.

    It is difficult being a teenager--they are trying to fit in--but when their reception is that their difference is a “sin” and they are “sinners”--this puts an extraordinary burden on children just finding their way to know who they are.

    John, you need to read the story of Sodom and Gomorha in the original language--because homosexuality is not even part of it. That came with the King James version.

    David, sorry about mixing casual and causal links--either way, I stand by my statements. When children learn in their home from their loving parents that to be gay or lesbian is a sin, they are in a tough spot to be friends with someone preceived as gay or lesbian--and woe to the poor child who finds themselves to be gay or lesbian in such a histrionic environment, For those who will pick on someone--it is an invitation to pick on those they label as gay and lesbian.

    Christians have long been good at ducking the blame--including for the Holocaust, where more Catholics turned a blind eye to the genocide of the Jews than helped out. The documentation of the complicity of the church is appalling and cannot be denied. The USA denied denied denied in spite of overwhelming evidence. Only when the evidence became public did congress and the president act, and it was too late for MILLIONS of Jews. (And homosexuals.)

    And now some Christians are targeting gays as the great evil--and it is just like their previous support of slavery and work against inter-racial marriage or women working outside the home or women having the vote --all these positionas claimed to be supported by the bible by “good” Christians.

    To deny responsibility for the actions these “beliefs” provoke is both hypocritical and nonsensical.

    • 28.1

      I’m not going to get fully into these debate, but I do have to say, Jane, I completely agree with what you’re posting. We don’t have issues with brown-eyed vs. blue-eyed bullying, because it’s simply not an issue anyone today is cultured to care about. Religious views (based on false biblical understandings or not) that teach that homosexuality is sinful make that class of people distinct and deviant. Were it not considered deviant (read: taught to be deviant), gay students would not be bullied anymore than the blue-eyed.

      • 28.1.1
        David Ludescher says:

        Sean,

        I think you (and Jane) are confusing cause and effect. Teens suicides are not caused by bullying; the suicides are the product of the teen taking his or her own life.

        Teens sometimes take their own lives after a romantic breakup. Would you say that romantic partner caused the death? Or would you ban all teen romances for that reason?

        It is unfortunate that most of the media play and the debate has focused upon people trying to bully and intimidate fundamental Christians for their beliefs rather than focusing upon what can be done to help vulnerable teens.

      • 28.1.2

        Oh please. If a woman kills herself because of depression that resulted after a violent rape, is it not at all the rapist’s fault, but just her own fault for killing herself? At a certain point, bullying/harassment is a cause, or at least a trigger.

        The teens who killed themselves may have been prone to depression or suicide, but providing a trigger for that to result in suicide is a serious problem. Anoka-Hennepin has had three gay students in one year kill themselves. I don’t think the district is just statistically unlucky with mental illness. A hostile environment has been created (and permitted) that triggers depression and suicide.

      • 28.1.3
        kiffi summa says:

        David: I think you are being excessively, cruelly lawyerly in this sentence: ” …the suicides are the product of the teen taking his or her own life.”

        Of course … those are the last two steps in the ‘event’; would you parse out a person’s dearth from cancer in that way?
        i.e. David’s death from cancer was the result of his allowing himself to become vulnerable to an unknown cause of that disease?

        The media, and no one here, is trying to bully or intimidate fundamental Christians for their beliefs… UNLESS …EXCEPT … when those beliefs are used against a person who does not believe them, or has a differing belief… and then it is NOT bullying, it is asking for tolerance of those who do not believe in the specific sins that fundamentalists interpret from the Bible.

        You seem to place absolutely no responsibility on the bullies for their unacceptable behavior.
        IMO. Your attitude of blame the victim is akin to age-old ideas about guilt in the case of rape.

        Focussing on bullying and taunting, for whatever reason, is trying to deal with a persistent problem in the schools, and a major social ill occurring within youth communities of all ages.

      • 28.1.4
        David Ludescher says:

        Sean and Kiffi,

        I was only assigning causation, not fault or blame. The teens committing suicide were apparently the victims of bullying. But, taking your own life should not be the response to bullying. All of this focus upon Christianity and bullying detracts from the core concern -- saving children’s lives.

      • 28.1.5
        kiffi summa says:

        Well, David… since when does society not try to stop harmful situations visited upon vulnerable segments of that society?
        I think even teens will admit that those years are a tough time; trying to sort out all the personal and societal issues they are faced with in defining what adult form they wish their lives to take.

        There’s are all sorts of codified laws around the issues of harassment, threats, hate speech,
        restraining orders, etc. Why would we have those laws if it is not deemed necessary to intervene in some situations which might end in physical harm?

        John keeps referring to situations in Canada that threaten his free speech IN church settings; would not the same fear have validity no matter where the threat to free will occurs?

    • 28.2
      kiffi summa says:

      Jane: Thanks for repeating , and saying so much more clearly than I did, the dilemma posed by teaching a child that gays and lesbians are “sinful’, and then expecting them to know how to deal with that in their associations with other kids who may be homosexual.

      Regardless of how many times I have tried to raise that as a problem, there is no response except from you.

  • 29
    john george says:

    Jane- You still rail against something that I believe you do not understand, and you are painting all Christians with a broad brush that does not fit. The hope we have in the Gospel is that Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am only second to the Apostle Paul. There are those who profess to be “Christians”, but do not demonstrate it in their lives. Jesus lived His life among sinners, and one verse (of many) that stands out to me that differentiates what we are talking about is in Luke 18:10-12. If we say our condition is not sinful, then we raise ourselves above the One who defines it. If we agree with God’s definition, then we find forgiveness and redemption. If we teach our children to accept sinners the way Jesus did, then we are fulfilling the great commandment, and we have opportunity to fulfill the great commission. For these reasons, I still say that Christianity is not to blame for the bullying of the gay students we have been talking about.

    As far as the original Hebrew text, I will do some research on your comments.

  • 30
    Jane Moline says:

    John: I do believe you are sincere, but I do not think all Christians believe as you do. If that were the case, we would not have this discussion. If Christians taught that the most important rule of Christianity is loving one another, we would not have many of the issues that face us today. I am really grateful that you will do additional research on the texts of the modern Bible--I think you will find a lot that will enlighten you. I believe you will need more than Hebrew--I think Greek and some other languages as well. Remember that the ancient language may be much different to modern--so you will need a classics scholar, too.

    That said, there are still many out there who use their religion as an excuse to judge and condemn. It is quite simple for a congregant to make the leap that they must warn their children off from gays and lesbians--there are not that many devout enough to study and understand the Word as you have laid it out above.

    • 30.1
      john george says:

      Yes, Jane, I agree that not all Christians are like me. Some would even say that they are fortunate, depending on their perspective. I would add, though, that just because some Christians do not live up to the name (actually, none of us do, fully, but many do aspire to do so) does not mean that the word of God revealed in the Bible is not true nor ineffective.

      You touch on one of the inconveniences of trying to research ancient Biblical texts. We have to deal with three languages, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The limitations inherant in trying to translate these texts into contemporary English is that we have words to describe certain events and actions that the ancient cultures did not. I personally know one of the formost experts in the world on the Dead Sea scrolls. I was with him on a tour of Israel a couple years ago. My son has also studied Hebrew and has a Hebrew Bible, so I feel I have a couple credible resorces to help me. Just the little I know about Hebrew, it is not something done quickly.

    • 30.2
      john george says:

      Jane- Here are somw things I found in the Hebrew. Just as English words can mean different things depending upon their context, so it is with Hebrew. In the case of Gen. 19:5, the term used is “yada”, translated to know. Depending on the context, it can refer to sexual relations or just having an intimate knowledge of someone or something. It is the same word used in Gen 4:1, 4:17, 4:25 and 19:8. In the chapter 4 usage, it is used to describe the sexual union between Adam and Eve and Cain and his wife, the results of which are conception. It is also the same word used in 19:5 when Lot offered up his daughters. The other word used for sexual relations in the Old Testament is “shakab”, meaning to lie. Again, depending upon the context, it can also mean to rest, to die, to sleep or to stay.

      One of the gay appologists that I found said that the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is that they were inhospitible. The cultural custom at that time was to invite strangers into your home and give them shelter and provisions. Those who refused to do that were considered evil. He then linked to Matt. 10:15, and used this theory as a basis for what Jesus was telling His disciples about those who would not receive their message and did not have any connection with homosexuality.

      From this, there appears to a necessity to see how a word is used in it’s context. My son’s quote demonstrates this pretty clearly,

      “However, it would be accurate to describe the men of Sodom as not hospitably receiving the angels as visitors. But, that is about as descriptive as saying that on 9/11 ten members of Al Qaeda visited the World Trade Center. It is an accurate statement that fails to convey the essence of what actually happened.”

  • 31

    The only place gays, lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals, or anyone for that matter can feel really safe is where people are coming from a place in their loving hearts and not from their nit picking minds.

  • 32
    Griff Wigley says:

    In yesterday’s NY Times: In School Efforts to End Bullying, Some See Agenda

    Angry parents and religious critics, while agreeing that schoolyard harassment should be stopped, charge that liberals and gay rights groups are using the antibullying banner to pursue a hidden “homosexual agenda,” implicitly endorsing, for example, same-sex marriage.

    • 32.1
      kiffi summa says:

      Need I once again say, “Monumental BS ! ”

      These accusations of some religious groups that say that if one does NOT approve of bullying that is equal to pursuing a “hidden agenda” or “implicitly endorsing same-sex marriage” is simply a defensive move.

      If the effects of bullying are being questioned, it is up to these religious groups to make their case, which seems to focus on ‘hate the sin;love the sinner’… however, then bullying another person based on their perceived sexual preference, belies that position.

      This issue is easily equatable to the abortion issue: people may believe what ever they wish to believe; but Legally, Morally, Societally, they have no right to harm others who do not share the same beliefs.

    • 32.2
      Jane Moline says:

      I don’t have a hidden agenda. I am not a “gay apologist.” (There is nothing to apologize for. I support and endorse same-sex marriage.

  • 33
    Griff Wigley says:

    Jeesh. A blog post with 38,000+ comments: NY Times: When Boys Dress Like Girls for Halloween

    When a 5-year-old Kansas City boy decided he wanted to be Daphne from the Scooby-Doo cartoon series for Halloween, his mom bought him the costume. While the boy’s friends liked the pink velvet dress and orange wig costume, some of the mothers at his school expressed disapproval. The boy’s mother wrote an impassioned defense of her son’s costume choice on a blog called Nerdy Apple Bottom.

    My son is gay

    Or he’s not. I don’t care. He is still my son. And he is 5. And I am his mother. And if you have a problem with anything mentioned above, I don’t want to know you.

    I have gone back and forth on whether I wanted to post something more in-depth about my sweet boy and his choice of Halloween costume. Or more specifically, the reactions to it. I figure if I’m still irked by it a few days later, I may as well go ahead and post my thoughts.

    • 33.1
      kiffi summa says:

      AND… may I add: Any ‘mothers’ who would challenge the Halloween costume of a FIVE year old are ‘mothers’ of a different meaning in my book.

      • 33.1.1
        john george says:

        What if one of the little girls had dressed up like Jesus, complete with crown of thorns, and shouldered, as part of the costume, a wooden cross?

      • 33.1.2
        kiffi summa says:

        Well… what if ???

        I’ve got no problem with any kid dressing up like any historical figure…

        I had a tiny female Captain Hook come to the door and she managed to snag an extra helping of candy with that hook!

      • 33.1.3
        john george says:

        Good! Neither do I.

  • 34
    Josh Dale says:

    Whew! What a long discussion! Back to the topic of bullying, it is definitely a problem, not just for teens but for all out LGBTQ people. Bullying and anti-gay behavior directed towards LGBTQ’s is around to stay. As a freshly out of the closet gay male myself, I experience a fair ammount of negativity and bullying at my workplace. I also brought my boyfriend to Dawn’s Corner Bar in Dundas last weekend and a few patrons threatened our lives and told us our kind were not welcome in the bar after they witnessed me give my boyfriend a little peck on the cheek. Luckily we were with friends that stood up for us. Another example, We received very poor treatment from a Target cashier just yesterday for buying a Dance game for XBOX together. I think the best way to curb the anti-gay mentality of some of the residents of Northfield is friendly exposure and cooperation. We are gay, we are here to stay. We pay taxes, work in Northfield, go to school in Northfield, some go to churches in Northfield…I could continue rambling but I think I’ve said my part.

    • 34.1
      Phil Poyner says:

      Why expect good behavior from school children when apparently we can’t expect it from adults? Way to stay classy, Northfield and Dundas.

  • 35
    Griff Wigley says:

    Hey Josh, thanks for chiming in here. Kudos for stepping out of the closet.

    I’d like to meet you sometime soon (coffee or a beer) and hear about your computer business. Contact me: http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/contact/

  • 36
    Cynthia Child says:

    Found an interesting site on stopping cyberbullying.
    http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/parents/howdoyouhandleacyberbully.html

  • 37
    Griff Wigley says:

    Thx for that, Cynthia. Here’s another one in the NY Times: Fighting Bullying With Babies.

    The results can be dramatic. In a study of first- to third-grade classrooms, Schonert-Reichl focused on the subset of kids who exhibited “proactive aggression” – the deliberate and cold-blooded aggression of bullies who prey on vulnerable kids. Of those who participated in the Roots program, 88 percent decreased this form of behavior over the school year, while in the control group, only 9 percent did, and many actually increased it.

    • 37.1
      john george says:

      Proactive aggression!? Why do we have to sanitize this behavior? Why can’t bullying just be called bullying? IMO, this is part of our problem as a society, be it bullying or drunkeness. Both behaviors can be controlled, but nothing seems as bad when it is given a sanitized term. Who are we afraid of offending?

    • 37.2
      Griff Wigley says:

      Researchers like highfalutin language, John. ;-)

      • 37.2.1
        Phil Poyner says:

        It’s hard to get research funding when your proposal says “I’d like to study a subset of the population I like to call ‘jerks’”. It’s kind of like trying to sell car called the “Ford Basic Transportion” or the “Chevy Clunker”. ;-)

  • 38
  • 39
    kiffi summa says:

    1. Anyone seen Cindy (?) Mc Cain’s public service announcement on the subject of LGBT issues and the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” ? (teen bullying is included in the subject matter)

    2. When the government survey of armed forces personnel on DADT come out in full, it will be interesting to see what the results from small Marine special ops groups reveal… Anti-gay in military forces people say that that is where they feel the most “threat” to good combat working relationships are.
    Personally, not ever having been a Marine (!), I would think that when the going gets tough it’s survival,competence, and ‘brotherhood’ … not sexual preference … that matter.

  • 40
    Griff Wigley says:

    Jane Moline is listening to MPR while stuck in traffic on I35 and just alerted me to this story: Catholic school paper deletes student editorials on Catholic DVD, gay teens

    Deleted commentary by student Sean Simonson: For gay teens who have considered suicide.

    Also, see Braublog on MinnPost: The student newspaper editorial Benilde-St. Margaret’s doesn’t want you to see
     

  • 41
    Griff Wigley says:

    Anyone have a link to the Facebook page where the student newspaper discussion is now occurring? It doesn’t appear to be happening on the offical Knight Errant newspaper FB page:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Minneapolis-MN/bsmknighterrantorg/94404409851?v=wall

  • 42
    Majka Seawright says:

    While this comment thread is old, I can’t resist adding my two cents. As a third generation Northfielder, I waited till I was safely in college in a big city before coming out. I’ve certainly thought about returning to Northfield over the years and have always decided against it. While not the overriding factor, questions about how my young children would be treated has always been a part of the discussion, so I tune in to these conversations now and then.

    I was not directly bullied as a teen (for timeline, Griff, I went to school with your kids). I “passed” just fine. But I certainly saw other kids getting harassed and teased daily with gay taunts. Whether or not they were actually gay had less to do with the bullying than whether they were perceived as being vulnerable -- i.e. did they have a good circle of friends, did they wear nice enough clothes, were they valued for being a good jock or good performer,etc. But even well-liked successful kids had to deal with the name-calling and rumours.

    There was plenty of indirect bullying, e.g. the regular letters to the editor and editorials in the Northfield News by a handful of vocal ministers -- the knowledge that the paper would not publish hate speech against another group and if it did, the townfolk would be up in arms about it. And it certainly got the point across that Northfield was probably not the best place to be gay and out. What I remember as vividly was how many straight people were concerned about being picked on for being “gay-friendly”, and wanted to avoid the topic rather than having to state and defend their view.

    But what kept me going, and I think what keeps most people going, was knowing that I had a few people in my corner. I knew, if I really needed to, exactly which teacher I could go to who would have my back.

    At the end of the day, I think the practical question isn’t how to change the minds of an entire religious group or stop all bullying ever. I don’t think that gay kids (or obese kids or poor kids or any other frequently-bullied category) need to be protected from all negative comments or judgements. We all face some kind of adversity. I’d rather see a focus on what steps adults can take to make themselves visible as allies -- as the one person that a kid could go to if they do need reassurance. The kids who stay alive aren’t the ones who never get picked on; they’re the ones who have an adult they can trust to back them up.

  • 43
    Griff Wigley says:

    Majka, thanks much for that comment… and your point that what’s needed are adults who make themselves visible as allies.

    To continue the discussion:

    1. What’s being done now in the schools to make visible the adults who can “back up” gay and lesbian teens?

    2. What could be done to improve this?

  • 44
    Griff Wigley says:

    The NY Times has an article and video series going on this week titled Coming Out:

    Bullying and suicides of gay and lesbian teenagers are in the headlines, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been repealed, and the debate over same-sex marriage continues to divide the country. Against this backdrop, many L.G.B.T. youth wonder how accepting society will be.

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