Editors' Note: Guest blogger Warren Throckmorton is the driving force behind the Golden Rule Pledge. The pledge encourages Christian students to give out a card with the Golden Rule printed on it during the Day of Silence.
At Bil Browning's invitation, I am glad to write about the Golden Rule Pledge first discussed here on April 25.
The Golden Rule Pledge grew out of my horror at the death of Larry King, my negative reaction to the comment of Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern that homosexuality is a bigger threat than terrorism, and then to calls from some social conservatives to boycott and/or protest the Day of Silence. Whereas I understand moral differences about sexual behavior, I do not believe hyperbole or avoidance helps further the messages of reconciliation and redemption I believe are at the heart of Christianity.
It occurred to me that Evangelicals (some of whom are same-sex attracted and identify as gay) should lead the way in opposition to harassment, bullying and violence. You cannot lead, however, when you are not in school or holding a picket sign. In response, the idea of the Golden Rule Pledge emerged. I started a website, and a Facebook group, which grew quickly to nearly 600 members. Small, yes; but some good things happened.
I heard of one gay-straight alliance which passed out both Day of Silence and Golden Rule Pledge cards. To the pleasant surprise of DOS participants, other students simply passed out the GRP cards which read:
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).
Some university campus Christian ministry groups simultaneously participated in the DOS observances. To my knowledge, no one changed their moral views, but I believe some important changes were made in the tone of relationships at some schools. Listen to JK's experience at Appalachian State University. I am just including parts, please read the whole thing.
This year I decided to get involved. I went to Campus Crusade for Christ as well as Intervarsity Fellowship to present the idea of participating. They both said they wanted to participate but I was absolutely astonished when Campus Crusade said that not only did they want to support it as individuals, but as a ministry. When I heard this, my heart was pounding- it was a prayer come true.
I can't give you a count of how many students from the ministries actually participated. It might have been one, or many. But to me, it was their sincere desire to do something that really hit me hard. I have long been frustrated with the Christian community's response to the GLBT group. When Crusade called me, a little piece of anger towards the church was cast away.
Students at our school chose to participate by duct taping their mouths shut in complete silence, and when people asked why, handing them a slip of paper that explained. While I was more than fine with doing this, I wanted to do more. I wanted to make it clear that not only do I love them, but Christ does also. So I made my own slips, not to preach, but to break down the walls between the Christian and LGBT communities. The slips I made said this:
"Today I am pledging to be silent to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment experienced by LGBT students.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Luke 6:31
As a follower of Christ, I believe that all people are created in the image of God and therefore deserve love and respect."
Yesterday morning, when I went to the SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) table to receive my piece of duct tape, I showed them my slips and told them that several ministries would be participating as well. The look on their faces was priceless. They were shocked, but ecstatic. This alone would have been enough to make my day.
And then she described her experience of silence.
I have to tell you about how I felt yesterday walking around in silence with duct tape. I felt humiliated at times, and other times proud. You see, everywhere I went, people stared. I felt like a leper, completely stigmatized from people. In fact, I was experiencing what the LGBT community has experienced for decades.
As I was walking to my dorm, I realized why 30% of LGBT students report having missed one or more days of school per year out of fear. Walking by a dorm, someone opened their window and yelled a derogatory statement to me. I was scared. There was such anger in his voice that I was fearful to walk by the dorm again later that day. I was reminded of Lawrence King, a 14 year old who was murdered because of his homosexuality just two months ago.
Yesterday was amazing. The best day of the year by far. The truth is, this group has been disappointed by the church. I know that as people read that, some will become angry with me. 'Not my church' they will say. But when "Christians" hold signs on campus that read, " God hates Fags." and "fags burn in hell," the LGBT community associates that with Christianity. Many people have told me that they have never said anything derogatory to the gay community, but the problem is they haven't said anything at all. You see, half of the church is screaming hate at them, and the other half is silent. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that silence is powerful. The failure to say something, has said a lot.
This [Golden Rule Pledge] was a great first step for me to get out there in ministry. So thanks so much to you!
We have ideological differences on many issues. However, despite our differences, we need to live and work together. We all can agree that violence toward LGBT people is wrong. Imperfect and incomplete as it may be, the Golden Rule Pledge is one way for Evangelicals and other conservatives to support the anti-violence purpose of the Day of Silence. Along the way, I was pleased to receive encouraging comments about the Golden Rule Pledge from two very disparate sources. First, Rev. Bob Stith, from the Southern Baptist Convention said this about the GRP:
I have long thought Christians were missing a great opportunity by not being more vocal in helping to make our schools safe places for all kids. It doesn't require that we compromise our beliefs. Indeed it can give us a great opportunity that we might not otherwise have.
What a wonderful opportunity to express our convictions in a way that is positive, loving and redemptive. What a wonderful opportunity to train our children to care about all people, to model the example of Jesus and the woman at the well.
And then, Eliza Byrd, Deputy Executive Director at GLSEN, issued this statement to me about the GRP:
The Day of Silence embodies a commitment to everyone being treated with respect --- people treating each other as they wish to be treated themselves --- and highlights a crucial area of school climate where we currently fall short of that goal. We welcome participation in the Day of Silence of students of all backgrounds and beliefs who recognize and acknowledge this common commitment, and feel that your identification of that common ground is a step forward.
Please note that these statements are from the individuals who do not speak for their organizations. However, I do appreciate the model of rhetoric these individuals provide for their respective communities.
We already have enough smoldering bridges. Instead, the Golden Rule Pledge is about building some.