Not up for debate: Acceptance & love for all

by Kristin on October 20, 2010

in Love, family & community

Photo by Pink Sherbet

I’m wearing purple today—GLAAD deemed it “Spirit Day,” encouraging people to wear purple as a visual way to take a stand against LGBT bullying.

Late last month, I could hardly bear to hear the news stories following the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi. Knowing that such suicides among gay teens are far from isolated carries me beyond heartbreak to anger, as I think about the thousands of teens who struggle to find themselves, be themselves, and love themselves in a world that exhibits so much hate.

Parents have a two-fold responsibility: to protect and teach

Being a parent drives the issue even deeper. Not only do I fear for the possibility that my kids might be bullied some day, for any number of reasons, but I know I have a responsibility to teach them well. We need to have many conversations about sameness and difference. My kids need to learn to dig beneath stereotypes, and to embody compassion. As they grow up, they need to fully understand complex justice issues, and be brave enough to stand up for them.

As one of my Twitter pals, @angelaharms, tweeted today, “Instead of purple clothes, how about I raise my kids without hetero assumptions & wear love on my sleeves every day?” Yes! (And I’m wearing purple, too, as a visual symbol of that love and my intentions.)

From complex issues to a simple action: Love

I’m not saying these issues are easy to sort through. Jason and I often end up in conversations with friends about justice issues involving minority groups, and what we can do to help smooth the way. But for our family, the issue reaches far beyond liberal-hipster-intellectual banter; every other week, when my stepdaughter isn’t with us, she’s at her other home with her other two moms, (both of whom Jason and I love and admire very much).

As Jason has pointed out before, lots of good people love to debate, discuss, and hypothesize around these issues. They have very good intentions, but at the end of the day, they go home—most of them white, heterosexual beings living in the comfortable, safe majority. They can go about their lives mostly without fear, without worrying what others are thinking, without wearing a protective shell every time they go out in public. I think about my stepdaughter, out in the world with her wonderful but “different” family. Then I think about all of the teens who feel they can’t be who they are, day in and day out—not even with their own families, or in their own schools. It’s not OK.

Frankly, that’s why I’m not interested in debating anyone about gay marriage or the Bible’s stance on homosexuality, or anything else surrounding the LGBT community. Other people can carry on the debate, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s beyond that. It’s about love and respect for another human being.

In fact, if there’s one word that best describes my God, it’s love. That’s why I’m wearing purple today, and doing my best to raise kids who embody that kind of love for others.

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  • Rick

    I assume you’ve seen this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJtjqLUHYoY

  • http://www.bigmama247.com Alise

    “In fact, if there’s one word that best describes my God, it’s love.”

    Exactly. I’m a lot less worried these days about something being sinful or not and a lot more concerned with deciding if my actions are loving or not. Because if they’re not loving, they sure aren’t Godly.

  • http://www.ordinarymer.com Meredith

    Thank you, Kristin, for this beautiful post – exactly what I needed today.

    I loved your point (or maybe it was Jason’s) about how a lot of people debating these issues can go home after the debate to relative safety, while often those being debated cannot. I think that’s exactly why it’s so important to show support and stand up and say things like “my God is love.” I may not be able to empathize, but I can sympathize. Offering love and providing support may not solve everything, but it seems like a really good place to start.

  • http://www.mrsmetaphor.com Angela Doll Carlson

    Well spoken, friend. In the end our song is love. It’s required of us.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    Hi Kristin:

    Thanks for your clear point: no one should be subject to bullying or violence, for any reason. Sadly, because straight society in America chose to look the other way for decades, silence become effectively the same thing as approval of hateful actions.

    Jesus befriended those who might have considered themselves beyond his affections. He did more than act with courtesy: he loved them. I find real power in your words, “From complex issues to a simple action: Love.” I should be able to conduct myself with decency toward others. So, as you say, “It’s about love and respect for another human being.”

    Disagreements? Debates? Arguments? Theology? All of that must wait until followers of Jesus go beyond “decency” and declare, violence is wrong, clearly wrong toward, anyone. I may have to go home and change clothes today. Peace.

  • http://www.kristensloan.com Kristen Sloan

    Kristin,
    I shared this post with a friend of mine. This is her reply:
    Lately, I’ve been thinking about one of the same things as this blogger. She says “…lots of good people love to debate, discuss, and hypothesize around these issues. They have very good intentions, but at the end of the day, they go home—most of them white, heterosexual beings living in the comfortable, safe majority. They can go about their lives mostly without fear, without worrying what others are thinking…”

    It’s time for me to speak up about what I believe if it can help another person, instead of staying in the safety of my silence.
    **********
    I wanted to share her comments – You words are inspiring lots of people. Keep writing. Kristen

  • http://www.emergingmummy.com Sarah@EmergingMummy

    Fantastic post, K! Thank you!!

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    Exactly — the God I worship is a God of love and acceptance. He’s a God who tells us to love one another and lay down our lives for our friends. He wants us to humble ourselves and treat every other soul in this world as far greater than our own.

    I refuse to let the voices of other Christians who use God as an excuse to spread hatred be heard over my own voice.

  • Kirstin

    I really like the polite refusal to engage in debate that this post sets forth. I wonder if the difference between people who consider this a debatable matter and those who don’t is the difference between people who don’t have openly gay and lesbian family, friends, intimate acquaintances and those who do. It’s easy to debate about people who exist to you mostly as abstractions or political talking points. When people are part of your day-to-day emotional landscape, it’s incredibly presumptuous to see their feelings and relationships as something to be argued and generalized about.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Rick, no, I hadn’t seen that clip until you posted it here—thanks! It’s so fascinating how quickly people switch their perspective about others when the question is turned toward them: “When did you choose to be straight?”

    Alise, amen to this: “I’m a lot less worried these days about something being sinful or not and a lot more concerned with deciding if my actions are loving or not.” It’s amazing to me how little you hear about *not loving* being a sin, when every time you turn around it seems like someone is pointing out how loving the “wrong way” *is* a sin.

    Meredith, yes, that has been Jason’s point in past conversations we’ve had. It really shut down the tendency to be academic about issues, and instead opened me up to a deeper level of compassion. Sometimes I feel frustrated, because I have no idea how to make a dent in this problem. Even wearing purple seems like such an insignificant thing. But I think you’re absolutely right about this: “Offering love and providing support may not solve everything, but it seems like a really good place to start.”

    Angela, I love that you said love “is required of us.” It’s not optional. So true! And I believe we were created for love. In light of that, though, it’s even harder to wrap my mind around all of the hate, fear and anger in the world. Are you able to make sense of it, or do you just focus on love?

    Ray, ah, silence as a form of approval—there’s one more social phenomenon I need to make my kids aware of. Sigh. The world is so complicated, but at least Jesus did provide some very consistent, straightforward game plans. Also, this thought you shared seems exactly right to me: All of the debates and arguments need to take a back seat—we have no business even having them until we figure out love (your thought, my words).

    Kristen, thank you so much for sharing my post, and for sharing your friend’s thoughts. She mentions “the safety of [her] silence,” which is something I think we can all relate to. I need to take more risks, too—especially when someone who’s hurting might benefit.

  • http://hollyhousestudio.blogspot.com Jennifer

    Can I get an amen up in here? AMEN! I have a kid who was bullied about her flute playing, for pete’s sake. This is when the dialogue began. No matter what the issue, bullying at it’s heart is an attempt to make another person feel smaller than you do about yourself. The biggest lesson in that for us is this; “No always always always means no.” If I don’t like how close you are standing to me, I have the right to ask you to move. If I don’t like your words, I can ask you to stop. BUT, kids also need to know they are backed and believed by their parents and teachers.

    Nothing to debate. Every single person deserves basic respect and the expectation of a safe environment.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Sarah, thank you for reading and encouraging me along! It’s always good to hear when my heart-felt positions actually resonate with other people I respect. :)

    The Modern Gal, you’re preaching it, girl! I can almost hear your tone of voice through your words. We should get bumper stickers or t-shirts made with your sentiment: “I refuse to let the voices of other Christians who use God as an excuse to spread hatred be heard over my own voice.”

    Kirstin, as someone who generally welcomes debate, this refusal is new, almost uncomfortable, territory for me. But it feels like exactly the right stance, in this instance. You voice a really important (and very true, I suspect) analysis: “I wonder if the difference between people who consider this a debatable matter and those who don’t is the difference between people who don’t have openly gay and lesbian family, friends, intimate acquaintances and those who do.” I hope that I/we never lose sight of the very real people behind all of the “issues” our society loves to toss around.

    Jennifer, I hear you, loud and clear! The thought of my girls being bullied for any true aspect of who they are and what they love brings out a whole new ferocious side of the Mama Bear in me. And every kid out there, being bullied, is someone’s kid. Many of them, as you suggest, don’t have the parental support they need, which is why all adults who care about kids need to take a strong stand. So far, my kids have not been bullied, but that does not mean I shouldn’t be very aware/involved/vocal about the big-picture environment in their schools. I think I have a responsibility to advocate for the kids whose parents can’t or won’t.

  • http://www.messiahmom.wordpress.com kristinherdy

    I found you through Katie McNemar @ the Dailies, and I wanted to say, I thought this was wonderful.

    I sent both my children to school yesterday is their best purple, and I wore purple as well, because violence is never okay, especially if you claim to be a Christian. You can read more of my thoughts here http://messiahmom.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/christianity-youre-selling-it-badly/

    Thanks for speaking words of encouragement and reminding us that love isn’t a part of who we are; it’s the whole us.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    kristinherdy, thank you so much for reading and responding! You’re absolutely right—sometimes it seems like, as Christians, we wear love like a sweater that we can put on and take off as needed, to make us feel comfortable. We’re going to be forever stuck and limited unless we begin to understand love as the entire core/foundation of who we are. I’m going to check out your blog now. I’m so glad people like you are out there helping to spread love!