Day of Silence vs. Day of TruthIf you haven't heard, today is the Day of Silence--a day when students across the country are encouraged to be silent for the entire today to draw attention to anti gay bullying, name calling and harassment. Anti-gay bullying is a problem, period. Anyone that tries to say or pretend it isn't is living in denial.
The day seems harmless enough. After all, who wants bullying? Unfortunately, as many as a dozen national right-leaning Christian organizations are calling for school walkouts because they claim the Day of Silence is nothing more than an attempt to indoctrinate young people. So, be careful I guess, because if you don't skip school on a day where a few of the kids refuse to speak (and let's be reasonable, we are talking about a few kids from each school participating, not entire schools, or even the majority of the students), you might just turn gay. Something like that.
As an alternative to Christian Skip Day, Exodus International and the Alliance Defense Fund have created and/sponsor the Day of Truth. The Day of Truth, which takes place on Monday, 4/20, is billed by their website as a day to "counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective." It's interesting that the Day of Silence is a day billed to encourage students and others to recognize that bullying is going on at schools and get it stopped, but the Day of Truth, organized by Christian groups, no less, does nothing to even admit that this type of bullying might be going on. Can you feel the love?
It's an unfortunate strategy, and it's pretty sad if you ask me. I understand some Christians are against being gay, but are they really so against it that they take a day that is meant to draw attention to anti-gay bullying (something that even Exodus' own President, Alan Chambers admits happens), and turn it in to a day to show the evils of being gay? Why not stand with the gay kids and say that while they disagree on gay issues, they agree the bullying is wrong (see Dr. Warren Throckmorton's Golden Rule Pledge for a Christian answer I can more easily get behind)?
The Day of Truth is almost a slap in the face to gay kids that have been bullied. Just a few days after silently sending a message about anti-gay bullying, another organization then gives out fodder that bullies could pretty easily use as ammo, and unfortunately, the Day of Truth's official information card that they encourage kids to hand out is just that ammo. For jr. high and high school aged kids, the message is more misleading and maybe even dangerous than it is helpful.
According to their website, the Day of Truth cards say (emphasis mine):
I'm speaking the Truth to break the silence. True tolerance means that people with differing -- even opposing -- viewpoints can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It's time for an honest conversation about homosexuality. There's freedom to change if you want to. Let’s talk.
I guess the message itself seems harmless, especially to someone not familiar with gay or ex-gay issues, but the part I bolded is the important part. Can you imagine the maturity of a jr. high or high school kid telling a gay kid he can change if he just wants to? It's like the 12-year old (6th or 7th grade?), ChristianU2uber, saying in his Youtube videos that he used to be gay, but once he heard it was wrong, he started liking girls. This is the demographic we're talking about here!
The problem is, not only is it misleading and potentially trouble-making (to say the least) to have straight kids led to believe that their gay peers can change if they want to, it's potentially dangerous. I guarantee that most kids out there (gay and straight) don't understand the nuance of the phrase "There's freedom to change if you want to," and to be honest, most adults don't understand the nuance either. The reason is that the nuance isn't explained. So, for a straight kid that already picks on gays...not only are they picking on them because they are different, but now the gay kid is only different because he wants to be...afterall, he can change!
To a lay person--kid or adult, gay or straight--"freedom to change" means change from gay to straight. Ask anyone. It's only the politically active ex-gays (and those that follow them) that understand that "change" can mean basically anything they want it to. It might mean change from gay to straight, even though it hasn't meant that for the President or the Vice President of Exodus International. It could mean that "change" means that a person will always have gay attractions, but they won't act on them anymore, or it may mean that they still have gay attractions, but act on them less. Actually, it could mean anything, but it's pretty clear that "change" doesn't usually (and some would argue ever) mean what this card implies--that gay kids can turn straight if they just try hard enough. And as much as Exodus wants to claim that that's not what this card implies, it is...just go around and ask anyone what they think it means.
So here it is, the Day of Silence. Gay kids are asking not to be beaten up, and ex- and anti-gay folks are taking it as an opportunity to fuel the fire and give less-than-honest information to kids that could potentially cause incidents of anti-gay bullying (especially in the wrong hands). I'd like to think that if Exodus claims it's in the business of helping gay people (as they claim) they'd be just a bit more thoughtful about the type of help they are offering.