Michael Jensen (Rector of St Mark’s Darling Point, Sydney) has written this helpful piece about bullying and what a Christian response should include. I have published it with his permission:
That people are bullied, victimised, and even assaulted because of their sexuality in contemporary Australia is completely unacceptable.
For me, this is a simple corollary of the teaching of Jesus Christ. And as a Christian, and particularly as a Christian minister, I am compelled to stand against those who would advocate or participate in such treatment of GLBTIQ people, or anyone else for that matter.
It has to begin at school. The school playground can be a tough and even brutal place.
I had a great experience at the private boys’ school I went to. I was tall for my age, played sport, I was white, I didn’t have anything foreign on my sandwiches, and I wasn’t gay.
But even then, I do remember episodes when my mettle was tested by the crowd. I was teased for being a minister’s son, or for having ideas beyond my station, or for having pimples – ‘Pizza Face!’ being the taunt.
This was nothing. I brushed it off, because I had all the advantages.
The bullying was noisiest for the Asians, who of course couldn’t pretend they weren’t who they were. Their difference was obvious, and they were teased because they inspired envy – many of them took the top spots on the merit list each year.
But there was one boy, smaller than the others, who was always at sea. From the beginning of Year 7, he was singled out as the ‘poofter’. It was determined that he was gay, and that too great an interest in him or too deep a friendship with him, would render one’s own sexuality suspect.
I don’t recall the victimizing of him ever becoming physical (though of course he might tell a different story). But I can only imagine that school was as isolating and lonely for him as it was exciting and encouraging for me – and I shudder at the imbalance of it.
Recently I met his father at a reunion. Without betraying confidences, all I can say is that my classmate’s life has not turned out well.
Later when I became a teacher, I often heard students call each ‘gay’ as a term of abuse. To be gay was, in teen-speak, to be despised. I knew that there were students who would identify as gay, or who were at least questioning their orientation. The menace to them of this language was obvious. And it seemed obvious that this language, and the attitude that generated it, needed to be challenged. It was simply unchristian.
The Christian faith has bequeathed to our culture a great gift: the teaching that we are all made in the image of God. That concept permeates even apparently secular documents like the US Declaration of Independence. It coaches us to see humanity in the face of the other. It was this conviction that held good against the social Darwinians of the late nineteenth century, who would rather have placed people of different races on the lesser rungs of the human ladder.
Add to that the experience of Jesus Christ: rejected by his own, abandoned by his friends, convicted by a corrupt and lazy government, tortured, tormented, and killed. At the heart of the Christian faith is the sign of the cross, which calls us to remember what we human beings are capable of as well as to recall what God offers us.
How could a person who worships a victim of bullying turn away from those who are being victimized and bullied?