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How can we fathom the deaths of Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas? How many more will it take before we come to our senses? Before we speak?
Many of us, learning of the number of teen suicides recently—teens bullied because of perceptions of sexual identity—find ourselves heart-broken and furious at the same time. What about Christianity allows for Christians to bully anyone? Nothing! Nothing justifies the horror inflicted on these, and many other, young people. Christianity does not perpetuate violence. Being Christ-like does not encourage people to hate themselves, or others. Being a follower of Jesus means choosing not to remain silent about injustice anywhere.
And the burden of addressing the horror is not on those who are already beaten down about their sexual identity. All people of faith are called to speak out against injustice. It is straight people—the people who fall within the bounds of “normative heterosexuality”—who must challenge the assumption that a single, heterosexual experience defines reality for everyone.
Poet Audre Lord said: “Your silence will not protect you.” We may think we do not have to speak because we are not directly affected. Men often do not speak up on gender injustice. White people often do not speak up about racial injustice. But if we spend any time at all in self-reflection, in theological reflection, we know in our bodies and our minds that we are all affected. Do any of us really believe, in our heart of hearts, that justice is only for a few? Our silence will not protect us.
Dr. Alice Hunt is President and Professor of Hebrew Bible at Chicago Theological Seminary.