Prof. Warren Throckmorton, a prominent pro-exgay pundit, has proposed an antigay Golden Rule campaign to compete with local antiviolence advocates’ Day of Silence in various U.S. schools, scheduled for April 25. The ex-gay network Exodus subsequently provided marketing support for the campaign this week through its Exodus Youth “Voice” newsletter.
In the National Day of Silence, students pledge to remain silent for a day at school. Some may carry a card briefly calling upon classmates to actively oppose antigay bullying and thus end the silence.
Antigay industry leaders including the American Family Association have rallied antigay parents to keep their students home from school, in defense of gay-specific intolerance and in opposition to antiviolence programs which explicitly recognize gay and gender-variant victims of violence.
Throckmorton proposes what he considers a fine line that navigates between antiviolence advocates and paranoid parents. Specifically, he advises conservative Christian students to pass out cards in school that quote the Bible:
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)
But a serious analysis of Throckmorton’s campaign finds little substance: It trivializes the Golden Rule while doing nothing to stop bullying:
- Throckmorton does not explicitly oppose parents who encourage bullying and paranoia.
- He does not acknowledge the reality and severity of bullying that has been documented by mainstream safe-schools programs.
- And while Throckmorton acknowledges that some Christian and conservative students vaguely oppose both homosexual behavior and antigay violence, he offers no support whatsoever for concrete steps to stop antigay bullying.
The closest he comes are two vague statements that seek more to proselytize than to oppose antigay violence:
We believe the teaching of Christ in the Golden Rule should guide our actions and attitudes regarding all. We also believe that we should make school a safe place for all students.
A safe zone is where the teachings of Christ are truly observed.
Throckmorton’s pitch for proselytization offers youths no guidelines to ensure that students respect legally recognized separations between religious proselytization and scheduled classroom time in public schools.
Perhaps worse of all, Throckmorton’s program is so vague that it leaves open the opportunity for some youthful followers to claim they are practicing the Golden Rule by harassing people who are presumed to be going to hell unless they are stopped by verbal vitriol or physical force.
In the view of some religious zealots, sadly enough, it is morally justifiable to destroy someone physically and emotionally to save their soul, and — either disingenuously, or masochistically — these bigots claim that if their souls were in jeopardy, they would want to be brutalized in return.
Throckmorton apparently opposes brutality and vitriol against gay and gender-variant students in a vague and superficial sense. But in pandering to the sensitivities of paranoid stay-home advocates, he trivializes violence and sacrifices morality for political expediency. On his Golden Rule campaign’s Facebook wall, supporters indicate their sentiments thus far: Paranoid parents and religious extremists are viewed as Christian allies, while the opponents of violence are seen as godless and immoral promoters of homosexuality who must repent.
Throckmorton’s attempt to characterize the Day of Silence as an undesirable promotion of homosexuality has conformed to Day of Silence organizers’ predictions:
Those who do not support the Day of Silence often protest, but rarely contribute positively to finding ways to end anti-LGBT harassment. Some individuals and groups organize events in response to the Day of Silence. These events grossly mischaracterize or simply misunderstand the basic purpose of the Day of Silence. Bringing attention to these events only adds a false credibility to their misinformation about the Day of Silence, GLSEN and the thousands of American students taking action on April . If you face hostile students or organizations in your school on the Day of Silence remember to remain calm. We encourage you to not get into a debate, make gestures, and certainly not to get into a physical altercation. If you continue to be harassed, we encourage you to contact your GSA advisor or other ally school staff person.
Some critics of the Day of Silence come from the perspective of “reparative” or “conversion” therapy and/or from the perspective of “transformational ministries.” It is important to note that “reparative therapy” has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. Additionally, the view of “transformational ministry” adherents is not representative of the views of all people of faith. Finally, the Day of Silence is about unacceptable behavior (anti-LGBT bullying, harassment, and name-calling in schools) not debates about beliefs.
Throckmorton’s vague prescription for vague niceties and religious bickering hardly reflects the letter, the spirit, or the centrality of the Golden Rule in Christian faith. He wants us to believe that he, who has done so little to expose and oppose antigay violence, is better equipped to campaign on the issue than either the safe-school experts or his longtime allies on the religious right. But instead of offering the “teaching moment,” that he seeks, Throckmorton dilutes the meaning of a key Christian principle.
The Golden Rule requires sincere people of faith to oppose violence and harassment and to respect the rights, dignity, and welfare of others. Youths who are sincere in support of the Golden Rule should have no difficulty joining in the Day of Silence on at least a conditional basis; a flimsy imitation of that campaign is neither necessary or constructive.
It is not too late for Throckmorton’s campaign to mend some oversights with an explicit recognition and condemnation of specific forms of antigay bullying. It may also achieve some heretofore-lacking integrity by singling out stay-home protests as contrary to the Golden Rule; by recognizing that the Day of Silence already honors the Golden Rule (without Throckmorton’s help); and by calling for specific steps to stop antigay violence in schools.
But can a pundit for the ex-gay movement really afford to stand on principle at the expense of antigay political correctness?
In other words, can he really honor his own Golden Rule?