This book carries a number of important messages but, above all, the greatest is one of is acceptance in the Christian community. It's a worthy read. Thanks for visiting my blog, Mia!
HI CODY’s FRIENDS!!! AND HI CODY!!! Thank you so very much for hosting me on your blog today as I discuss a topic that is of major importance in Inclination, my new release.
When we think of the word bully, many of us conjure an image in our minds of a rough-and-tumble kid out on the playground who pushes you against the back wall of the school and gives you a black eye after he steals your lunch money. You know, a naughty “lawless” kid who uses his size and overbearing attitude to intimidate and control a smaller, apparently weaker, individual. Using a variety of abrasive tactics, these dominant kids are often successful in molding their victims’ behavior. But the truth is, bullies come in all shapes and sizes.
Sometimes bullies can even come in the form of an entire social institution. An inherent power play exists in any organization that determines, and in some way attempts to control, the way we behave, and to some extent, the way we think. Organized religion, defined by dictionary.com as “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs” can function in ways similar to a playground bully, despite its highly ethical reputation as an institution set up to honor God. Christianity, in the form of large structured churches as well as smaller, independent ones, can fill this role. There is an expectation for followers to adhere to a certain set of beliefs, and there is the existence of consequences if you don’t adhere. Sometimes individual followers take it upon themselves to enforce these consequences, as if they are acting on God’s behalf.
So, how can an institution, like Christianity, for example, be viewed as a bully? In order to answer this question, I will start by giving you an example. You may have noticed that in the news recently there have been reports of suicide committed by adolescents who happen to be gay or transgender. Many of these kids ended their lives because of the oppressive pressure they experienced to “conform” to heterosexuality, and their ensuing inability to do so because it is not in their nature. And often, it is these victims’ churches that are a major source of this pressure. The pressure could have been applied directly or it could have come about through parental compliance with a certain church’s belief system. But these kids commit suicide because they are afraid, not just of threats of physical violence because they are gay, but because they are surrounded by a complete lack of acceptance of who they are. They fear being outcast and left alone. And some adolescents live in constant live in fear of physical violence because of their sexuality.
As pointed out by Cody J. Sanders in Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue, “Anti gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base.” We see the sign-carrying, furious faces on the news of fanatical church members who believe that “God hates faggots.” This unfettered disgust and rage is taken into the consciousness of all LGBTQ people, and is particularly damaging to vulnerable teens. To support the claim that God condemns homosexual behavior, the biblical “clobber passages” are used (clobber passage: a verse of the Bible interpreted as condemning homosexuality).
FYI Clobber Passages are as follows:
Leviticus 18: 22 and 20:13
1 Corinthians 6: 9-10
1 Timothy 1: 9-10
So Christian bullying in the forms of overbearing, intimidating, and arrogant behavior (in the assumption that we can interpret what God said to mean one certain thing) is supposedly justified by referring to the Bible. This leads to an “us (hetero) vs. them (gay)” mentality, leading to a power imbalance that allows for a climate where bullying can flourish.
The Christian right employs bullying tactics as a major part of its agenda. In Amanda Marcotte’s article 7 Ways the Christian Right makes Bullying its Primary Agenda, she suggests that many members of the conservative Christian Right denounce attempts to prevent anti-gay bullying in schools. I have to ask myself, isn’t this just another way of contributing to bullying? She says, “Christian right organization Focus on the Family is happy to help fight back against bullies, unless, of course, the target is gay. Then all of a sudden, Focus on the Family sees the bully as the victim, and attempts to stop him from gay-bashing are nothing but an attempt to ‘censor or marginalize students and parents with differing viewpoints.’”
Furthermore, in this same article, Marcotte suggests that schools make spectacles out of transgender kids, rather than allowing them to live as the gender they identify with. “One simple way to reduce bullying of transgender kids in school is to let them live as the gender they identify with and not make a big fuss out of it that draws the attention of bullies. When California passed a law giving transgender students exactly this right, Christian conservatives went nuts.”
Sometimes gay and lesbian kids are bullied by conservative Christians in order to persuade the LGBT kids to change their “evil” ways. It is one thing to proclaim your religious beliefs, but it is another to impose your belief system on others who choose to live in a different way. However, this reason for bullying is justified because it is deemed necessary to show their disapproval of the “LGBT lifestyle”.
In doing research for this guest post, I came across some examples of horrendous bullying committed by adult “Christians” in the name of their beliefs. In the article, How American Christians can stop being bullies and start winning converts, Jonathan Merritt points out how Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, who is influential among American evangelicals, reminded readers in a blog post of, “the importance of your gag reflex when discussing homosexuality”. And Dave Daubenmire of Pass the Salt Ministries ranted in an online video that bullying is a part of life and that by trying to prevent it we are “sissifying” American youth. Finally, in When it comes to Hateful Internet Speech, Christians are the worst Sally Quinn reported that “I began to see that there is a big difference between being Christian and following the teachings of Jesus. In fact, sometimes those two things can be polar opposites. Our Christian haters clearly paid little attention to Jesus.”
Okay, so I did a mini-research project here about how a church institution can be a bully. (And please note, I am not saying that all church institutions are bullies, just that some of them can be.) Now I need to do the other part of what I set out to accomplish. I need to tie this to my new release, Inclination. Inclination is a work of Young Adult Gay Christian fiction, and yes, no worries, there is romance. If you read Inclination, you will see bullying, starting from the very first scene. Anthony Duck-Young Del Vecchio experiences bullying at the hands of his life long Christian friends. It starts with Rinaldo, who feels it is his job to make Anthony “change” his sexuality, and asserts that Anthony will one day thank him for it. There is Lazarus, his former best pal, whose parents will not allow him to associate with a gay friend; he bullies Anthony in the locker room after tennis practice. There is also his entire youth group who conducts an intervention to instruct Anthony of the sinful error of his ways, and then there is the worship leader, Mrs. Martine, who essentially kicks Anthony out of youth group because of his sexual orientation. (Interestingly, the priest of Anthony’s parish is quite supportive of Anthony, and wants Anthony to remain a member of the church.) Almost everyone in Anthony’s Catholic life applies pressure on him, demeans him, and threatens him in the name of God.
But maybe most important of all, it is the simple existence of the laws that say Anthony cannot live morally as an actively gay man and still be a member of the Catholic Church that provides sufficient pressure to be a source of intimidation and control. And isn’t that what bullies do? Intimidate and control.
What a great post, Mia! Thanks so much for bringing the cookies!
What a great post, Mia! Thanks so much for bringing the cookies!
Sixteen-year-old Anthony Duck-Young Del Vecchio is a nice Catholic boy with a very big problem. It’s not the challenge of fitting in as the lone adopted South Korean in a close-knit family of Italian-Americans. Nor is it being the one introverted son in a family jam-packed with gregarious daughters. Anthony’s problem is far more serious—he is the only gay kid in Our Way, his church’s youth group. As a high school junior, Anthony has finally come to accept his sexual orientation, but he struggles to determine if a gay man can live as a faithful Christian. And as he faces his dilemma, there are complications. After confiding his gayness to his intolerant adult youth group leader, he’s asked to find a new organization with which to worship. He’s beaten up in the church parking lot by a fanatical teen. His former best pal bullies him in the locker room. His Catholic friends even stage an intervention to lead him back to the “right path.” Meanwhile, Anthony develops romantic feelings for David Gandy, an emo, out and proud junior at his high school, who seems to have all the answers about how someone can be gay and Christian, too.
Will Anthony be able to balance his family, friends and new feelings for David with his changing beliefs about his faith so he can live a satisfying life and not risk his soul in the process?
EXCERPT: I’ll pass on the Kool-Aid, thank you
It sounds like a joke, but it’s all true. Every student who volunteers his or her time on a weekly basis at an animal shelter, a hospital, or a home for the elderly receives a free lunch on the last Monday of the month, putting to rest the veracity (got that word on the last SAT practice test I took at my desk in my bedroom the other day) of the old idiom, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” And as I spend every Sunday afternoon patting and playing with cats at the Centerton Humane Society, I qualify. If nothing else, it gives Mom a day off from making me lunch.
“It was so disgusting.”
I drop down into my usual seat in the cafeteria beside Laz, my tray with the bowl of free macaroni and cheese, a slice of bread, and milk, sliding onto the lunch table in front of me. “The mac and cheese?” I ask. “Last time I had it the stuff wasn’t too bad.” It’s not one of Mom’s gourmet lunches, but it gets the job done.
“No, Anthony.” Emma Gillis rolls her eyes and swallows her bite of free mac and cheese she earned by reading classics to the elderly on Saturday mornings at the New Horizons Elderly Center. She gulps in a breath and informs me with her usual haughtiness, “I was telling everybody about these two old men I read to last Saturday who think they are some kind of couple. They actually kissed each other.” She fake-gags.
“I threw up a little in my mouth when I saw that!”
For my own personal reasons, I gasp, while everybody else snickers.
“Those old dudes must be losing it, as in, they could have Alzheimer’s or something, and they forgot that dudes belong with ladies, not other dudes.” I glance over at Lazarus, who abruptly stops babbling to suck down the first of three cartons of chocolate milk. “But seriously, that’s messed up.” Laz wrinkles his nose in distaste and runs his hands through his shaggy dark hair, before moving on to carton number two.
I’m basically frozen, my hand still hovering over the slice of wheat bread on the corner of my tray, my mouth hanging open. I might even be drooling.
“It’s not their fault, Emma.” Elizabeth-the-devout always takes the case of the underdog. It’s how she’s wired. “They’re just sick in their minds.” She sends Emma a you-ought-to-be-ashamed-of yourself sort of frown. “We, as Catholics, are called to compassion.”
Everyday single day at lunch since freshman year, I’ve sat with the kids from the Our Way youth group. In fact, the other kids in my grade have long referred to our lunch table as “Our Way to Survive Cafeteria Food”, which somewhere along the line got shortened to the “OWSCF Table”, which eventually morphed into “awe-scoff”. I have always felt safe and secure sitting at the awe-scoff table. These are the kids I’ve prayed with three times a week at Our Way, and the ones who I was confirmed with in ninth grade. I’ve collected toys for the poor with these kids—in fact, for three years running we’ve made sure that no child in Wedgewood missed out on having a small stack of Christmas gifts, and that brings about some major bonding. We’ve shared weekends camping in the Maine woods, singing and holding hands and sometimes crying when the Spirit moved us.
This is my safe spot at school, like my tiny room is my alone spot at home.
“If you ask me, all fags deserve to die for going against Christ and everything that’s natural. They should be forced to drink poison Kool-Aid, like those cultists had to do down in Jonestown…’member that?” Is that Rinaldo Vera who just suggested mass murder as the “final solution” to the gay problem?
Sweet, passive Rinaldo—the gentle giant. Um, not so much.
“I saw a TV movie called the Jonestown Massacre.”
“I caught that too…those people were warped.”
The conversation drifts away from the vileness of homosexuality, toward the disturbing personal stories of the few survivors of the Jim Jones Cult Kool-Aid Massacre. But I’ve heard more than enough, in terms of stuff that pertains to me.
Feeling as if I’m going to lose what little lunch I ate, I jump up off my chair and race toward the boys’ room in the hall near the cafeteria.
Maybe there really is no such thing as a free lunch.
About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, CreateSpace, and YoungDudes Publishing for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.
Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.