Monday, April 23, 2012

Preach it, brothers and sisters

Sioux City's Journal, the newspaper northwest Iowa depends upon, did an interesting and hopeful thing on Sunday --- devoting its front page to a full-page editorial calling for action to combat bullying, in-school and otherwise.

The editorial board was motivated primarily by the suicide last Sunday of 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn at Primghar. The freshman student was bullied relentlessly by some at his high school and via the electronic media after coming out as gay.

Although the reason Weishuhn was bullied has been evident, The Journal actually underplayed the gay aspect of the tragidy, using the "g" word only once on that full page and stating delicately that "sexual orientation appears to have played a role."

That may have been as far as a newspaper that serves the most conservative part of Iowa felt it could safely go.

But still, poking around this morning, I ran into a post on one of Iowa's more popular conservative and religiously-oriented blogs dismissing the nationwide publicity that the boy's death has generated as "homosexual propaganda" and implying that The Journal's editorial, as well as The Des Moines Register's minimal coverage, were somehow promoting a "gay agenda."

Which, of course, illustrates part of the bullying problem. There is general agreement that gay kids, or those perceived to be gay, are bullied at higher rates than their "normal" brothers and sisters; and that the rates of attempted and actual suicide are higher among gay kids.

But religious types, especially the conservative ones, as well as Republican types, have a terrible time sorting this out, bless their hearts. Few actually want gay kids, or anyone else, to kill themselves. But battling the gay menace has become a cornerstone of orthodox faith in both church and party. They're addicted and don't  know how to, or are afraid to, break the habit.

I don't really expect the state GOP to come out against bullying gay kids.

Nor does it seem likely that the preachers at, let's say, First Baptist, Grace Baptist, Cornerstone Community, Truth Assembly and First Church of the Nazarene (and smaller counterparts), would resort their priorities and jump aboard an inclusive bandwagon.

And it's almost as unlikely that the preachers of more moderate denominations --- First United Methodist, First Christian, St. Andrew's Episcopal, First Presbyterian, First Lutheran and the like --- will overcome their fears of offending some parishioners and openly affirm LGBTQ people.

But in the long run, that sort of thing probably is necessary for anyone truly serious about ending bullying of all sorts. Otherwise, all this will just fade away --- until the next suicide.

That guy Jesus is reported to have said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." That seems clear, but apparently it isn't --- although this is where the sorting out has to begin.

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