Day of Silence Draws Mixed Responses from Christians

As thousands of students across the country take a vow of silence on Friday to bring attention to anti-gay harassment in schools, Christians remain divided on how to respond to the annual Day of Silence.

The Illinois Family Institute released a video warning parents against a "carefully crafted and packaged" homosexual agenda that forces people of faith to be silent and labels all dissenters of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) relationships as bigots.

It further urges Christians to "stand up for the truth, for our faith and families" while also encouraging those struggling with same-sex desires to not give in and seek help from a pastor or ministry.

"God has not abandoned you to struggle alone," the video states. "The truth can and will set you free."

IFI along with other pro-family groups are encouraging believers to walk out of their schools on Friday in protest of the Day of Silence, an initiative of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

They believe students should be free to support traditional marriage without being labeled as bigots and that schools that permit the observance in class are forcing a pro-gay propaganda.

Other Christians, however, have chosen a different approach to the Day of Silence.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton, professor of Psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, responded to the family institute's video with his own video.

With Superchick's "Hero" as the theme song, the video portrays students who do not fit in, are made fun of and are contemplating suicide. As other students just sit back and offer no help, one teen ponders helping one of his struggling schoolmates. In the end, that teen chooses to help and arrives just in the nick of time as the other tries to shoot himself.

The "Hero" video is part of the Golden Rule Pledge that Throckmorton is promoting as an alternative to the walkout for evangelicals who do not affirm homosexual behavior but also loathe harassment toward anyone, including LGBT peers. Rather than a protest, the pledge urges Christians to stay on campus and demonstrate the grace of Christ by treating others the way they wanted to be treated.

"Without altering convictions about sexuality, I propose that evangelicals should have something more to contribute than a protest toward the elimination of hostility and aggression against gay people and other people who are viewed as different," Throckmorton stated on his blog. "Indeed, we should be leading the way to make schools safe and build bridges to those who often equate 'Christian' with condemnation."

The Rev. Bob Stith, national strategist for Gender Issues for the Southern Baptist Convention, has endorsed the Golden Rule Pledge.

"I have long thought Christians were missing a great opportunity by not being more vocal in helping to make our schools safe places for all kids. It doesn't require that we compromise our beliefs," Stith said in his endorsement. "What a wonderful opportunity to express our convictions in a way that is positive, loving and redemptive. What a wonderful opportunity to train our children to care about all people, to model the example of Jesus and the woman at the well.

"Who knows but what this could even be the beginning of a movement that will turn the tide of school shootings and violence in the hallways?"

This year's Day of Silence comes a week after 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover hung himself after almost a year of enduring anti-gay bullying despite not having identified himself as gay.

Meanwhile, pro-family group Capitol Resource Institute has released a video report questioning whether the Day of Silence is "really about preventing name-calling, bullying, and harassment ... or silencing different viewpoints."

The video features audio clips of threatening voicemails as well as excerpt of e-mails the group has received since joining the Day of Silence Walkout Coalition. In one voicemail, a man states: "You're morally bankrupt. I disrespect the God that you follow. You're a murderer and you're a bigot."

Other voicemails say: "I just wanted to ask you a quick question about what you stand for and little 11-year-old boys by the name of Carl Walker-Hoover killing themselves because of people like you, Karen;" and "You are a disgrace to ...public. I wish you would just go kill yourself."

"The actions of Day of Silence supporters are speaking louder than the silence," said Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute. "We believe that respectful dialogue is important when people discuss disagreements on social issues. Unfortunately, we are not seeing that respect extended to us by Day of Silence supporters."

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