When I was in grade 9 or 10 I remember a boy in my class, who wasn’t religious, asking several students if they “supported gay people” or if they thought “being gay was okay”. We were walking out of my science class and the students that were asked were mostly the kids that attended the Evangelical Mennonite church in our town. I remember everyone shaking their heads, not with aggression but with discomfort. No, they didn’t support it. No, they didn’t want to talk about it. One person turned to the questioner and shot back, “Do you support it?” “No! It’s gross,” he laughed, wrinkling his nose. I kept walking, angry but silent—not brave enough to speak up and not sure what to say even if I was.
Many of the people that shook their heads when questioned are my friends. We all attended the same grade 7-12 high school of about 200 students in Southeast Manitoba. I was a part of the same local church’s youth group and was there when we studied the book of Genesis, learning that God created an Adam and an Eve for a reason. I was with them when we were told that God is love and that the best way for us to love others is to guide sinners to the heterosexual truth.
It was frustrating to be friends with people who didn’t believe the same things that I did. As high school graduation neared, I chose to speak up more and more about my own more ideologies. Although at times I was greeted with empathy, active listening, and even agreement, it was frustrating when my opinions were met with surprise, dismissal or anger. It is frustrating now, to watch the opposition rage on over Manitoba’s anti-bullying legislature Bill 18 because of the clause that states all schools must accommodate anti-bullying clubs including gay-straight alliances. And when Bill 18 is being said to further the “war on Christianity”, I get a lot more than just frustrated.
However, from my perspective, the people that shook their heads leaving that high school classroom were not trying to be bullies, any more than my silence was an attempt to bully. They would not have been calling any LGBTQ kids names or shoving them into lockers or posting mean things about them online. In the same way, I don’t think they are trying to be bullies when they protest Bill 18. They simply cannot support the “gay lifestyle” because they believe it to be wrong. They are holding onto what makes sense for them and acting in a way they believe God wants them to. The intent to hurt others is not the aim of the Bill 18 protest. However, intent or not, harm is being done, and worse, it is being done in Jesus’ name.
That is part of what makes this Bill 18 debate so scary and sad. The protestors of Bill 18, with their strongly-held beliefs that are rooted in love, are, in this case, protesting for the continuation of discrimination and in doing so, are protecting bullies who use the Bible to hurt others. But how exactly do you say that to someone who believes they are doing the work of God?