Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Rolling Stone article on teen suicide
On Monday a Chain of Lakes leader sent me a link to an article in Rolling Stone about teen suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin (A-H) school district. According to the article nine teens, four reportedly gay (GLBT), in the A-H district have committed suicide in two years. The district’s neutrality policy is being partly blamed along with hostility towards GLBT students stirred up by the far-right in Anoka County.
The link to the article can be found here—http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/one-towns-war-on-gay-teens-20120202
A response by the A-H school district to the article can be found here—
I haven’t lived in the A-H district that long so don’t know much about the neutrality policy. I’ve followed the story in the news, but have had a hard time figuring out what is going on. As I understand it, the neutrality policy discourages teachers from taking a stance on controversial issues—teachers are supposed to stay neutral and not share their opinions. The article argued that this has created an environment that is not supportive of GLBT teens who are being bullied.
On Monday I posted a link to the article on my Facebook page and asked if anyone could share more about the policy. A fascinating conversation about gay and lesbian issues broke out. Check it out at:
For a long time I’ve believed that sexual orientation is not a choice. Because of my reading of Genesis 1 & 2 and my experience with many gay and lesbian friends I don’t believe that gays and lesbians would choose their orientation. Just as I didn’t choose to be a heterosexual, GLBT folks didn’t choose the orientation with which they have.
My belief about orientation, my study of the Scriptures, my relationships with GLBT folks and most importantly my conversations with God have led me to conclude that a person’s sexual orientation should not be a barrier to ordination in the church.
As a religious leader for almost 20 years I’ve also had the misfortune of seeing the Presbyterian church suffer deeply over the issue of gay and lesbian ordination. I’ve experienced the many different sides of the issue. I went to a seminary where to question whether gays and lesbians should be ordained would have made me feel like a heretic in that community; I worked as a youth director in a church where to believe that gays and lesbians should be ordained would have also made me feel like a heretic in that community; I was a pastor of a wonderful church where people really didn’t want to talk about the issue. I’ve attended many Presbytery meetings where people have fought hard over this issue. I’ve witnessed strong leaders on both sides of the issue leave congregations, and now seemingly will witness an exodus of congregations from the PC(USA), a denomination that I love.
As a pastor of a new church I want to help create a community where people of different views on the ordination of gays and lesbians can live and respect each other. “Healthy Disagreement” is the value to which I want people at Chain of Lakes to bring to these issues. I can certainly understand how people can read the Bible and come to the conclusion that gays and lesbians should not be ordained. People with these views aren’t horrible or homophobic folks. Many have prayerfully studied the Scriptures and have come to this conclusion. I also can understand how people can read the Scriptures and come to the conclusion that gays and lesbians should be ordained. People with these views haven’t abandoned the Bible. They have studied Genesis and the teachings of Jesus and have prayerfully come to this conclusion.
It’s tragic that many have exploited these issues and wedged people apart. Too often congregations and political parties have become echo chambers of people who think the same on this issue. To question the beliefs of the majority is not possible. We’ve ended up terribly polarized. In Minnesota this polarization could easily deepen this November as we are being forced to vote on whether the constitution of this state should ban gay marriage.
Whatever our views on GLBT ordination and marriage, I find it hard to believe that all of us can’t come together to be united in condemning teen suicide and working to create a culture where these tragedies never occur. I don’t believe it matters to ninety-nine percent of the people in Anoka County whether a teen who committed suicide was gay or straight. All of us believe these suicides are tragedies and have to be stopped in the future.
If anything I am pleading for us to come together to stop this scourge in the community. I don’t claim to have the answers, but I am willing to work with anyone who wants to find the answers. The community has a responsibility for every teen suicide. Let's move beyond ideology and polarization and work together to find solutions to this horor.