Two weeks ago, a young person in Northwest Iowa killed himself after being bullied. He had recently come out that he was gay to classmates, friends and family. Our students in Marengo are often vicious towards one another and hurt their peers every day with words and actions that are not kind or compassionate… especially in regards to their sexuality: perceived, lived, or otherwise.
When delegates stood yesterday and Mark Miller spoke to the feelings of hurt, betrayal, disappointment felt after an exercise in holy conferencing on human sexuality was poorly run, tears started streaming down my face. Because our schedule was off, because elections ran over, because the time was cut short, because there was not a set way for participating, because not every group had the same experiences, what could have been a conference wide discussion was disjointed, awkward, and unsuccessful.
I cannot be sure of the specifics that he was referring to. But I do know the hopes that many had for those conversations. The opportunity to speak the truth in love to one another. To pray together. To ask God to guide us together in spite of our differences into a common foundation for our later work in legislative committees. But because those conversations were not given the fullness of weight we intended to have, we short-changed ourselves, our conference, and the world. I don’t know what happened in specific groups, but as our brothers and sisters stood with Mark at the microphone – they spoke of a spirit of bullying… and said that no one else did anything about it.
Often, our greatest sin is the sin of omission. Of not speaking up. Of not defending our brothers and sisters. Of not being a spirit of encouragement. Of allowing others to dominate, hurt, demean, offend, and refusing to speak. We do it because we are afraid of becoming the target our selves. We do it because we are not sure what to say. We do it because we are lazy. We do it because we are complicit. We do it because we ourselves are broken.
As Mark and the others stood at the microphone, others in the plenary session began to stand, too. And in the bleachers and in the observer sections, a person here and a person there began to stand. And I could not keep sitting. I thought of that young man from Iowa. I thought of my youth. I thought of all of the times that I had not spoken up. I thought of twitter and facebook conversations that I had refused to comment on and stop from continuing. I cannot do that anymore. I have to stand up. I have to speak. I have to reach out in love.
And so when I left worship tonight, full of healing music and the power of prayer and a cleansed heart, and I saw brothers and sisters standing silently lining the exits, I had to stop and stand with them. To join hands with my brothers and sisters. To pray. To sing. To commit myself to act on behalf of those who are being shut out, talked about and not with, and bullied with word or deeds.