Culture At Large

Earning a place at the civility table

Jen Pollock Michel

Oct. 30 was Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a national tolerance campaign sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This anti-bullying initiative encourages kids to break out of their social cliques and find new friends at lunch.

While Mix It Up at Lunch may seem benign, the American Family Association has called it an “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.” The AFA has asked parents to keep their children home from school.

I don’t agree with the AFA’s decision to boycott Mix It Up at Lunch Day, but like many of the parents they’ve warned, I, too, share fears that my children will be made to jettison their convictions at school and approve LGBT practice. In fact, the same week that I read about the controversy over Mix It Up at Lunch Day, I received an e-mail announcement from my 11-year-old daughter’s school principal. Five paragraphs down, he wrote that the school was celebrating their first Purple Day, an effort to “raise awareness and promote a spirit of acceptance of LGBT.”

Gay pride really was coming to my daughter’s middle school.

I believe I would have had more success arguing against Purple Day had I previously been a more vocal proponent of broader civility efforts.

I didn’t support Purple Day. As a matter of faith principle, my husband and I have taught our children that God intended sex for marriage between a man and a woman. In a letter to school officials, I made clear that though I disagreed with their promotion of homosexual practice, I would be equally troubled were school administrators to stand at the door and hand out condoms to promote safe heterosexual sex outside of marriage.

Additionally, I pointed out that LGBT awareness was not part of the stated objectives of the middle-school, sex-education program, which had been designed to teach students about their bodies and the changes to expect during puberty. For this reason, Purple Day was a curricular misfit.

But despite my and other parents’ disagreement, Purple Day went forward. While I may have objected, I also learned something important in the process, something that I believe can help other Christian parents when facing decisions like whether or not to send their children to school on Mix It Up at Lunch day. Anti-bullying efforts are not generally gay-pride parades in disguise. They are motivated by sincere, protective concern for students. Even in the case of Purple Day, school administrators told me - convincingly - that they meant less to promote homosexual practice and more to give dignity to LGBT students who’ve historically suffered cruel treatment by their classmates.

It had been my impulse to characterize homosexuality as an issue. School administrators saw a more human face.

And this forced me to consider: was I being more or less like Jesus when trying to obstruct this sincere effort to protect children from the indelible harm that comes from being bullied? Would it matter to Jesus that these students were bullied for being gay? Should it matter to me?

And of course it doesn’t matter, and I believe I would have had more success arguing against Purple Day (my reasons of disagreement still stand) had I previously been a more vocal proponent of broader civility efforts. As in the case of Mix It Up at Lunch Day, Christian parents should come alongside schools in their efforts to teach children to confront their habits of exclusion and treat one another with respect. In fact, these conversations invoke moral convictions (i.e. the value of human life) and Christians have much to contribute to that conversation.

Were we driving these more generic anti-bulling campaigns, Purple Day may never be necessary.

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Social Trends, Education, Home & Family, Parenting