In his recent post, “Why Christians Are Pro-Bullying“, Matt @ “The Church of No People” argues that Christians are tone deaf to the issue of bullying and need to engage. He writes,
…people need a sexy new cause to keep their attention. And the spotlight on bullies has been growing brighter for a while, and I think it’s going to stay that way for a long time. And like most pop-culture causes, it didn’t start with Christians. In fact, I have yet to see any prominent Christians throw their hat in the bullying ring at all.
So I have a question for you, Christians. Are we going to let this be another cause that’s too “liberal,” or “secular” for us, and let it pass us by? Or are we actually going to do something?
I responded to this issue two years ago, and since this conversation is hot again, I want to address Matt’s question by reposting the question I asked back then, “Is gay life worth saving?”
In 2010, you may recall reading about the gay Rutgers student who killed himself after his roommate posted a video on the internet of him having sex with another man. Susan Jacoby writes about this tragic story in the Washington Post.
Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, 18, is seen in an undated photo posted to his Facebook page
If there is any doubt about the pervasiveness of moral confusion and illogic in our society, one need only sample responses to the suicide of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student and a promising violinist, who committed suicide after his roomate and a female acquaintance, also a Rutgers freshmen, used a hidden webcam to record him having sex with a man and streamed the images online. An interrogatory headline in USA Todaysays it all: “Has Social Networking Gone Too Far?” A subhead declares, “Student’s suicide after he was shown having sex on illicit webcast puts focus on civility and privacy.” This tragedy is not about “social networking.” It is about immoral and amoral cruelty, spiked with anti-gay bias, and about a culture that prefers to assign responsibility to tools rather than the young people who used them for evil.
Ms Jacoby, it seems, laments the evil of this story, not in the death of the young man, but the evil of bullying.
During the past decade, there have been a number of teen suicides as a result of webcasting heterosexual activity–as well as suicides following non-sexual ridicule on the internet. It is hard to imagine, though, that a roommate’s desire to out his roommate’s homosexuality did not play some role in this vicious act. In spite of the supposedly greater “tolerance” for gays among the young than among their elders, public revelation of sexual behavior still creates more trouble for young gays than for straights. Many young gay men and women come out gradually and cautiously to friends and relatives, and one can only imagine the emotional impact of being outed on a webcast.
In any case, the students who did this should receive the maximum sentence under the state’s privacy laws. Five years is not too long a sentence. In this instance, stiff sentences may well have exemplary value for those who consider cyberassault (a much more appropriate word than “bullying”) a “prank” rather than a crime.
I agree with Ms. Jacoby that the two people who posted this video, Tyler’s freshman roommate Dharun Ravi and his friend Molly Wei, should be punished to the full extent of the law. However, what bothers me is that none of the stories I read actually grieve the death of this young man. As I scan the headlines, people are angry because of the lack of “tolerance” toward gays. Others are angry at bullying. Some people want to make more laws to protect privacy rights. Still others want reform in the housing rules at universities. But no one seems to be upset that a human life has ended.
Everyone wants to use this story to promote their political, social or moral agenda, but no one is actually grieved that Tyler Clementi is dead. So while everyone wants to nibble around the edges with issues of secondary importance, I want to offer More Than Cake and face the central issue of life! So the question I ask again is this, “is gay life worth saving?”
What are the possible answers to this question?
You see human life as a sacred creation of God and therefore it is a universal truth that all life is worth saving.
You see human life as the random result of genetic mutation and therefore only some life is worth saving.
If you hold to the latter philosophy, how do you determine which life is worth saving? Who sets the standards? Who makes the criteria of what life is worth keeping and what life is worth destroying? As I see it, there are a few possible approaches to the question, “is gay life worth saving?”
Choice #1: A Celebration of the Right to Suicide
I think first about my agnostic friend Heidi who is a strong supporter of the individual’s “right to suicide”. If her view is applied to this situation, I am left to wonder, does she see this event as a victory for choice? Does Heidi celebrate Tyler Clementi’s suicide as a bold demonstration of his right to death? If she is logically consistent, then she of course supports Tyler’s right to kill himself because it is “his body” and “his choice.”
Choice #2: A Celebration of the End of Suffering
There is another possible answer among some atheist thinkers. Tyler most certainly killed himself because he was suffering emotionally. Some Naturalists argue that killing those who suffer is a moral good. Take Virginia Ironside who recently celebrated as “good” any mother who kills a suffering child. In her BBC interview she says,
‘If a baby’s going to be born severely disabled or totally unwanted, surely an abortion is the act of a loving mother.’
She added: ‘If I were the mother of a suffering child – I mean a deeply suffering child – I would be the first to want to put a pillow over its face… If it was a child I really loved, who was in agony, I think any good mother would.’
Tyler certainly felt unwanted and was suffering extremely… enough so that he took his own life. But what if Tyler stepped up on the GW Bridge and hesitated. Would Virginia Ironside show compassion by giving Tyler a shove and help him end all suffering? Would Ms. Ironside celebrate the “good” of entering Tyler’s dorm room and suffocating him with a pillow to end his pain. Of course she would. She is a “good” person who only wants to stop the pain of gays.
Choice #3: A Celebration Of One Less Life to Support
Finally, what about Martin Kramer? Kramer argues that the West must stop sending food to support the world’s refugees. Much like a fetus, refugees are unable to support themselves and are totally dependent upon the aid of others to live. Therefore, the poor and infirm are a superfluous people that we must let die. If the West stopped sending “pro-natal” aid to Palestine, Kramer argues, then the world would see an end to radicalism.
So how would Kramer answer the question, “is gay life worth saving?” If you extend his logic to its end, it is clear that Tyler’s life had unraveled into chaos to the point where he would no longer be a productive member of society. So then, the answer is no, Tyler’s life was not worth saving. We should encourage, support and celebrate the death of all life that is not useful for the advancement of society.
Radical Alternative to All of the Above
So for those who embrace a naturalistic worldview, life is only about personal choice, personal pain, or contribution to the society. Now, there is a radical alternative to the naturalist’s worldview.
If you embrace the view that all life is created by God and is therefore sacred, then the answer is yes, gay life is worth saving. Why? Because all life is precious. Human life suffering under the pain of sickness is worth saving? Human life burdened by the weight of sin is worth saving? Human life scarred by the pain of bullying is worth saving?
Jesus Christ came to heal the sick of heart and bring hope to those who believe suicide is their only salvation. God the Father says of his Son Jesus…
““Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.”” (Isaiah 42:1–4, NLT)
“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20–21, NLT)
Death is the enemy and not the succor of our suffering. Gay or Straight. Black or White. Healthy or Ill. Rich or Poor… all life is beautiful. Therefore, I do not support the right to suicide because Tyler Clementi’s life WAS and IS worth saving?