Jump directly to the Content


What form should our love of LGBT neighbors take in the public square?

Response to Day of Silence shows evangelicals don't agree on when to be silent and when (or what) to speak.

April 25th marked the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's annual Day of Silence, described by the Network's website as a "student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment–in effect, the silencing–experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies." Not surprisingly, the nationwide event elicited a range of responses from evangelical Christian groups at both the national and local level, and therefore offers promise as an occasion for further reflection about what form Christian witness should take in a pluralistic democratic society.

Boycott, in the form of students staying home from school that day, was advised by both Concerned Women for America and the American Family Association. This strategy was often joined to protest, as seen at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Washington (an eastside suburb of Seattle). According to a Seattle Times article, not only were 495 out of 1,410 students not at school for the day–"including 85 athletes whose parents had asked that they be excused for their personal beliefs"–but "about 100 people joined the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, a prominent anti-gay-rights activist, in prayer and song that questioned the dedication of a school day to what they said was a controversial political cause." The week before, Hutcherson, pastor of the local Antioch Bible Church, had called for 1,000 "prayer warriors" to join him in an ad in a local paper.

A form of protest was also displayed by Alexander Nuxholl, a sophomore at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois. Nuxholl was granted the right to wear a shirt that read, "Be Happy, Not Gay" on the Day of Silence by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court also ordered the school district not to discipline him for wearing the shirt. Nuxholl's case was litigated by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian nonprofit legal alliance based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The ADF also sponsored a countermeasure or alternative to the Day of Silence, a second common strategy for Christian witness. The annual Day of Truth, which came three days after the the Day of Silence, was, according to its website, "established to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective." Christian students are encouraged to wear T-shirts and pass out cards (outside of class time) that read:

I'm speaking the Truth to break the silence.

True tolerance means that people with differing–even opposing–viewpoints can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other.

It's time for an honest conversation about homosexuality.

There's freedom to change if you want to.

Let's talk.

This year marked the fourth for the Day of Truth (roughly 7,000 participants), and the thirteenth Day of Silence (roughly 500,000 participants).

In addition to boycott, protest, and the creation of an alternative, the Day of Silence saw another response from evangelical Christians–participation. The Golden Rule Pledge is promoted by Grove City College Psychology Professor Warren Throckmorton as an option for "straight Christian and conservative students [who] are conflicted about this day. They do not affirm homosexual behavior but they also loathe disrespect, harrassment or violence toward any one, including their GLBT peers." This response urges Christian students to act in accordance with the message on the cards they are urged to give out:

This is what I'm doing:

I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated.

Will you join me in this pledge?

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31).

The Golden Rule Pledge website features first-hand accounts from Christian students who participated in this year's Day of Silence, including Jordyne of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, who convinced ASU's Campus Crusade and InterVarsity Fellowship ministries to support Christian students such as her who chose to duct tape their mouths shut for a day.

Evangelicals are by definition a gospel-proclaiming people. Part of our becoming a wise people is learning to match our proclamation both to the manner of the Christ we proclaim, as well as to the occasion before us. Gospel wisdom, then, means not just learning when to speak, but what part of God's good news to speak first, and how that news should be delivered. On occasion, we may even find the best way to begin to "speak" this marvelous news is to remain silent.

Support Our Work

Subscribe to CT for less than $4.25/month

Read These Next