Here in Minnesota, in the past year alone—in one school district (Anoka-Hennepin) alone!— there have been three suicides of gay teens; three gay teens who resorted to killing themselves in response to intolerable bullying. We know it was intolerable because these precious young people were unable to tolerate the bullying—and they took their lives.
Today, in Minnesota the news report is that a Roman Catholic high school in St. Louis Park (a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis, just 9 miles from the Anoka-Hennepin school district) called Benilde-St. Margaret’s, removed a student newspaper opinion piece by a student who opposes that Archdiocesan stance against same-sex marriage. The Washington Post (and elsewhere—check Google News) reports that in spite of some comments supportive of the student’s position, there were many who expressed opinions contrary to the student’s position. It is obvious now who is in charge, who is in power, and who is enforcing their views on others.
Who is empowered in the decision to silence this student who obviously knew he or she was a dissenting voice? Who is made more powerful when this student is made to shut up? The question here is who are the real bullies?
The real bullies are not the students who did the dirty work of tormenting their classmates to the point of suicide (okay, I am being hyperbolic, since of course they really are ‘bullies’, but stick with me). It seems to me that the real bullies are those who, from their perch of safety, empower parents to inculcate their children with homophobia. The real bullies, the big bullies (i.e. the Senators who uphold Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Senator who thinks it is acceptable to discriminate in employment against LGBT people, the Minnesota Archbishop who sends out an anti-gay-marriage DVD weeks before the midterm election, etc., ad nauseam), are the ones with power and a voice, which they use to create little bullies to do their dirty work. In this way, the real bullies create in our schools and communities perpetrators and victims.
These bullies are enforcing (and it really is by using force) a sexual ethic whose time is literally past. Gone are the days when the risk to a tribe of human beings was that the environment would overpower them, would consume them. Today we live with the reversal. There are already too many human beings on the planet: the answer to our problems is not to demand that all the human beings create new human beings. In fact, that is the opposite of the solution—it is the problem.
In any case, the principal problem with the sexual ethic that promotes just the kind of sexuality that produces more children is that it is working from an anemic theology of procreation. We think so simply about cause and effect that we are lured into an irrationally diminished notion about what it means to be a co-creator; what it means to be a participant in the emergence of novelty and value in the world. Procreation can no longer be comprehended as a reduction to the mere begetting of human offspring who share our DNA. Rest assured, the drive to procreate in this way is in no way undermined, and we are in no danger that people will give up sexual procreativity any time soon. At least I am not worried about that.
What I am worried about it that we fail to meet the challenge of our day, which is to build a vibrant, creative, pluralistic human cooperative community. The task for us is to grow up. We must no longer be contented to hide in our safe enclaves of people ‘like us.’ In fact, that kind of cowardice is increasingly no longer even an option. As we grow together, it is the height of hubris to imagine, and act, as if some of the cosmic and divine creations in human form are worthy of this cooperative human community, and others are to be excluded.
Lesbian and gay persons may be the challenge of the cosmos for us to see that every human being is capable of vast creativity quite beyond the mere capacity to make more people. We are all the holders of vast powers of creativity, vast powers of procreativity that urge human cultural evolution forward. The planet cannot afford for us to leave anyone behind as we face the challenges of the devastation of human communities, devastation of ecosystems, in fact the devastation of the biosphere. Failing to recognize the procreative potential in gay and lesbian people reflects the failure to recognize the procreative potential in every human being.
If there is truth in the observation that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, as the book of Genesis declares, it is time to ask ourselves how we are doing in the business of reflecting our God. The divine procreativity is not to issue forth little copies of divinity to multiply and fill and subdue the earth. The divine procreativity is pluriform. The divine procreativity is astonishingly multivalent and incomprehensibly complex. The divine procreativity is not to be understood as the Tyrant in the Sky; not to be understood as the Bully that enforces sameness. As one species that is the result of divine procreativity, the species that believes it is the very image and likeness of God, we are required, therefore not to manifest as bullies enforcing a death-inducing sameness. Instead, we are required to unleash the co-creative, the procreative potential within us in the myriad of ways which includes genital procreation, but can never be reduced to it. Bullying gay and lesbian people impoverishes us all. We should be in the business of enriching the cosmos. That is the only vocation (calling) worthy of the species that believes it reflects the image and likeness of the God of radical pluralism, of breathtaking procreativity.
Let’s become a new creation together.