How do Christians respond to a tragedy such as the suicide of Tyler Clementi?
You’ve no doubt heard about the tragic suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi. Clementi’s college roommate secretly filmed Clementi as he was having an intimate encounter with another man. And then the roommate broadcast the encounter on the internet. Clementi ended his life by jumping off New York’s George Washington Bridge.
The entire nation was shocked by the level of cruelty, thoughtlessness, and irresponsibility that led to Clementi’s suicide.
But the sad truth is we’re fallen creatures. Teenagers have always intimidated and harassed other teenagers. And now with the advent of social media—Facebook, Myspace, Twitter—young people have a new way to abuse and torment each other. It’s called cyber bullying.
As Kathleen Parker wrote in the Washington Post, “The emergence of social media, combined with mass access to technology . . . has enabled an insatiable market for spying and gossip. The result has been a cultural breakdown in decency and a blurring of the boundaries of what should be private and public.”
Parker went on to write: “Although Clementi was filmed with another man, one can imagine as easily a roommate spying on a heterosexual encounter.”
She’s right. Cyber bullying is an equal-opportunity crime.
And yet, I’m noticing a disturbing trend, a subtext if you will, in the media coverage of Clementi’s suicide.
The New York Times reports, for example, that a Seattle-based sex columnist Dan Savage is particularly “irate at religious leaders who use ‘antigay rhetoric.’”
And the Huffington Post notes that Clementi’s suicide is galvanizing the gay community—just as the murder of Matthew Shepard “galvanized the gay community around hate-crime legislation more than a decade ago.”
I fear that the gay lobby may well use this tragedy to try to further its agenda and silence those who oppose them. Remember, Katie Couric blamed Jim Dobson and the religious right for the Shepard murder.
So, how should Christians respond to Clementi’s tragic death?
First, we must absolutely, positively condemn harassment and bullying in all of their ugly forms. Second, we must absolutely, positively defend biblical morality in a way that rejects condemnation—and invites conversation and conversion.
This is why I so fervently believe in the Manhattan Declaration. It beautifully captures the right message of the church to the homosexual community. Let me quote from the declaration itself:
“We respect [those disposed to homosexuality] as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity . . . We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God's intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God's patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community . . . to refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to [sexual immorality.] Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners.”
That, I believe, sums up a proper Christian attitude toward homosexual behavior. Go to www.ManhattanDeclaration.org , read the Manhattan Declaration and sign it. And then learn how to use these kinds of arguments to address this issue in public. Share it with your friends—especially with those who may disagree.