Like most of you, I’ve had bullies on the brain lately. The stories of Justin Aaberg and the countless other teens who have taken their own lives this year not only leave me saddened, but also give me a chance to reflect.
I think about my own bullies: the handful of kids who called me “faggot” in the locker room or in the hallways between class. I think about my own bullying: the time I teased a “friend” to the point of tears. I learned a lot from both experiences. I know bullies. And I recognize bullying.
So, when I obtained one of the more than 400,000 DVDs on which Archbishop John Nienstedt implores Minnesota Catholics to support a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, I quickly was reminded that bullies don’t just hang out on the playground. In fact, those bullies are just kids. Whom they pick on and why has a lot more to do with their parents, society, and the messages they get from adults.
According to the The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English, to bully is “to use superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”
It’s hard to see how the two-part, 18-minute, anonymously-funded DVDs could be described any other way. Nienstedt’s message, wrapped in the cloak of a gentle proscription from a caring leader, foments fear with falsehood after falsehood. Same-sex marriage somehow will lead to fatherlessness; family fragmentation; and—that evil of all evils—single-woman parenthood.
I still haven’t figured out the math on the last one. Two fathers creates more single mothers? Water into wine?
The pseudodocumentary from that stalwart of social science, the Knights of Columbus, ups the intimidation ante in the second half of the DVD with blatant lies and less-than-clever distortions about the impact of same-sex marriage on society. Pseudo-social-scientists casually ignore the breadth of research showing kids of gays and lesbian couples do just as well, if not better, than those raised by heterosexuals.
One woefully misinformed “expert” even invokes the ghost of Martin Luther King Jr. to make this point: If you don’t vote for a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, Minnesota Catholics, society will fail, and the world as you know it will be destroyed forever. And ever. And ever! Oh, and Jesus and King are going to come back, and they’re not going to be happy.
Thankfully, many Catholics have spoken out against Nienstedt and the DVD campaign, including brave Father Michael Tegeder, Pastor of St. Edward’s Church in Bloomington. In a recent editorial, he wrote, “There’s a lot of ignorance, and ignorance breeds fear and intolerance.” He goes on to remind Nienstedt that study after study has shown poverty dissolves many more marriages than same-sex couples ever did or will.
It’s easy for me, as an educated, critically-thinking adult, to reject Nienstedt’s arguments about same-sex marriage. Quite frankly, it’s easy for me to laugh at them, and hope that at some point, Saturday Night Live turns the thing into comedy gold.
While it’s easy for adults like me, think of children. Think of the tens if not hundreds of thousands of kids across the state who will watch this video, either unintentionally, or at the behest of their “concerned” parents, schoolteachers, or priests. Some will believe the lies it slyly tries to offer as truth.
Ultimately, gay kids will have yet one more reason to hate themselves, and bullies will have one more reason to attack their victims.
I’m pretty sure it’s just this kind of callous disregard for love and tolerance that once led Gandhi to exclaim, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”