Eugene Cho

our silent complicity…

I read the tragic story of Tyler Clementi yesterday and was absolutely heartbroken.

It started with a Twitter message on Sept. 19: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

That night, the authorities say, the Rutgers University student who sent the message used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet.

And three days later, the roommate who had been surreptitiously broadcast — Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violinist — jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River in an apparent suicide. [via NY Times]

It’s an absolutely gut wrenching story. How could these two other students do something so mean-spirited and heinous…?

It’s easy to point the fingers at these immature conspirators or at the obvious vitriolic antics from WBC

And then I wondered of my complicity in my oft silence about bullying, gay teen suicides, and prejudice particularly against the gay community.

When the issue of GLBTQ come up, it’s easier to keep the conversation about theological and biblical interpretations and – well – about the issue of the subject in hand but in the meanwhile, we forget there’s people behind the issues.

There’s always people behind the issues.

Which people? These human beings:

  • Raymond Chase was 19, an openly gay sophomore studying culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. He killed himself Wednesday after a fellow student in his dorm wrote, “You are gay, get out of Barlow [Hall] before you regret it” on his dry erase board.
  • 18-year-old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi threw himself off of the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, after his roommate had broadcast secret video footage of his sexual encounter with another man over the Internet.
  • On Sept. 23, Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head at his parent’s home in Cypress, Texas.
  • On Sept. 19 in Tehachapi, Calif., 13-year-old Seth Walsh hanged himself from a tree and died Tuesday after nine days of life support.
  • 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Ind., also took his own life earlier in the month. [h/t]

But regardless of interpretations and views, we should all agree: This needs to stop!

But when we are silent, we are complicit.

I was moved by Ellen’s appeal:

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20 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christian Ray Flores, Christian Ray Flores. Christian Ray Flores said: check this out I read the tragic story of Tyler Clementi yesterday and was absolutely heartbroken. It… http://bit.ly/9MX3MU by Eugene Cho […]

  2. mo says:

    The whole thing is a mess. Bullying has definitely gotten out of control. I feel like i hear about another suicide every week.

    Still, there’s room for grace. My take:
    http://www.mohan37.com/?p=4030

    • mo says:

      You know, after thinking about it more, I realize that I’ve been pretty guilty of being complicit over the years myself.

      I don’t think the roommate was a hateful homophone. I think he was a dumb kid. It’s our complacency in these matters has helped perpetuate an environment where “gay jokes” still take the place of honest discussion and prayer.

      Brave post, as usual.

  3. Ben@TIC says:

    Perhaps I’m too naive or think the best of people, but I’m just shocked that this kind of thing would happen at a college, especially a college like Rutgers. I think of colleges as open, tolerant and diverse. As a teacher, I have to nip any out of line comments about someone’s sexual orientation in the bud immediately. One has to set the tone in a class and in personal conversation that any kind of talk like that will not be tolerated. Yes, I am intolerant of intolerance!

  4. Wil says:

    Perhaps I’m missing something here, but as unbelieveably sad and tragic as it is, I don’t see how the fact that he was gay had much to do with it. There are a variety of embarrassments and actions of various intensities that one could experience that could drive one to do something like this. It’s not that the two accused were anti-gay. It’s just that they were pro-callous, and pro-thoughtless. I think the fact that the streaming video would be on the internet forever is what drove him to suicide. Once something is out in the wild it is there forever. That is what I think drove him to suicide, not the fact that he is gay. It’s that his personal intimacies was out there to be evaluated by the public. Forever.

    • Andy M says:

      I don’t know, but I can’t help but feel that if this had just been a heterosexual video, that it wouldn’t have ended in his suicide. Typical high school or college guys often encourage and applaud sex with girls, but not homosexuality.

      My understanding is that gay people often feel a lot of shame growing up, stemming from their upbringing, or the culture around them, the attitude of many people towards gays, etc. For him to be exposed in such a humiliating way is, I would guess, a primary reason for his decision to commit suicide.

      I may be wrong, but you cannot ignore the fact that he was gay, for it has too many implications.

    • Ody_dan says:

      Wil,

      I think you are missing something. I would encourage you to get to know some gay people, both those who want their same sex attractions and those who don’t-although those are harder to find…and I think that’s the first signal that a lot of American culture and even more American Christian culture is not ministering, treating or speaking well to gay people.

      I’m an admin of a FB group for Christian who are attracted to the same sex, but who don’t feel like they should act on those feelings and desires because of the Holy Spirits conviction. Do you think the group is open or private?….if you guess open, you’re wrong. And of the 300 or so members less than 10 are completely open about their sexuality with people in their faith community. Probably around 60%-70% have shared about their sexuality with their faith community at some point. This vast majority, including myself, choose very specifically who we will tell. Why is this? Why does this part of the body of Christ feel such shame and generally live in such secrecy? Because of how they perceive their Christian friends and church will respond to them. This is what must change!! The church is failing miserably and there are no excuses.

      For we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

      For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

      Christian are broken, yet most church cultures don’t actually embrace this. They may say the words, but their actions don’t follow suit.

      Does it have to be this way? No. I’ve heard about Christian cultures in parts of the world and even in America that are living this stuff out. So it is possible, but changing culture is never a simple of quick task. Ask Andrew Marin how he does it: http://www.loveisanorientation.com

      So Wil, I hope you’ve at least seen that there is something much deeper going on and there’s so much more you can do to become aware. I hope you’ll make the effort. It means a lot to those of us from my background.

      peace,

      • Wil says:

        Thanks for sharing. I do have friends who have same-sex attractions, Christian and not. I empathize that they are the minority and have not been allowed to be open with a huge part of who they are. I wish the people who follow Jesus knew how to handle that, but that’s based on a wholistic understanding that for men and women, all our sexualities are marred by sin. We don’t preach that because we still think in groups (straight, GLBT) rather than men and women and the varieties of brokeness we have.

        That being said, I don’t know what religious background all these people in this case has, and I don’t think that’s the point. I still think it’s overstating, that in this particular instance, to call this a “hate crime”. I think it’s terrible that this young man felt that this was only option to resolve this. These two kids that film him were incredibly stupid and juvenile, but homophobic? Antagonism/ hostility towards gays? I just don’t sense that. I still think that fact that his sexual liason with another guy was uploaded to the net and now, can NEVER be gotten rid of, is what drove him to suicide. And I have read stories of women whose ex-boyfriends had done the same thing, (filmed them having sex), and uploaded it to the net as well. They also felt like killing themselves.

  5. Maria Dodson says:

    This is absolutely my worst nightmare. My older son who is only 4 right now is a high functioning autistic – it’s hard for adults to see – but his fellow pre-schoolers are already getting frustrated with him because he doesn’t quite get “it”. He doesn’t do things the way the rest of the kids do. I’ve watched as kids act out in frustration against him because he is different. I don’t have any answers…this is all very new to me…but we’ve got to find a way talk to teach our kids how to love those that make us uncomfortable.

  6. Jin says:

    If those two kids didn’t have distorted views on homosexuality, there would’ve never been a video to post. Yes, this is a tragic hate crime, not an innocent charade by youngsters. But the problem is like these two students, most of us Americans are so homophobic (especially guys) we want to soften what these kids did down to just plain bullying. It’s a lot more than that, and one of the few ugly things we still have in our culture. Thanks for the post.

    • Wil says:

      Again, I don’t want to diminish the awful sin and loss here. But I think calling this a “hate crime” is simply overstating. I’ve heard of stories where women who were videotaped having sex without consent and having that content distributed, wanting to kill themselves. Are these hate crimes against women? When I read their tweets, i don’t sense homophobia – i sense juvenile voyeurism and thoughtless entering into liability. Not to be to frank, but it could have been a variety of sexual escapes involving any number of people which could have been streamed live which could have brought immense shame leading to reckless acts.

  7. Rob Haskell says:

    A different angle… Up here in Bellingham we had a 17 year old girl kill a toddler who was crossing the street by ramming into another car. Along with this story it makes me meditate on the massive impact our actions can have on the lives of others. Whether it is intended or not it often irrelevant.

  8. Marlene says:

    Thank you Eugene for taking the lead in sharing how uncomfortable it is for people in faith communities to be consistent in our message against violence. It is uncomfortable for me to live in a world (i.e. of Christians) where believing in diversity and practicing accepting love are equated with being weak on Biblical faith and loving sin.

    I do believe in the Bible Scriptures as a literal and symbolic text. I also know at best my choices will at times appear contradictory. I walk by faith in prayer not by sight, but also not by admonition and rallying cries. Christ is only documented to have lost his temper with Satan and the Pharisees (holy know it all of their generation).

    My mistakes are many, so others’ faults don’t tend to pre-occupy me. I do mourn when any individual gives up on the hope that each day brings for transformation.

    I will pray for the unloved and unlovely this day, especially the 2 students mentioned above who posted the video. They must continue living with consequences associated with their choices. That is when I remember ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’. May God help them have Paul like experience re their motivations. I pray Our Father will temper their anguish to allow them to experience grace in the midst of feeling shame and/or denial.

  9. Liz Dugger says:

    I got the Christian Ray tweet as well — sat here and cried for the family. So much could be said but bottom line is, the end of Tyler’s life must have been horrific beyond imagination.

    All I can think of in re: to potential speculation & judgment of this entire situation would be to “retweet” the words of Jesus, ‘“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (Jn 8:7)

    Grace and peace to the grieving family.

  10. Ptr Eugene,

    Thanks for taking a stand. I hope you get more practical ideas on how to continue this conversation within your community.

    May God’s hope be made known to all,
    daniel

  11. […] Cho, a pastor that I know via his blog, wrote this […]

  12. Todd says:

    I am utterly heartbroken by all of the stories listed here. I think back on my own suicidal thoughts when in junior high, I was laughed at and teased merely because my voice was still high after the other guys had deepened. They said I was gay for that. They were malicious, whether or not they intended to be.

    Today, I am an openly gay Christian, advocating against this senseless bullying. I am appalled by the tragic events of the last month. And yes, internet broadcast is definitely a form of cyber bullying. I do believe that Tyler Clementi’s suicide was a result of the joint effects of being outed and knowing that this video (or at least the idea/effects of it) would be forever accessible to the public, to his friends and family, giving anybody he encounters the freedom to judge him.

    Whatever your beliefs or thoughts about homosexuality, I urge you to allow these tragic stories to make your soul cry out for justice. Homosexuals belong to a minority group that can’t be seen by the eye. Any man or woman, regardless of sexual orientation, can be perceived to be gay, and thus fall victim to events like these and the hundreds of others, from suicides, to brutal beatings, to total ostracism from circles of friends. Your spouses, children, friends, and even you are potential targets. Let’s put an end to this TODAY, stop our sick complacency, and establish a world where our LGBTQ brothers and sisters feel safe and accepted.

    Eugene, thank you so much for this post. I will definitely be sharing it!

    Strong the Ties!
    Todd
    I-172

  13. queermergent says:

    Thank you, Eugene, for your brave post!

    Warmest Regards,
    Adele

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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