Let’s be mindful of who is listening to our words

Wyoming’s legislative session made the national news last week when an LGBT activist group sent an informal letter of complaint to Senate leaders about Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne).

High school students from Cheyenne Central’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club visited the state capitol on February 1. They had come to lobby for a law granting special protections on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI). In that capacity, they called Hutchings off the senate floor to argue in favor of the law.

The entire discussion has not been released. So, we don’t know what the kids said that prompted Hutchings’ words. Nor do we know the whole of her reasoning. Only a couple of sentences were sent to the senate leadership wherein she was using a reductio ad absurdam argument to show that SOGI language is not well defined and so, unworkable in law.

The certainty with which they reproduce her words suggest that a recording was made of the exchange. If so, it should be released so that the public can learn the entire context.

According to their complaint, Hutchings “compared [the students] to acts of ----tiality and ----philia.” Aside from the grammatical impossibility of comparing people to activities, there was nothing in the quote which the group provided that supported their accusation. Hutchings made no such comparisons—a fact which she stated in her response.

You will note that I am not republishing the pull-quote here. Nor am I spelling out the words that the group used to characterize it. There are some subjects which should not be openly discussed where children are present. That is the reason why I’m writing about this today.

Both the quote which the activist group attributed to Hutchings and the words which they used in their complaint are cringeworthy and should not be uttered in decent company. Yet we live in a world where these words are constantly in our ears and in our faces.

Families that want to shield their children from such mature subject matters don’t stand a chance. The very fact that 14- and 15-year-olds are talking about these matters in a school club is disturbing. Do their parents know what they are talking about?

The GSA Network regularly lobbies against any laws or policies that can inform parents of what their children are saying and doing at school. Their website is filled with subject matter which is inappropriate for minors. In fact, the Q&A section discusses sexually explicit material in answers openly aimed at 13- and 15-year-olds.

Hutching’s words were inappropriate. Not because she was making false comparisons, but because adults have no business talking about such matters with minors whose parents are not present.

As a pastor, when I teach children the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” I make it a point to have the parents present in class. I do so out of respect for the innocence of children and in recognition of the authority of parents to protect their own kids.

It is regrettable that Senator Hutchings forgot this unspoken rule, but it is, unfortunately, understandable. Our culture has become so saturated with inappropriate subject matter that we have forgotten how to blush. I include myself in this indictment. Dining room table discussions regularly transgress age-appropriate subject matter.

As modesty standards have fallen in dress codes, they have also fallen in modes of speech, and we haven’t even noticed. As a result, our children are sexualized at ever younger ages.

I was outraged to hear that an Evanston middle-schooler was explicitly asked by her teacher whether “same-sex marriage” would be allowed in the constitution of the nation she was supposed to build. How dare an adult male engage an 11-year-old girl with such a question? That was every bit as inappropriate as Hutching’s remarks, but nobody even seemed to notice.

As we adults raise our voices in objection to this evil, we find that our own voices contribute to the problem. It’s a catch-22. Our older kids come home from school and raise topics at the dinner table that need to be answered with grace and truth. But the fact remains that neither they nor their younger siblings should have to be dealing with such subjects at all.

I can remember how shocked I was the first time our family drove through Las Vegas. My minivan full of kids was seeing inappropriate sexuality on display everywhere they turned. There was no way that we parents could shield them from it.

What was even more shocking, however, was when I spoke with people who lived in Las Vegas. They had stopped being shocked. If fact, they had even stopped noticing.

While we are so busy arguing both sides of a new morality, we have forgotten entirely that there are children in the room who shouldn’t have to listen in. Wyoming law prohibits “mental injury” to children. It is listed as a form of prosecutable child abuse. Mental injury happens when children are made to experience false or inappropriate materials.

Our entire culture is engaged in a form of child-endangerment that needs to stop.

Public decency laws can help. School boards should also re-examine their policies about what subjects are appropriate for teachers to speak about. We should also have robust and reasonable parental notification and opt-out policies.

But in the end, there is no amount of legislation that will solve the problem. The problem is simply too pervasive. Each and every adult must reclaim a sense of modesty in public speech.

We need to remember that not every subject and not every word is appropriate for publication in newspapers, or discussion in classrooms.

If the recent dust-up in Cheyenne can contribute to a heightened awareness of this need, some good can come of an unfortunate situation.

Now that the GSA is concerned with the tender ears of 14- and 15-year-olds, it would be a good time for it to take the inappropriate language off its own website. Let’s work together to protect all minors from the constant assault of sexual language. In so doing we can make a better Wyoming and a better world.

Jonathan Lange is an LCMS pastor in Evanston and Kemmerer and serves the Wyoming Pastors Network. Follow his blog at OnlyHuman-JL.blogspot.com.

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