A Progressive Christian View On Gay Teen Suicides

After hearing enough christian extremists shamelessly mocking the suicides of children, and blaming them for they bullying they received, it is nice to hear a voice of sanity from a progressive Christian who “gets it” — one who understands what is so glaringly obvious — that making children believe that they are sub-human pieces of garbage is damaging to them.

Below is an excerpt from a beautifully written essay from Religion Dispatches, “Gay Suicide and the Ethic of Love: A Progressive Christian Response”, by Eric Reitan.

[…]

… for many years now, I’ve been listening to my gay and lesbian neighbors. I’ve listened to their stories and tried to put myself in their shoes. I’ve heard how the prohibition on “homosexuality” cuts deeper than a mere condemnation of a specific act like adultery. It condemns the very sexuality of gays and lesbians. It condemns who they are. It condemns their love.

When the categorical condemnation of homosexuality is widespread in society, young gays and lesbians learn from an early age that they’ll never be equal and fully accepted members of their community. They cannot change their intimate feelings (even though many try and try, especially those who grow up in conservative Christian environments). And so, if they do form an intimate partnership, their society will spurn it. Every tender moment, every act of faithfulness, every effort to strengthen the bonds of love will be seen as more evidence of their commitment to sin. While their straight friends and siblings can hope to fall in love and have their most important partnerships lifted up, celebrated, and supported by the community, the best that sexual minorities can hope for is to slip under the radar, unnoticed by those who would call their loving partnerships abomination.

Some internalize this condemnation. They accept the message that their deepest impulse toward love and intimacy is an affront to God. And since that impulse is an ineradicable feature of who they are, some come to see their very existence as a blight on the world.


[…]

Sometimes this sense of isolation and rejection can be almost too much to bear, and all it takes is a final gesture of denunciation or scorn to spark an act of self-obliteration.

This is not a pretty picture, but it’s the one that emerges when we really pay attention to the lives and stories of our gay and lesbian neighbors. And in the light of this picture, it’s hard to escape the obvious conclusion: It isn’t homosexuality but its condemnation that has the toxic character of sin. It’s not Zach Harrington’s romantic impulses that threaten the beloved community. That threat comes from somewhere else—from, for example, angry citizens at a city council meeting declaring that a symbolic gesture of acceptance is akin to deliberately infecting our public schools with depravity.

Jesus said that we should distinguish true and false teachings by their fruits. And the teaching that homosexuality is a sin—that, in the words of the Southern Baptist Convention, even the desire for homosexual sex is “always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent, and perverted”—this is a teaching that time and again has born poisonous fruits. The shattered promise of Zach Harrington’s life is just one more example in a painful litany.

[…]

And so, if you accept the conservative view about the Bible’s content and its relation to God, either you’ll need to stifle the lessons of compassion and empathy, or you’ll need to refuse to listen with compassion and empathy in the first place.

But can you really have the right theory about a book if the book teaches you to love your neighbors as yourselves, but your theory about it demands that you stifle the character traits most intimately associated with love? If your theory about the Bible leads you to ignore or refuse to hear the suffering cries of your gay and lesbian neighbors, wouldn’t that be a reason to rethink your theory? Put more forcefully, how many gays and lesbians, crushed by the weight of anti-gay teachings, have to kill themselves before we decide that, just maybe, our theory about the Bible isn’t the best fit with the idea that God is love—and hence isn’t the best fit with the content of the Bible itself?

Any theory of the Bible that requires me to ignore my neighbors in favor of teasing out the correct meaning of Romans 1:24-27 seems to do an injustice to the Bible’s heart. If there’s a core message to the Christian Scriptures, it’s that Jesus—a person, not a book—is the fundamental revelation of God. It’s Jesus that John’s Gospel calls the “Word of God,” not the Bible. And in the Gospels, not only does Jesus say nothing about homosexuality, but He is recorded as saying that He comes to us in the form of the neighbor in need—“even the least of these” (Matthew 25:37-40).

Conservatives tell me that when I reject the condemnation of homosexuality I’m selling out to secular values. But the reality is the opposite. Were I not a Christian, I might not be so passionate about gay rights. My passion, born from my commitment to an ethic of love, is intensified every time a young person like Zach Harrington comes to me crying out in need or despair, too often in the most tragic terms.

Confronted with their anguish, how can I fail to see the face of Christ?

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