So much has been said about the several young gay men who have committed suicide in recent weeks that I feel I have little to add to the conversation that hasn't already been said, and said much better by others. The many frank but hopeful videos that have been uploaded onto YouTube under the project called "It Gets Better," resources for congregations that have appeared on various websites, including The Episcopal Cafe, the Trevor project's resources for suicide prevention, and many other videos and blog posts by all kinds of writers - both celebrity and regular Joes - all show that people are trying to reach out to the LBGT teen/young adult community and offer hope and encouragement. Good.
But here's what I do have to say. The Christian message is supposed to be about love and about hope. God saw all that God created and said it is good, very good. There is always hope in God, there is always redemption, no matter how awful everything else seems to be, because of God's unfailing, overflowing, recklessly steadfast love for us. Yes, there's more to Christianity than that, but at its core, we hear Jesus say, after he feeds and washes the feet of even Judas Iscariot, "I give you a new commandment, to love one another as I have loved you."
Sadly - no, more than sadly, heartbreakingly - there is a significant segment of the Christian community that is committed to some other idea about God. Yet again, here a case of ideology and theories trumping people. It galls me almost beyond speech that folks like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church family go around picketing funerals with signs that say that God kills soldiers because there are gay people in the military. I cannot believe that anyone thinks it is not only ok but their duty to stand around with signs saying that God hates and God kills.
That same group actually picketed my son's high school last spring, standing outside at carpool time with signs proclaiming that God hates the people at the school because "the students' parents have broken [the students'] moral compass by telling [them] that God loves everyone." Excuse me? We are immoral for telling our children that God loves them and that God loves all God's creatures? A church group travels all over the country to confront grieving families and high school students to tell people that not only does God not love everyone, but that God hates people and kills them and kills others because of them? I hardly know how to respond - there are not the right kind of italics, bolds, fonts or @#%& words on my computer to do my spluttering feelings justice. But here is an excellent essay by a student who organized a counter-protest. Notice how she starts out her story, about her uncle who died of AIDS... what she gets, and what many others don't seem to, is that we are talking about real people, not theories.
And meanwhile other churches and church people in the mainstream, not even the wack-jobs but highly esteemed leaders and theologians, continue to refer to LBGT people in terms of "issues" and "wounds" and even "cancers" without seeming to give much thought to how those words might impact any actual LBGT persons. I guess they're sure those people would understand....
If Church / Religion is not to do with real people but primarily about doctrine and ideology, then how is it any different from capitalism or communism or Marxism or Stoicism or microeconomics? Actually, such a "religion" is better called "Christianism" (a term coined by The Atlantic writer/blogger Andrew Sullivan), which uses Christianity to further an agenda of repressive morality, a kind of bait-and-switch. (Here's a great article from 2004 about that the difference between Christianity and Christianism at The Daily Kos blog.) Anne Lamott says that "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." Yes.
People are dying. Not ideas, not doctrines, not ideologies - those are not dying. People - human beings, God's own beloved creatures, beautiful, talented, full of promise young people who have mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, who bleed the same red blood as we do - are, they are dying by their own hands, they are dying because they can't take the hate any more.