The Cold Shoulder of FaithPosted: 20 February 2012
As a human being, I feel that I know enough about love to speak about it with authority. My mantra has always been to show and give love, always. When I attended church I lived by it, and since I left, it remains with me. I wholeheartedly believe that there’s no situation in life which needs any other.
I’m not a parent. I’ve never been given the responsibility that comes with bringing new life into the world. Yet, I know what such a responsibility is, above all. To love your child deeply and unconditionally. All else falls into place. You feed them, clothe them and care for them, because to do otherwise would be unthinkable. You celebrate their successes more than you would your own. You cry with them when they fail. You protect them from the evils of the world. You are always there for them, no matter what. You will always love and accept them, whoever they grow up to be.
This is what we call unconditional love.
To be given it is to know the most precious gift in the world. I may not be a parent, but because I have a mother and had a father I know what one is.
You may wonder why I am going to such lengths to prove the above statement. Of course, I’m being as longwinded as always (<.<;;) but I wanted to create the solid foundations which my opinion needs to stand upon regarding an issue which has become so important to me lately.
A report by the American Suicide Prevention Resource Center in 2008 estimated that between 30% and 40% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers have attempted to take their own lives. Another study commissioned by the U. S. Government in 1989 found that GBLT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers.
A quick search on Google will find you their names.
Raymond Chase, aged 19.
Tyler Clementi, aged 18.
Cody Barker, aged 17.
Felix Sacco, aged 17.
Jamie Hubley, aged 15.
Justin Aaberg, aged 15.
Billy Lucas, aged 15.
Harrison Brown, aged 15.
Jamey Rodemeyer, aged 14.
Phillip Parker, aged 14.
Caleb Nolt, aged 14.
Seth Walsh, aged 13.
Asher Brown, aged 13.
These are just some of the thousands of other children and young people who took their own lives out of despair, loneliness, abandonment, ridicule, hate, abuse and rejection. Because they couldn’t endure the pain any longer. Kids who had their whole lives ahead of them; full of potential. Kids whose only ‘sin’ (for want of a better word) was their sexuality.
The thing that upsets me so much about these lost lives is that the people around them when they were alive cared so little about them (or hated them so much) that they really felt there was no other option. The love and acceptance that would have been theirs, that they needed so much, was taken away, because of their sexuality.
So many people out there wouldn’t blink an eyelid at their stories. When I was a practising Christian it cut me up that people I knew to be caring, sensible, decent people would become soulless, cruel and ignorant. I couldn’t understand why those professing to own God’s unconditional love could turn on fellow human beings and declare them second class, perhaps for the sake of a few misappropriated words in the Bible.
I still can’t understand. I was ostracized myself for expressing my views. I’m not a lesbian, but I felt the cold shoulder of faith shutting me out like a brick wall, just the same as if I was. Yet I’m still here. Yes, hurting still, but I didn’t lose who I was or what I believe in. I was lucky enough to have unconditional love from the people I love most. Other kids didn’t have that unconditional love. Other kids aren’t here anymore.
It’s time that their deaths aren’t swept under the carpet with pathetic excuses, a la Michelle Bachmann. It’s time that faith-based communities stopped spreading the outright lies that God hates gay people, being gay is an illness that can be cured, that being gay is a choice, that homosexuality is an attack on the sanctity of marriage, that anti-homophobia campaigns are political bandwagons and that AIDS is a divine punishment on gay people (unfortunately, this one I heard with my own ears).
It scares me to know that some of the people who turned on me at church are or may become parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – blessed with the responsibility of love but without that understanding of the word ‘unconditional’. It chills me to the very bone to know that there is a very good chance that their children may turn out to be gay. How would the parents react? Would they turn a heel and decide to love their children anyway? I’d like to believe so. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case.
The most harrowing example I’ve come across is that of Eric James Borges, who recorded a heartfelt message for the It Gets Better Campaign. The following is hard to watch.
Just a month after recording this video, Eric James committed suicide. He was 19.
I wish I understood why faith (which is all about love) could be the one thing which makes a parent not love but hate their child so deeply. I can only hope that one day homophobia will go the same way as racism, first becoming socially unacceptable, abhorred and then extinct. But how many young people will die before this happens?
Photo of the State House Vigil in Massachusetts, October 5th 2010, remembering the nine gay teens who had died over the previous month. Taken by Jay Asuncion.