Jamie Hubley, 15 years old, decided to end it all on Friday, October 14th. Like thousands of other LGBT and Searching young people he felt alone, isolated, and made to feel ashamed by society. Based on his postings as reported by the Ottawa Citizen he was like any other adolescent or adult. He wanted to hold and be held by someone. Jamie simply wanted to do something that makes individuals fundamentally human – to love and be loved.
Each teen suicide is tragic. No two are alike. Yet there is a common factor that contributes to all of them. Social conditioning of adults and the children they raise fueled in large part by religious doctrine and spiritual leaders unwilling to admit error as the mystery of God’s universe continues to unfold with majesty and elegance.
So long as organized religion takes the unfortunate position that acting on such feelings is a sin, despite the science and research that shows being gay or lesbian is normal, these tragedies will continue.
I strongly suspect that there are some clergy who reject or at least quietly question the love and logic of an anti-LGBT and Searching doctrine, but dare not publicly or even privately challenge the corporate religious dogma. Fear of banishment, a reluctance to go beyond comfort zones, the irony of being rejected by fellow clergy, or the difficulty in accepting that God isn’t changing just their understanding of God might be some factors in not speaking out.
A New Jersey pastor this month defended the Facebook posting of a high school teacher who described homosexuality as a “sin” and “perverted spirit” that “breeds like cancer.” According to the pastor any Christian who “makes a stand that’s unpopular can expect to be persecuted.” This is another religious pretense.
What about the teens at the teacher’s school struggling with being gay and lesbian who are now aware of her posting? Shouldn’t they be the priority? Aren’t they the most emotionally vulnerable? Doesn’t being a teacher, regardless of religious or personal views, come with a special responsibility? Does the parent of a gay or lesbian student at the school have to stand idly by when their son or daughter’s teacher is posting such things? Why are these teen suicides occurring? Both the teacher and the pastor need to take some level of responsibility.
Chris Christie, Republican governor of New Jersey, called the teacher’s remarks “disturbing.” According to the Governor, “I think that kind of example is not a positive one at all to be setting for folks who have such an important and influential position in our society.”
Despite the pretense, the scandals, and the flawed humanness found by those who “operate” religion there remains a conditioned belief that they are God’s representatives. They are given a special credibility by many to speak on behalf of the Creator. Hence, if teen suicide is to be stopped there needs to be a greater outreach to clergy challenging them in direct and provocative ways on their thought process to reach conclusions that contribute to suicide.
Science can’t be chased away with an exorcism. Nor should the issue be confused or interchanged with support or opposition for same-sex marriage. Religious leaders have yet to adequately address the scriptural exegesis done by persons of faith who don’t believe loving, monogamous same-sex relationships are a sin.
On October 20th the second annual Spirit Day will be held. It was first organized by Brittany McMillan, a teenager who wanted to show support for LGBT and searching youth and to help stop bullying. She was motivated by the number of young people taking their lives.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) now organizes the event on a national basis. The group is working with many other organizations and corporations like MTV, Delta, AT&T, Comcast, and American Airlines to bring greater awareness that hopefully will stop future tragedies.
GLAAD is asking supporters of the annual event to “Go Purple.” Ribbons worn, Facebook pages, corporate logos, and even some airports will display purple as an expression of support for young LGBT and searching youth everywhere. It should also be a period of reflection by those in religious authority regarding long held views. Faith and science need not be in conflict.
© Paul Peter Jesep 2011.
The views expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of any Church. Paul is author of Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith without Wisdom and Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It.