Christian Exorcism Leads to Gay Teen’s Suicide

Christian Exorcism Leads to Gay Teen’s Suicide February 2, 2012

Eric James Borges was teased his entire life for being different. Though he didn’t come out publicly until his sophomore year of college, he recalls emotional and physical abuse as far back as kindergarten for his differences. And though most children undergo some degree of hazing from time to time, the seeming indifference of the adults in his life made matters dramatically worse.

In a video recorded for the “It Gets Better” Project, an LGBT advocacy group focused on offering hope and community to LGBT people on the margins, Borges recalls being physically assaulted in a full high school classroom while his teacher stood by and watched.

The distressed teen had nowhere to turn at home either. His Christian parents decided to perform a ritual exorcism on him with the hope of “curing” him of his orientation. When that failed, they kicked him out of the house.

Though Borges went on to advocate for LGBT rights through the “It Gets Better” Project and through his work with The Trevor Project (a group committed to helping LGBT teens considering suicide), the demons of his past still lingered. Despite finding a community that affirmed and embraced who he was, the damage had already been done. He killed himself earlier this year.

Following is a quote from his suicide note:

My pain is not caused because I am gay. My pain was caused by how I was treated because I am gay.

This is a point lost on many Christians who condemn what they call the “gay lifestyle.” Not only are we, as followers of Christ, called to set aside our judgment, hateful rhetoric and disdain for those in the LGBT community; we’re bound by a covenant of compassion to advocate for their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

If we don’t, we’re no better than the teacher who stood by indifferently as his students beat Eric Borges in his classroom.

In spite of the tragedy of Eric’s suicide, he left behind some gifts by which we all can remember him. In the face of all he had suffered, he still mustered words of love and hope for his fellow LGBT teens. Following is a quote from Borges’ “It Gets Better” video:

You will date, fall in love, fall out of love, have your heart broken, just like the rest of us. You will love, and be loved, and I love you. you have an entire life fit to burst with opportunities ahead of you. Don’t ever give up, and don’t ever for one second think that you aren’t a valuable and beautiful contribution to this world.

Unfortunately, some of the power of the positive message can’t help but be lost in his absence. What’s worse, his story is not atypical.

30% to 40% of LGBT youth have been reported to have attempted suicide.

LGBT people between the ages of 15 and 24 are four times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among LGBT people in this age group.

The same population is three times more likely to report hazing, abuse and/or harassment by peers than straight people of the same age.

It’s easy to feel there’s no hope for progress in the Christian community when we hear such stories. After all, silence on the matter simply isn’t enough. Ambivalence is equivalent to complicity. For this, we are collectively responsible for the sins of indifference, inaction and aggressive hate, all in the name of Jesus.

There are a few glimmers of hope in the overwhelming darkness. Organizations like the Marin Foundation seek to “build a bridge between the religious and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in a non-threatening, research and biblically oriented fashion.” And there are others.

Unfortunately, too often the advocacy work is left to members of the LGBT population themselves. For real, systemic change to take hold, those on the side of privilege (ie, those not harassed and abused for our inherent sexual orientation or identity) to care enough to say that things have to change.

Not just because we know someone who is gay. Not just because we feel bad for those pushed to the margins. But because we are called out by Jesus himself to confront such evil, to call it out, and to rob it of its power through the transforming power of love.

This is an active love, and not simply a rhetorical, tolerant, “love the sinner, hate the sin” kind of cop-out love. For those whom we love, we are willing to risk that which we hold dear for their sake. We are willing to forgo the acceptance of our peers to stand side-by-side with our marginalized sisters and brothers.

Loving in word is not enough. We have to demonstrate such sacrificial, Christ-like love with our whole lives.

Until then, the deaths of so many thousands of persecuted youth are on our heads.

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  • Thanks for these words, Christian. Forgive us, God, for when we are silent and your people suffer. Move us into action!

  • Thanks so much Christian. We certainly need to advocate for those who are marginalized and mistreated. You know, the folks Jesus hung out with.

    Also, might I suggest verifying the quote from his video. The last sentence says something I don’t think it means to say. Trouble with those double negatives. “Don’t ever give up, and don’t ever for one second think that you are (not) a valuable and beautiful contribution to this world.”

    • Christian Piatt

      Ack! Thanks for the catch. Corrected.

  • Michelle

    I would live to get your thoughts on my recent blog post.

    • Anonymous

      That was a very nice blog; thanks Michelle!

  • Anonymous

    I wish the passages from the Bible that gay people refer to as the  ‘clobber passages’ would be studied more in depth by these exorcism wielding fanatics. The greek and aramaic texts don’t mention the word ‘homosexual’…

    Straight people don’t usually study these scriptures in their historical and culteral context.  Many gay clergy have taken the time to study these clobber passages, thank God, and have given many gay people hope and life.  It is understandable why a straight person wouldn’t search the scriptures out, in reference to something that doesn’t directly affect them… just as someone without a brain tumor doesn’t research brain tumors (usually).

    I was involved in alcohol and drugs until I found out that I am loved, after all. I understand the despair Eric felt. He’s right, it does get better, with love.

    Thank you, Christian, for being one of the straight people that cares enough to research the facts of the Bible. And for being an advocate for all of God’s children, and for loving us.

    • Dariu Dumitru

      Hi Anonymous,

      This reply you give sounds tolerant and loving, but in actuallity, I wish to show that it is incorrect and ultimately hurtful.

      Liberal theology has lateley been busy propagating this false idea that “homosexuality” is not condemned, or sometimes, not even mentioned in the bible. Some say “well, Jesus didn’t condemn homosexuality!”

      The obvious consideration is that neither did Jesus condemn paedophilia or wasting time on facebook! Jesus upheld the law, why would he (1) need to reitterate the comandments or (2) detail every possible sin? Jesus got to the very base of sexual sin:

      “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mat 5:26)

      That’s not ambiguous text by any debate! Would you say adultery is not a sin? Adultery was and is clearly defined as any sexual activity outside of the loving relationship of true marriage. Is marriage not clearly defined in Genesis? 1 man + 1 woman;  not directly related by blood; for life.

      Everything sexual outside of these parameters is evil and sinful.

      On the topic of homosexuality, then, is Paul a naive imbecile when writing Romans 1? Was Roman and Greek culture not saturated by debauchery? Is 1 Cor 6:9 not inclusive enough? Is 1 Tim 1:10 not in the bible? The Greek word for homosexual is “arsenokoitēs”, meaning a person who abuses/defiles himself with mankind – do we require extra clarification? Could it actually be referring to some other different abuse or defilement (it becomes absurd at this point).
      Humans are worth infinitely more then base
      sexual desires. We are not defined by our inclination of lust, whether
      it be towards the opposite sex or not. You are not defined by your
      greed, or by a broken leg, are you? Why do we define people then, by any
      other sin or brokenness?

      Watering down, dismissing, fogging-up and confusing the seriousness of sin is the work of a sinful heart and a conscience that excuses. If we are not sinners, why do we need a savior? The loving thing to do is bring the truth to light and say, “yes, homosexuality is, in fact, an evil lust of the heart and part of fallen human nature. It prevents us from entering heaven, and is an abomination” If you say “no, that’s not loving”, then you have an issue with Jesus (who did this many times over) and your own saving faith is in serious jeopardy.

      Nonetheless, are we not promised to be washed, sanctified and justified in Christ, inspite of all our failures? 1 Cor 6:8 says YES! Christ’s sacrifice covers all sin.

      • Guest

        Loving monogamous relationships are not a sin. Yeah, the gay pride parade shows a bunch of adulterous gay people, just as the mardi gras parade shows adulterous straight people. In biblical times there were temple prostitutes; straight men having sex with castrated men. It was not natural for them and it was not loving; it was simply lust…

        • Frank

          And where do you find in scripture that God blesses condones committed homosexual behavior?

          • Anonymous

            Wow. “Homosexuality is an evil lust of the heart”. Thats too bad, as twin studies show that it is not a choice. God kinda set them up to fail, it seems. “It prevents us from entering heaven”. Wow. That really sucks for them, huh? Too bad God isn’t like all powerful or all loving or forgiving or She could do something about that… “and your own saving faith is seriously in jeopardy”. Wow*3! I’m going to hell because I support gay rights! Thats a real bummer. 
            To answer you question, in the same place God says that these specific 66 books are a completely inerrant rule book for all life for all time. :-p

          • Frank

            So in other words you have nothing but secular and emotional reasoning. That’s what I thought!

          • Anonymous

            Must be it!

  • Guido

    Having known EricJames somewhat.  We had mutual friends.  We worked on Trevor together.  I presented in the classroom where he was an asst. and Eric corrected some of the stats I presented.  Made strong points about the use of language.  This tragedy is more than a headline, it has some emotional trauma to me.  Here are some side stories about this.

    EricJames was a strong person on the outside and as he carried himself, he seemed like a warrior.  He was a reluctant warrior for the cause.  He had been wounded and we told him to join us on the struggle.  Why?  Because we could see greatness, and he was most likely pushed too far, too fast, unable to allow himself  to heal.  So, this great community…was a bit self-serving, because we are fighting for the cause.  We are looking for advocates and people to fight the good fight against bigotry.  He did not need to fight that fight.  He needed people to fight for him awhile.  Not everybody will agree with that.  I maybe wrong, but EricJames was loved.  He was safe, he was on the other side of bullshit.  He also was depressed as you can see by the “It Gets Better” video.  I have asked not to do a presentation for awhile, because I do not want to answer the questions about EricJames.  He really made a choice that screwed our cause. 

     The question being raised in the GLBT community is if a parent performs an exorcism on their own child, calls them evil, filled with demons…is that not child abuse.  How much freedom to practice religion do we need to have?  Beating a slave in the 1800’s was a spiritual duty, que no?  

    Here is another side story.  So, the church I serve alongside…we had a teacher who taught EricJames in elementary.  He cared for the kid.  We also have members who are friends socially and spiritually with EricJames parents.  The work of the Marin Foundation is incredibly important.  There are churches out there that are bridge builders who see to work this holistically.

    As a pro-life Christian (no abortion, no death penalty, no war, etc.) I find this story of my life painful.  I trust Jesus will make it right.