Monday, December 13, 2010

It Gets Better: Christianity, Homosexuality, & Suicide @ItGetsBetter #itgetsbetter

Homosexuality is a hot topic politically and religiously. It leads to heated debates and high emotions. Those debates and emotions can also lead to condemnation (and the Bible tells us not to condemn). As a psychologist, I have seen the effects of condemnation from other people in a variety of settings. It never turns out well. It is not a motivator.

As many people have heard, there has been increased attention to suicides by gay youth. For those of us in Southern California and even the conservative Inland Empire, this occurs here.

I primarily work with children, ages 8-13, in inpatient, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs. That means they are seen at a minimum 6 hours per week. Pretty intensive stuff, meaning they are dealing with pretty intensive issues. Even at that young of an age, I have seen kids who are in therapy because of the way other kids have treated them because of assumptions that they were gay.

One child in particular denied he was gay, but was teased because he was more effeminate than most others his age. Granted, some could argue this kid is in an early stage of homosexual identity development, but the point is the bullying and condemnation does not occur just those who are "out" or who are even necessarily gay.

Regardless of what one believes about the homosexuality being a choice or one's nature or sinful or normal, I would hope we can all agree that anyone committing suicide, contemplating suicide, or self-injuring is a tragedy. It's a particular tragedy when the whole process is so preventable. Remove the condemnation, and depression and suicide rates will drop.

In John 10:10, Jesus asserts, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" or "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." By participating in bullying and condemnation, we are participating in Satan's work of stealing, killing, and destroying, often quite literally.

Religion Dispatches recently posted an opinion piece about how American Christians are a central cause of homosexual suicides. It was for this reason that Jim Swilley of Church in the Now in Georgia came out as gay in November. Contrary to some reports, he was not seeking support of himself (he actually had hidden his sexual orientation for decades). Rather, he came out to emphasize to non-straight youth that life is not over by having a non-heterosexual sexual orientation.

There will, of course, be debate about how that will look in real life. However, the first step we all need to take in preventing suicide in gay youth and everyone in general is stop condemning. It Gets Better is a new organization aimed at proclaiming to LGBTQ youth that they do not need to commit suicide because despite whatever difficulties are going on right now, life will get better.

Life is difficult for everyone. We all face trying circumstances, tragedies, and traumas. When we condemn one another, particularly in times of struggle, we often condemn one another to literal death. For the true love of God and Christ, please remember to love people and remind everyone that it gets better.

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