Sunday, October 17, 2010
While I was still functioning as the pastor of a parish, someone accused me of being a “gay activist”. I was startled by that. I felt that I had been fairly low-key about being lesbian in a congregation. I didn’t demand that the church fly the rainbow banner. I didn’t call for registry with the ‘affirming’ parishes. While a parish priest or a pastor, one cannot, in my mind, be a one-issue person. The demands of serving a parish require what used to be called a “Renaissance Man” or a person who could address a multiplicity of issues. But LGBT issues have been in the view of the Church of late and what I included in sermons was appropriate, I thought, to address the zeitgeist.
But the events of the past couple of months, with the coming to light of numerous deaths by suicide by young gay teens calls for something more than a passing comment in a sermon, or prayers “for those who are alone.” It requires speaking out like the Ft. Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Bishop Gene Robinson have done to preserve our young people who find that they are different.
LGBTQ teens are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. Mostly this is due to just not being able to ‘fit in’. The demand for the young to be acceptable to their peers and/ or their families is often so overwhelming that young people do not know what to do if they find that they are attracted to those of the same sex. Add to that the bullying that is so prevalent in our society (not just in our schools) and the demand by schools and parents that the “gay agenda” be kept from our young, means that LGBTQ kids never get to see good and wholesome LGBT folk to emulate.
Kids know that it isn’t just getting through school. Being gay or lesbian is a life-long recognition that you will always be a minority, that you will never ‘fit in’ and that is crushing to adolescents whose only goal at that point in life is to be just like one’s peers. I have not checked the statistics but I would imagine that the level of depression among LGBT kids is much higher than the average population. I know that my own bouts of depression were often rooted in my identity and my inability to embrace my own sexuality. They began in 7th grade and did not stop until I came out.
But it is the culture of bulling that most disturbs me. Trash talk is considered de rigure these days. Sit coms are full of it. Even when there are gay-friendly shows, the humor is still about being different, being on the fringe. We use bullying in sports so that we can win. We use bullying just to get the basic needs from institutions in order to get what we want or need. The police bully the ‘bad guys’. Our political candidates resort to smear campaigns and bullying rhetoric. We resort to lawyers who bully to maintain our rights from other bully lawyers and we bully nations as a normal foreign policy.
An adult gay couple of my friends had to move just this week because their neighbors threatened them and the police would not do anything even when there were witnesses to the harassment. I am leery about putting a rainbow ribbon on my car here in TX or fly a rainbow flag or wear rainbow earrings in this environment where macho still reigns.
The problem with bullying is that the only way that bullies will stop is to ‘bully back’. “Might makes right” is learned early on the school ground and is carried on throughout our lives. Personally I am not easily bullied, whether due to size or sharp tongue, I am not always clear. But I do not like when I must “bully back” just to be heard, or just to get what is just or safe. I do not like what I must become to live peacefully in this world.
Christ was not a bully. Even in the anger he displayed in the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus was not a bully. He called people to hear a radical message in which manipulation and force were greeted with humility and generosity—difficult tools in this post-modern age.
Yes, I am an activist in my retirement. I am an activist that says that LGBTQ kids do not have to abort their lives in their teens because there are those who interpret some scriptural passages wrongly and heap it on youngsters grappling with their own image. As a person of faith I must be willing stand against those whose religion says that they can demonize people who are different because they manipulate some 7 passages of Scripture to ostracize those who march to a different drummer.
I live now on the ‘Buckle of the Biblebelt’ and I must be willing to say to the bullies of the religious right that the time has come to say NO to religious exclusivism for the sake of the Gospel.