This last week has provoked feelings of sorrow and anger deep within me and within many in our community. I have presided at countless funeral liturgies since my ordination in 1985 and the most difficult of these are funerals for suicide victims.
Aside from the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one to death. Losing a loved one to suicide adds to the grief feelings of anger. That anger is directed at oneself, for not having been more aware and more sensitive to the needs of the deceased. Anger is also directed at the deceased for not having spoken directly and plainly the depth of their pain and need.
When confronted by the death of a loved one to suicide, we attempt to console ourselves with the realization that each of us has a “breaking-point.” That the person we loved was overwhelmed, that the pain or fear simply became too much to bear. That there, but for the grace of God, goes I.
In the cases of the young gay men who took their lives this last week, I remain personally affected. Even though I did not know them personally, I have known many gay people who have been pushed to their “breaking-point” and I’ve been there myself. I recall at nineteen years of age standing on the balcony of the thirteenth floor of Fontana Hall at the University of South Florida and staring down at the sidewalk and considered doing a jackknife into eternity.
Growing up gay in the 1960’s meant that it never even crossed my imagination that I could fall in love and make a home with someone I loved. It meant being subjected to taunts, emotional abuse from classmates, it meant countless fights because of something I never chose. It meant living in fear of rejection by parents, family, relatives, friends and classmates. Later in life it meant fear of loss of employment and career.
The American Psychological Association makes the following statement on its website:
"Is sexual orientation a choice?
No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.
No; even though most homosexuals live successful, happy lives, some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so. The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable. However, not all gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who seek assistance from a mental health professional want to change their sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people may seek psychological help with the coming out process or for strategies to deal with prejudice, but most go into therapy for the same reasons and life issues that bring straight people to mental health professionals."
The statement by the APA quoted above contains an important insight as to why those young people took their own lives. “Some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Study (1999), 33% of gay youth will attempt suicide. Each time I am asked to speak at an LGBTQ event, I think about that missing one-third of the room.
"They sacrificed theirs sons and daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters."
Are you angry about the suicides of the young people who took their lives last week? Do something constructive with that anger. Do something that can prevent suicides in the future. Find out more about the role of the Mormon Church leadership in oppressing LGBTQ persons, view the Documentary “8 The Mormon Propo$ition.” Expose the Mormon/Catholic leadership’s financing of laws that strip LGBTQ persons of their Civil Rights and human dignity. Ask your elected officials to direct the IRS to investigate possible tax-exempt status of these organizations. Were members of the Mormon Church coerced into making specific dollar amount donations to the Prop 8 campaign in California? Write to LGBTQ organizations and ask them to do the same.
Why is the Catholic Church joining with the Mormons in their crusade against gay people? I am very upset by this. They cozy up to these people but people such as Sister Jeannine Grammick and Catholic groups such as Dignity and New Ways Ministry get the back of their hands. And where is Courage when gay people are being discriminated against and abused? Where is their voice to speak up for people? Are they too afraid of the hierarchy to speak out? What has the official Church had to say about bullying? What have they had to say about the suicides? Thank you Father Geoff for your comments and speaking out but where are the bishops and our Church leaders when our young people are suffering? Do they care? Or are they too afraid of antagonizing the haters?
When King Henry VIII “requested” that all of the bishops of England recognize him as the “Head of the Church of England” ALL of the bishops immediately agreed, except one. Bishop John Fisher was arrested and beheaded due to his refusal. Their finances, comfortable lives and niche in society were more important to them than principles taught in the Gospel.
During the French Revolution the Archbishop of Paris was asked to stand before a crowd of Parisians and publicly state that God did not exist. He complied, for all of the above stated reasons.
What makes you think that bishops today are any different?
There is so much that needs to be done in this world (feed the hungry, provide homes for the homeless, etc.). Yet Christians spends millions of dollars to sow more pain & suffering in the world by preventing gays & lesbians from having the same rights as they have (not to mention preach hate from the pulpit).
The antigay actions of the Church & other Christian groups is precisely why my faith in God is barely hanging by a thread. Yes, there are some Christians who aren't that way, but they are in the minority & don't have the power (except for the official Episcopals, yet the larger Anglican Communion is just as bad as the others) to effect much change, if any at all.
Father Geoff, what advice do you have for people like me who think or are starting to think that there is no God since a lot of His followers do so much evil?
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