Telling kids they are worthy of death.
I want to remind my readers of something I wrote the other day, and then offer evidence that has now surfaced to substantiate my assumptions. In regards to the spate of young gay teens, and pre-teens even, who have killed themselves, due to anti-gay bullying, I wrote:
When individuals join these sects they rarely think long term. They may imagine have children, always the perfect children that everyone expects. What they get instead are little human beings who are far from perfect and certainly individuals who fall well short of what fundamentalism expects. Few of these parents consciously consider that they may end up being the parent of a gay boy or a lesbian. Those who consider it due to circumstance tend to repress it and consciously refuse to think about it. The mother of the one victim seems to fit that pattern. The most she admitted was that her son was "different" and that he knew he was.The boy in question told people he was gay. But, as I noted, his mother evaded that issue in statements she made. The most she could say in public was that he "was different." (UPDATE: This evening I saw the first comment from the mother acknowledging that her son was gay.) This boy has been buried and his funeral has been held. It was the grandparents who spoke out about the boy being gay, not the mother and certainly not the fundamentalist church where his funeral was held.
If the family is involved with this church, and it would appear they are since they chose it for the funeral, did they even consider the role that church might have played in the suicide of their son?
Here is a boy dealing with his own sexual orientation, but who could well have listened to sermons describing gay people as moral monster out to destroy the world. No doubt this church actively opposed equality of marriage rights for gay people. This boy would have sat in the pews listening to the people, that he was told spoke for God, telling him that he is evil, that he is immoral, that is doomed to hell, that he is, as the Bible says, "worthy of death."
The pastor of the church told the media that the service was "going to be on (boy's name) and his life, not on the bullying, and not on the homosexuality." Notice the disconnect. It is "the homosexuality" not the boy's homosexuality. Notice as well that they pastor simply can't admit the boy is dead because he was gay and bullied because of it. Considering that the boy being gay was the very reason he was pushed into suicide, how can that be evaded when it was part of the boy's life? But, this is a fundamentalist church, and what could they say that wouldn't sound cruel and vicious? Of course, they want to avoid the issue; they preached doctrines that gay people are evil and don't deserve equality of rights. The boy had to know this.
Fundamentalist Christianity can play a duo role in the suicides and bullying. One is that it gives support to the anti-gay attitudes that inspire the bullies to beat up gay kids. But equally important is that it teaches gay kids to hate themselves and to see themselves as "worthy of death," as the Bible says of gay men in particular.
Without the remarks from the grandparents this second role of religion wouldn't be so obvious. According to a media report both grandparents "insist their grandson knew from an early age that he was gay." Fundamentalists tend to hate that, they insist that isn't true. They argue that young kids can't know they are gay even though millions of gay adults tell stories to the contrary. Yes, kids can know they are attracted to the same-sex before puberty, just as they can know they are attracted to the opposite sex before puberty. Sexual orientation is not something that happens at puberty, it is set long before that, probably in the womb.
Fundamentalists can not accept that; they say being gay is a sin, and sin is choosing to do evil. So they insist homosexuality must be a choice, and it is one that people make when they hit puberty and begin to have stronger sexual desires. Gays choose to "rebel against God." Any other theory makes their deity a divine version of Hitler engaged in some sort sexual version of ethnic cleansing. If gay people are born gay, and don't choose to be gay, then condemning them for being gay is like damning people for their eye color. Precisely! And studies show that most people who accept that sexual orientation is NOT a choice support equality of rights, while those who think it is conscious sinning, or a choice, oppose equality of rights.
This boy, unlike the other victims of the spate of bullying we have seen, was steeped in a fundamentalist culture. And that clearly played a role in his choose to end his young life. His grandmother said: "He wasn't happy with his orientation. He read the Bible a lot. This was not the way he wanted to live his life but that's what he was dealt with."
Why was he unhappy? Well, reading the Bible a lot, could be one reason. I can assure you that gay kids raised in fundamentalist churches know every anti-gay verse in the Bible. They have heard those voices preached from the pulpit repeatedly. It has to haunt them that the God they worship allegedly said that men who have sex with men "are worthy of death."
This boy was reading a "holy" book that told him he worthy of death. And he was constantly harassed for being gay by other kids, who would hear similar things about gays from the culture around them. His grandmother said he "started getting teased by the fourth and fifth grade," that kids would call him a queer and harass him for it. She said, "He spent a lot of his life frightened."
The day this boy hanged himself he was attacked in park by a group of kids.
Fundamentalism is not the only source of anti-gay bigotry, but in the civilized world, it is the dominant force for such attitudes. The very reason the Republican Party can not accept that principles of rights apply to gay people is because the party is dominated by fundamentalist Christians. These Bible-bigots are "their base."
In my previous post I argued that fundamentalism played a specific role in this boy's views of his own life. I based this on years of experience and knowing he was associated with a fundamentalist church. But it was the comments of his grandparents, which I only discovered yesterday, that confirmed my theory. This boy was a victim of bullying, for sure. But he was also a victim of the religion that he was taught. He was a victim of a Bible that told him he was "worthy of death." He was a victim of a church that puts it's anti-gay attitudes right in it's articles of faith and publishes it on the Internet.
Many years ago, as part of my research for an article I was writing, someone gave me a photocopy of a handwritten suicide letter. This letter was left by a young man who also read the Bible constantly and who was unhappy with his sexual orientation, because he thought God condemned him for it. Like the boy to whom I have been referring, this young man was also involved with a fundamentalist Baptist church. And he explained precisely why he had to take his own life, in order to avoid the "sin" of being gay. Allow me to reprint the entire suicide note he left:
"TO: Those left with the question, why did he do it?The young boy who killed himself did not leave a note. He said nothing. He just went home and hanged himself. He ended the bullying, he ended the torment that others inflicted on himself and he ended the torment he inflicted on himself with his constant Bible reading and his own self-hatred for being gay, something as natural to him as his eye color or skin color.
"I loved life and all that it had to offer to me each day.
"I loved my job and my clients. "I loved my friends and thank God for each one of them.
"I loved my little house and would not have wanted to live anywhere else.
"All this looks like the perfect life. Yet, I must not let this shadow the problem that I have in my life. At one time, not to long ago, that was all that really mattered in my life. What pleased me and how it affected me. Now that I have turned my life over to the Lord and the changes came one by one, the above statements mean much more to me. I am pleased that I can say those statements with all the truth and honesty that is within me.
"However, to make this short, I must confess that there were things in my life that I could not gain control, no matter how much I prayed and tried to avoid the temptation, I continually failed.
"It is this constant failure that has made me make the decision to terminate my life here on earth. I do this with the complete understanding that life is not mine to take. I know that it is against the teachings of our Creator. No man is without sin, this I realize. I will cleanse myself of all sin as taught to me by His word. Yet, I must face my Lord with the sin of murder. I believe that Jesus died and paid the price for that sin too. I know that I shall have everlasting life with Him by departing this world now, no matter how much I love it, my friends, my family. If I remain it could possibly allow the devil the opportunity to lead me away from the Lord. I love life, but my love for the Lord is so much greater, the choice is simple.
"I am not asking you to sanction my actions. That is not the purpose of my writing this at all. It is for the express purpose of allowing each one who will read this to know how I weighed things in my own mind. I don't want you to think that, 'I alone,' should have been the perfect person, without sin. That would be ridiculous! It is the continuing lack of strength and/or obedience and/or will power to cast aside certain sins. To continually go before God and ask forgiveness and make promises you know you can't keep is more than I can take. I feel it is making a mockery of God and all He stands for in my life.
"Please know that I am extremely happy to be going to the Lord. He knows my heart and knows how much I love life and and all that it has to offer. But, He knows that I love Him more. That is why I believe that I will be with Him in Paradise. "I regret if I bring sorrow to those that are left behind. If you get your hearts in tune with the word of God you will be as happy about my 'transfer' as I am. I also hope that this answers sufficiently the question, why?
"May God Have Mercy On My Soul."
"A Brother & A Friend."
The only thing he left behind was the life he saved. His heart was transplanted into the body of a young boy in Los Angeles, giving that boy a life that nature was ready to deny him.
NOTE: I have not said names as I have no wish to inflict more trauma on the family of this boy. I admit his identity is easy to discover. The lesson that others should learn from this story, however, is important. It is too late for this boy's family to learn the lesson of the evil, anti-life nature of fundamentalism, so I have no wish to contribute to their misery. But the role of fundamentalism in these tragedies should not be avoided.
Photos: All these photos show fundamentalist Christians exhibiting their obsessive hatred for gay people. Please note that none of these photos are of the crazed Fred Phelps cult, these are so-called "mainstream" fundamentalists. These are the type of Christians that the boy in this story would hear at church.