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The role of religion

Religion continues to play a paradoxical role in both bullying (particularly gay bullying) and youth suicide. Bible belt teens who are gay or who consider themselves to be gay, can feel tremendously isolated in communities which are religiously inclined to categorically condemn such orientations. The problem for the teen can seem almost statutory as both the old and new testaments have rather undisputed versus which condemn promiscuity with those of the same gender. Yet scripture never actually prohibits how one feels or what they are drawn to. One verse in the book of Romans observes that people were attracted to the same sex, but also points out that they would receive in

 themselves, the consequences - not leaving out that those consequences might just be the feeling of being isolated or of missing the opportunities that straight people have for acceptance. Scripture speaks just as strongly against judging others, slander, and coveting of someone else's spouse. And so we see among Judeo-Christian orthodoxy a focus on one particular aspect of one's behavior, while ignoring the reality that all people sin, just in different ways. Both Judaism, though a Day of Repentance and Christianity, through the redemption of Christ's blood acknowledge that people lack perfection and therefore need forgiveness. How sad that a religion that is predicated on the creator having his own son offered as a human sacrifice to cover up sin, insists on ostracizing and isolating kids whose particular "sin" seems unworthy to them of that redemptive power.

But on the flip side of things, I do believe (and this is controversial - I realize) that most kids who think they might be gay, actually might not be. I do believe that a child's orientation has some malleability to it. And suggestions that they simply go with the direction that they feel pulled in at the time, are helping to harden the wrong mold. I do believe that some kids are born with such a tremendous tendency to be gay, that very little will be changed by steering them in the other direction. But the majority, I believe, with a sense of self confidence and the right youth experiences, could end up being straight. I believe that society is sending the wrong message to kids that they should entertain gay at such young ages, because I believe that it ignores the potential for them to be straight. Yet we simultaneously need to have a society which accepts those kids who definitely are gay, which overlooks what some might call a sinful life - because God can as well, and which allows them to live with the same rights, respect and acceptance as everyone else.

In my twenty plus years of working with youth, I have seen dozens of kids who seemed gay, and who were bullied and taunted relentlessly. Effeminism in boys, which is growing, was assumed to be proxy for orientation rather than just of their own childish style. Kids who spent their entire childhoods being isolated from other boys and taunted for how they act may just have become gay out of both suggestive messages as well as a feeling of masculine rejection from peers and possibly adult males as well.

Whether or not you agree with these positions, the observations are empirical, and the fact remains that use of religion as a reason to isolate someone who is clearly not controlling their feelings, while ignoring the fact that this nations largest religious group's Messiah, already stated that his number one rule is to "Love One Another" - is hypocritical and unproductive.

As a footnote, while religion has been oft blamed for isolating youth and creating ripe environments for bullying over orientation, many of the recent youth suicides have occurred outside of the bible belt and religion has not been shown to have played a role.  

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