Monday Musings: How We’ve Messed Up

I received a message tonight which reminded me, all too soberly, why we do the work we do. Lives are at stake. Another teenager is gone from among us.

The reasons a person commits suicide are different for each person and certainly more often than not, a combination of factors. Nevertheless, among all of the factors, abuse disguised in the name of Christian purity should never get to be one of them.

I’m tired of 17 year olds snuffing out their lives. Are we really so heartless that we ramble onward with empty words, “speaking the truth” to children who are holding guns to their heads? The truth? That’s what you want to speak? How about “God loves you desperately.” There. That’s Truth.

My heart is heavy. And I’m angry.

  • I’m angry that the gospel of hope and grace has been reduced to rule-following rubbish at our fingertips.
  • I’m angry that we Christians have contributed more to the problem than to the solution.
  • I’m angry that we are perpetuating the wrongs done against others instead of being His healing agents.
  • I’m angry that we care more about protecting our own rights than protecting the rights of our LGBT friends and neighbors.
  • I’m angry that we sacrifice the innocence of others so we can supposedly hang onto our own.
  • I’m angry that it is a laughable thing to call our church gathering places “sanctuaries” any longer.
  • I’m angry that we pretend the brokenhearted don’t exist because if we looked at them, we’d feel obligated to do something for them.
  • I’m angry that we fall down and worship before our self-made idols of cleanliness and piety.
  • I’m angry that we aren’t doing enough for those who need us the most.
  • I’m angry that we’re making it worse.

Shame on us. Christians, we are failing, and I’m frankly tired of us acting like we’re not. The least we can do is be honest with ourselves about that much.

Abigail Van Buren said, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” That’s supposed to be true, but is it? When was the last time sinners – you, me, all of us – felt like the church would be the go-to place to receive healing for our deepest areas of need in the midst of our pain or shame?

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

I am out of words.

If you are thinking about taking your life, please take hope instead. Please, please, take hope. It will get better. We want to help. Contact us.

5 thoughts on “Monday Musings: How We’ve Messed Up

  1. Having had a brother commit suicide (and maybe due to his sexuality) and myself having gone through repeated thoughts of suicide in high school, let me say: while it is understandable to be angry, suicide is a complex thing. Blaming it on parents (like happen to my parents) or placing blame on the church doesn’t help and it oversimplifies the complex nature of suicide in America. It is, in short, painting with a broad brush that does little to address the insidious nature of suicide, the largest problem is the feeling of life being forever out of control. What one individuals say isn’t going to make the situation itself be out of control. Sure something a professing Christian could say something that is the proverbial straw, but it can come from non-Christians also.

    Plus you are painting Christians as a whole; most professing Christians I know (not cultural ‘Christians’) would not say something harsh.

    The Church needs to be better responders to it, of course, but please, do not place blame. In the end, it actually makes things worse as it creates an illusion of fixing the problems and leaves us blind to the depth of misery, pain, and out-of-control-ness that people who commit suicide feel.

    • I appreciate that Owen, and I agree that suicide is complex and blaming does not help. My intent was not to place blame, but rather, to point to part of the problem and call for us to use our faith to make us more faithful and kind, and to remember what is most important. As I said in the post, I do know that a great many factors influence suicide and it’s usually a combination of things which causes a person to take his/her life. Like you, I know many Christians who are good about these things and this is not meant to be a post of blame whatsoever, but rather, a call for action. In my line of work, I see our faith more often perpetuating the problem than helping to solve it.

      I am very sorry to hear about your personal losses and your own struggles in the past. I can relate. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. My intent was only to communicate that abuse suffered by folks who claim to be Christians should never make it onto the list of factors that causes a person to consider suicide.

      Thoughts?

    • Incidentally, I somewhat agree. I do think that there are professing Christians that affirm gay people and that they are part of the true church. And that church has no part in encouraging teen suicide, not even unwittingly. That church has gay members and doesn’t try to fix them. And that church does great good in the world. Many gay people belong to that church. And they don’t deserve anger.

      However, there are many who profess to be Christian who feel a need to legislate against gay people, encouraging a societal condemnation that contributes to feelings of isolation and rejection among LGBTQ youth. There are many who profess to be Christian who actively vote to prevent marriage equality and non-discrimination clauses. And there are many who profess to be Christian who are scared of drag performers. These people, their church, their actions undoubtedly contribute to suicide among LGBTQ youth. It contributes to other offenses against gay people, such as bullying and real, physical violence. These people certainly merit all of our anger. Ignorant people who profess to speak their truth, even to fragile youth.

      To quote somebody who commented on this site: “The right language is to be honest with people about their sin in a loving way, not a judgmental way, but to still be honest.” Another quoted Hebrews 10, saying: ” If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” And this is what people said here, in the “safe” space. Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. You think, “No matter how safe you fragile gay people need us to be, we still are obligated to share with you that you should have a fearful expectation of raging fire because of your sexuality. And, further, you shouldn’t be allowed to have gay sex in Kentucky. Sodomy laws are totally important to my well being. As is continued marriage inequality. Love you, kthx, bye.”

      To be fair, I do think you (General you, nobody specific) can believe homosexuality is sinful without inadvertently contributing to teen suicide. However, you don’t do that while “truth-speaking” to gay teens around you. You (Still non-specific) don’t do that while promoting societal inequality OR REMAINING SILENT while inequality happens because you’re afraid you might scare of your more conservative friends or lose your job. It doesn’t matter how angry you are at “harsh” people. These actions are harsh enough, and, further, contribute to the actions that you probably do consider “harsh.” They contribute to suicide – You don’t get much harsher than that. These actions remain harsh, even as you feel bad and angry at churches where people say “God Hates Fags.”

      As somebody else who has had friends and family experience suicide ideation, of course there’s a degree of personal culpability. Of course one can say the thing that pushes somebody over the edge. And of course some people professing to be Christians, as they encourage a societal condemnation of gays with their actions, are pushing kids over the edge. The question, in my mind, is not whether suicide is complicated. It’s whether or not the church is complicated. Is it a complicated issue to let non-confessing murderers in the true church? Or is it a question that’s pretty simple? I think it’s a question we have to tackle head-on, with top-of-the-list priority if we want to have this kind of intrafaith dialogue. Because this hasn’t been a question in my church, or any other gay-affirming one, that we’ve had to deal with unless we’re broaching a different kind of church altogether. And that church kills people.

  2. Thank you for this post! Your passion is palatable. Keep on being a safe person and providing a safe environment. With a heart like yours, you are the type of person to which hurting people will flock. Love trumps suicide.

    Keep on keeping on.

    Blessings to you,
    Dr. Trista Carr

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