Friday, October 15, 2010

No More Suicides

I am not a stranger to the tragedy of suicide. As a pastor I have dealt with a number of deaths by suicide, ministering to the family and friends left to deal with all of the grief and unanswerable questions when a loved one ends his or her life. I have also dealt with suicide on a much more personal basis. Both of my parents ended their own lives, as major depression robbed them of the ability to see beyond the pain and left them with the belief that death was a better choice than life. I and others in my family have walked the walk of suicide survivors, asking the questions that have no answers, living with thoughts and emotions that accuse one's self in the middle of the night.

Suicide is always tragic. This is only magnified when the one taking such a step is a young person. The suicide of a child is devastating to parents and siblings. And beyond that, it is unbearable that those who are at the very beginning of life, with so much ahead of them, can be so devastated by the darkness of depression and hopelessness that they turn to self-destruction. Suicide in those cases physically kills the one who commits it, but spiritually and psychically kills those around him or her. The suicide of a young person leaves devastation in the whole community, and the wounds often never really heal.

In recent weeks there has been an outbreak of suicide of young people, picked up in the news media. And two things appear to link all of these together: those committing suicide were gay, or were involved with some level of homosexual relationship; and they were the object of bullying in one form or another. The bullying and shame they experienced were primary causes in why they turned to ending their lives. Their deaths have left their families and communities reeling. Others are speaking out, trying to reach out to other young people, in particular, and to anyone dealing with issues of their sexuality and orientation, that suicide is not the answer and their lives will get better, in spite of what they may be experiencing in the present.

All of us need to speak up, and out, in this time. Those who are recognizable leaders in the GLBT community are doing this, and their perspective and experience are a crucial witness to those so much younger. But those of us in the religious community, and in particular those who are in the traditionalist-orthodox Christian community, also need to raise our voices. The Body of Christ is not about breaking those who are slender reeds, or extinguishing dimly burning wicks, but about bringing the promise of life and grace to those who are weak and heavy laden with burdens too overwhelming to bear.

We also need to condemn the evil, wicked spirit that incites others to bully those who are vulnerable in the matter of their sexuality. That is a spirit that feeds on the darkness that lurks in all of us, that finds pleasure in making life a misery, that goads us to seek out victims who can be driven into despair and destruction. There is no place for that kind of shameful, bullying destruction of human spirits and human lives among the people of God, among those marked with the cross of Christ. We must all rise up and reject and condemn that kind of action. And we need to do it now, before another life is lost, before another child is driven to believe that the only solution to their pain is to die.

Wherever we stand on the issues regarding sexual behavior and same-gender relationships in our culture and in the church, this is a crisis that we all can respond to with the same measure of conviction. Whatever it takes, whatever we have to do, however we need to move out from our comfort zones in matters of sexuality, we must find ways to stop the bullying, and to show the love of God for all his children in how we treat young people who identify themselves as gay or lesbian.

Pray for those who are looking to choose death. Pray for those who are struggling with their sexual orientation, or with how to tell those closest to them that they are gay. And pray for guidance on how to better be "little Christs" to young people in those times. We need to talk about this. Silence is not a helpful tool in these times.
No more suicides. How can we work together to provide a future with hope?