Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
On Sunday, September 18th, 2011 fourteen-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide. He had been bullied all through middle school and was still being bullied as he began high school. The schools were aware of his situation but said they were unable to stop the bullying. His parents had him seeing a therapist and the school counselor. He seemed to be doing better.
Like most bullies, those who made Jamey’s life miserable were cowards. Direct attacks were rare. These specialized in anonymous postings online. In addition to the intense cyber bullying, at school Jamey faced ridicule and insults, always when he was alone and they (the bullies) were in a group.
Many kids experience some form of bullying as they make their way through the gauntlet that is adolescence. Every case is a bit different. There is always something about a perfectly normal kid that his or her peers can pick on to marginalize that student. It might be their complexion, their clothes, something they said, their height or weight. The list is a lengthy one. In Jamey’s case, he was gay.
I have two rants on my hands here. Both are so huge I could write volumes about each of them. The first is a rant on our society’s culture of casual cruelty. Many people, my dear friends included, talked about Jamey’s suicide just as we had that of Billy Lucas, Haylee Fentress, Paige Moravetz, Kameron Jacobsen, Seth Walsh, Evelyn Gonzalez, Allison Bayliss, Asher Brown, Joey Ferrara and so many others. We concerned adults gathered by coffee machines, in school parking lots, over a drink with friends and each time we shook our heads sadly. “When will this bullying stop?” we asked each other. Then we parted and returned to our daily routines, our thoughts moving on to other subjects and the specter of teen suicide shoved to the back of our minds… until the next death.
These children that I have listed above for you are only some of the 2011 suicides. There are so many more. Each lost life has a tragedy that is all its own. Allison Bayliss leapt from the Golden Gate Bridge, Evelyn Gonzalez stepped in front of a train and Joey Ferrara shot himself. These are just a few of the deaths from my local area. The others are from different places in America. Our country is littered with grieving families, young lives cut down and we all share in the guilt their deaths lay at our collective hearth.
I need to leave my first rant here. Don’t worry. We’ll come back to it, I promise. It’s important. However, in order to say everything about my first cause, I need to address my second rant. It is equally important.
The names that I listed are, as I say, a small fraction of the heartbreak before us. Bullying was not the only cause for their deaths. Still, it was a factor in their decision that annihilation was preferable to another moment of the daily hell that they were subjected to. Ah, “hell”, now we’re getting to it.
A disproportionate number of these adolescent suicides were gay-lesbian, transgender teens. And their “Christian” classmates (and said classmates’ parents) have taken it upon themselves to inform, repeatedly and (might I say) viciously, these children that they are going to hell because of who they are attracted to, because of whom they love. Yes, I said children. I could as easily have said babies. These were fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year olds, people. They were babies.
Okay, anyone who knows me also knows I am not a Christian. However, if one lives in a Judeo-Christian society one takes a good, hard look at the Christian faith before one decides not to join that club. It touches every facet of our culture, our politics, and our lives. In my spiritual journey I have dedicated a great deal of time and study to the Bible and other Christian writings. While I did not walk away a member of the club, I did walk away with a great love and reverence for the Bible and many of its lessons.
Please, my Christian friends tell me if I am off base here. I carry from the Bible a sense of peace. I see teachings of boundless love and forgiveness. I see a faith that seeks to be inclusive. No one is outside God’s love. God forgives and there is a Heavenly Father looking after all His children.
If I’m wrong, please comment now.
It is a cultural and religious given that all Christians cherry pick their religion. That is not a bad thing. It simply is. It’s like saying that Vanilla Ice in the 80’s had terrible eyebrows. (It’s just not up for debate.) With so many authors included in the Old and New Testaments, not mention that certain biblical passages directly contradict one another; it only makes sense that one must choose the passages that hold a greater personal meaning for each reader. Why, oh why, with so many positive messages would one cherry pick the few negative pieces?
To the best of my knowledge there are specifically six passages in the whole of the Bible that have been used by the religious right to condemn homosexuals. More centrist minded scholars agree that these passages have each either been taken out of context of the larger point being made or are based on translation errors. I’m not going to argue the moral and linguistic details here but suffice it to say I completely and utterly reject any repugnance based on who people fall in love with. The Bible has far more specific bans regarding: tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), gold necklaces and braided hair (Timothy 2:9), illegitimate children (Deuteronomy 23:2), fortune-telling (Leviticus 19:31), fabric blends (Leviticus 19:19) and divorce (Mark 10:8, 10:11-12) than on homosexuals. I mean, there’s even a ban against bowl cuts (Leviticus 19:27)!
Come to think of it, the bowl cut ban might not be a bad idea.
This brings me back to my original rant. The rest of us bear our share in the loss of these teenage lives. In our own social circles we may speak out against bullying yet when we see it or hear of it in the community at large how forceful are we in condemning it? The drawback to being the tolerant, reasonable, logical portion of society is that we tend to be quieter than those raving lunatics who are shouting “God hates fags”. We cannot afford to be silent. We need to speak up. The voices of acceptance for teens, straight and gay, need to be far louder than the cries of condemnation. Our teens, all of them, must see and hear more positive messages than the negativity presented by the evangelical right-wing elements of the country.
The bullying will stop when we make it stop. It will end when we as a society end it, when we as a group show that it is not acceptable. That means when we see it happening, we step in and prevent it. If hurtful words are used, we fix it. If our own children are the bullies then we teach them better.
It stops when we say no more.
The first link that I added to my blog when I launched it last May was the It Gets Project. I would encourage you all to visit this site (see the menu bar to your left). It is a better portrait of our humanity than those cretins screaming, “You will burn in hell.” There are two phone numbers that should be jotted down, I fervently hope that you never need them. The first is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK. The second is the Trevor Project (a partner of It Gets Better) aimed at helping LGBT teens. Their number is 1-866-488-7386.