opinion & features
In the past few months, an avalanche of internet postings have sought to give bullied gay teenagers hope through the “It Gets Better” campaign. Many celebrities, politicians, business professionals and a few brave people from the sports world post short video clips reassuring gay youth that despite the bullying and insults that are hurled at them by their schoolmates, it gets better as they move into adulthood. The message conveyed is “Just hang in there. It gets better.”
However, with the recent death by suicide of a number of gay teens, I have come to the conclusion that such a platitude is not working. Too many youngsters are still dying, by their own hand, because they are aggressively bullied by their peers. “It gets better” just isn’t making it better!
So what is the answer to this ongoing tragedy? Might I strongly suggest that it is time to strike at the heart of where homophobia is given credence; namely, within the walls of the thousands of churches, cathedrals, mosques and synagogues that circle the globe. Attended a church service lately? Probably not. You would be part of the 80 per cent of Canadians who have come to shun the church. However, if you should take your courage in your hands and enter a church, you might be unlucky enough to find yourself in the midst of a gay-bashing sermon in which select scriptural passages are read and the minster thunders about the perversion of a chosen lifestyle called homosexuality. Eventually, gay and lesbian worshippers are made to feel somewhat better when the minister reassuringly says, “We love the sinner, but hate the sin!”
If we are being utterly honest and truthful, such widespread discrimination of a particular group of people within religious denominations is based on dogma that emanates from so-called “holy texts,” written hundreds of years ago. These human documents have little connection to the lived reality of our 21st century world and yet they are reverently held on high as ancient texts written by God himself (as if God had hands to write and a mouth to speak). Using these texts as weapons, ministers, priests, rabbis and imams are allowed to foment hate against gays and lesbians. And on what basis is this allowed to continue? On the basis of religious freedom which is entrenched in the Charter of Rights, thereby, allowing such a travesty to continue.
Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that those of us in places of power within the church begin to speak out, forcefully and persistently, against such discrimination. I call out to all ministers, of whatever religious stripe, to rise up against their “holy texts” and demand justice for all of God’s human family, especially our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who have been so grievously wounded by the church now and in the past. If we do that, perhaps the church might become relevant again as a place of unconditional love. Our gay teens deserve nothing less.
– Rev. Linda C. Hunter is the minister of Wild Rose United Church, Calgary, Alberta.