Recently, two people–one queer and neurotypical, and one straight and mentally ill–confided similarly troubling worries to me. The first told me his mother had disowned him because he is gay, and, as he said, “to her that meant rejection of, and rejection by, God.”
The second said her extended family was no longer talking to her because of schizophrenia.
They viewed it as either God’s curse or demonic possession, which God allowed to happen to her due to her transgressions.
These individuals are in unique situations, and they are marginalized—for their sexuality or neurotype—in different ways. But their Christian families are justifying hurtful, hateful, and violent behavior towards them on similar grounds. They, and other bigoted Christians, have to reconcile a belief that God is all-loving and perfect with a worldview in which certain people are irredeemably evil just because of their identities.
These hatemongers are doing so with the curse narrative, either a priori or a posteriori. They say that queer people bear a curse from God because being queer is a sin, and that neurodivergent people are cursed with mental illness because of their other sins.
Taken together, this results in an especial hardening of hearts towards queer, neurodivergent people.
The curse narrative states that if mentally ill queers are psychologically hurt, even to the point of suicide, then this is God’s justified punishment on them. Therefore, helping them out would not only be pointless—it would go against God’s command.
This is cowardice of the worst kind. It effectively represents hiding behind a false notion of God, setting up an image of a wrathful Lord and then claiming: “We aren’t prejudiced. We only do as He tells us.”
An inclusive and tolerant Christian cannot believe that God would vengefully curse any of His children. The Creator we worship condemns persecution and commands equality, not the other way around. A good God would not make a diverse world, full of people all made in His image, and then condemn most of them as evil from the start.
Every member of the human family is endowed with a different experience and outlook as a gift, not as a curse.
This includes queerness, and all of the ways LGBTQ people can share their love. And it includes neurodivergence, which, in all its forms and for all their inherent pains, gives those who carry it in their very spirit a lens on the world that cannot be duplicated. It includes the beauty of gender variance and transgender identity and of physical disability.
To refer to this all as a curse disparages the goodness and justice of God, and the inherent dignity and unsurpassable magnificence of His creation. It denies the interpersonal happiness of loving queer couples and polyamorous relationships and the spiritual joy of neurodivergence, blotting out the connection a person with depression feels to the agony of Christ in Gethsemane and obscuring the very real validity of a person with schizophrenia’s religious visions.
If we feel this beauty is worth fighting for, then we must endeavor to stamp out the notion of a curse on our siblings in Christ, no matter their identity, wherever we find it. We must advocate against “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ people, admonish others against trying to “pray the gay away” or “pray the crazy away”, and act as constant reminders of the universal human duty to mercy and love.
These are not just “gay issues” or “mentally ill issues” or “disabled issues”—they are Christian issues.
As we strive to make God’s goodness manifest here on Earth as it is in Heaven, we must make sure all those who profess to follow Christ acknowledge that those who are not like themselves are still within His flock, not forever apart from it.
Photo by Laura Thorne