Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide and self-harm
There is so much blood on the hands of Christians. From the Crusades to the modern anti-gay laws of Uganda, we are drenched in a legacy of blood. Perhaps it is fitting.
After all, Christianity was born out of blood spilled on the cross.
I had heard all the sermons. I had tried earnestly to pray away the gay. I can’t count the nights I laid awake praying I would wake up straight. I thought couldn’t be this way. I thought it was wrong.
For years, I fought the truth with every bit of strength I could muster. I struggled with depression. I even spent hours planning my own death, because I believed it would be better to die a good Christian girl than to live as a gay person.
From the outside, it appeared I had it all together. I was active in my church youth group. I helped run sound for every service. I played whatever instrument they wanted, and I pretty much helped wherever I was needed.
No one had a clue I was struggling, and I didn’t have anyone I could confide in.
I had tested the waters a bit by dropping hints to someone I trusted, only to be shut down when I was told how disgusting and sinful “those people” were. So with a God I thought hated me and friends who would find me disgusting, I felt I had nowhere to turn.
I was 16 the first time I began to harm myself. Soon, self-injury became my unhealthy coping mechanism—a painful way to survive for the next three years.
I had swallowed the “being gay is an abomination” ideology without a second thought. It wasn’t until several years later when I began to do my own research on the subject that I realized how far off the mark that idea was. But it certainly had an effect on me.
I can’t help but wonder how much damage that type of ideology has done to people all over the world.
In some cases, the results are clear. In others, it’s not so easy to discern.
In 2013, Ugandan lawmakers passed an anti-gay bill that sets a penalty of life in prison for anyone who is convicted of homosexuality. It was officially signed into law this February. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, yet this particular law imposes harsher penalties. Previously, lawmakers tried to pass what was dubbed the “kill the gays” bill that would impose the death penalty for those convicted of homosexuality.
This anti-gay culture in Uganda has been fueled by American evangelical preachers who have traveled there to preach their brand of hatred. The same has been done in Russia, where they have fueled hatred in an effort to solve what they saw as the degradation of good morals and values.
As a result, anti-gay legislation was drafted and passed, with protesters are now being beaten and murdered in the streets.
These evangelical preachers took a culture where being gay was not accepted, and turned it into a culture where being gay was grounds for being put to death, whether through the legal system or simply murdered in the streets.
In the U.S. and most of the world, the results of this type of hatred are more subtle. We see the results in many gay kids who attempt suicide. We see it in the eyes of the survivors of reparative therapy, who often struggle with the damage that was done to them for years.
Then there are those we don’t see, like the adults who are too afraid and hurt to ever return to the church. It’s in the teenagers who struggle through depression and self-hatred, induced by a warped ideology. It’s in the scars that remain hidden from the world out of shame.
It’s in the very scars I hide.
We may never know the extent of the damage we, as Christians, have done in the name of God. We sit back and judge others, claiming what a mess the devil is making of the world. When the truth is, it is our mess. We make it each time we drive a wedge between us and any group that doesn’t meet our standards. We drive wedges between God and those who don’t fit into the box that we’ve created. What a mess we make when we start thinking that we speak for God.
I cringe every time I hear a pastor, or any Christian, comparing gays to rapists and pedophiles. I cringe when they take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah out of context. I cringe ever time I hear the words abomination spoken in a sermon. I cringe, not because they disagree with my beliefs—they have their right to do so. I cringe because I can’t help but wonder how much damage is being done with each word they speak.
How many kids sitting in that congregation are internalizing that homophobia, just like I did?
Telling my story is not only uncomfortable—it’s downright terrifying. I never wanted to be someone in the spotlight. I like to stay in my comfortable little box, safe and secure. But I cannot sit by and watch as hatred is taught in the name of God.
The God I know is a God of love, not hatred. So I wonder if He cringes too.
As a Christian, I will stand and be a voice for those who continue to suffer in silence. I will speak. Because in the words of my favorite poet Andrea Gibson, “…God knows the holy have done more damage to this world than the devil ever could.”
Photo via flickr user Jeremy Sorrells