Are Anti-Gay Christians Responsible for the Suicide Trend?


For Humanist Network News  
Oct. 13, 2010

For a moment, I almost agreed with Laurie Higgins.

I know. It freaked me out, too.

She was writing about the recent, awful trend of young gay men committing suicide, and mentioned Tyler Clementi, the teenager who jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death after his roommate secretly broadcast Tyler hooking up with another guy in their dorm room.

Laurie writes:

Despite what homosexualists immediately pronounced, there is no indication that the taping was motivated by anti-homosexual animus. It seems at least possible that the students who engaged in this unconscionable act would have done likewise even if it had been a heterosexual act.

Perhaps it wasn’t the moral views about homosexuality of the students who filmed Tyler that were the problem, but rather that they have grown up in an invasive, obscene culture that has turned sexuality into a public spectator sport and kids into exhibitionists. Just look at the television shows and films that our children watch and the photos that teens post on their Facebook pages to understand better how they view sexuality and modesty.

Based on everything I’ve read, there’s something to that. I haven’t read anything that said the roommate, Dharun Ravi, had a “gay people are evil sinners” mentality so much as he just wanted to embarrass the shit out of his roommate — and Tyler making out with a guy would have accomplished that. I’m obviously not condoning what the roommate did, but I also think it’s possible he would’ve done the same thing if there was a woman in Tyler’s room.

So there you go. I agree with Laurie. My world has been flipped upside-do — oh, wait. Wait. She didn’t stop there. Apparently, she has more to say about Tyler:

Perhaps if Tyler had not been taught the bleakly deterministic view that he was “born” homosexual, he would have had more hope for the future and would have been more likely to resist homosexual temptation.

Perhaps if the culture had not filled Tyler’s head with titillating homosexual images and fallacious ideas, his conscience would have been stronger than his impulses.

Perhaps if university life were not so decadent and hedonistic, students would not be engaging in sexual acts — heterosexual or homosexual — with the ease and frequency with which they do.


Perhaps if Christians pulled their heads out of their asses and realized that some people are simply gay and there’s nothing wrong with that regardless of what their despicable holy book says, there would be more gay teenagers alive today.

Welcome back, Laurie.

She wants to make the case that “bullying” gay people (in which she says she doesn’t partake) is different from moral disapproval of homosexuality (which she supports).

What’s the difference, you ask?

Here’s what people who share her Christian faith have said about gay people — expressing their disapproval, of course, not bullying:

“[Homosexuals are] brute beasts…part of a vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven.” — Jerry Falwell

“‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” — The Bible

“God hates fags” — You know damn well who.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Those are the extremists. The Bible quotation is “out of context.” That’s not very nice of me.

I should really use statements made by reasonable people in modern times:

“[T]he rainbow colors of the homosexual movement [point] to the substitution of the worship of man for the worship of God and leads to depravity and destruction.”

No sane person would ever argue that homosexuals have contributed nothing to society. That’s as absurd as claiming that adulterers, porn users, or gossips have contributed nothing to society … Those who experience, for example, selfish, vain, greedy, gluttonous, deceitful, promiscuous, incestuous, sadistic, pederastic, gossipy, philandering, or polyamorous impulses and engage in behaviors impelled by such impulses have also contributed to society.

Those who self-identify as homosexual are no different from those who are selfish, greedy, envious, prideful, fornicators, gossips, or gluttons. All of us come to the cross as sinners, and none will be fully sanctified until Christ’s return, but retreat from or obfuscation of what the Bible teaches about selfishness, greed, envy, pride, fornication, gossip, gluttony, homosexuality, or any other of the myriad manifestations of sin is simply not scriptural-and therefore not good.

Those are all from Laurie.

See? She’s not a bully. Just expressing her disapproval.

You know the sad part about this? I don’t think for a second that Laurie hates gay people. I think she genuinely wants the best for gays and lesbians. I think she’d be among the first in line to say they shouldn’t be bullied.

The problem is that she thinks her “moral disapproval” is somehow better than formal bullying. She’s on “God’s side,” and therefore she can say things that those of us not deluded by Christianity see as offensive and untrue.

(Sorry, was I being a bully to Christians right there? I was just expressing my disapproval …)

That’s what Christians like her don’t understand.

When you have to go through life being told you don’t deserve the same rights everyone else has, that you’re somehow broken, that the only thing that will “save” you is a life devoid of physical intimacy and a dose of Jesus, that the feelings you’ve always had for certain people of the same sex are corrupt and in need of a cure … of course you’re going to be more depressed than the rest of the population. Of course you’re going to be more likely to commit suicide.

Conservative Christians love to argue that homosexuality is just one of many sins and they’re all equal. But how often do you hear pastors talking about envy, gluttony and the lottery? They single out homosexuality as something far worse than everything else.

Then they put their fingers in their ears and deny that they have anything to do with gay teens committing suicide.

I know they’re not directly encouraging the suicides. But they are promoting a false idea that heterosexuality is right and homosexuality is wrong.

They don’t call that bullying.

But they are on the wrong side of the issue and they’ll stay there as long as their holy books and pastors tell them to do so.

At what point does “moral disapproval” turn into “bullying”?

A couple other thoughts on the issue.

Melissa McEwan said it very well at Shakesville:

You can argue all you want that the solution is Christian compassion despite a belief that being gay is sinful, but as long as you believe and preach and teach that gay kids are inherently abominable to God, you’re always going to be part of the problem.

And no, the philosophical contortions in which many Christians like to engage, claiming God only hates homosexuality but doesn’t hate homosexual people, does not absolve you of your responsibility. Treating people as though their humanity is somehow separate from their intrinsic characteristics is not merely absurd bullshit; when you seek to wrench apart the components of people’s whole selves and throw away pieces of their identities, it’s just eliminationist rhetoric dressed up in its Sunday best.

Andrew Marin straddles the Christian world and the LGBT community, but he misses the mark entirely by trying to blame both sides for not doing enough to “save” Tyler:

To me, both [Dan] Savage and [Albert] Mohler — who represent the mainstream in both of their worlds — are doing nothing more than passing the buck once again. It’s always someone else’s deal.

Savage doesn’t think he had anything to do with these suicides — he blames social conservatives. Mohler doesn’t think he has anything to do with these suicides either — he’s still questioning how someone else’s church should have intervened, asking, “was there no one who could have stood between that boy and that bridge?”

Dan Savage had nothing to do with the suicides. That’s obvious. Albert Mohler, on the other hand, still pushes the slander that homosexuality is sinful. Don’t even try to equate the two.

One is on the morally acceptable path. The other is Albert Mohler.


Hemant Mehta is the Chair of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) Board of Directors. He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and also is an SSA representative to the Secular Coalition for America. Hemant received national attention, including being featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, for his work as the “eBay Atheist.” Hemant’s blog can be read at, and his book, I Sold My Soul on eBay, (WaterBrook Press) is now available on He currently works as a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago.