Religion in America is killing children. Literally.
The suicide rate for LGBT young people remains far higher than for other youth, and the major reason is rejection by families, institutions, and cultures. A child ripped apart by conflict between cultural expectations and their personal realities is not going to thrive.
It is telling that, according to a recent survey, fully a third of Americans believe it is a sin to be transgender.
Mainstream religion in America still too often persists in preserving the poisonous lies that to be LGBT is to be sinful, that LGBT is a “lifestyle” that is “chosen”, that queer children need to be discouraged from being themselves by raw exercise of parental power if necessary. To a sizable portion of our country, to be a Christian requires rejecting LGBT behavior when it happens in the family and the community. Many churches, mosques, and Orthodox Jewish synagogues actively promote this form of oppression toward some of the most vulnerable among us.
What can be done? Oppressive voices cannot be silenced. Our First Amendment freedoms guarantee religious institutions the right to spread lies and hate. The only hope lies in countering that message, loudly, frequently, and consistently. The message needs to be heard that churches who preach oppression of LGBT children do not speak for all Christianity, such mosques do not speak for all of Islam, and such synagogues do not speak for all Judaism.
It is not enough for Christians, Muslims, and Jews quietly to affirm LGBT identities within the walls of their own houses of worship. As so many claim that being Christian, Muslim, or Orthodox Jew means adopting an oppressive stance toward LGBT youth, simply declaring oneself Christian, Muslim, or Jew without countering toxic anti-LGBT messages amounts to adding tacit support to those messages.
In other words, Christians, Muslims, and Jews who are not part of the solution, are part of the problem. There is no middle ground.
Not while children are dying.
I’m proud of the way my own congregation regularly gives us positive messages. A rainbow banner outside UUCC’s sanctuary proudly declares support for LGBT identities. At the start of every single service, we are told “whoever you love, you are welcome here”. Our RE program features LGBT-affirming OWL classes, and on occasion LGBT identities are dealt with in our weekly services. The only place we fall short is the lack of trans-affirming signage outside the main restrooms, but I’m hopeful that will be remedied soon.
Alas, however, our admonitions to our own parishioners cannot do much to counter the messages broadcast elsewhere. We can trumpet our own values, but because we cannot realistically claim to be a Christian denomination, our voices alone will not help mainstream Christianity counter oppressive messages associated with Christianity as a whole.
Despite that, we have an important role to play in saving the lives of LGBT children.
We partner with other congregations in a variety of ways. We periodically invite other local preachers as guests to our services. We are involved in community projects with other faith communities.
Should part of any such partnership routinely include a dialog about whether they do their part to counter anti-LGBT messages that others in their denomination spread? Should we be in the habit of asking our community partners questions about their commitment to improving the support given to LGBT youth? Questions like:
- How often during religious services do you inform or remind congregants about the importance of supporting LGBT youth?
- Does literature and publicity you put out announce you are LGBT affirming?
- Do your religious education classes teach the affirmation of LGBT identities?
- Do you post signs and notices in your building with messages about LGBT acceptance?
Personally, I would find it very comforting if we were told whether a guest preacher from a denomination with a mixed record on LGBT acceptance indeed represents an LGBT-affirming congregation.
Yes, asking such questions might be considered rude. One might be tempted to say it is none of our business, that it is not our place to inquire about and influence the practices of other denominations, even those to whom we extend the honor of addressing us from our own pulpit.
But might a little rudeness or prying be appropriate if it saves lives?
 As reported at http://www.newnownext.com/a-third-of-americans-think-transgender-people-are-committing-a-sin/02/2018/ on 2/14/18
Suzie: Your essay was really right on and so well reasoned.
I appreciate your comments and thought they were so well written. I am also proud of our congregation’s participation in such activities as OWL in supporting LGBT rights.