Monday, 30 January 2012

Candace Chellew-Hodge, on a “Dangerous Vision of God”.

Growing up as the daughter of a Baptist minister, Candace Chellew-Hodge had a deep love of God and commitment to the Christian faith. She was also a lesbian, for which she encountered extensive bullying, as school - and in Church. Finding that her attraction to females meant that the God she loved did not, after all, love her, she tried to kill herself. Thankfully, she survived the attempt, and went on first, to found the online Christian magazine, "Whosoever", to study theology, and then to enter ministry. She has also written an LGBT Christian survival guide, "Bulletproof Faith".

At Religion Dispatches, she has a piece up ("God, Rid Me of God"), reflecting from her personal experience on the rash of teen suicides by American queer youth, and especially that of  19-year-old Eric James Borges. These are a result, she argues, of a "dangerous vision of God".

Borges had the best support around as a volunteer for The Trevor Project (the org that works to prevent LGBT suicide). He even did his own It Gets Better video. But I fear it was finally the religious condemnation that led this beautiful young man to take his own life. Everyone under the sun can tell you it gets better, but the bottom line is this: If you believe God will send you to hell for who you love, there will be nothing anyone can say to convince you that it gets better—since God never changes, right?

I have seen too many in my community struggle with God—and the image of the bullying God they have been given by their churches and their families. This image of God as a loving destroyer, whose acceptance is conditioned on your strict adherence to “His” rules, has ruined too many lives. What needs to change is not the LGBT child, but this horrible and terribly wrong image of God as a holy bully that is being purveyed by religious institutions and believers.

The trouble is, though, this image of God has worked very well for those in power. Despite growing support for LGBT people in the polls, this issue still has enough of an “ick factor” to make those who talk about the “sin” of homosexuality (and transgenderism!) look like they are the true moral paragons. In fact, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s wife feels secure enough to take up the victim role, accusing LGBT people of “vilifying” her husband—even calling it, without a hint of irony, “backyard bullying.”

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, responded to Mrs. Santorum: “You love your husband—I get that. You love your faith—fine by me. But when you pretend that hate is love, that lies are truth, and that victims are oppressors, you have become inane.”

Not just inane, but dangerous. It is exactly this vision of God as “backyard bully” that puts LGBT youth on the path to suicide, and it must stop.

-read the full reflection at Religion Dispatches 

It should be fundamental to Christian faith that God's love is unconditional. In my high school RE classes, I was taught that "God is love" is almost a definition of love, for which I was made to underline or highlight in my bible, write out in my exercise book, and memorize for examinations, countless verses that demonstrated that claim (along with many others, such as "God is truth", "God is light", "God is mercy", "God is justice", and so on. But never, ever, "God is hate".

Yesterday's Gospel concerned the story of Jesus and the man possessed of an "unclean spirit", and how at Jesus' command, the spirit left, and the man was cured. Far too often, misguided Christians use this story as motivation to "exorcise" the demon of homosexuality from young people in their care, just as the parents of Eric James Borges did. They are wrong. It is not our God-given orientation that is demon in need of exorcism, but homophobia (including our own internalized homophobia), and the dangerous vision of God, that sees God's love as selective.

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