By Tony Perkins
The media has recently been filled with reports of several recent suicides by teenagers who are reported to have been victims of “anti-gay” bullying. Some homosexual activist groups lay blame at the feet of conservative Christians who teach that homosexual conduct is wrong, as well as pro-family groups such as Family Research Council which oppose elements of the homosexual political agenda, such as same-sex “marriage.”
The Christians and pro-family leaders I know are unanimous in believing that no person, especially a child, should be subjected to verbal or physical harassment or violence–whether because of their sexuality, their religious beliefs, or for any other reason. Such bullying violates the Christian’s obligation to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and receives no support from the pro-family political movement.
Where bullying has occurred, the blame should be placed on the bullies themselves–not on organizations within society who clearly oppose bullying. I suspect that few, if any, such bullies are people who regularly attend church, and I would not be surprised if most of the “bullies” did not have the positive benefit of both an active mom and dad in their lives. Religious faith and a return to traditional family values are more likely to be a solution to the problem of bullying than a cause.
However, homosexual activist groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) are exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda of demanding not only tolerance of homosexual individuals, but active affirmation of homosexual conduct and their efforts to redefine the family.
There is an abundance of evidence that homosexuals experience higher rates of mental health problems in general, including depression. However, there is no empirical evidence to link this with society’s general disapproval of homosexual conduct. In fact, evidence from the Netherlands would seem to suggest the opposite, because even in that most “gay-friendly” country on earth, research has shown homosexuals to have much higher mental health problems.
Within the homosexual population, such mental health problems are higher among those who “come out of the closet” at an earlier age. Yet GLSEN’s approach is to encourage teens to “come out” when younger and younger–thus likely exacerbating the very problem they claim they want to solve.
Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal–yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are “born gay” and can never change. This–and not society’s disapproval–may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.
The most important thing that Christians can offer to homosexuals is hope–hope that their sins, just like the sins of anyone else, can be forgiven and their lives transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ command to love our neighbor clearly embraces the homosexual as well. But love does not require affirming every behavior in which an individual engages. For a parent to encourage a child to indulge their every desire would not be love, but its very opposite. The same is true of self-destructive behaviors in which adults may engage–whether it is the excessive use of alcohol, drugs, reckless driving, or heterosexual activity outside of marriage.
Since homosexual conduct is associated with higher rates of sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence, it too qualifies as a behavior that is harmful to the people who engage in it and to society at large. It is not loving to encourage someone to indulge in such activities, no matter how much sensual pleasure they may derive from them. It is more loving to help them overcome them. This is why, in the public policy arena, we will continue to oppose any policy or action that would celebrate or affirm homosexual conduct.
The model for a Christian response to homosexuals may be the story of the woman caught in adultery. When the crowd responded with violence, by gathering to stone her, Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Knowing that they were all sinners, the crowd melted away. But Jesus’ words to the woman he saved were crucial. He did not say, “Go, for you have not sinned.” Instead, he said, “Go and sin no more.”
There is no contradiction between Christian compassion and a call for holy living. But the life which is holy (from a spiritual perspective) or even healthy (from a secular perspective) requires abstinence from homosexual conduct. We would do no one a favor if we ceased to proclaim that truth.
Tony Perkins is President of the Family Research Council.