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The correlation between homophobia and suicide cannot be ignored.
By Carl Petersen
“Homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. We shall not tolerate this aspect at all.”
- Pastor Rick Warren (1)

Rick Warren has felt a pain that no parent should ever have to experience. On the morning of April 5, 2013, his son took a gun and shot himself. The bullet ended his life and long term struggle “with mental illness, depression, and suicidal thoughts.” (2)

“Nearly half of evangelicals, 48%, say that people with serious mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can be cured by Bible study and prayer alone.” (3) In the wake of his son’s suicide, Pastor Warren has sought to change this attitude. Last month’s “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church” was part of this effort. While this event had the worthwhile goal “to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members and equip church leaders to care for those who are suffering,” it ignored an important cause of mental illness - his own church’s role in victimizing those who are not heterosexual. (4)

Lesbian, Gay and Bi-Sexual youth have “higher rates of major depression, anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, and co-occurring psychiatric disorders than their straight peers.” (5) This is a consequence of being rejected by society because of their sexual orientation. In our schools, “the most likely group to be bullied are ‘kids who are gay or thought to be gay,’” with one third of students in one survey reporting that these students are frequently harassed. (6) “Children and adolescents who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, headaches, and problems adjusting to school…[and] long-term damage to self-esteem.” (7) “LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.” (8)

Even with these consequences, there are churches that continue to contribute to the stigmatization of those who are not heterosexual. For example, in their “Celebrate Recovery Document Downloads,” the Burbank Seventh-Day Adventist Church includes pamphlets about Same Sex Attraction alongside ones for Chemical Dependency, Gambling Addictions and Eating Disorders. (9) Some of the signs of symptoms the publication lists for males is that he “feels inadequate compared to other men...cannot take good-nature [sic] joking or kidding from other men…[and] can be indecisive (has trouble making decisions, second guesses himself, fearful of doing or saying the wrong thing).” (10) They say that having a same sex attraction results from a lack of “secure love of our father or another male role model.” (11) To compensate, they “began to fantasize about other boys or men in a futile attempt to steal their manhood for” themselves. (12) “Curing” the problem includes “acknowledging God’s design and desire for our sexulity.” (13) It does not say what to do if the plan was for someone to simply fall in love with another person who happens to be of the same gender.

The quoted material contains the logo and name of “Celebrate Recovery,” which was “launched” by the Saddleback Church. (14) While Warren held a conference to encourage cooperation with the mental health profession, he does not appear to have fully bought into the concept. The Celebrate Recovery website, which also includes a message from the pastor, states that this particular program “is based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory.” (15) Using the search function on the site directs the user to the Burbank Seventh-Day Adventist Church, so this church is apparently an authorized participant in the program. Since churches that mix “other materials, or other programs...are prohibited from using the Celebrate Recovery name,” (16) it appears that Warren’s church has approved the quoted pamphlet and should take responsibility for it’s contents.

All people have a purpose, even those that do not conform to Pastor Warren’s view of “natural.” If he is serious about preventing other parents from experiencing the pain of having their child shoot themselves dead, then he needs to do more. Recognizing that the right to one’s sexual identity is one that all humans should have is an essential step.
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(1) http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/03/24/only-fools-believe-pastor-rick-warren-and-global-homophobia/
(2) http://hollywoodlife.com/2013/04/09/matthew-warren-autopsy-rick-warren-gunshot-wound/
(3) http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/17/rick-warren-speaks-out-on-sons-suicide/
(4) http://mentalhealthandthechurch.com/
(5) http://www.suicidology.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=232&name=DLFE-334.pdf
(6) http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying_sexual_orientation.page
(7) https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/bullying/conditioninfo/pages/health.aspx
(8) http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/facts-about-suicide
(9) (10) (11) (12) (13) https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B1MNII5tSfchYjM2MTExNzItYmVlMC00NDM2LTk5MjgtYmZlZjBlN2I0ZmY3&usp=drive_web&num=50&sort=name&layout=list#
(14) http://www.celebraterecovery.com/site-map/dna-of-celebrate-recovery
(15) http://www.celebraterecovery.com/index.php/resources
(16) http://www.celebraterecovery.com/site-map/dna-of-celebrate-recovery

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