Let me tell you what Hell is.

The text read:  “Im going to burn in hell ne way.”

*beep beep*

“Life is pain.  Why live?  Pain forever, then hell.  I want it over with.”

I got his address off of Facebook, we’d become friends only days before when he’d been given a copy of my novel.  I wasn’t sure what had inspired him to reach out to me.  All I knew was that I’d stayed home from church that day because I was sick, and here he was.  Reaching out.  Not wanting to die alone.

“Don’t be an idiot”, I texted him back.  “There is love.  There is hope.   If you go to hell I’m going with you.”

Painful seconds passed.

“I’m almost to your house,” I wrote.  “Calling you.”

I will never, ever, forget the pain in his voice when he answered his phone.  When we’d met a few days before, he had been the kindest, gentlest, most soft spoken person I’d ever known.  He had been so quick to laugh, and although he obviously was living with a great deal of pain his spirit shone through.  The voice I heard through the phone was almost robotic in it’s monotone and so desperately lacking in spirit.  “Just stay alive another minute,” I told him.  “I’m turning, where are you?”

He came out on the front porch and agreed to go with me.  I took him to a mental health clinic that was fortunately only a few blocks away.  Even so, it was one of the longest car rides of my life.

“God doesn’t hate you,” I said.  “God loves you.”

“You know what they say?”  He replied, “I would’ve never been gay unless God totally rejected me.”

“For F—‘s sake, you said you’ve known you were gay since you were six!  What did a six year old do to get wholly rejected by God?”

“It doesn’t matter, does it?”  He wiped away tears but it was like wiping at the Columbia, it just kept rushing out.  “I mean, I can’t not be gay and no one cares, I mean, they don’t care no matter what.  It’s like, ‘well sure you’re depressed, it’s what comes from sin.’ And like, ‘the wages of sin is death’ so like if I kill myself, that’s justice.  That’s justice.”

“And here I took you for someone pretty smart,” I responded.  “You know homosexual acts are listed right with gossip and idle talk and drunkenness.  If your suicide is justice half that freaking church needs to put a blade to their wrist.”

“I can’t believe you just said that.”

“Well I’m kind of pissed that you almost died on my watch.  I could say more.”

He just stared at me.

“God is love, right?  You remember my favorite passage.  It’s all over the book.  The people that won’t help you because you are gay can’t be speaking for God because it’s not loving to turn away from someone’s pain.  Whatever they said it doesn’t matter.”

“You didn’t hear them, Ell.  All of the verses, and it’s like, ‘hey, it’s in the Bible.  We’re just being obedient.'”

“Shut the eff up, man, or I’ll pull over and slap you.”

“Ell!”

“I don’t want to hear that crap in my car even if you are quoting someone else.  Forget it.”

“I don’t understand, I mean, I thought you were a Christian.”

“Of course I’m a Christian, that’s why I can recognize bull when I hear it.  The fruit of the spirit is goodness and patience and love and whatever the other ones are.”

“Ha!”

“I’m a little distracted by how pissed I am and can’t do the brain thing, forgive me.”

“What were you saying?”

“Love.  That’s the fruit of the spirit.  If the fruit of their obedience is your death, it’s not my God they are obeying.”

“Oh,” he said.

“And honestly I’m feeling more Christlike right now than I have in years.”

* * *

A few weeks later we would be emailing back and forth, and I would say this.  “What you said about Hell.  I can show you hell.  It’s a kid going to a church because he’s on the brink and he needs someone to love him, and they show him the door.  I don’t know where Jesus is right now, but he is weeping.  And he still loves you.  Don’t give up.”

Here’s the thing:  I don’t care what your personal conviction is about homosexuality.  What I care about is my friend, and other people like him.  Sadly, he’s not the only kid I’ve ever heard tell that story and I doubt he’ll be the last, even though I fervently pray it’s not the case.  I’ve talked enough blades off of wrists for my lifetime.

Here’s the thing:  gay people aren’t the enemy.  Homosexuality is never singled out in the Bible.  It always appears hand in hand with other sins:  hubris, for example.  Drunkenness and gluttony.  Idolatry.  Idle talk and gossip.  What infuriates me more than anything else in the whole debate about sexuality is that you see people saying “we can’t let gays get married because it goes against the Bible” but the same people aren’t trying to pass laws to outlaw idle chatter, gluttony, or even premarital sex.  How is it okay for Christian organizations to be pursuing keeping sodomy laws on the books while their employees chat about who Julie is dating on their breaks?

I’m sorry, guys, that may strike you as an extreme example but I am being completely serious.

The Bible doesn’t make a distinction between the sins it lists.  Being gay is no worse than being a gossip, and both things are equally condemned in the church.

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.  (1 Corinthians 5:11)

At the end of the day, what makes a sexually immoral person such a target as opposed to all of the other sins on the list?

And then we get into discussions about the law and about how opposing gay marriage is just obedience to God.  Let me tell you something:  God never once commanded us to make laws regarding the morality of people outside the church.  In fact, He said something more like:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Corinthians 5:12)

Their sin is none of our business.

The more Christians speak out against gay rights, the more they talk about the sin issue, the more they put out literature talking about how Gay people are sold to sin and more likely to abuse children and get drunk and have “depraved sexual relations” that “go against God”… the more I think about people like my friend, with the razor to their wrist, thinking that there is nothing to do but die.

Let me tell you what Hell is:

It’s a church so focused on sin that it’s forgotten how to love.

We have absolutely no business talking about the sexuality of those not in the church.

It goes against the Bible.

And for those inside the church, we should talk about it quietly, in confidence, not blast about it on the internet for every suicidal 19 year old gay boy to see.

Just.

Stop.

For the love of God, think about what you are doing.

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10 thoughts on “Let me tell you what Hell is.

    • It’s so absolutely heartbreaking, and so unnecessary. God didn’t call us to speak against the sins of the world but to renew our OWN minds.

      There is so much more I want to say, but I’m simply too emotional. Thank you for commenting.

  1. Lindsey – yeah.

    Although I think it’s important to note that sexual orientation is not a sin. And (imo) that committed, loving same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as straight couples, including that of marriage.

    It hasn’t been that many decades since the Supreme Court overturned the last anti-miscegenation laws.

    And… why is the church so silent when it comes to abuse in marriage, people rushing into marriage because they feel that they have to get married (often far too young) and who end up divorcing later because they didn’t have the help and support they needed in order to work out problems – or else know that it would be better to move on? (I know these are subjects that are close to the bone for you, however, I figure they are worth mentioning in terms of the overall picture.)

    Seeing as a church in MS just forbade the marriage of a black couple on their premises, I keep wondering “How long, o Lord?” How much longer are we going to be focused on hate and prejudice rather than on love?

    How long are we going to judge people solely by their sexual orientation (or their supposed sexual behavior) and not see them as whole person, loved by God and created in his image?

    Of course… this goes for trans and intersex folks as well.

    I have come to the conclusion that God is far, far more empathetic than we are – very much including myself there, because I was over on the “ex-gay”-promoting side of things not all that long ago.

    You might want to check out the Gay Christian network site, which is supportive and welcoming to all, regardless of whether they believe LGBT people must be celibate – or not.

    Things have moved, way, way past Exodus and PFOX. I think the American church 9evangelical, at least) is going to be pretty embarrassed by all of the ranting before too much more time passes…

    • I would *love* to write about the church’s completely twisted up ideas about marriage in general but as you rightly pointed out, that does cut very close to the bone for me and I’m not really in a place emotionally where I can write about it rationally. Hopefully it won’t be long before I can.

      And I agree with you, there is *no* way that any reasonable person could claim that the orientation in and of itself is a sin. And, even if you do believe that the sexual acts fall under the New Testament’s commands against sexual immorality, hello hypocrisy! The prevailing Christian attitude just doesn’t stand to reason. At all.

      Also, you’re so right about how embarrassing this will likely look in retrospect. The church will be on the wrong side of history once more.

      • I hear you… and I hope that you’re not putting any pressure on yourself to be able to write about certain topics. It could be a while before you’re ready, just as it took years for me to be able to state that I was kicked out of a church. (I didn’t do anything wrong, but the process of coming to grips with what happened + other things has been … lengthy, lest say.)

        One of the things that irks me: that people don’t – for example – read the 1st several chapters of Romans *in context.* If they did, I believe the understanding of Paul’s points there would be *very* different. It’s hard to read and understand ancient texts without having some context!

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