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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My Novel

I’m currently editing a novel I wrote several years ago. I mean that quite literally- as I type this I am taking some much coveted time away from my family to edit. I just re-wrote the introductory chapter for about the fifth time, and I’m reading it over and over and wondering if it’s any good. I suspect it is, but I’m biased, and as much as I suspect it’s good I’m sure it’s not.

Anyone reading this who has written fiction for pleasure knows what I’m talking about. Even Stephen King was fairly sure that his success was just a fluke.

Yet… I love words, I love shaping them, I love stories about humanity, I love success and failure and literature even when it’s total tripe. And I love my brave little novel.

Here’s the new first few paragraphs:

Let me tell you a story about a girl. This girl struggled every day to think of herself as more than just a mess of flesh and emotions taking up space and time. This girl slid out of happiness and into chaos almost overnight. This girl’s life changed in just a few short hours.

One night she was laying on her back lawn imagining her life taking it’s carefully planned course through college and into a career. She pictured a handsome husband and two fat babies and an energetic dog. Not too big of a dog. Maybe a Scottish Terrier or a small Collie. And then our girl heard a noise on the periphery and turned to see a dark figure holding a knife.

At this point the details cease to matter. What matters is pain and fear and the things that pain and fear can do to a young girl. What matters is the focus of her existence shifting away from the American dream and towards survival and survival alone. What matters is the shame, the embarrassment, the feeling of having surrendered control, fear of judgment, fear of consequence, fear of death and fear of having to continue to live the rest of her life carrying the knowledge of torment always in the back of her mind.

Let me tell you about what happens when a girl is left standing at the bottom of a dry well, knowing that there is nothing there to give her comfort or nourish her. So the girl looks up at the sky, so far away, and wonders. Millions of years ago primitive man looked up in the sky and he asked the same question. Throughout the ages that question has fueled art and industry and science, it has made men feel less and more alone, it has inspired awe and despair. And for one girl with blood under her fingernails, it gave her something to live for just a little while longer.

Just long enough.

Of course it’s not meant to give you much information. It’s only supposed to tell you just enough so that when you get to the next scene you don’t put the book down and never pick it back up. It’s supposed to get the saliva flowing just a little. It’s supposed to make you care about the main character enough that you forgive her selfishness and the fact that the book literally starts out with a scene of self-mutilation. (Which I’ve been told is hard to understand if you don’t understand the back story, which goes back fairly far, far enough that I’ve never really known where the tale should begin. I just can’t begin it before the rape, because I can’t make myself write about the rape itself in any detail.)

I thought I’d share that tiny bit with you so that you can get a glimpse into my “serious” writing endeavors. That and if it’s total crap, someone can tell me. 😀

Self Mutilation, Self Hatred, Suicide

Ever since reading this post on SanityFound’s site I’ve been thinking about if I should address the topic of suicide and suicidal behaviors on my own blog.  Her post keeps getting more comments, so every once in a while it pops back on to my radar, and eventually I simply got worn down enough by my thoughts to start this post.

A lot of people misunderstand the suicidal, and a lot of people also misunderstand the self-abusive.  I seperate those people into two categories because they are not necessarily the same thing.  Not every suicidal person engages in self-abusive behaviors, and not every self-abusive person seriously contemplates suicide.  It’s easy to confuse them because both behaviors can be colored with a lot of the same emotions, but even so it’s an important distinction to make.

In my past I have been both self-abusive and suicidal, but peculiarly those two things occured at different times.  When I was suicidal I was fairly young and despairing, I was at the cusp of adolescence, realing from sexual abuse, absolutely dejected and sure that my life had nothing of value to offer.  I won’t relate the details of that time here because that’s not the main reason I’m writing this, but suffice it to say that my ascension from that dark place has absolutely convinced me that not only does God exist, but he loves me with a love I did nothing to earn.

Now, let’s talk about self-abuse.  Do not think that every person who cuts or engages in similar activities is over-acting or crying out for attention.  Do not assume that the things they are feeling are things that are easily coped with.  Do not make the grievous mistake that so many people do, and assume that it is a phase or can be ignored.  When I went through my self-abusive stage it was because I felt a great deal of disgust with myself, I thoroughly hated myself, and I could not think of any way in which to cope with the emotions that I was feeling other than taking it out on my body.  I’ve seen other kids struggle with the same thing.  Sometimes it is because they are in a highly abusive and manipulative relationship that they feel they can’t leave.  Maybe it is a parent, or a sibling, or a pastor.  For whatever reason they start to feel a build up of emotional bile.  And rather than attack the source of the problem, they exorcise that bile by taking it out on themselves.  Some people do this with cutting or bruising themselves.  Some starve themselves.  Some over-eat.  Some engage in risky activities like unprotected sex or drunk driving.  Some do drugs.  For whatever reason, the self becomes the enemy.

Perhaps the situation that causes the internal focus ends, or perhaps the relationship ceases.  Perhaps that is the way that the self finds freedom.  Or perhaps there is an intervention, and a new way of exorcising emotion is found.  Or perhaps the cycle of self-hatred continues until recognizable damage is done.  A young girl who is having unprotected sex may find herself pregnant, a boy who is cutting may land in emergency care, a teen who is doing drugs may be caught…

Often something happens that the period of self-abuse comes to an end, but that doesn’t mean that one can portray it as having been a phase.

What is important, here, is that we appreciate the depth of emotion that causes self-abuse, that we respect the reality of the internal struggle, that we do not attack someone who has already made thier self the enemy.  What we need to do is blanket the self-abusive in love, find them practical help and relief, and treat them with gentle hands.

If you are the parent, close friend, or loved one of someone who is exhibiting self-abusive behaviors and you are reading this:  please, contact a professional who can help them.  Do not try to deal with it independently.  Try to avoid an aggressive confrontation.  But, most of all:  tell them that you love them and that they are WORTH loving.  Embrace them.  Cry with them.

Try to let them know that you don’t see their self as the enemy.

Love them.