A few years ago, a family member's local church housed a regional meeting of our denomination. As is true of most regional gatherings, in the back pew sat the local church volunteers who had spent the day attending to the needs of the meeting.
On this particular day, an amendment regarding the ordination of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) members to ministry was up for vote. Regardless of the actual words used during the debate of this amendment, one of those volunteers, a father who had recently come out to his family and friends, went home and killed himself.
What did he hear? Did he hear he was an abomination? Did he hear that his body could not hold the image of God? Do his children know he did?
This man, whose name I don't even know, was NOT an issue. He was not a doctrine. He was, as the Rev. Otis Moss III reminded his congregation last week, "a child of God who had the fingerprint of the divine upon his spirit." And now he is dead. And his children are fatherless.
On a website for the Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), I discovered statistics about the teenage queer community that are shocking: homelessness, drug abuse, physical violence, hate crimes. But what was most disturbing is that more than 30 percent of all reported teen suicides are committed by gay and lesbian youth. It is the leading cause of death. Not drunk driving, not accidents. Suicide.
And it's really no wonder. After President Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage last week, the prevalent message the media sent from our churches to the LGBT, and especially to our young people, is that their lives are worthless, that the stain of their "sin" is so worse than the rest of ours, that they are unforgivable.
Why, Dear God, has your overwhelming message of love, of justice, of solidarity with the oppressed been pushed aside to highlight the voice of our own righteousness, a voice that screams violence and encourages violence against your children, children you breathed your breath into and created in your image?
Because the voice of hate is more sensational than the voice of love, the message our young people are hearing from the church is that being gay is worse than being a murderer, being gay is worse than not taking care of the poor, widowed and orphan, being gay is a sin that makes you unredeemable.
What our young LGBT people are hearing is they deserve every single beating, hate crime, and insult directed their way. What they hear from our churches is they are unlovable wretched creatures who are better off dead.
My faithful friends, who value the life of every single creature God has created, our voice needs to rise louder and clearer.
To the young queer community: We shouldn't have to tell you life gets better, but please don't give up hope. Get those voices of hate out of your head. You are no mistake. You are no abomination. There are people, churches, synagogues and clergy from all different kinds of faiths who want to support you, walk beside you, and would even give up our lives for you.
And we want you to know our God loves you at least as much as the person who loves you the most. When our God created you, God breathed life into you and called you good. You are a beloved, uniquely and wonderfully made. May you know this and may you live into this -- the true definition as a child of God. Hallelujah, Amen.
The Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas, is pastor to youth and families at Peace Presbyterian Church, 10902 Technology Terrace, Lakewood Ranch. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.