Episode 170 - Does Christianity Increase the LGBT Suicide Rate?

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Today we're going to talk about a weighty topic, and if you have little ears in the car or with you, this may once again not be a topic to listen to as a family. But we're going to discuss the effect Christianity has on LGBT persons and their suicide rate.

This is a weighty topic and I think this is a very difficult topic to discuss, even if you know all of the facts, or as many of them as seem helpful in the conversation. Because we're really talking about people and their very lives, who they are, and the fact that many people, for whatever reasons, come to see ending their life as the most desirable circumstance. And as Christians, as people who have been created in the image of God and formally know and understand the worth of every single life from conception to natural death, we should care about other people and their distress.

The reality is that depending on which surveys and studies you look at, perhaps over 40 percent of LGBT people attempt suicide. That is so much higher than any other demographic. It's certainly so much higher than just the average suicide rate for all people in the United States. Now we don't all agree on why it is this high. The pro LGBT person would say well, this is because LGBT people or trans people are stigmatized and shunned and bullied and made fun of. And so that's why, because they're discriminated against, that they commit suicide or attempt to commit suicide at such high rates.

I don't know that this is ultimately compelling or that that reason accounts for everything, though. If we look at another group of people who were massively discriminated against, black people or other minorities, we don't see the same level of suicide or suicide attempts. That leads me to believe that there's something else going on here with the high incidents of suicidality in LGBT people.

One of the things we have to do when we think about this issue is be compassionate. I don't know what it's like to struggle with my gender identity. I don't know what it's like to think I'm in the wrong body or, or to have a family that is repulsed by who I am. I don't know what that's like. So I have to start with compassion and seeing people as valuable image bearers made in the image of God.

I also need to see the other reality of people. We don't just live in a Genesis one and two world where people are created, and they're created good, and there's no evil in them. Because we read further Genesis three and we see that there was a fall. That the original sin of Adam leads to what we should call original corruption.

Original sin is maybe not the most helpful term when thinking about our state today because it actually refers to what Adam did. But what we have inherited is a corruption, a pollution of human nature as it was designed to be. In this middle period, while we are still created in the image of God, that is true, we have inherited a sin nature. We are not as we should be.

Now, the image of God is not totally erased, but it is damaged. It is effaced. We have naturally—coming from who we are—sinful desires. When we look around the world and we understand that the way people think, the way they see, the way they understand things, the way they conceive of themselves, all of that is influenced by sin. It is for you and it is for me and regardless of our LGBT affiliation or not, sin affects everything we see.

We’re talking about a group of people who actually do not see themselves as they were created to be, they don't actually see reality accurately. God created male and female; it's not something that's assigned at birth; it's not something you can change. So when we feel of ourselves like we are different than we were actually created, something is going wrong. Something is not as it should be.

And that is what we actually see with transgenderism, and that is what we see with homosexuality. That instead of a person wanting what God created for them, a complement as we see in Genesis two, that Adam needed someone who was complementary to him, a companion. What people want with homosexuality is a mirror image of themselves.

And when it comes to transgenderism, people do not want to live in the body that was created for them. They want to change that to match up a faulty mental perception. I'm not trying to imply that it’s like someone who wakes up and says “I want to wear the blue shirt instead of the red shirt.” That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying there is a struggle here because something is not right. And ultimately we can attribute that back to living in a fallen, sinful world.

When God is talking in Romans one about what it looks like for people to deny the truth in unrighteousness and worship the created world, Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives the example of homosexuality and lesbianism. In verse 24 of chapter one, he says, "God gave them over to the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the creator who is blessed forever. Amen."

What we're seeing today is people exchanging the truth of God for a lie. Where we think we define who we are. I defined what I am, what my gender is. Even some people would say what my race is and what my height is. I can define anything about me. It's not tied to reality. It's based on what I think. But more than that, the desires of people's hearts are pointed towards evil this side of the fall. And God gives them over to that, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.

I think what we're seeing here with this range of LGBT issues is people, even though they may desire what they're doing, those desires come from a fallen heart, and it actually dishonors their bodies. They are exchanging the truth of God–how God created them to be who he made them to be, who they are to worship, how they are to live and think of themselves-for a lie. And it is not surprising when we live our lives based on a lie that we would struggle in this world. And it is not surprising in light of that that a suicide rate would be high for a group of people who have codified and institutional seeing the world as it does not really exist.That is what's going on with LGBT persons.

I think there are multiple things going on. We can't just attribute all of the suicide rate to saying it's just social pressure, because there have been other groups that were massively discriminated against and did not react that way. What we actually have to see if we don't think of ourselves as God has created us, something is not right in our mind and/or in our body.

That's why in previous decades psychology actually understood and affirmed that if you thought you were a man when biologically you were a woman, you had a mental disorder. I don't say that to stigmatize someone or point fingers or to make fun of them. But doesn't it make sense that if something is not right in our mind where we think of ourselves as different than we are biologically, that maybe something else is not right when it comes to wanting to end our lives?

As hard as this conversation is to have, I think we need to be able to think through this as Christians. Now why is this? Why is this important to think through? Because people very quickly moved from saying there is a high incidence of suicidality in the LGBT community to saying that Christians are responsible, and the message that the Bible gives, even the passage I just read from Romans, is bigoted and hate filled and it leads people to want to kill themselves.

So we have to ask the question. Is this true? And if it is true, what do we do about it?

I don't have data to back up what I'm going to say here, but it stands to reason to me that if you imbibe from the well of the cultural definition of identity today and you associate what you do, your sexuality, with your very worth and identity, and someone tells you that that action is wrong, and even shows you in scripture, lovingly comes alongside you and shows you in scripture how that's wrong, that you might not understand they're talking about your action, and they might think you are rejecting them as a whole person. That you whole identity is based on something they say is evil. And that could - I could see this happening - lead to someone having more shame and potentially wanting to end their life.

Now, that doesn't exist in a vacuum though, does it? Because as I think we've already established, or at least established there is good reason to believe, there's something else not right here with many people when it comes to how they are already conceiving of themselves. So this conversation you're having is not happening in a vacuum.

But here's the question. If we do tell the truth to someone about their behavior in light of what scripture says on a whole range of issues, it doesn't even need to be LGBT issues, is it unloving if that increases their distress? Is it unloving if it increases their angst and anxiety and shame? Can we judge the action that we are claiming is love-sharing scripture with someone, pointing them to Christ, asking them and telling them God requires them to renounce their sin-by the result? Is that unloving if it leads to someone having more distress or even killing themselves?

And this is a conversation many people shy away from. And I have actually had it on my list of topics to talk about for about a year. And for some reason I have passed by it. But here's the sad truth that we all need to be able to work through. We don't judge actions as to if they're loving or not, based on the response. We judge them by an objective standard, not how someone thinks about them.

So when scripture says we know people by their fruit, we know an action by its fruit, what scripture is not saying is by the effect it has on other people.

Now, some people like Matthew Vines, a pro LGBT person, has tried to use these Jesus passages about knowing people by their fruit to say the traditional Christian view is bad fruit. It actually adversely affects other people so it cannot be good. But he's not using that passage as Jesus uses that passage.

The fruit is defined by scripture, and it's actually living righteously according to the definitions of scripture. It doesn't have to do with what it leads other people to do. (Now I'm creating a very hard line here where maybe we could haggle some in a different context.) But nonetheless, we judge an action by how scripture defines that action and by the intent of the action. And the gospel message is that every single person has sinned against God, continues to sin against God. It is a present progressive action that we do day in and day out. And the consequence for that sin before a just judge, when we come before him in his courtroom, is eternal punishment and death, because we have committed a crime against the most holy, perfect, infinitely good, loving and righteous being in the universe.

That is a message that we need to tell people. That is the most important message in the world. But here's the thing. That requires being able to point to what sin is. We can't just say it's sin in general. We have to show them the things a person has done where they have transgressed the law of the Lord You can't tell someone that they've transgressed and broken a law if you don't tell them what the law is.

When it comes to sexual issues, we need to be clear when we're sharing the gospel with someone, that we actually are talking about what the law of God requires, to show them where they fall short. If we do not first come to a knowledge and sorrow of our sin, we will not be led to and end up with repentance.

That's really important for us to understand. But you might ask, what about the side effect? What if that person feels more shame? What if that increases their distress? Doesn't that mean it was the unloving thing to do?

No, it doesn't. Because here's where that leads. Since you could rightly say “I don't know if I share this message, if it will increase someone emotional distress.” You might actually end up never sharing the message. Or if you say there's a good chance that sharing this message will increase someone's distress, then you would not share the message. Especially in today's day and age where people increasingly find Christianity more and more offensive. If we judge if we should share the message based on what we think people will respond with, we will increasingly share the gospel less and less and less.

And we must also asked and answer the question, what is the person's largest problem if they are in the LGBT community? Or if they're a woman abuser? Name any other habitual sin. Let's not just single out of that one group of people. We must ask the question, what's their largest issue? Is it the fact that they may have increased distress? And just to be straightforward, is it the fact that they might actually kill themselves? No, that is not the largest issue.

The largest issue is that regardless of their sin, regardless of anyone's sin, apart from a saving knowledge and trust in Christ, they will die ... Not just die. That's not the problem here. But they will be eternally punished for their sin and God will not be worshiped by them. That should be the fuel for why we share the gospel. It's so that people come to worship and glorify God actively in that way.

When we don't share the gospel because the person may perceive it to be unloving, or because it may increase a person's emotional distress, what we have done is adopted and bought culture's definition of love and not a biblical definition of love.

Biblical love does not intend to be offensive, but it presents an offensive message. The Gospel is foolishness and a stumbling block, and that's how God has designed it to be, honestly, because he is glorified in that when he saves people through the use of something that the world considers to be foolish and stupid.

So where does this leave us as we consider the LGBT suicide rate and Christianity? In actuality, the suicide rate in the LGBT community is a reflection of exchanging the truth of God for a lie, of living in a sinful world, of people who desperately need to hear and believe the gospel.

In fact, that is their only hope in a ultimate eternal sense. Wouldn't it be a perverted sense of love that would not share the only message they actually need to hear with them because they might be offended by it?

Because just to play this out, let's say you do share the gospel with someone, and you do it just as Jesus would have done it and that person tragically and lamentably ends their life. Would you think, this was because of me? No, you should not, because what's the alternative? No one ever shares the gospel with them and then they tragically die and still end up under the wrath of God. The Gospel is the only message that changes that and it is our job to share that message with the people often who want to reject it the most.

When we do that, we do it out of love and concern and compassion, and we do it knowing that it is God who will change hearts, but he has ordained the gospel message to be a means through which people come to hear, and hence, through hearing are saved. And we simply cannot allow ourselves to end up at the place where through some type of convoluted thinking, we believe that the most loving thing we can do for a person is not share the gospel with them.

So I know this has been a difficult episode. In some ways it's a difficult thing to put out there in words, but I hope you understand my heart behind this. That as difficult as these issues are, we cannot shy away from them. In fact because they are difficult, we must push into them and not be afraid of man, not be afraid of what people may think, but to faithfully represent our savior as he came to bring a message of hope and love to the whole world.

I'll talk with you next week on unapologetic.