This post discusses suicide. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For LGBTQ-specific help, please reach out to the Trevor Project by calling 1-866-488-7386 or texting “TREVOR” at 1-202-304-1200. If you are outside the United States, please visit TrevorSpace, an online international peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their friends. For long-term counseling and online therapy, please visit The Christian Closet.
Mailbag is an occasional Q&A of your inquiries regarding faith, sexuality, and relationship from an LGBTQ perspective. We aren't theologians or counselors, but we're walking the same path as many of you and will do our best to answer the questions you have. You can submit your own question here.
Hi Dave and Tino,
As you know, LGBTQ Christians face high rates of depression and suicide. This can come from a multitude of different factors, but I wanted to reach out to ask you about one that I don't think has been addressed before. I've read about a dozen books and hundreds of articles on sexuality, including James Brownson and Eugene Rogers, and although I'm pretty confident of the affirming interpretation, I'm afraid of what if I'm wrong.
As a gay Christian, I am looking at two possibilities for my life: I could marry another man, and live the rest of my life with nagging doubts that I have sacrificed my relationship with God for this marriage. Or, I could choose not to marry a man, and blame God for the loneliness that I feel. I'm already depressed, and going on dates with men is one of the few things that helps me feel alive at all. I think if I chose this second option, I'd end up looking for sex in secret on Grindr, and hating God. Either way, I feel like I'm risking my salvation.
There's a third option, and that's to kill myself now, while I still am in good relationship with God. I'm aware that it seems pretty distorted for me to claim that suicide is not going to cost me my salvation while staying alive will. But that's where I'm at, and I would love to hear any thoughts you have.
I know you'll probably feel a need to append a list of suicide hotlines, etc. to any response you give. That's fine, but I do want to reassure you that I'm in counseling, I'm not an immediate risk, and I know about the obvious resources, like the national suicide hotline and The Trevor Project. If you have anything to say, it could be very helpful, but my life is not depending on your ability to say the right things.
Thank you for trusting us with this vulnerable and honest email. David and I are neither theologians nor trained counselors. We can only pray that whatever empathy we can offer is in some way helpful.
I want to start by saying that we honor your dignity and self-awareness. We believe you when you say that you are not in imminent danger and we are glad to read that you are already in counseling and seeking the help you need with your depression. We believe you when you say you know how to access suicide prevention resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Trevor Project, and we trust that you would take advantage of them if you sensed yourself in danger.
I, too, once took an intellectual, almost detached, approach to the question of suicide similar to what I sense from you. I tried discussing it with a friend, and it resulted in him panicking and almost attempting an intervention. I appreciated and understood his concern, but it wasn’t what I was seeking either. My reasons for considering it were not the same as yours. I didn't fear that my being gay and in a relationship would threaten my salvation. I found Christ when I was a self-accepting adult gay man, and I never sensed Spirit placing any kind of barrier between us. I was lucky to have been spared the messages of mere humans who, pretending to speak for God, have caused so many LGBTQ people to turn away from their Creator. The reasons why I explored the question of suicide were informed by my desire to be in full communion with God—I am, at heart, a very impatient person, and in my loneliness I wondered if suicide was a shortcut to that higher state of being. I concluded it wasn't a shortcut at all, and that it would only cause me to miss out on the beautiful, integrated existence for which the Divine so lovingly created us.
It saddens me to think that the theology you have been taught has led you to believe that suicide can be a means to secure your salvation. I believe that distorts the message of the Gospel. The mysteries of the incarnation and Jesus’ bodily resurrection teach us that the body matters just as much as the soul. Again, David and I are not theologians, but we have found arguments made by some biblical scholars enlightening—they have helped us reconcile the incarnate reality we know with the wisdom we’ve found in Scripture. And over the years we’ve heard the still, small voice of Spirit whispering in our hearts, giving us the peace we needed to trust that God wanted us to come together in a covenant of marriage. We believe God called us to marriage in order to ease our individual aloneness and to help us better serve our community as a team. That said, you sound like a smart, well-read man. I suspect there's little David and I can add that would fully satisfy your theological and philosophical concerns about the sanctity of same-sex relationships. This is a question you must ultimately answer yourself—or, perhaps, not answer at all.
I don’t know how old you are, but I’d like to share something that has taken me by surprise now that I see my 40th birthday on the horizon. I recently came across some essays I wrote between the ages of 23 and 30. It struck me to see how confident I was back then about so many propositions—how certain I was of all my beliefs. In contrast, I now find myself living comfortably with mysteries and doubts that would have driven my younger self crazy—things that would have made me, back then, want to read and read, and think and think, until I could utter my favorite words: "I'm sure."
What surprised me was not that I used to be so sure of so much—or that I so ardently used to crave certainty. What surprised me was how truly OK I am now saying "I’m not sure" about, well, so much. It’s not that I've become a relativist. I think universal truth exists, and I think it is attainable. It's just that I've come to realize that seeking truth is a quest for eternity. And after all these years, I think God is finally teaching me some patience. After all these years, I'm learning that full communion with the Divine requires that patience, that trust, and that level of comfort with having doubts. Despite life's uncertainty (or perhaps because of it), I believe we can live out God-honoring stories that are full, meaningful, and deeply satisfying.
David and I both hope you discover that life is worth living. More than anything, we hope you choose to stay alive so that you may pursue that discovery. We hope you choose the path that will bring growth in your relationship with God. It sounds like, for you, that path may lead you to a marriage to another man—“a helper fit for you” (Gen. 2:18)—if you allow it. We hope you choose life because the one thing we are sure of is that a path that brings you love can only bring you closer to the Divine, who is the very essence of Life and the truest form of Love.
God bless you and keep you, friend.
Photo by Alex O'Neal, used with permission through Flickr Creative Commons.
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