Sometimes people ask about the consequences of religion. What harm does it really do? I’m going to provide just one example.
I couldn’t sleep last night so I picked up my computer and wound up on my biggest time waster other than Reddit, Youtube. I had been watching videos of The Ellen Show earlier so it recommended more to me, one of which caught my attention. It can be found here.
Over two years ago, Ellen talked about the dangers of bullying and mentioned a number of teen suicides. I may have been living under a rock, but I hadn’t previously heard of the suicide of Tyler Clementi, an 18 year-old college freshman. This prompted my further investigation into his death.
I remember the transition period from high school to college. I was scared, anxious, excited – a whole mix of emotions. It is a tough time for just about everyone. I cannot begin to imagine going through this transition after having recently opened up to family about sexuality, especially when some loved ones came off as less than supportive. That was the situation for Tyler Clementi when he started his first year of college. Just a few days before leaving to college, Tyler told his parents he was gay. While he felt support from his father, he felt as if his mother had rejected him, even if that wasn’t completely the case. He also found his future roommates’ tweets about him being gay. This same roommate would later point his webcam at Tyler and his guest when Tyler asked to have the room to himself one evening. He would tweet about a second viewing and invite people to watch while they drank, as if displays of Tyler’s sexuality were a spectacle that everyone had to see. While the second viewing never happened, the damage had been done. After Tyler’s guest left he found the tweets and as anyone would, felt humiliated and invaded. He spoke to residence hall staff, requesting his own room. While he was offered a place to stay with one of the staff, nothing was immediately done about permanently relocating. One day after the second “viewing,” Tyler jumped from the George Washington Bridge, taking his own life. His roommate, Dharun Ravi, spent 20 days in prison for invasion of privacy.
On the surface, it may seem like Tyler’s suicide has little to do with religion, but I beg to differ. Earlier this year, Tyler’s parents spoke out about the incident. His mother harbored opinions about the sin of homosexuality. Her evangelical church taught her this was wrong and spread messages regarding the negotiability of sexuality. Tyler himself felt as if he could not be gay and Christian.
Yes, it was bad luck in the roommate lottery, and yes, there were students that were cowardly and could have said or done something, but there is a bigger picture. We need to pay attention to where attitudes and opinions come from. Much of the hate directed at gays and lesbians comes from a few lines in an ancient book though Evangelical Christianity is not the only culprit. Mormonism says that feelings of same-sex attraction can be overcome with self-control and a reliance on Jesus Christ. All major Islamic schools disagree with homosexuality and same-sex relationships are viewed as unnatural.
Tyler’s suicide is just one of many. Too many. Although it is progress, it is not enough to change laws, we have to change attitudes. I’m late to this party, but Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are aiming to do just that. Their song Same Love is growing in popularity and they are using hip hop to change the world. The song talks about stereotypes, hip hop, internet bullying, religion, laws, human rights, being an ally, and most importantly, love.
I watch this video and feel so much positivity and progress. I hope others feel the same.