By Owen Jennings
According to Israel Folau’s critics, his “hate of homosexuals leads to pressure on them to self-harm and suicide”. That is the stated position of most of Folau’s opponents.
Where has Folau expressed any “hate”? He has quoted Bible passages, but they do not express any emotion – hate or love. They simply state a position. It could be argued he is doing them a favour alongside all other types of “sinners” by pointing them to “repentance”. Expressing concern over an activity does not necessarily include “hating” the people involved in the activity.
The only people drawing such a long bow are those who have another agenda. They deliberately overstate the situation and add their own concocted conclusion to try and make the situation seem worse than it is.
The term “homophobia” has been thrown around loosely, too, in relation to Folau’s tweets. Homophobia is “dislike of homosexual people”. There has been not a single expression of dislike of homosexuals by Folau that I have seen.
There is absolutely no reputable, scientific evidence making a link between criticism of homosexuality and self-harming. It is an ideological assumption for beating people like Folau over the head with.
There is research carried out by two gay-friendly scientists from Columbia and the University of California that found church-attending, same-sex-attracted individuals are two and half times more likely to attend churches that hold and openly teach a traditional, Folau-like biblical view of sexuality than they are to attend so-called welcoming and affirming churches. Clearly, they found a loving, supportive atmosphere at the fundamentalist churches – not a “hate”, “homophobic” situation.
The scientists found to their shock-horror, “There was no main effect of non-affirming religion on mental health, an unexpected finding discussed in this article.” No main effect on mental health itself, much less self-harm and suicide.
If the claim that Folau-like religious “bigotry” and “hate” toward homosexuals leads to self-harm and suicide, as well as depression and other mental disorders, then those places with the highest levels of acceptance of gay people should have lower levels of these problems. That would be a logical corollary. Sadly, it isn’t so. The two areas of the world with the highest affirmation of gays are the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
Despite such acceptance and support, rates of suicide and suicidal ideation among gay youth and adults are tragically high in the Netherlands. Researchers call it the “Dutch Paradox”.
There are several studies confirming this – eg, ‘Suicidality and Sexual Orientation: Differences Between Men and Women in a General Population-Based Sample From The Netherlands’ – de Graf R, Sandfirt T, ten Have M.
A Swedish study in 2016 found gay men were 140% more likely to suffer suicidal ideation. Other studies confirm such high numbers where gay people are given the best possible treatment. Even when gay marriage is promoted heavily as in Sweden, gay couples enjoying their anticipated greater social acceptance and security retained suicide rates nearly three times that of their married opposite-sex peers. These percentages are higher than in any other country.
The conclusion is that there is no evidence that acceptance or, conversely, non-acceptance of gays makes any difference to mental health problems suffered in that community. Reality says there is something else driving the high levels of self-harm and suicide among homosexuals, and common decency demands that answers should be found.
Blaming religious intolerance and the Folaus of this world is a diversion and is more about the growing antipathy toward Christianity than it is about genuine concern for the gay community.