Guilt, grief and God: a gay son's suicide

About that high-profile claim that a political and cultural progressivism "literally bleeds through the fabric" of The New York Times: Anybody catch the story on Tyler Clementi's parents leaving their evil, gay-bashing evangelical church?

The parental guilt and grief that drip from nearly every paragraph of this story will grip you.

A big chunk of the top of the report:

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — When Tyler Clementi told his parents he was gay, two days before he left for Rutgers University in the fall of 2010, he said he had known since middle school.

“So he did have a side that he didn’t open up to us, obviously,” his mother, Jane Clementi, said, sitting in her kitchen here nearly two years later. “That was one of the things that hurt me the most, that he was hiding something so much. Because I thought we had a pretty open relationship.”

In her surprise, she had peppered him with questions: “How do you know? Who are you going to talk to? Who are you going to tell?” Tyler told a friend that the conversation had not gone well. His father had been “very accepting,” he wrote in a text message. “Mom has basically completely rejected me.”

Three weeks later, he jumped off the George Washington Bridge after discovering that his roommate had used a webcam to spy on him having sex and that he had sent out Twitter messages encouraging others to watch.

An international spotlight turned the episode into a cautionary coming-out story, of a young man struggling with his sexuality and the damage inflicted by bullying. His roommate, Dharun Ravi, was tried and convicted of intimidation and invasion of privacy; he served a short jail sentence. But the trial never directly addressed the question at the heart of the story — what prompted a promising college freshman to kill himself?

What prompted a promising college freshman to kill himself? The story turns on that key question.

The obvious answer from the Times' perspective: the young man's evil, gay-bashing church:

At the time Tyler sat down to tell his parents he was gay, (his mother) believed that homosexuality was a sin, as her evangelical church taught. She said she was not ready to tell friends, protecting her son — and herself — from what would surely be the harsh judgments of others.

Later in the story, there's this:

In the months after Tyler’s death, some of Ms. Clementi’s friends confided that they, too, had gay children. She blames religion for the shame surrounding it — in the conversation about coming out, Tyler told his mother he did not think he could be Christian and gay.

She decided she could no longer attend her church, because doing so would suggest she supported its teachings against homosexuality. And she took strength from reading the Bible as she reconsidered her views.

So, as any reasonable Times reader can see, the case against the evil, gay-bashing church is pretty much open and shut. But since the Times is a newspaper committed to giving a full and fair hearing to all sides on such a story, let's see how the church responds to the charges against it.

Oh, wait. The evil, gay-bashing church isn't identified by name. No one from the evil, gay-bashing church is asked to explain what the congregation believes or teaches concerning homosexuality. No one from the evil, gay-bashing church is asked to respond to the parents leaving the church.

The Star-Ledger in New Jersey matched the Times' report with a similar story devoid of the church's side of the story.

But then a strange thing happened: Religion News Service picked up the New Jersey version of the story. Except that apparently, someone at RNS made the brilliant observation that no one had bothered to contact the evil, gay-bashing church for comment. So RNS did exactly that and added four highly relevant paragraphs to the end of the story:

Rob Minor, senior pastor for Grace Church, said on Monday (Aug. 27) that his church teaches that "God's ideal" is sexual abstinence before marriage, and monogamous heterosexual marriages. "But we also understand that we live in a world where everyone is striving to reach God's ideal," Minor said. Minor said he and an associate pastor relayed that message to Jane Clementi before she left the church.

"We love Jane and Joe and Jimmy and the rest of the family very much, and we respect their decision," Minor said.

Minor added that the church does not "bash" or "judge" people, nor does it make homosexuality a priority issue.

"The fact is at least in the six years I’ve been here, I never preached on it, never talked on it," Minor said. "It's just not been an issue for us."

Wow. It seems the pastor wants us to believe he's not the evil, gay-bashing son of a gun that the Times makes him out to be. Imagine that.

Video: Tyler Clementi performing with others at Grace Church in Ridgewood, N.J.

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