Words can kill.

Rev. Snark sent the 4M a link to this article in Rolling Stone about a town that has had 9 suicides of teens who identified as queer, or were perceived as queer.

That’s 9 suicides in two years.

Let me say that again: 9 suicides in two years.

Our society tends to think that words are something you can just brush off. You know the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

You can’t just brush it off. If you’ve been told over, and over, and over, and over and over just how horrible, stupid, bad, or wrong you are, you begin to believe it. If you’re told that God hates you often enough, you believe it. If you’re told that you shouldn’t be allowed to live day in and day out, you’ll start to believe that, too. Then, over time, you’ll wonder if, maybe, if you did kill yourself, you’d do everyone, and God, a favor.

I know, because I’ve been there.

I was lucky because I still had a spark of hope left to listen to Spirit when it told me to turn around, go home, go to bed, and find help. I was lucky because I was in a place where I could ask, and receive, the help that I needed.

The teens who died in Anoka, Minnesota haven’t been that lucky.

As a witch, I’ve been taught that my words have power. That what I say can cause happiness, harm, pain, and many other things. Words, even more than actions at times, can cause serious harm, even if someone “didn’t mean it.”

It amazes me that there are fellow priests (in seminary and in the pagan community) who don’t understand this. Who don’t understand that even thinking in anger and hate can have an effect.

If you remember the work we did at Pantheacon last year, this is part of what we were trying to get across to the community. It’s not that we want to limit anyone’s religious freedom, far from it, but to make people think about how they present themselves.

If you used bigoted language when you present yourself and your religion, don’t be surprised when people call you a bigot. If you use racist, homophobic, sexist language in your sermons or writings, don’t be surprised when you get called racist, sexist, or homophobic.

And if you don’t think that your words can kill, try telling the kids in Anoka that you “didn’t mean it that way.”

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