The battle between those who condemn homosexual activity as sinful and those who celebrate it as a valid alternative is heating up, and the sound of its fury is shaking the walls and rattling the windows even of the Orthodox Church. It’s like Dylan prophesied long ago: the times they are a’changin. And though our official Church pronouncements remain consistent with our Patristic past (such as the episcopal pronouncement on marriage, circulated by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America over two decades ago), our praxis has changed, and in many places now reflects secular norms, in that we now have openly gay couples receiving Holy Communion with the full knowledge and blessing of their priest. This is not consistent with our official pronouncements and our old praxis. This is new.
Obviously those celebrating homosexual activity as valid and giving Holy Communion to practising homosexuals are aware of the official episcopal pronouncement along with the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers it is based on. They know as well as anyone that in Romans 1:26f St. Paul denounces homosexual activity as “contrary to nature” (Greek para physin) and as a “shameless act” (Greek aschemosunen). They realize that in 1 Corinthians 6:9f Paul included homosexuals (Greek arsenokoitai) along with the other unrighteous who will “not inherit the kingdom of God”. And they do not simply say that St. Paul or the Fathers who echoed him for the next two millennia can all go hang. Rather they say that St. Paul and the Fathers were talking about one thing, and the present LGBT community now being affirmed and blessed is something else. Thus, the apostles and the Fathers were okay for their time, but their writings are now irrelevant to ours. According to this reading of the Scriptures and the Fathers, the pugnacious question, “You talking to me?” if addressed to St. Paul would be answered by him, “Well, no. I was talking to someone else.”
This then is the question: is the present LGBT reality really new? It is granted by all that the terms of the present discussion are new. We now use terms like “orientation”, and distinguish between a person’s “orientation” and their actual actions. In some sense this is helpful, if by “orientation” one simply means “inner desires”. We all have inner desires, some good and some bad, and we do not have to necessarily act upon them or indulge them. Most men (‘fess up, guys) have an inner desire or “orientation” to have sex with as many women as possible and thus commit the sin of fornication, but the presence of this desire does not mean that it should be expressed or acted upon. Inner desires can be disordered, and become passions. In this sense, the concept of “orientation” is not new. But people promoting a homosexual cultural agenda usually mean something more than inner desires when they speak about orientation. They assume that the inner desire for persons of the same sex is not disordered, and is a part of their inherited make-up, like left-handedness or eye colour. That is, they assume that it is an unmalleable part of them, and not subject to fluidity or change.
This, they say, is a new insight, and if Paul had the benefit of this insight, they suggest, he would have written with greater nuance. In this understanding Paul wrote to condemn lustful irresponsible acts of homosexuality, but did not have in mind faithful and responsible monogamous homosexual unions such as we find today. To apply Paul’s condemnation of the homosexuality he knew to today’s situation is invalid, and is like comparing apples to oranges. Paul knew nothing about orientation; he was accordingly responding to first century debased homosexual one-night stands. We are now dealing with something else. We leave Paul to talk about his apples; we need to deal compassionately with our oranges.
Of course to assert this is not to prove it, however many times the assertion is made. One sometimes gets the impression that the concept of “orientation” is a valid one simply because it has so often been asserted and assumed. The concept may or may not be valid, but the way to prove its validity has to involve more than simply repeating it endlessly like a parrot and denouncing those who challenge its validity as fundamentalists (or worse yet, as “converts”). Much evidence exists in history and in contemporary experience that sexual desire or orientation possesses a certain fluidity, and that “straight” people will engage in “gay” sex if (for example) incarcerated in a same-sex institution. One’s inherited genes may perhaps have something to contribute, but all this simply means that the subject is more complex and mysterious than the apologists for the LGBT community suppose. Science (that sovereign and unchallenged cultural arbiter) has yet to give the final word. And even when it does, one may still wonder a bit. If history teaches us anything, it teaches that each generation gets the Science it wants. Perhaps the final verdict of Science should be deferred a bit until the cultural war is over?
But even if the new concept of “orientation” is ultimately validated, this still does not prove that St. Paul was talking apples and we are talking oranges. How do we know that the homosexual world of Paul’s day was not more or less identical to what it is now? And that some people then engaged in homosexual acts out of a kind of BDSM kinkiness, while others engaged in the acts because they had only ever been attracted to the same sex? The fact that Paul in his polemics refers to the former doesn’t in the least mean that he wouldn’t have applied the same condemnation to the latter; it simply means that in his polemical writing he chose the larger target. All that is really new today is our current vocabulary about “orientation”; the actual sexual reality now is exactly what it was then.
In fact the LGBT community is guilty of what C.S. Lewis once called “chronological snobbery”—the notion that each generation is at least a bit smarter than the previous one, so that our society grows smarter and more enlightened with every passing generation. Evolutionary models aside, there is not a shred of evidence to support such a notion. No generation is really wiser than previous ones; each one simply has a different blind spot. We suppose ourselves to be wiser than St. Paul and his generation because we can talk about orientation and assert that same-sex attraction is God-given and therefore valid. But our supposed wisdom is far from proven. Our use of a different vocabulary than St. Paul’s does not necessarily mean that we are dealing with a different reality than the one he knew. The snobs can stand down until the fact of two different realities has actually been proven.
When one looks at the larger Biblical picture of sexuality in general, we see that St. Paul condemned homosexual acts because they were deviations from the norm articulated in the creation stories: “From the beginning, God made them male and female, and said for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 1:27, 2:24, Matthew 19:4-5). Sex is an expression our deepest human nature, and this nature is gendered and binary. Procreation cannot be validly sundered from sexuality as definitively and aggressively as our culture has done, for sexuality finds its ultimate expression in procreation. That is, sex is the engine which drives the world; it is how God continues to create. To sunder sexuality from procreation as the LGBT community has done is to estrange oneself from the primordial rhythms of the world. Paul and the other Biblical writers (we haven’t mentioned Leviticus yet) and the Fathers do not prohibit homosexual activity because it can sometimes be lustful and irresponsible. They prohibit it because it is always disordered, deviant, and opposed to the natural order of creation. To suggest that Paul, who was rooted in the Biblical binary understanding of sexuality, would have under any circumstances blessed homosexual activity because it can be used within a loving monogamous relationship is absurd. It is to prefer current fashion and political correctness to Biblical faithfulness and political courage. It is to prefer darkness to light. The LGBT reality is not really new. It is the same old darkness that Paul had encountered. And his word to the Church then may stand for us today: “Awake sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”
This is a very good post. There is a vast Patristic corpus also to back up what you are saying, including a canon (from the Quinisext Council if memory serves) prohibiting monks sleeping two to a bed, and other canon laws dealing specifically with specific forms of homosexual activity. I wonder if the parishioners at St. Gregory of Nyassa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, whose priest stated that David’s ecstatic dance undressed before the ark was the result of meditative practices he learned from wandering bands of naked prophets (yes, that’s on their blog, with the nauseating title “Jesus Wants to Dance with You in Church”) know that that very saint condemned the practice in strong language.
There is precisely one ancient canon I think we should ignore, and I believe it was promulgated by John the Faster. It stated that boys victimized by men in a specific way that I shall leave to your experience in dealing with human sin were ineligible for service in the altar or holy orders on account of the nature of their violation. Given the horror of sex abuse in the Roman church and other denominations I really think we should set that one aside.
William, hold on there a minute. Perhaps John the Faster speaks in wisdom. When I was Roman Catholic, my priest back then was an expert of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which deals a lot with the RCC teachings on sexuality. Anyway, he obviously has dug deeper into the matter to be able to address such issues when asked during his talks and seminars on ToB. He says that according to a study (this was a while back for me, perhaps we can Google it) that those who prey on children (paedophilia) usually were victims themselves. Not all victims become predators (I think it was 5%, or even less, from my recollection), but those who are predators, a high percentage of them (the number he gave escapes me at this time) were victims.
This may very well be another case of the canon not fully capturing the spirit of the canon. They may very well be aware of such trends in the past. We shouldn’t see any and all prohibition in the Church to automatically mean it is a punishment. Rather, sometimes a prohibition is something for our own good.
There is a growing number of strident voices within the Orthodox Household complaining about “converts”, and in particular those from the Anglican Communion, as suffering from some form of PTSD and are “over reacting” as Orthodoxy begins to engage in “dialogue” with the zietgist. Fr. Lawrence has stepped up, not as a “PTSD Convert Anglican” but as an Archpriest of the Orthodox Church to remind all of us that these calls for dialogue with the “spirit of the age” have a history, with results to be seen, in all of the so-called mainline Protestant churches. We can learn from the rapid decline of these groups or we can ignore the experience of those who came home to Orthodoxy and now see the barbarians at the gate, once again.
Archpriest Chad Hatfield
Thank you, Father. This piece is well written. I agree with the Orthodox teaching, but as the mother of a gay daughter, I have many conflicting feelings. I love my daughter so much and accept her, even if I can’t condone her lifestyle. I pray for my children every day, but I don’t tell God what to do; I leave my children’s salvation in His hands. How do we show compassion, but not necessarily acceptance, for those who are gay? I don’t know. I do know that God loves them.
Laura: Thank you for your comment. I absolutely agree with you about acceptance and compassion. I have gay friends and I leave their salvation in God’s hands, just as I leave the salvation of everyone in His hands. My piece was to meant to condemn the sin in the midst of a controversy where many seem unable to identify sin; we still need to love the sinner. Our basic message to the world is not “God hates sin”, but “Jesus loves you; repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” May the Lord bless you and your daughter, and lead us all to repentance and joy.
Thank you, Father. May God bless your ministry.
Your daughter does not have ‘a lifestyle’, she loves someone, just as you do, even though you may consider her gender to be a problem. Love does not become lust simply because it’s directed at the same-sex.
Many things could be said about Lorenzo’s post. I just want to point out the presuppositions of the “spirit of the age” that he is working from:
1) “gender” (which he seems to equate with same sex attraction) and it’s non problem – indeed it is equated with opposite sex attraction (i.e. “just as you do”) in that flat, sentimental, modern way.
2) “Love” defined not in any Christian way (i.e. in a non-sentimental way) but something modern, based on inner desires and sentiments, that can be directed to “the same-sex” in non problematic way for a Christian.
This simply shows how problematic this issue has become for Orthodox (and other Classical Christians) in that we live in the modern world, and unconsciously borrow so much of it’s terms and ways of thinking and “feeling” we forget just how counter-cultural Christianity is.
No I do not, I am a Christian, I recognise in the way two people of the same sex can relate to each other a form of Christian love.
Father, a word for us struggling with this thorn in our side while the world increasingly views our struggle as pointless.
Sal: you are to be commended and supported, both by words and by prayers, for your valiant struggle. The fact that the world views it as pointless only increases the praise due your courage. May the Lord strengthen you, and all single Christians who must live in chastity for the Lord’s sake.
First, you are not “gay.” You are a human being. As such, you are the crown of God’s creation and an icon of Christ. Second, what the world does or does not think is irrelevant. They function according to a different logic than we do, and tend to justify evil as good and condemn good as evil.
Rest assured, my brother, that if everyone else on the planet took the world’s viewpoint in this matter, you would still be right.
Three things are necessary: Prayer, the Sacraments and a clear vision. You already have the third. Do you go to confession frequently? It’s there to lift burdens, to drop baggage and create empty space the Holy Spirit can fill. If you are not living in sin, and have dropped any allegiance to the “lifestyle,” confess before the Liturgy and take Holy Communion.
Establish a vital and personal, prayer iife. Commit your life to the Lord. Also, get together with others who have done the same, and pray together frequently. The world should not be your spiritual or psychological support system.
Immerse yourself in Christ, Sal. Don’t expect overnight miracles (although they do happen), but dig in for the long-term work of Theosis. You and the Lord, walking together, will go forward.
Fr. James +
St. Joseph of Arimathea House
“Either fly as far as you can from men, or else, laughing at the world and the men who are in it, make yourself a fool in many things.”
–an Elder of Scete
Thank you for the encouragement, Father. My main difficulty happens to be doubt and spiritual conflict, rather than sins of the flesh, so to speak. But yes, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are a must for our road towards Christ.
I am not in the business of judging others. The BIble teaches that there is only one unpardonable sin and that is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Salvation is in the hands of The savior Christ Jesus.
I’m confused Lisa, are then saying that St. Paul is incorrect in condemning sinful behavior. No one is saying that homosexuality isn’t pardonable, but first we must acknowledge what is sin and warn others of the consequences. When we truly love someone, we will warn them if we see their behavior will destroy themselves and others around them. While it is true that we are not to judge others and their salvation, we are obligated to judge right and wrong behavior.
Thanks for speaking up. I hope others will follow you lead.
Thank you , Fr Lawrence. Your words bring clarity to a subject that has become so clouded with the confusion that comes from trying to alter our Creator ‘s ordered plan.
I was baptized in the Orthodox Church. I am also a lesbian in a 17 year, married for the last 3 years, monogamous relationship. I have not been to Church or confession in the last 30 years. Now that I’m in my last 50’s, I miss my Church and wish to return. However, I realize that it may never happen in my life time and that is VERY disheartening to me. I love my wife and my Church but, I can’t have them both. I really don’t want to go to another Church that would accept me, after all I am a true Orthodox Christian.
“I love my wife and my Church but, I can’t have them both”
That is the think about Christ God, is it not, that our creator does not accept us on *our* terms (which are sin and death) but on *His* terms, which are nothing less than Life everlasting! I also “love” many things. I “love” my self righteousness, my anger, when someone cuts me off in traffic – but I can’t keep it. I “love” my slothfulness (i.e. my comfort) which manifest itself in many sins which directly effect my children and family. Is your sin any different from mine? No. We are all of the same human body. I pray that someday we all will have the Grace to approach Him on His terms, which are nothing less than Love itself…
I heard Bishop Kallistos Ware say that he would have no problem communing “homosexuals” living together if they would commit themselves to a non sexual relationship. Would that be possible?
Bishop Kallistos does like to push the envelope on so many things, so to speak. I suppose that his is an “idealism”. Then one has to ask, what would be the point of two persons with strong “homosexual” attraction living together? We all know that this is simply begging the temptation and what is the good fruit of it in the end? As a practical matter, as a prudential way to live, it is nonsense.
It’s not surprising though that this is suggested (I have heard it from others – I can not attest to the veracity of whether Bishop Kallistos made the suggestion). We are so easily confused my the modern myth, and we so desperately want to affirm our sentiments and those of others. In the end, Christianity is very non-sentimental. As Fr. Patrick Reardon recently preached, our Lord’s command to “love our enemies” is in no way a sentimental command: one that wants us to “feel” positive about our enemies”. Indeed, to “love” our enemies in a sentimental way is probably impossible and nothing but self deception – that is if you take seriously the thing that an “enemy” truly is. No, we are rather to “do good”, Love as an action, not an sentiment…
Biblically, homosexuality is an act, not an inclination. However much you may be
tempted, you are not a thief unless you steal; not a liar unless you lie; not a sodomite
unless you sodomize.
We are not sinners because we sin,. we sin because we are sinners. The way of salvation is the way of turning away from sin, of becoming vulnerable before the
Lord and letting hatred of sin (but not of sinners) distance us from it; and not being
too proud to admit it when we slip, but to go before the Lord asking forgiveness, and
ask Him for the ability to genuinely ask Him for repair.
Elayna, you seem to be allowing a spirit of self-pity to alienate you from the Church.
Do you really desire Orthodoxy, or do you desire that Orthodoxy would become
something other than it is: that it would, perhaps, abandon the Word of God in favor of the words of the Rainbow Coalition?
“Monogamous relationship” is a definition, not a moral Theology. The word, “Marriage” in this case, is a falsification of a sacrament. These may sound like harsh words, but they are the plan truth, and with your soul at stake, my sister, there is just no cleanliness in soft-soap.
Simply, you have chosen lesbianism over Christ’s Church, and have therefore set up
an idol in place of the Cross. You engage in “anguish,” perhaps hoping that God will sere this and admit He is “unfair,” and change His mind. He won’t.
You don’t need sympathy, dear sister. You don’t need your “anguish” to be acknowledged or your “hurt” caved in to. You need Jesus, the Author of Salvation and the Healer of wounds. It is His embrace you need to turn to.
My advice: Get back to church. Go to Confession. Counsel with your priest. Work with him to get your spiritual life in order.
You are welcome in God’s House, Elayna. You are welcome at the Divine Liturgy.
But you are out of communion with Christ, at the moment, and should not approach
No matter. Soak in the atmosphere, yield to the Holy Spirit and permit God to bless
you and transform you.
It isn’t easy, it isn’t quick, and it isn’t usually a one-shot deal. Temptation–and even an occasional slip–might happen. But the key is to keep walking forward on
the Path and to let the Lord form in you, in His good time, an earnest desire to be healed.
One more thing: when you have established a counseling relationship[p with your priest, keep going to Confession. The Lord will never get tired of hearing “the same old sins,” and He will never weary of forgiving you, as long as you are for real in your desire for a change of character.
So, kick the despair out. Turn to Jesus, and start the walk back. He will welcome you with open arms.
It’s two post-menopausal women, what do you think?
Elayna, I have returned to my orthodox home after decades. I too could find no substitute for orthodoxy. If God is calling you back, be open to it, pray for guidance, find a parish, seek the counsel of a priest and most of all trust God is with you every step of the way.-don’t try and sort it all out before moving forward.
Peace to you.
If what you’re suggesting by this is that you are no longer having sexual relations, I think you have a winderful opportunity to re-structure your relatiomshop in your minds as well as your behaviors, come to terms with your past sins and confess them, and be restored.