When Will The Orthodox Church View Homosexuality Honestly?
One of the main reasons why I eventually came to support gay marriage and gay-rites, wasn't necessarily because of any convincing argument on the part of any gay activists. Rather, it was because the Orthodox Church simply couldn't give me the clear, concise answer that I'd come to expect so often, as to why the Church regards homosexuality as a sin.
In the Orthodox Church, I feel blessed, that I can ask a priest what a specific passage in the Bible means, or I can ask some kind of Theological question, and I can get a clear, consistent answer. Then there is of course, theologumena. My parents left their protestant church because they were tired of the Pastor always saying, "Well what do you think the passage means?" or "What is God telling you it means?" In Protestantism suddenly everyone is a Saint and everyone is a Prophet. You read a passage, and whatever pops into your mind, from, "damn commies" to, "I want a glass of orange juice" it's The Holy Spirit, speaking to you, revealing a previously unknown truth, and it's your job to start a new tax-exempt religion! With the Orthodox Church, you get clear answers to serious questions.
Except when it comes to Homosexuality.
When I began researching the Church's position on homosexuality, there was a consensus that it was sinful, but there was no consensus on how or why it was sinful. Sometimes the answer would be something like, "Well how could it not be?" or "Isn't it obvious?" in some cases you are guilt-tripped as part of a secular conspiracy simply for asking the question.
Other times you are referred to specific Bible verses. I've done as much research as I can into the original Bible verses, and they are vague at best. One passage, often translated in English to be St. Paul condemning homosexuals, actually uses 2 Greek words, the first being the word for, "effeminate" followed by the word, "arsenokoitai" (a word St. Paul seems to have coined himself) whose definition is not explicitly mention by St. Paul, but you may read a lengthy discussion on it, here.
Many English Bible translations, translate this as being something along the lines of, male prostitutes and homosexual offenders.
I consider this to be quiet a far jump from the original terms.
(The two words, "malakos" and "arsenokoitai", used by St. Paul are some of the most hotly debated words in the Bible with regards to understanding the Bible's position on homosexuality. Click the words to learn more about them.)
Then there's the passage in Romans. What can I say? I've read the passage. I've read St. John Chrysostom's homily on said passage, both first and second parts.
"And next, having reproached the women first, he goes on to the men also, and says,I've never met a gay person who became gay because they worshiped a false idle or because they turned away from God. What the passage implies here is that the sexual lusts and activities engaged in by those people were caused when God left them unto themselves, for turning away from Him. He goes on to say;And likewise also the men leaving the natural use of the woman.Which is an evident proof of the last degree of corruptness, when both sexes are abandoned, and both he that was ordained to be the instructor of the woman, and she who was bid to become an helpmate to the man, work the deeds of enemies against one another. And reflect too how significantly he uses his words. For he does not say that they were enamoured of, and lusted after one another, but,they burned in their lust one toward another.You see that the whole of desire comes of an exorbitancy which endures not to abide within its proper limits."
Well, I don't perceive the punishment, and I'm not even gay. What is it?And receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.See how he goes again to the fountain head of the evil, namely, the impiety that comes of their doctrines, and this he says is a reward of that lawlessness. For since in speaking of hell and punishment, it seemed he would not at present be credible to the ungodly and deliberate choosers of such a life, but even scorned, he shows that the punishment was in this pleasure itself. (So Plato Theæt. p. 176, 7.) But if they perceive it not, but are still pleased, be not amazed"
His most prominent point is that the sexual acts committed by the people in Romans were against nature.
"Now not only did it fail to stir up the womb of the earth to the production of fruits, but made it even useless for the reception of seed. For such was also the intercourse of the men, making a body of this sort more worthless than the very land of Sodom. And what is there more detestable than a man who has pandered himself, or what more execrable? Oh, what madness! Oh, what distraction! Whence came this lust lewdly revelling and making man's nature all that enemies could? Or even worse than that, by as much as the soul is better than the body. Oh, you that were more senseless than irrational creatures, and more shameless than dogs! For in no case does such intercourse take place with them, but nature acknowledges her own limits. But you have even made our race dishonored below things irrational, by such indignities inflicted upon and by each other. Whence then were these evils born? Of luxury; of not knowing God. For so soon as any have cast out the fear of Him, all that is good straightway goes to ruin."There a couple of ways to look at this. One, is that the people St. John is describing were not actually gay. The other... is that St. John simply wasn't aware of the fact that homosexuality occurs among other species within nature thus jeopardizing his entire argument. (See here, here & here)
People who use this passage are only able to do so by remaining willfully ignorant of the fact that many children are born gay into loving, conservative, Christian families. Unless they argue, as some of them do, that the gay child is a punishment, by God, for the sins of the parents, thus raising the gay child becomes a penance.
To wrap this up, ask any Orthodox priest to explain the sinfulness of homosexuality, without using the Bible (the Bible is only a written account of the faith anyway; only Protestantism is Bible-based). Then you see the true nature of the, what I consider a false teaching.
Explanations outside of the Bible, paint of picture of homosexual pedophiles waiting outside of windows to snatch up little boys (sound biased?). Or claim that an opposite-sex couple is better able than a same-sex couple at raising children (no study cited). In more extreme cases they will claim that children from a same-sex household often grow up to be thugs and go to prison (no study cited). Or, in one specific example, when Florida was considering allowing a loving lesbian couple to adopt their 1-year old foster child, a photo was passed around by the, "family research council" of a gay couple with long hair and androgynous features; 'look at them, they can't raise children, they're WEEEEEIIIIRD.' Source
Any study you cite, conducted by any university, showing that gay couples raise children just as well as straight couples, will be dismissed as part of a secular conspiracy.
I once asked someone what the, "gay-agenda" was, their response, "to get us to think that homosexuality is normal." yeah... and... ?
To the Orthodox Churches credit though, they answer has slowly been changing. It's slow, within the context of our time, but in Orthodox terms, from 1980 to now is pretty much worthy of the term, "over night". Remember, it took the Orthodox Church 100 years to form and Ecumenical Council to condemn the (very obvious, I might add) heresy of iconoclasm.
There was a time when the wide-spread opinion of the Church was extremely hostile towards the gay community.
Recently though, it's gotten to the point where the more left-leaning members of the Church, though they still see it as a disorder like alcoholism, are starting to drop the right-wing party line of promoting reparative therapy, because to date, no credible study has ever proved that any organization has ever cured anyone of being homosexual.
It should be mentioned that there was a study done to see if homosexual orientations can change, conducted by a former member of the American Psychological Association (APA). However, it was a phone study, which relied on an, on-your-honor, system to answer survey questions. Multiple conflicting interests, biases & motivations were not accounted for.
I'll close with a brief story told to me by a friend.
He went to visit an Orthodox Monastery in the south, with many of life's questions on his mind. When he got there he had a wonderful talk with the abbot, and he asked the abbot, 'What is so sinful about homosexuality?' The abbot thought for a long time and simply replied, "We should love everybody."