What Are We Allowed to Do With Christ’s Members?

Why can’t two men or two  women be united in the Christian sacrament of marriage?

In the Eucharist, the priest prays that God will make/show the elements of the bread and wine to be His body and blood, just as in the marriage service the priest prays that God will unite the man and the woman.

However Christ already united His body to the bread, and His blood to the wine, at the Last Supper. Only this original act of Christ makes it possible for the priest to repeat it. Christ’s original action is present in every subsequent celebration of the Eucharist.

Likewise, when God created humankind, Adam prophetically said, “This (woman) is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two of them shall be one flesh.” Clearly it had been revealed to the writer of this passage that God’s original act of uniting the man and the woman would be repeated – would be present – in the union of every man and woman to come after them. This is what makes marriage a sacrament.

Christ Jesus Himself puts the “Amen” on this passage when he quotes it and says, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man break apart.”

Any priest who tries to unite two men or two women and call it marriage cannot call on God’s original creative act in this way.

Nor is it a mere matter of economia to admit practicing, unrepentant homosexuals to the Eucharist.

St. Paul, who was a disciple of the risen Christ (was taught personally by Him) reflects on this same passage in Genesis by saying, “Shall we unite the members of Christ’s body to a whore?” I don’t think he meant to say that no former repentant harlot could commune with Christ. Rather, he was saying that no one should join himself to Christ by Holy Communion and then join his body, made a member of Christ, to a woman who was not his wife. This was so concerning that he had to clarify that the believing husband sanctifies his own unbelieving wife for this purpose.

Notice that St. Paul’s objection to prostitution is not that it “objectifies women.” No, his objection is that it violates, infringes on, and abuses The Mystery, of which both the woman and the man and Christ take part.

I would then ask a parallel question.

Shall we abuse the members of Christ’s body with sodomy?

Never!

Why not? (If we must ask.)

Because it violates The Mystery. Because it shames Christ.

Can God unite two men in marriage?

He has already declined to do so. Or rather men would not be men and women would not be women if they had not been made complementary to one another. God does not seek to unite himself to another God. Rather he seeks the human soul which has been made to receive him. In an image of this mystery, a woman’s body was made to receive her husband’s body. In order to imitate this act without a woman, two men must use a filthy dishonorable organ of the body that was never intended to be the vehicle of a mystical union. According to St. Simeon the New Theologian (who had visions) Adam and Even in the garden, before sin entered the world and our human race, did not have any need for waste elimination.

St. Paul wrote, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” He was being compassionate when he said that. The Lord is terrifying because when the veil of our gross materiality is removed from our mind, His massive power, divinity and presence replaces everything that used to fritter away our awareness. His nearness will never again recede from all that we are. If something in us is opposed to him, how terrible for us.

St. Paul also said, “We have no other ambition than to be pleasing to Him.” No wonder.

Finally he warned that “the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Why? Because it’s impossible. Among those who qualify as “unrighteous” he lists both the effeminate and practicing homosexuals (right in amongst people practicing plenty of other more “normal” sins.)

So the biblical message to anyone practicing homosexuality is “repent, the Lord is at hand.” I’ll let others discuss the ways in which contemporary homosexuals may have different experiences or levels of responsibility than those St. Paul was speaking about. The primary message remains. Like a parent telling a two year old why she can’t drink poison, the Lord’s lasting message is, “This will hurt you.”

38 thoughts on “What Are We Allowed to Do With Christ’s Members?

  1. Hello, AR.

    Wrong! 0/10!! Very, very poor. Bad theology, bad psychology, bad physiology. Your writing is valueless.

    God does unite man and man, woman and woman, whether the Church accepts it or not. Have you never met a gay couple? Surely you have. So, you have seen God’s work!

    I am delighted that my Quaker meeting will marry a lesbian couple next year, as soon as the legal procedures are in place. We will recognise God’s work in uniting them- better late than never.

    God help you.

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    • Thank you, Clare. I also pray that God helps me, and you, and all his world. This post was written for my fellow Orthodox Christians, who share certain assumptions with me. It was a response to a comment on another Orthodox blog.

      Since you have been kind enough to give me your opinion, though, I will try to explain where I am coming from.

      Remembering Job’s friends, with whom the Lord was displeased because they said the wrong thing about Him, I try to choose guides to belief that I can consider authoritative. It is unthinkable to me that the Scriptures, the Holy Fathers and Mothers, and all of Christianity up until the past few decades have been wrong about God and human sexuality. And if they are, who am I to come up with the right answer? I have tested my thoughts and impulses and I find that they are not the vehicle of God’s revelation. To the extent that God’s light shines in my heart, it prompts me to fall prostrate, lay my hand on my mouth and submit my judgment to the authority He established in the world – of which He said, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

      Are these guides – the Holy Orthodox Church, the Scriptures, the Holy Saints – proven wrong by the ever-changing soft sciences that so recently changed their official view on homosexuality and jettisoned years and years of opposing research and observation in favor of the more politically correct stance that you are cheering on?

      Are they even proven wrong by the temporal delight and enjoyment that two women have in a same-sex relationship?

      Is everything permissible just because two adults can be found who enjoy it? Or are there things of which God is still allowed to say, “No, you are must not do this even though you want to, because it’s bad for you”? Or is this what Quaker quietism comes to: God is not allowed to say anything that we don’t want him to, because his voice in this world is channeled through our feelings, and our authority is a group of women sitting around a room positing divinity in every stray thought that happens to arise in their brains?

      I do wonder what your authority is, and what weight it has compared to the Holy Scriptures – and the Holy Saints who labored in heart-breaking ascesis, who subjected themselves in full obedience to the ecclesiastical authorities in their lives, whom God fully remade into Christ’s image and to whom God eventually granted visions of Christ and Creation.

      I am not a psychologist or a physiologist (and I suspect you are not either) but as regards theology what I am saying here is not from myself. If anyone can show me something that is from myself and not from the truth found in Scripture, as interpreted by the community that holds the apostolic tradition (by which I mean the Church) then I will renounce it. I am foolish and it’s even likely that something like this could be found. You will have to excuse me though, if I don’t abandon my current guides in favor of you.

      All the best

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    • Um, well, not to join in a fray but your first line is very bad form. I’m surprised that someone who professes Quakerism would write or say such things. It is possible that God joins man to man and woman to woman, but not in the way you imply. Marriage is one thing, as ordained by God and outlined in the Bible. Other kinds of human relationships, some touched on in the Bible and some not, between opposite or same gender persons, may or may not be offensive to God, but only He, and the people involved, know. As for me, I cannot in good conscious call good evil or evil good. Think it through a little more, and gently slap your sister and me if you don’t like what we have to say.

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        • What, Romanos, you don’t like me saying “hello”?

          If you meant my second line, a clear response and opposition to persecution, and telling the truth, is absolutely at the heart of the Quaker way. LGBT liberation is a current concern of ours. Notwithstanding your ideas that boxes marked “gay” and “straight” may not fit the huge human variety, gay marriage is clearly the next step in that liberation.

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          • I know for sure that I am a sinner, and only one thing I know with more certainty—that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and, whether I believe it or not, I am the first.

            People may praise me, and for a second or two I may forget myself and feel glad. Then I remember, and I know that they are giving me bricks to lay on what they think is my foundation, but in me there is no foundation, not even a poor one. I know that; they don’t.

            I may sometimes even do worse things. I may praise myself, trying to amass bricks of gold, not to lay on a foundation that isn’t there, but to store in a strong box that has already been plundered and no longer even has a lock. The greatest earthly riches cannot console me.

            Faced with the fact of sin, with the temptation to descend into its filth, put a bible in front of me, and some worldly seduction, side by side, the bible gleaming, the seduction luring to shadow, and left to myself, shunning the God who would tear the net, I let myself be caught in it.

            The bible is there, right in front of me. I know much of it by heart. Yet my heart treads water, as I stand in a pool of my own blood, grumbling like Israel in the wilderness, refusing to enter a land of delight, even while praying, ‘make me again a citizen of Paradise.’

            O God! Your Word, I confess, is Truth, yet I cannot arise by my own efforts. Nothing I can do is any help. Running to You for strength, my weak soul pines for the liberty of hell, as my eyes are captured by its false promises. Run to meet me, as You always do, and carry me.

            I have lost everything, only to know that all that I had was and is and always would be worth nothing. In You alone are the riches of freedom, of love and of peace, freely given to all who come to You, through the Opening torn in the veil of this world, Your Son’s Body.

            Yes, Lord, I am the one who was made in Your image, though I am scarred by my transgressions. On Your creation, O Master, take pity, cleanse me by Your compassion, and once again make me a citizen of Paradise.

            http://romanos-2011.blogspot.com/2011/08/citizen-of-paradise.html

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            • Clare, Clare, Clare. You don’t get to talk to our Romanos that way on this blog. He may abase himself into the dust but that doesn’t mean you get to dismiss his honest, compassionate, and different-from-yours assessment as stupid and nasty. Get real or go away. I won’t tolerate another comment of that sort.

              My prayer for you:

              O Lord,
              we offer to your loving attention Clare.
              Please remember her love for her friends
              and her zeal for what she believes to be true.
              Please forgive her in what she may err.
              Furthermore, in the way you know
              and to the end you know,
              help her.

              In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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            • Romanos: Yet, many of these men are guided by reason and know better than to confuse a man-to-man love relationship with marriage. They know it is something quite different, and they too regard the confusion of the two as madness. Yet these men, living as life companions, are usually pushed into the category of ‘gay’ and some feel they must do unnatural acts to somehow validate their love for each other.

              So they bugger each other against their will, because that is what society requires. If you don’t like the epithets “stupid and nasty”, what words would you use? And, well, I am guided by reason too, you know.

              Thank you for your prayers.

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            • Reason, perhaps, but neither truth nor love.

              ‘The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.’
              — Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange

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            • That’s an important ideal for all Christians to remember. However let’s not mistake language for deeds. Perhaps if we met Clare in person she’d be trying to meet our needs. Perhaps she is trying to meet the needs of her lesbian friends, without understanding what those needs really are.

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            • Well, I know a woman who is lesbian, has had female partners before and since, and calls herself “lesbian”, yet “the love of her life” was a man who fathered her three children.

              That bloke wants a girlfriend- absolutely fine by me. But he has no right to call normal sexual relationships “an aberration”.

              Why should orientation remain fixed, anyway? Just because “ex-gay” quack treatments have no effect, does not mean that people do not get attracted to both sexes naturally. We’re all a little bit bi.

              But this one man, and all those like him, does not justify you speaking falsehoods about the Bible. http://clareflourish.wordpress.com/bible-gay/ has lots of useful links, to understand what the Bible actually says.

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            • Romanos is humbled, and I am disgusted. thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. All that, for a long way of saying “Gays will go to Hell”? God forgive you.

              In my icon of Mary, the robes are black.

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            • Clare, every human soul goes back to God after death. How joyful or grievous that experience will be depends upon the likeness between each person and Christ.

              I’ve already quoted the scripture which says that homosexuals and other kinds of unrighteous people cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The reason for this is not that “it’s the rules.” The reason is that when the body is gone, the soul can no longer interact with people and God through physical mediation. As a result, all interaction is immediate. Your state of grace – your faith, your love, your righteousness… in short your “for-ness” or “against-ness” toward God in the actual encounter with Christ – these become your hands and feet and mouth. Thankfully, if the heart is true, the soul can divest certain sins after death, meaning that the soul stops being an adulterer or thief or homosexual or disobedient or whatever. But it’s not safe to bet on that if you know better!

              So, someone’s condition after death depends on the state of the soul and only God can judge that. I don’t look at the homosexual and say, “Well, there’s someone slated to burn.” Instead I think, “I hope they find the courage to repent so that they can inherit a greater and more immeasurable joy and honor.” And while a public blog is not the place for confession, I realize that all of us have transgressed the perfect mystical image that is the ontological basis for human sexuality, myself included. I don’t think homosexuals are a different kind of sinner. But I think it’s terribly dangerous to tell them to embrace their sin as normal and God-blessed, and that seems to be the flavor of the day.

              And, I really think I was trying to make more than one point. To re-iterate, you cannot consider the ubiquitous experience of bi-sexual thoughts among our generation to be the determining factor of normal. Our society is so demonstrably abnormal in all the ways I mentioned, that we have to expect growing sexual aberration. It would be a miracle if it didn’t happen. And the first place you look for those aberrations are the newly-accepted behaviors that were considered wrong and harmful forever before.

              Also, it is impossible for you to function as your own spiritual authority.

              However, Romanos understands my way of expressing myself. Perhaps it is not helpful for you. Or maybe you’re just not ready to reconsider this. It seems like it’s a very emotional issue for you. Anyway, go with God.

              P.S. I dropped out of Bible college. Not all that learned, really.

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            • Actually, I was mocking you, I am afraid.

              You have this foolish learnedness, concepts of heaven which stop you living well on Earth, concepts of God which divide you from your fellow human, and I don’t think you are able to hear, or think clearly about right and wrong.

              Um. You don’t think I’m ready, I don’t think you’re ready, we can pity each other from our respective high moral grounds of Christian Understanding-

              or I can say to you, too, go with God.

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  2. Thank you, AR, for your very well-reasoned post grounded on the Rock of Christ and His commands. All else is shifting sand. Such confidence placed in God’s Self-revelation in Christ is validated in every age by the Saints. God help those founding their lives on sand when the storms of life come to expose the real nature of what has been built and its foundation. Only those things built upon the Reality of God, Who is our only true Good, will stand. God grant us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying, which is the same as He has always said and will always say, to the Church.

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  3. Hello AR.
    Thank you for taking the time to write this post.
    I appreciate how you have linked the union in the Holy Eucharist with the unitive Mystery of Marriage. I had not thought of it in that light.

    However regarding the further comments in your post, I think I have come to understand Orthodox Tradition, ethics, and spiritually somewhat differently.
    While it is true of most of us converts to Orthodoxy, that we have been drawn to the stability and ‘valid’ authority of Holy Tradition, my acquaintance with some quite mature, older Orthodox (converts and otherwise) well versed in Tradition, has opened up nuance in what the Tradition is, when it is “living” in us spiritually. We would agree that the goal of Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. This movement toward theosis results in a new way of “knowing”. Saints are transfigured; they have undergone an ontological change that makes them God-bearers. Truth resides in them as a living Spirit, and they speak with the authoritative voice of Tradition not through study and familiarity with writings of the Fathers but with the Spirit that illumined the Fathers. (St Mary of Egypt is perhaps the most striking example: she knew even the holy scriptures through God’s direct revelation and her ascesis).
    Of course knowledge of this sort will not “contradict” the scriptures or the Fathers. There is stability to the Tradition. But where I have discovered some flexibility is in what exactly “counts” as contradiction- and more importantly what does not count as contradiction. Because there actually has been quite a bit of fluctuation within the teachings and ethical life of the Church- both between cultures and over the ages. I have come to understand this in a way that does not cause me “anxiety” over the “changes” in the Church. I understand it to be the salvific and Christological nature of Truth: the truth can never be separated or abstracted from its ‘effects’ or power to save, heal, love, and correct. In this sense my confessor once said to me, “Even if you proclaim “Jesus is Lord” you can be telling a lie if you are doing so in a way that harms your neighbour”).
    I would take for example changing Orthodox practice and ethical teaching in relation to: violence/killing/military; slavery; anti-semitism; women’s role in society; infrequent communion; menstruation and communion; prayers for a woman who miscarries; divorce and remarriage.
    All of these have shifted and changed over the years. Certainly there can be found a “pure” line of fidelity throughout the centuries, but overwhelming popular support and teaching (even from Saints and Fathers) has supported “lesser” teachings in each of these areas. More examples can be provided.

    I say all of this to explain why it is not in itself sufficient to reference centuries (millennia even!) of consistent ethical practice in the Church regarding homosexuality. While I certainly agree with all the authoritative points you make regarding ‘permissible’ or ‘blessable’ sexual practice, this authority is not enough to heal the existential wounds, pain, confusion, and suffering of my friends (Orthodox and otherwise) who are wrestling with their sexuality.

    My question has been, “Why is homosexual union not possible?” And I have been seeking a very visceral, intimate, immediate, and accessible understanding. A word to offer healing, not to offer ‘proof’.
    I think that God does not wish us to do what is right only based on obedience to an external ‘rule’ or as an act of sheer will. Certainly we must constrain our desires and seek to conform ourselves to Christ- this will mean acting according to what we will be and not just what we ‘feel like’ now. However the Church promises us more than this: real healing, real transformation. So my friends who are Orthodox and struggle with a deeply felt “sensation” that it is “right” to be intimate with a person of the same sex, it is not satisfying to simply demonstrate to them that the Church has always taught this.
    By analogy I am given all sorts of anthropological, theological, existential “reasons” why it is not appropriate for me to follow any desires I may have to be unfaithful to the wife God has given me. I do well to “internalize” these understandings and make it “natural” for myself to not even desire anyone but my wife. I have lots of help with this. I am seeking similar help for my friends who struggle with same sex attraction.

    Thank you again for your post. It was very thoughtfully and clearly written, and I did enjoy your insight about the elements of the Eucharist.

    Love in Christ;
    -Mark Basil

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    • Mark, your point is well taken. I’m going to think about this a while. It must be heartbreaking to feel that your church is failing your friends. Perhaps we have to be the ones to start a movement within the Orthodox Church to help people with this. I know there are many, many stories out there of people who used to struggle with same-sex attraction and are now happily married and have been delivered from this temptation or illness because God and their church helped them through it. Not only that, but tons of practicing homosexuals fall of the wagon on their own (of course it’s always the grace of God but not always recognized as such. Usually these religious stories are coming from Catholics or the more serious evangelicals. It seems to me the Orthodox are usually about 30 years behind the other churches, not just in answering issues but even in experiencing issues to any great extent. I wonder how many Orthodox pastors actually have experience in counseling people with this issue? You may wish to talk with Romanos more about this, since he is deeply read and has a great deal of personal experience to offer. I hope to have a few thoughts to offer you tomorrow. Thank you for bringing this up.

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      • Hello AR.
        I wont be around online tomorrow.
        If you feel there is something helpful in addition to what you’ve offered here I am all ears. Please reach me by email at: man or they at gmail dot com (all one word)
        Thanks;
        -Mark Basil

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  4. What we perceive as ‘homosexuality’ and what is practiced as ‘homosexuality’ are both grossly unrealistic, completely conditioned by a world view that has been created for us by those who originated the term decades ago. What I mean is, ‘homosexual’ covers a whole range of behaviors and acts that do not share a common origin, or would not, except we have already predisposed them by our definitions.

    Recently I came across the word ‘homosocial’ which is, I think, of recent origin. It describes the behavior and act of preferring persons of the same gender, without assuming that this preference extends to, or is motivated by, sexual considerations. I think, in history, even Christian history, there are thousands of cases of same sex couples living and working and, yes, even loving, together.

    I have known and currently know both female and male ‘homosexuals’ and have talked to many of them and gained a lot of insights. The primary insight is, there are far more varieties of human need than are covered by our definitions of ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’. People often find themselves trapped into a ‘gay’ lifestyle and consequent persona, e.g., Lesbian, or Gay, because that’s what seems closest to their need.

    When I worked at a job years ago where most of the staff were Lesbians, these women often used me as a ‘confessor’ because they knew I would not judge them. They told me of their struggles, and so on. What I learned there was exactly what I am trying to say above. Many of these girls (yes, most were still under 30) had fallen into relationships out of need (for love) and fear (of men). Most had other emotional problems.

    The men, somewhat similarly, have the same characteristics, but because of their gender and what male society does to its own members, whether ‘straight’ or ‘gay’, again, the roles that have been defined for us by the prevailing culture as to what constitutes being ‘homosexual’ force these men into relationships that devolve into real perversion. Yet, many of these men are guided by reason and know better than to confuse a man-to-man love relationship with marriage. They know it is something quite different, and they too regard the confusion of the two as madness. Yet these men, living as life companions, are usually pushed into the category of ‘gay’ and some feel they must do unnatural acts to somehow validate their love for each other.

    My paragraph on the men is longer because I am a man, and therefore know more about what is inside a man, both myself and others with whom I have had close and trusting friendships. I think the current social acceptance of gay marriage and the like is symptomatic of the general sickness of our society and, yes, the Holy Church (you know, the One) has the medicine for the sickness, not just for homosexuality.

    My question to everyone who identifies as being gay, whether men or women, is: Are you really that? Why do you think so? Sometimes a very fruitful discussion takes place, especially if the person I am speaking to is a Christian. But I often find that the alliance between thought and the prevailing cultural definitions is too strong to be broken. People who have bought into it don’t want truth any longer, only comfort.

    But the reality is, men loving men is natural for some men, and has natural ways of intimacy that do not offend God or the commandments. In fact, that love is the power source for ‘even greater works,’ if it is affirmed as God intended. Jesus says, ‘There are some men who are born eunuchs, and others are made so for the kingdom of God.’ The same is true of women. Women loving women is natural for some women.

    Actually, all men and all women love others of the same gender and want love in return, but even that primitive need has been occulted by the current perverted social context, and feared by those who want to be commandment-keeping, just as much as it is channeled into perversion and desperate obsession by those who either do not know God because they were never taught, or because they reject Him.

    Anyway, I could write more, but I have already, I’m sure, tried your patience, if you’ve even read this far. My conclusion is as it has always been, to receive all who are sent to me or to whom I am sent, as Christ Himself, and judging none, to affirm in them all that is good, and guide them, if they allow it, out of bondage into the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Blessed are the peacemakers…

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  5. Romanos, I think you are right. Other times and places have allowed a greater latitude for deep loving friendships, even ones that expressed themselves physically (to an extent) between those of the same sex. David and Jonathan, etc. Since Freud we’ve had the unthinking assumption that everything physical is also sexual. I’ve often wondered how many people stumbled into homosexual acts just because they didn’t know how else to classify what they were feeling, while if they had only known, their relationship could have been just as satisfying without getting the “whole body” involved. I also think that you are right about the world putting out pre-fabricated identities which we often feel compelled to adopt. I admire your openness to talk directly with people about what they are experiencing. I’ve never had that opportunity. The few people I’ve met who I learned identified themselves in this way never mentioned it to me directly.

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    • I think you have hit on what I was trying to express. I have spent more time and effort (and love) trying to understand my friends who have same-gender needs than almost anyone I know (in church, at least), and my door is always open to them in welcome without condescension or dissimulation. Quite a few of my writings have come out of these friendships that the Lord has sent me. Here are a few…

      http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2013/04/when-christ-walks-in-hell.html
      http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2012/11/what-we-were-born-wanting.html
      http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2010/11/source.html
      http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2011/09/safe-inside-his-wounds.html

      I know that what Holy Church must pronounce publicly is for ‘general consumption’ and so it is for most of what we even as laypeople can say or express publicly, again, because we speak in general. But when we are faced with the reality of a brother or sister who loves and is seeking to understand what their love means, if we have the courage to follow Jesus Christ and do and say to them what we hear Him saying and doing, ‘laying aside the cares of this world,’ we are letting them enter into His wounds, and there is where they will find the answer to all their loves, needs and hopes. This is non-dogmatic, but it is within the love that Christ both commands and Himself is. As the good Samaritan, we too can be Christ, to all those whom we find abandoned (by church, by family, by friends, even by themselves), and if they allow us, carry them into the inn that leads to eternal life, ‘where pain and suffering are no more.’

      Pity that those who confess the Inner Light, being born blind like the rest of us, cannot see their way to Him who Truth and Love really is.

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  6. Clare, “the bloke” did not want a girlfriend. He wanted a wife and children and he was saying “I had fun the other way, but this is something completely different.” The story demonstrates Romanos’ point that male homosexuality almost never has anything to do with the instinct for marriage and that male homosexuals who are the least bit reasonable (that is, who seek consistency between their thoughts and their actions) are usually the ones who know this best (and say it the best, too.) It’s a fair argument.

    In order to say that “we’re all a little bi” you have to assume that what you experience (and most of the people you know) is normal. And yet when you compare our era to Christian and even other societies’ history, there is nothing normal about the way our contemporary society lives now – how can you assume the results are normal?

    Normal human experience is not saturated with high-speed, hi-fi, color media almost non-stop – media that, in turn, is saturated with the political agendas of those who created them.

    My dad, who hasn’t watched tv in thirty years, was astounded when a guy at work needled him to fess up to having been attracted to men before. “Of course not,” was his open-mouthed, wide-eyed answer. They couldn’t believe him, and he couldn’t believe them.

    Our society is extremely abnormal in the extent to which most of us are cut off from direct experience of nature. No wonder we think we can master and reinvent the very definition of our humanness.

    Our society is abnormal in its absence of female objects of reverence. Have you, for instance, ever prostrated yourself in love and reverence before the image of a quiet little woman veiled in blue from head to toe? How many people have?

    Our society is abnormal in the openness with which we encounter and view basically pornographic material portraying both sexes. We often fret about the dangers of our husbands encountering sexually enticing images of other women on tv and billboards and magazines. But have we ever given any thought to the effect on our daughters who encounter those same sexually enticing images of women? Or to boys who encounter similar images of men? If this exposure is abnormal for the opposite sex, how can you be so sure that its effects are completely normal for the same sex?

    And what about the nature of stories in our society? Instead of being narratives, stories are almost always an invitation to participate in someone’s subjective experience- usually someone fictional. Sympathetically, we live a million lives in our lifetimes until it seems that we can’t bear it unless everyone gets the “happy ending” that most always involves “being with” the person they “have feelings for.” We have almost forgotten all the other reasons for marriage and all the other ways of experiencing attachment and fulfillment – not to mention the value of obedience.

    Our society is abnormal in that we slaughter a third of our offspring without ever having the decency and courage to look on their tiny faces and tell them WHY we are choosing to deprive them of life. In this cowardly and self-serving fashion, we have forcibly, violently, and bloodily detached marriage from child-bearing in our thoughts and ideas.

    Our society is abnormal in the level of abuse between the sexes, from domestic abuse to prostitution.

    Finally, our society is abnormal in its confusion about what manhood and womanhood are. Feminism has all but rubbed out the normal experience that human children have always had, of finding out what male is and what female is and what they do. You may prefer it that way but you cannot look at history and argue that it’s normal. Kids are growing up with a much slimmer sense of distinction between masculine and feminine than ever before – why shouldn’t they have trouble knowing where to position themselves in this wreckage? What distinction there is, we have almost convinced ourselves is merely biological. We have forgotten the symbolic and mystical distinctions.

    I suppose under these conditions, most people might begin to experience stray thoughts or feelings of a homosexual or bisexual nature, and a certain number of those people will be in circumstance that will propel them to “do something about it.”

    That doesn’t make it normal. It just makes it common.

    Not only that, but our expert spiritual practitioners tell us that the mind, detached from the heart, always give rise to automatic thoughts which can quickly become idolatrous. Learning to dismiss them is one of the most basic disciplines of beginner spirituality.

    Yet you would have people turn these thoughts over and over in their minds and build an identity around them.

    And of those people, some will combine their homosexual attraction with the natural human desire for love, and construct a long-term relationship.

    And still, the mystery of marriage – the man leaving his mom and dad and clinging to his wife – the image of the seeking Christ and the receiving church – is something completely and mystically other. It is not simply love or desire that form an image of Christ and the Church. It is man and woman joined together that are an image of Christ and the Church.

    But I have something more important to say to you, Clare.

    You show evidence of wishing that everyone believed as you believed. In this desire, you are looking for something very precious and full of virtue, which has been fractured and increasingly frayed for nearly a thousand years. And that precious something is called the “unity of the faith.” I say your desire is pointing to something good, because it’s true that there should only be one Christian faith and that we should all share it in common and in humble agreement.

    As St. Paul said, there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. The invention of other faith-content since then doesn’t render his knowledge invalid. It simply disguises the truth from the casual viewer, a state of things that makes the end-times “great deception” possible.

    There’s still only one faith. And being Christian is not defined by the skill of one’s interpretation of the Bible. Rather, it is defined by one’s adherence in belief and conduct to that original “one faith.”

    Therefore, Christian unity is not possible through argumentation. It is only possible through obedience. You show an innate knowledge of this fact when you try to coerce people into shutting up or agreeing with you because they’ve said something you regard as untrue. In your behavior on this blog, you have basically been trying to discipline us into agreeing with you. When you tell us that “the bloke” has “no right” to say what he is saying, you seek everyone’s obedience to the truth as you see it. I am forced to assume that if you were the ruler of the world you would be burning books and imprisoning heretics!

    Obviously you are not appealing to the political right of free speech. Rather, you are appealing to something which we all know innately – unity in the Christian faith is desirable and right, but it is only achievable through obedience.

    And since you and many other drifting postmodern Christians cannot obey the faith as it was always held, you must ask people, instead, to obey your feelings of defensiveness.

    Perhaps some of the gay bullies who, the last time I commented on this issue, threatened my children and called me a “breeder” ( the most offensive term of prejudice I have ever encountered) also coerced you into obedience at some point, I don’t know.

    But when you do what you are doing here, you demonstrate that your real authority is your own mind. Private interpretations of scripture are the furthest back you can go in your appeal to authority.

    Here’s how obedience works in a traditional Christian community. I obey my bishop (usually through the mediation of my priest and other Christians) who obeys his bishop and the bishops who came before him. Through this humble network of obedience, made up of the whole church through time and space, we touch and live the first faith of the Christians. In this way, Christ really rules his church and we experience unity and love to the extent that we are able to grasp it.

    Just like Elisha received the physical mantle and spirit of Elijah, and continued his predecessor’s work, so our bishops receive, by laying on of hands, the spirit of Christ’s apostles and that understanding of the truth which was the common property of the Church before the New Testament scriptures were even written. Within this blessed community, the scriptures form the written part of that tradition.

    Or to put it another way, we are the body that wrote the scriptures and canonized them. I highly doubt that we have been misunderstanding them this whole time. This is not a simple issue of what’s permissible and what’s not. It’s an issue of immense theological import. What is the mystery of Christ and the Church? What is the created nature of humanity, the portal of grace?

    Of this living, original faith I, who am not mature in the Lord, partake only through obedience. With so firm a foundation, how can you hope to move me away through imaginative exegesis and hermeneutics and etymologies, all informed by secular, agenda-driven, history-rewriting gender-studies? I’ve found the peace and assurance of the true Church. Like any other Christian, I must say “no” to my false self in many ways that are extremely painful, not in the sense of doing damage to oneself, but in the sense of undergoing spiritual treatment and taking up spiritual exercise. And yet the light floods in.

    I tell you, the smallest, most comfortable act of obedience will be transformed into a joy whose radiance would kill us if we experienced it in the body. And the most heartbreaking act of obedience will become more joyful than a universe of stars. You do not know what you are doing when you persuade people to commit unseemly acts and abuse their bodies and the mystery. If you only knew, you conspire with Christ’s enemies to deprive his servants of their reward. Do you remember what Christ said in Revelation to those who persuaded Christians to eat meat offered to idols?

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  7. I am humbled in witnessing the majesty of your obedience expressed with courage and compassion, and instructed by the wisdom you have received and are sharing now. I wanted to write, ‘all I can say is bravo!’ but your testimony far exceeds an exclamation that I utter at a great musical performance. Instead I say again, of you, Sister, Axia! and of your thoughts clearly and beautifully written, Alitheia! As the Lord commanded John the Revelator to close each of His seven letters, I also close with, Ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ Πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις, ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches’ (Apokálypsis 3:22). Thank you, Sister, and good night.

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    • Romanos, as always your kindness and generosity covers me with confusion. Christ only is beautiful and I am the least of His poets. Thank you for your penetrating contribution to the discussion.

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      • Thank you Karen. You’re very encouraging. I’m not conscious of anything like that… I state my understanding of what is good but I don’t live up to it. All I know is that to turn aside from the fresh breeze is to suffocate and die. God bless you.

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  8. AR,
    I have never been here -or commented here- before. I came across this fabulous article and read your responses too. I am, of course, in total agreement with what you are saying, and very happy to see someone speaking the words I would also like to speak, only more eloquently.
    May our Lord bless you and increase humility, discernment and love in you.

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  9. Clare Flourish,
    I am guessing you probably do not frequent this place anymore. I will still attempt to communicate some thoughts from a Greek friend of mine here:

    Christ, in His recorded words, does not explicitly condemn homosexuality, but He neither condemns polygamy or incest… Yet Christians, from the beginning until today, understood that these practices cannot be part of Christianity. Clearly the words of Christ on marriage, refer to a pair of husband and wife (eg Matthew 19, 3.12 ) . How could it be otherwise, since God created the primary pair of a man and a woman (Matt. 19, 4-5 ), and there is no other marriage union to which He gave the blessing of marriage.
    Orthodox Christians however, do not only on what Jesus said, but in what is said by the Holy Spirit through the disciples of Christ and the Holy Fathers of all times.
    The apostle Paul was one of them, his words are ‘holy scripture’ for us and this holy man writes explicitly that homosexuality is one of the results of the perversion suffered by mankind since the Fall.
    Even as biological beings we can discern a fundamental purpose to the existence of the sexual organs in nature – to create new human beings. Even if certain diseases or birth defects preclude this basic purpose, this does not alter the biological evidence for it in any way.
    An expected query might perhaps address the issue of “entitlement” or “rights” in intercourse with anyone we desire. But even this question does not reverse the logic above. If, for example, someone can, and wants to be walking down the street with his hands (and not walk on his feet); we are still obliged to acknowledge that the anatomical evidence suggests that this is an abnormality. The testimony of our lives indicates that we walk with our feet and not with our hands. The same applies for the choice of homosexuality.

    Homosexuality, according to Orthodox spiritual tradition, as expressed in the New Testament (St Paul) and the teaching of the saints, is what the Church terms a “passion”. Therefore one who began his/her life as gay or turned to homosexuality at some other time, when progressing in holiness, purifying the heart from the passions, they cease to be gay. We have no homosexual saints who were sanctified through homosexuality (as married saints are sanctified through marriage), if this had ever been so, the Fathers would not have concealed it, nor thought – along with the apostle Paul – that homosexuality is another one of the passions that separates man from God.
    We certainly have saints who were once gay (as we have saints who were sexually immoral, lewd or prisoners of various other, non-carnal passions) but took the titanic struggle against their passions –whatever they were- and by the grace of the Holy Spirit defeated them and became holy.
    They are those who “castrated themselves for the kingdom of heaven” ( Matt. 19, 12).
    If homosexuality is derived from biological causes and is produced by society is debatable. Either way however, it cannot be converted to a non-passionate state. One can be violent, for instance, due to a biological cause (eg because the body produces more adrenaline and testosterone than it should) , but this does not mean that for him aggression “is okay” and that this needn’t be fought against in order to be cured of the passion.
    We hope to be saved, not because of our ” virtue”, but because of the love and mercy of God, which we ask for every day in our prayers, repenting and fighting, with His help, against our passions.
    But if instead, we are trying to convince others (and ourselves) that our passions “are ok” and not sinful, we are probably hypocrites and our salvation in danger far more.
    It must be clarified that we all need repentance, each for different reasons; everyone has to face their own passions, and not t accept them, but to fight hard. A heterosexual may have to face many passions associated with sex – and marriage can not always heal these, because they might feel the need of adultery, or intercourse with multiple sexual partners or pedophilia, incest, bestiality and many others.
    All these passions are not “okay” and straight is not necessarily more virtuous or closer to God than gay. Both can be saved because of the love of Christ, and with the struggle against sin, assisted by divine grace…
    Concluding with love, I would like to communicate a conversation of the holy Elder Paisios (1924-1994) with a young gay man who struggled against homosexuality but felt weak for this fight (an atheist might believe that such a struggle is equivalent to amputation of ourselves, but this is not directed to atheists, but orthodox Christians brothers and sisters). The young man told the Elder that he could not stop living as a homosexual. And the Elder, after telling him to confess, asked :
    “Can you read a chapter of the Holy Bible ? ‘.
    “I can”.
    “Can you go to church every Sunday ? ‘.
    “I can”.
    “Can you fast on Wednesday and Friday ; ‘.
    “I can”.
    “Can you give a small amount to alms? ‘.
    “I can”.
    “Can you… ” (many more)…
    “I can… ” (many more).
    At the end he said : “You see that you can do a thousand things but that one. Well, you do the thousand and leave that one to God!”.

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