Our Beloved Queers: The Other Side of the Coin

Yesterday I wrote about queer apologists and agendas and activists, and about their ideas and plans as I see them. In that post I spoke about enemies, about fighting, about opting out, about resisting, about seeing clearly the danger such people pose to our society. That essay was my view of the Orthodox Christian’s civic duty.

Today I want to talk about another related but distinct topic: those people we know or love – people who live among us – who experience some element and extent of non-normative sexuality and who may have embraced a progressivist ideology to explain or defend it.

Perhaps the person in your life who is dealing with this issue is still holding to the traditional viewpoint, but struggling with what they find in themselves.

Perhaps they didn’t come out with the truth about their inclination until it was too late for you to be involved in their process of coming to terms with it.

Perhaps they feel that their only option, aside from fruitlessly trying to suppress their inclination, is to fully embrace the only ideology presented to them in today’s society which would fully explain and accept their feelings.

Of such people I would not speak in terms of enemies, fighting, legality, resisting, or danger. Although many of them would resent it, my view is that their plight is being used by political opportunists to tear our culture apart.

Non-normative sexuality may be as simple as a certain irregularity in one’s awareness or interest. Or it may be a lot more complex and difficult.

It may be that it arose spontaneously or gradually, unfolding with the maturation of the natural systems, so that its true cause is indiscernible and it seems natural.

It may be the result of frozen sexual development, frustrated at some point in childhood or youth by faulty treatment from parents or peers.

It may be physical – the results of some hormonal irregularity, whether in the womb or at some point later in life, whether spontaneously arising or induced by exposure to something toxic.

It may be a psychological reaction to trauma or a behavioral reaction to experience.

Not all non-normative sexualities are non-heterosexual. Some people are all but incurably promiscuous. Some have an appetite that can only be satisfied when they are alone. Some are asexual and have no libido whatsoever (remember that House episode?) Some have certain characteristics of the other sex (or seem to, when looked at from the standpoint of certain expectations) while their sexual appetite is generally pointed in the right direction.

In general, then, although we classify non-normative sexuality as abnormal in a specific sense, there is nothing really abnormal about the people who suffer from it.

Like the rest of us, such people generally respond to irregularities in their system with certain instincts.

First, they try to maintain stability, even at the cost of certain elements of normal function. (Queers are far more likely than straights to suffer from mental illness and disorders, along with substance abuse and addictions, which may reflect this process of compensating for the irregularity.)

Second, they seek relief. They may bargain with God to “just take it away” from them; they may self-medicate; they may try any number of ways to go around rather than through what they find inside.

Third, they seek explanations. If they were raised religiously, they may seek explanations from some representatives of or friends within their faith. Eventually, if they don’t hear anything that speaks to the truth within them (or if their desires are too strong for them to really want to hear it) they may look elsewhere.

Fourth, they try to develop systems of living that allow them to have as normal a life as possible while working with or around the manifestations of this irregularity as much as possible.

Any of us might do the same with any number of other sorts of irregularities.

My first point, then, is that I don’t believe “This person is abnormal” to be the Orthodox Christian way of looking at people who exhibit or experience non-normative sexuality. Most likely, they are responding in a normal way to something abnormal that has been presented to their experience of their own systems.

We don’t say,
“This person is abnormal.”

Therefore the Orthodox Christian can never, ever agree with secular ideas that make a person’s sexuality his identity. Our theology of personhood is too far developed for us to mistake a mere mode of being human (sexuality) with the mysterious “I” that each of us experiences in an utterly unique way. For most of us, that true identity, that unique personhood and identity, lies sleeping within us. It waits to awake as we feed our freedom because a person can only exist in utter freedom – that is to say, in God.

There may be people who are genuinely abnormal and who are also queer, of course.

I also don’t believe “This person is an abomination” to be the Orthodox Christian way of looking at such people. I know that some very conservative people (though not as many as some might think) do consider all queers to be abominable or abominations based on some verses in Moses’ Law.

But as the Apostle John says, “The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John does not equate the law with “truth” – instead, the truth is this Man, Jesus, who found sinners far more acceptable than self-satisfied religious people.

We don’t say,
“This person is an abomination.”

The law was for a specific stage in time. The apostle Paul calls it a schoolmaster. I believe that many of the very strict requirements of the law (and we have little or no historical or biblical evidence that its horrific penalties were ever carried out in actuality) were there to train people to think in a certain way that would take culture where it needed to go for the Mother of God to be born. Specifically, it forced the Jewish people to think in terms of distinctions and separations.

I believe that such thinking was like a necessary evil, compared to the mind of Christ, which unifies rather than divides.

In the economy of Old Testament Israel, people who indulged in abnormal sexual behavior were entirely unacceptable. There was no place for them – at least, not in the official way of reckoning. The community was everything – it carried all the hopes of mankind’s salvation – and the ‘person’ was not even suspected to exist as of yet. What were mere individuals in the face of that? How worthless any individual must have seemed in those times who elevated his desires above the needs of his tribe and nation and family.

But we live now with a tension between the needs of the person and the needs of the temple of God – the built-together body of all human beings. We cannot call other human beings abominations, for we are too aware that they are clothed in the majesty of God – each one wears the fleshy robes that God wore.

Along with this tension have arisen new explanations for all sorts of human misbehavior other than “They are wicked.” I think this is a proper and natural development. Many American conservatives are rabid for “individual responsibility,” but this idea does not match up with traditional Christian thinking, which speaks about shared sin (all die in Adam) and shared redemption (all live in Christ.)

Of course responsibility does exist. We ought to try our best to reduce evil through morally healthy lives, and not contribute to it through bad behavior. Still, what increases humanity’s evil the most (and what Jesus was most concerned about) is when people push the pendulum of evil back at other people whom they conceive to deserve it.

Therefore the Orthodox Christian way of looking at people who suffer non-normative sexualities does not say, “This person is separate from me.” When we push the pendulum back at other people, it is always going to come swinging back at us eventually. It may even be that the current legal situation which is so distressing to us is partly the fault of rabid conservative Christians who so embattled queers through judgmental treatment that they quite naturally conceived a desire to fight back.

We don’t say,
“This person is separate from me.”

This pendulum of evil is built into the temporal creation as a very primitive type of moral government, to teach people to behave properly. When the pendulum is still, all is well. When we push it at someone else, it comes back to us. “Those who take the sword die by the sword,” and, “sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.”

But there’s a deeper truth there, and that is the one-ness of all humanity and our shared responsibility for one another. The pendulum swing isn’t just about people getting what they deserve. It is, more importantly, about learning that what happens to one human being happens to all of us.

We are all one flesh, and one spirit. We were already so by virtue of the original creation, but in the new creation, it is even more so – humanity is newly constituted in Christ. We are one organism and one spirit in Him.

Not only this, but we know from the teaching of our elders, past masters of human spiritual experience, that very often what manifests in one individual may have originated in someone else. All our thoughts and feelings and words impact the people about whom we think and feel and speak. We can impact them at a distance, even when they didn’t hear the words. All sorts of mysterious ailments and evils arise from such secret causes.

It may even be that there are people who are homosexual because their parents worried they would be!

We were all at the mercy of the people who raised us – not that God wanted us to suffer evil at their hands, but that the alternative was either the premature end of the temporal order or our not being raised at all. We are all at one another’s mercy to some extent.

I do believe that “the wicked” exist, but as far as I can tell, in the scriptures “the wicked” are pitiless people who use, abuse, and terrorize others and treat them unjustly or cruelly or deprive them of their property, limbs, or lives. They are the special agents of Satan, the spiritual adversary of mankind.

I do not think that sinners are all “the wicked.” Sinners are those who find themselves unable to adhere to the behavioral standards which express the moral beauty of God. Such people lack freedom. They really do find themselves entrapped by desires, fears, anxieties, rages, lusts, confusion, depression, disinterest, shame, and other problems.

In other words, we are not all wicked – we must fight the wicked – but we are all sinners. Therefore the moral illness which pervades the great Body Human manifests as queer sexuality in one, as habitual dishonesty in another, in laziness and gluttony in a third, and as excessive timidity in another. Yet it is all the same illness, and this is why our fellow human beings deserve our compassion and respect and protection – they are our fellows indeed, in every respect. It is why no one but the oppressor deserves to be treated as a distinct and specially horrid kind of sinner.

I do not believe that being queer makes one an oppressor. I do believe that many queer activists in our time and nation are would-be political oppressors. Their ultimately threatening views pervade media representations of queers.

***

I have discussed what is not the proper attitude about our fellow sinners. I am planning a follow-up essay in which I discuss what I might say to someone – a child or friend – who struggles with non-normative sexuality.

I’d love to see my readers’ thoughts and experiences on this subject. Thanks for reading.

19 thoughts on “Our Beloved Queers: The Other Side of the Coin

  1. We are a society obsessed with gratifying desires and removing obstacles blocking the gratification of desires. It seems our faith is private choice and pleasure. In such a society, ultimate goods give way to immediate goods, and such a society is, at least implicitly, non-Christian.

    I wrote a post at All Along the Watchtower on this and related issues, if you want to read my take on the matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jessica. I think you are right that our faulty way of relating to desire and pleasure has a lot to do with why people can’t bear to think of saying, “Hey this is bad for you, don’t do it.” Perhaps because of novels and film, everyone feels that all that matters is the “happy ending” of getting to “be with” whoever you want.

      The funny thing is that our ability to desire and enjoy, and our feeling that the happy ending is what matters, is all perfectly legitimate when “pointed at” God.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ooopps…I am a contributor at Jessica’s blog, not Jessica 🙂

        And exactly. Folks think “being happy” is an end itself.

        Like

        • Sorry. I’ll just address you as NML unless you want to give me a name-name.

          Well, isn’t being happy a worthy end? I think it is. I think the problem with sin is that it makes no one happy (even if it pleases some.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • No worries. 🙂 Yes, I think that is what I was trying to say however poorly: happiness as such is a worthy end, that is, as a transcendent value. But immediate values need not give way to ultimate values. Here I am just speaking of a general orientation towards life.

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            • There is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is finite and almost always tied to the flesh in someway. It is not always a bad thing but IMO it is not transcendent.

              Joy is a gift from God and can come at times when one is not happy.

              The pleasure-pain focus is not new. It is a key in any materialist philosophy.

              It has however dominated the culture for most of my life. It is inherent in the cultural propaganda called education. It is fundamentally irrational even delusional.

              So much so that even the obvious realities of male and female are over thrown.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Hi Michael, I am referring to happiness in the Platonic-Aristotelian sense, not in the Epicurean sense, to use Hellenistic culture as an illustration. That is, I am not talking about happiness as some sort of reasoned hedonism (Epicurus), but as virtue itself, in Aristotle’s case, and as the proper end of the soul in Plato’s case.

              I think we agree, though, we just differ on what we imagine happiness to be.

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            • Terminology. 🙂

              I also was using happiness in the platonic sense. It is not a feeling but the state of any being that has attained its own purpose.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. I was right with you until the discussion of sin in the concluding section, specifically:

    “…we are all sinners. Therefore the moral illness which pervades the great Body Human manifests as queer sexuality in one, as habitual dishonesty in another, in laziness and gluttony in a third, and as excessive timidity in another.”

    The last three “sins” are of a different type from the first. Those more than likely occur in everyone’s life at one time or another, and maybe all the time for some, whereas queer sexuality occurs in limited, specific individuals and it doesn’t come and go the way the others seem to do–unless you consider each impulse or fantasy towards another of the same sex a temptation, each conversation or meeting an “occasion of sin'” and each association–which we would normally call friendship–a danger.

    In this light the attraction–or or the preferred term, “orientation'” — is not itself a moral evil the way dishonesty is, but only an actual physical act is the evil. However then you are faced with specifying the act, thus entering a moral morass. For example, is looking at and taking pleasure in physical beauty a sin, or must one desire to perform sodomy? What about erotically charged hugging, or kissing? A married person who does these things is committing adultery, according to Jesus. But what about gays prior to the issue of marriage? It gets very complicated to separate same sex attraction from sin. The Roman Church built up whole system of moral theology, with distinction after distinction (the latest instance being the controversies over divorce and the welcoming of homosexuals in church). If my understanding is correct, none of this is part of the Eastern Christian approach to sin.

    Finally, while I understand the concept of illness as applied to moral behavior, it may be misleading when homosexuality is the topic– mainly because of another, more widesread phrase, originating in Roman Catholic analysis, according to which gayness is a “disorder.” That word may have caused an even greater reaction among gays than “sinful.” Sins can be forgiven. Disorders are not only crippling, they are permanent.

    I hope to hear more discussions of this post. I found it stimulating and at the same time helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Albert, in this case, I simply disbelieve the public account we are given of queer sexuality. I am currently friends with a man who is happily married to a former lesbian – and I’m also friends with his wife and their adorable daughter. I read, meet, and talk to such people frequently. As I said, I don’t believe that sexuality is immutable. Perhaps some people tend more or less to it than others, but again, even that seems to be based on brain formation and hormones, which are affected in the womb and therefore can be considered “environmental.” For all we know, this whole current upsurge in queer sexuality is caused by pollution or processed foods.

      People have varying levels of responsibility for the way they experience their sexuality. For some it is completely involuntary. In others, like the young man whose uncle molested him, it is someone else’s sin implanted in them. For others, it is chosen to some degree. Perhaps they use pornography, where they see salacious images of their own sex. Perhaps they simply experimented to “find themselves.” Perhaps they had a slight inclination which they encouraged. Perhaps they couldn’t find someone from the opposite sex so they looked among their own. Not only that, but plenty of people choose to stay straight who could go the other way. Regardless, there is no way I am buying this idea that no one chooses their sexuality and that only certain people can experience sexual irregularities, while others cannot. I think that’s propaganda.

      ***

      I agree that it is only the act which is a sin in the sense of “a discrete action which is offensive to moral standards and which brings blame to the person who commits it.”

      But in my understanding, “sinfulness” is something we all experience together as a racial tragedy. Not everything that is sinfulness is blameworthy, or the fault of the person who experiences it. But all disorder, abnormalcy, irregularity – in short, every deviation from the standard of God’s moral beauty – is an experience of our common sinfulness. Even dying is an experience of sinfulness – and who could be personally blamed for dying?!?!?!

      I understand that you have to be careful what you say to others. I guess we have to explain things to ourselves in our own metaphysical language first, and then find ways to “translate” for those who think in another “language.”

      Be that as it may, “disorder” is actually a very good word for the experience of queer sexuality (because the ‘order’ which is naturally found in the human psyche, and which contributes to optimal function, is dis-arranged), and so is “disorientation” (but not ‘orientation,’ for there is only one True East) and I have said ‘irregularity’ which is similar but hasn’t been hated on as much yet!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t buy the public account of LBGTBQ either. I think it is a very dangerous approach to tell people, especially children and adolescents, that they have no responsibility for or control of their feelings. Just yesterday during a radio interview, an in-coming freshman college student described “coming out” to her family and friends as a “bi” – I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, especially since the psychologist seemed not to question the public view and actually facilitates such coming out events.

        I also think our society makes way way way too much sexuality in general. Your explanation of the complex influences on sexual behavior is quite helpful for me as I try to live peacefully in a family and a social network which endorses the “bias vs rights” concept. I experience alternately guilt for not speaking up for my views and compassion for friends who tell of years of self-doubt and alienation as a result of their impulses/”orientation”/choices. It’s a mess, but then so is much of human life.

        We sigh, then muddle through–
        with help from friends like you.

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        • Hi Albert, I think it is praiseworthy, in some contexts, coming out of the closet, because it is a sort of recognation, an awareness, of one’s sexual attractions. I think that is especially healthy in terms of habituating oneself towards the Good as such. Of course, when it becomes, as it is so very often, a stepping-stone to future sin or a celebration of sin, then, well, you know….

          Like

    • To clarify, I suffer from a common mental disorder known as “depression.” I think that should put that word ‘disorder’ in perspective.

      The people who made a stink about that word were likely queer activists, not ordinary queers. Everything I’ve seen of such people is that they are brutal and dishonest. I had some threaten my children a few years ago simply because I was winning an argument with them on social media.

      I will never forget another incident as well… about 9 years ago, I was an active reader on the blog of a Seminary President, a learned and humane man. He published a blog essay in which he said that Christians should NOT torch homosexual’s homes. He was basically using hyperbole to say that opposing homosexuality on moral grounds doesn’t mean going and hurting homosexuals.

      Anyway, this article got the attention of some queer activists who twisted his words (“how dare you mention torches and homosexuals in the same sentence!” they shrieked) and it brought all sorts of unwanted attention to the Seminary. This good, humane man was “counseled” (socially pressured) by his friends and colleagues to issue a public apology, which is of course exactly what the activists wanted. Even though he conceded, he got no mercy, with the activists saying he didn’t go far enough (that is what they inevitably say whenever we give in to them.) So the President eventually lost his job, and I believe was forced to move out of the country because of the public odium attached to his name.

      So basically, if you show me a queer activist I will show you a pitiless, inhumane, and wicked person who has no problem depriving decent folk of their reputation, their living, and probably their lives if they could get away with it. I have no truck with them and I certainly would never take their word for anything.

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    • Because of the sinfulness we are born into all of our sexuality is disordered. Porn, abuse, divorce, fornication, rape, etc. Same sex activity is especially disordered because it denies the obvious physical reality and the deeper ontological synergy between men and women; male and female. Ultimately it denies the kenotic reality that comes with real male-female union.

      It is the kenosis that most of us tend to withdraw from but also the quality that allows marriage to be an icon of the Church and part of our theosis.

      The most rabid proponents of homosexual unions want marriage destroyed because they realize the nature of marriage better than some who support real marriage?

      It is the nihilist vision that humans be denied anything that is of God.

      Like

  3. Regarding a disorder, I think we may be using the term in different contexts — medical ( illness), philosophical (disorientation), and religious (tendency towards “intrinsic moral evil” ) //www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html

    I don’t like the activists either.

    I do like your explanation of sinfulness (way above).
    That expresses clearly what I thought to be the Orthodox teaching.
    It helps me sort things out and live peacefully with conflicting attitudes around me.

    Like

  4. Thanks for publishing your thoughts on this current subject. I have read many, many posts by Christians trying to defend gay marriage or alternatively trying to condemn the whole thing. The most interesting idea I think I read was by Rod Dreher where he talked about the Benedict Option – letting the world do their thing and trying to establish Christian communities like the medieval monasteries – communities that pass on Christian values to their children but do not engage with the world. I believe that you said this was not an option. That is what I believe, but the problem is no matter how lovingly you present the Christian message, some people will be offended and greatly offended by it. It feels like silence is the only alternative but I wonder if silence in the face of evil (as Bonhoeffer said) is saying that this lifestyle is okay. My problem is that I work in a public school, in a fine arts department where there are at least two people that are gay and I have to work with them. I have no problem working with them – after all, the arts is one place where there are a lot of gays and you have to be willing to be okay with that. It’s just speaking up or not – I remember the first year I was in my current job and one of the students came to class with her mouth taped shut and I asked everyone else what she was doing. They said she was supporting gays and that is was a national day for students to do that if they wanted. My school is always doing these kinds of meaningless gestures – 200 or so female students took a picture in support of “freeing our girls” (Boko Horam). I suppose I don’t need to say anything unless someone asks me. I really do feel for these students – artistic types are people I feel a certain empathy for – they can be so messed up sometimes and yet so gifted. I went to a lecture back in May about Common Core and when I talked with the speaker he told me that eventually I will have to teach a unit on gay composers. I wonder if this is the hill I am going to have to “die” on?

    Like

    • Nice to talk to you, Pam.

      I am pondering the several replies I want to make to you and others, but I want to start off by clarifying who I think we need to say things to about this.

      1.) Anyone who wants to know what our church/religion teaches and why, or our personal opinions on the matter.

      2.) Anyone who wants to share their own views on the matter with us or publicly, even if they are not particularly interested in ours.

      3) Any public person we may have access to – in other words, anyone who is responsible to listen to the people on matters of public import whether ecclesiastical or political, and/or who may be in a position to make public decisions.

      4) The general public, in the proper civilized manner and venues (like one’s blog or a book.)

      5) Our fellow Christians and Church members who are confused on the subject, in the interest of being of one mind in Christ.

      ***

      We teach that sin is wrong, not because God wishes to imprison us in artificial constraints, but because it is bad for us. As long as someone is happy doing what they are doing, little good can be done by someone telling them they are in the wrong. I don’t see any reason to approach people and tell them what we think their sins are. Never mind that. As St. Porphyrios says, “Don’t be anxious about fighting evil; let evil be.”

      What I am mainly concerned about is that Christians should become firmly convinced, in one body, what the mind of Christ is on the subject of marriage.

      What we do about it will flow properly from achieving that condition.

      Thanks again.

      Like

  5. AR, as usual, I am awed and mostly in agreement with you on the points you make. I say mostly, but don’t ask me what it is I’m not in agreement with, because sometimes I can’t quite articulate it. I have my own ‘philosophy’ of what the world calls homosexuality and the lifestyle it calls gay. At some point I will probably express it, but not yet. I am still studying the experiences I can find.

    What I recommend to anyone who can watch ‘gay’ movies (not porn, but ‘gay themed’ drama, sometimes even comedy) without being disgusted or outraged or embarrassed, is to view such movies and try to understand what’s going on.

    In doing this myself, I have sometimes been misled into watching what amounts to theatricalization and soft porn (for example, the Brazilian flic ‘From Beginning to End’, a waste of time), but more often, choosing the films judiciously, I have discovered some very well-done portrayals of same-sex attachment, ‘manly love’ as Walt Whitman calls it.

    (As a male, I am more interested in understanding how males express this attachment, but one can study and try to understand female same-sex attachment in exactly the same way.)

    As an Orthodox Christian, I do not propose changing anything about the ‘traditional’ doctrine of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but as a citizen, I am willing to support civil unions, whatever they’re called, that give same-sex couples a recognized framework within which to build faithful relationships and to follow the Ten Commandments.

    The thousands of years that same-sex attracted people have suffered and been forced into promiscuous and pornographic lifestyles cannot now be atoned for, but going forward, as we all journey toward Christ who is the Truth about each of us, leaving behind laws we are no longer willing to enforce, we may be given the chance to see what becomes of this personal and social experiment, once it is given the chance to be openly expressed.

    Perhaps Christ’s mysterious saying about being ‘born eunuchs’ may be found to have a different relevance than what we have always assumed.

    Like

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