May 20, 2012
I have a wonderful aunt, who also happens to be my godmother. A woman of simple faith, but a simple faith that is quite extraordinary. We would have interesting discussions about the Orthodox Church which increased in measure when I became a seminarian. Once she asked me what I thought was the most important element in Christianity. Although armed with a few years of biblical studies, dogmatic, pastoral and liturgical theology, I was not sure that I had a quick answer. I took a few moments and then responded, Holy Communion. I told her that Communion, the Eucharist, was the most important element of Christianity. My aunt looked a bit puzzled and said, really, I would have thought that it was love. Isn’t love the most important part of Christianity, she asked? I am sure that I had the look upon my face as if I had just failed an exam in Seminary. Of course, love is the most important component of Christianity. My aunt had an intuitive faith that saw the entire forest and not just the trees.
Tsotsya (Auntie) Nadia told me once that she always disliked hearing one particular Gospel passage that was read during the Liturgy. The passage from the Gospel of Matthew (8:28-34) is read on the fifth Sunday after Pentecost. It is the story of Jesus restoring to health two men possessed by a demon. Jesus commands the demons to enter into a herd of pigs. “So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.” (Matthew 8:32) “I always feel so sorry for those poor little pigs,” she said. “Why did they have to die?” Every time I chanted that Gospel during the Liturgy I thought of my aunt and her love for all of God’s creation – even pigs.
For someone who lived through difficult times under various oppressive governments in Ukraine, when food and freedom were scarce, my aunt believed that the treatment and loss of the pigs was wasteful. The pigs provided financial support to the herders and would provide people with food when it came time to slaughter the animals. Certainly the all powerful and merciful Christ could have found a different way to heal the two men who were suffering, my aunt believed. I began to read the various interpretations of this passage from the holy fathers of the Church. Perhaps the most faithful was a desert father, who simply stated “who can understand the actions of God?” This phrase has come in handy numerous times when I have questioned God, and his mystical actions.
I often think of this Gospel passage and my aunt’s feelings when questioning why God created me as a gay man, or why He created gay people in general. Why does God create gay people? Certainly it must be to show the wondrous diversity of His creation in order to manifest His glory. Unfortunately, not all Orthodox Christians hold the same view that I do. Recently a member of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovich), of Montenegro, in an interview published in “Pechat” magazine, referred to gay people as “death-bearing,” “irrational,” and dispossessed of “moral and spiritual equilibrium.” In other words, Bishop Amfilohije believes that gay people are the pigs. If one had any doubt as to the message His Grace has for gay people, he then states that it is the “inalienable right of God’s Church to remind and point out to them [gay people] that they are on the edge of the abyss…” In other words, gay people should either be driven by the Orthodox Church to death or commit suicide. Under Nazi control of Germany, from 1933-1945, some 100,000 homosexual men were arrested and half of those were incarcerated. It is estimated that some 15,000 homosexuals died in the concentration camps. I wonder if those facts make His Grace happy or weep. Would he feel sorry for the “pigs” or think that it was a good start?