September 12, 2022
In Florida, where I live, there are many insects and reptiles. We find some of these “intruders” in our house a few times a week. Various spiders, palmetto bugs, which is just a fancy name for cockroaches, anoles, which are small, slender lizards, frogs, and even very tiny baby snakes find their way into our home. I cannot blame them since their ancestors occupied the land before we did. Unfortunately, I have a deep fear of snakes and my husband detests spiders, therefore, we have an agreement in our marriage, I get rid of the spiders and palmetto bugs, and he carefully coaxes the lizards and small snakes outside. I am not as kind to the small interlopers as he is. It works wonderfully. However, if the snakes get bigger and ever come into the house, we are moving to Alaska!
In the Western Church, Saint Francis is often remembered for his love of animals and all of God’s creation. The Orthodox Church can boast their own saint who had a particular kindness and compassion for the world the Almighty made. St. Demetrius (Dimitar) the New was a cattle herder who lived in the 13th century in Basarabovo, northern Bulgaria. The Lives of the Saints tells us that he was a pious young man, who one day was pasturing cows, when he without realizing, stepped on a nest of birds killing them. He was so distraught that he had caused the death of innocent birds that he decided to go barefoot for the next three years. Eventually, he became a monk at a nearby monastery, living out his life praying for and respecting all of God’s wondrous creation.
For some readers, this episode might sound a bit far-fetched and quite antiquated. And yet it is not uncommon for people to go out of their way to avoid hurting an animal. Judaism has a prohibition against causing pain to one of God’s creation, and thus the elaborate rules for the slaughtering of animals for food. Buddhism is to avoid all killing of any animal, going beyond traditional vegetarianism. Veganism, which has become increasingly common in many countries, has not only health benefits, but many vegans feel called to support animal rights. These are all just varied philosophies of the same idea: respect all of creation.
Christ expressed His care for all His Father’s creation, by saying that not even a single sparrow finds itself out of God’s care. (Matthew 10:29) And although Christ did not ask his followers to walk without shoes to respect creation, as St. Demetrius felt called, He did however call us to love and care for one another. (John 13:34) And yet how many times have we stepped on the souls of our brothers and sisters, our neighbors?
LGBT Orthodox Christians, in particular, have been stepped on by many in society and unfortunately by many in Christ’s Church, especially by those called to minister. We are told to be silent about who we are, whom we love, whom we are married to, and the children we raise and want baptized. Not only denied the holy mysteries (sacraments), but we are also frequently told that because of how God created us, we are unworthy of His love. But that is not true. As part of God’s creation, we are recipients of His love and His care for us, even more than birds. (Matthew 10:29-31) I pray that my LGBT brothers and sisters will never forget that.