Palaiologos-Dynasty-Eagle_svgWere there queens in Byzantium?

September 22, 2013

Were there queens in Byzantium?  What an odd question, I thought when I read it.  Of course there were gay people in the Byzantine Empire – we were and are everywhere, no? The Byzantine Empire, the Greek speaking Eastern Roman Empire, has long been associated with the Orthodox Church.  Its capital, Constantinople, has been the ecumenical throne of the “first among equals’ patriarch since the fourth century. The Byzantine realm, which lasted 1,000 years, produced great luminaries for the Church such as St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Nazianzus. But were there any queens in Byzantium? Read the rest of this entry »

What shall virtue do to meet brute force?

September 8, 2013


Life Magazine, March 26, 1965

As Americans take a moment to consider that historic day, as well as the recent tragic past in the fight for equality, it is also important for Orthodox Christians to remember the Church’s role in fighting for the full rights of all US citizens. On the cover of Life Magazine dated March 26, 1965, there is an iconic photograph of Archbishop Iakovos (Koukouzis), the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America, standing with Martin Luther King Jr. Archbishop Iakovos who led the Church in Western hemisphere for 37 years (1959-1996), went to Selma, Alabama to support the cause of African-Americans in the aftermath of the beating of Rev. James Reeb. Minister Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist cleric, was brutally beaten by white segregationists while marching for civil rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965. He died two days after the beating at the age of 38. The photograph on the cover of the popular magazine made a very vital, but dangerous statement in 1965, that white Christians were actively willing to support the cause African-Americans were fighting and dying for, not because the cause was an African-American cause but because it was an American one: equality under the law. The portrait reveals a very stoic looking Archbishop in his black robes and kalimavkion and veil (head covering) standing with great determination next to King. It certainly was a brave and courageous move for the Archbishop to support King, who at the time was under FBI surveillance, yet an action he believed was a bold, moral imperative. His presence was indeed virtue in the face of brute force. Read the rest of this entry »


Mohandas Gandhi

Fighting Against Great Odds

August 25, 2013

Mohandas Gandhi led India to independence from British rule through civil disobedience and nonviolence. While he is well known throughout the world as the father of the Indian nation, he is perhaps better remembered for waging a “war” through nonviolent means of boycotts, non-co-operation, and civil disobedience. Many members of his family have taken the personal philosophy and actions of Mohandas Gandhi as their own, and are still working to ensure greater protection of human rights and dignity in all areas of life.

A few years ago I had the privilege of listening to a lecture given by a grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, Arun Gandhi. Speaking to an audience of mostly students, Arun began with a simple but profoundly symbolic demonstration of what his grandfather’s life and beliefs were all about. He asked the audience members to turn to the person next to them.  One person should make a fist and the other person should try and open that fist.  Read the rest of this entry »

How shall integrity face oppression?

August 11, 2013


W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois was an African American civil rights activist (1868-1963) and one of the co-founders of the NAACP.  His written works as well as his spoken rhetoric were aimed at combating racism, and in particular combating discrimination against African Americans which was enacted in the reprehensible form of Jim Crow laws. Du Bois is perhaps best known for his work The Souls of Black Folk (1903), aimed at showcasing the intelligence of the black race, as well as explaining the double consciousness that African Americans experienced, being both American and Black. A prolific writer of over 30 books, within many of Du Bois’ volumes one finds an immense wealth of erudition and insight into the particular problems America faced – and to large extent still faces – in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Read the rest of this entry »


Patriarch Kirill & President Putin

Church and State in Orthodoxy

July 28, 2013

There is nothing like a few Supreme Court rulings and a few gay pride parades to get some people very upset. There have been significant protests, editorials, petitions and threats of law suits made by people who oppose the recent rulings of the Supreme Court.  The actions of some in the US are mild compared to what has been occurring in other parts of the world. Countries with significant Orthodox populations have seen larger numbers of gay people willing to come out and protest against unequal treatment by their governments, simply because of their sexual orientation. In each and every instance, the Orthodox Church has supported the government in its efforts to deny equal rights and protections for LGBT persons. Read the rest of this entry »

JusticeJustice You Shall Pursue

July 14, 2013

Any American privileged to visit Washington D.C. cannot help but be impressed and moved by the grandeur and historical significance of numerous edifices in our nation’s capital. Specifically, the stateliness of the White House, Congress and Supreme Court buildings, representing the three branches of our government, are particularly dignified and symbolic. Traveling a few months ago to Washington gave me an opportunity to stand in front of the Supreme Court and utter a silent prayer to God that He would grant wisdom to the justices, as they deliberated over cases in general, but in particular, over those issues which would directly and exclusively affect the lives of LGBT individuals including myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Never Forget that you are the Child of a King

June 30, 2013

God the Father, Creator of Visible and Invisible St Ivan of Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

God the Father, the Creator
St Ivan of Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

The Jewish rabbis posed a question: “What is the worst thing that man’s evil inclination can accomplish?” The answer: “To make someone forget that he is the child of a king.” This fundamental question and answer is taken from Tales from the Hasidim[1], a collection of stories based on the wisdom of Rabbi Baal Shem Tov who is considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism. Hasidim, meaning pious, was used to indicate someone who goes beyond the legal requirements of ritual and ethical Jewish observance” and expresses kindness and love for God and other people.[2] Thus, it is not enough to follow the letter of the law in order to be pious or righteous, one must also be a practitioner of the spirit of the law. Read the rest of this entry »

All Gay People are Murderers?

June 16, 2013

Although I am an Orthodox Christian I follow the events in various other Christian Churches and non-Christian groups. In particular I am interested in how these groups spread the essential message of our common Creator as well as what they say about gay people. Because I was raised and served in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I have a particular interest in the events of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.[1]  The recently (2011) elected primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk[2] made headline news in church circles for his aggressive, hateful, dangerous and non-pastoral comments about homosexuals. Read the rest of this entry »

God’s Will Broke my Nose

June 2, 2013

“They said they were doing God’ will, and then they broke my nose” These are the words of Igor Yasin, who was attacked outside the Duma (Parliament) building during an anti-government protest in Moscow, Russia. Igor along with others was peacefully protesting against the planned law on “homosexual propaganda”. Men claiming to be Russian Orthodox activists punched Yasin several times and left him with a broken nose and a bloody face. Read the rest of this entry »

Without love I am incomprehensible

May 19, 2013

“Insofar as I am not loved, I am incomprehensible to myself.” These are the words of the late eminent Romanian theologian Dumitru Staniloae (1903-1993). Writing in the horrific twentieth century which saw the atrocities of communism, fascism, and world wars he was perhaps uniquely qualified to write about the overwhelming need for love in the world.  Writing in communist, war torn, Romania, an officially atheistic country, Father Dumitru understood that without love, there can be no whole person, no complete individual, no sense of humanity. Without love we are nothing (I Corinthians 13:2). Read the rest of this entry »