What are we teaching the children?

February 3, 2013

Although I am not one to constantly waive the American flag, I am happy and grateful to live in an advanced, relatively free country. The fact that I was born and raised in the United States is nothing more than an accident of birth. Considering the nationality of my father, I could have easily been born in Soviet Ukraine, or somewhere else behind the Iron Curtain, where my daily life, especially from the 1960’s until the fall of the Soviet Union, would have been consumed with trying to obtain the basics for simply getting by each day. Living in the Soviet Union meant standing in line for everything. As one priest serving in Soviet Ukraine explained to me, preaching against stealing and bribery were useless, because if one did not bribe or sometimes steal, one might not eat, have a roof over their head, wear shoes, or have other basic necessities of life.

Living in the United States, especially as a white man, means that I enjoyed the protections of law, the ability to earn a higher education and the possibility of having solid employment which would afford me a relatively affluent lifestyle. Being a gay man in the United States means that I have recently seen very positive changes in the views of American society, as well as witnessed numerous gains for LGBT rights and protections enshrined in law. Hearing President Obama mention LGBT people in his second inaugural speech and listening to his commitment to work for LGBT equality was certainly a major milestone for the country.  With constant access to news, web opinion sites, and social media, the days of LGBTQ youth feeling totally isolated and alone are, for the most part, over. While LGBTQ youth still suffer from verbal and physical abuse at the hands of churches, schools, parents and friends, and the rate of suicide among LGBT youth is still relatively high, there are numerous places on the internet where our young adults can find unbiased information and moral support.

Certain Christian groups in the US have poured time and resources into educating families, and especially youth, that being gay or lesbian or transgendered is not an evil or a choice, but is who God created them to be. Recently a publishing company has produced a series of books and teaching aides to facilitate discussion about LGBT issues and how they can be in tune with Christian spirituality. Instead of Churches leading LGBTQ youth to greater isolation, loneliness, insecurity and feelings of worthlessness, certain Churches have taken up as a mission to make sure that children know that they are loved by God just as He made them. They are also there to tell young adults that the love they might feel for members of the same sex is natural and can be life-creating.

A young adult Orthodox Christian living in the United States, who might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered has conflicting messages coming at them.  On the one hand they see that a greater segment of American society has started to support LGBT equality, and they know that certain states and localities have passed legislation guaranteeing either same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships, and in the last elections they have witnessed seven openly gay representatives elected to the US Congress. They have watched as the President signed legislation striking down the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” law, which prohibited gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces, and they see and perhaps benefited from numerous other gains in the acceptance of LGBT people in society and the advancement of LGBT issues. On the other hand, in Church, the younger Orthodox Christian who might be LGBTQ is likely to hear a message of condemnation of not only gays and lesbians but of recent gains in the area of equality in this country. Sermons are preached, literature is distributed, and encyclicals are read aloud, specifically condemning the “homosexual lifestyle”. Pity the Orthodox LGBT young person who might go to his priest for advice about the natural feelings he or she is experiencing. The vast majority of Orthodox priests in this country receive no or little education in advanced biology, psychology and many have only the most basic courses in pastoral theology. I have heard anti-gay sermons preached in this country by Orthodox priests, seen anti-gay literature distributed or available in Orthodox Churches and even personally experienced the lack of compassion from a priest while making a confession. At best the information coming from these sources is usually inaccurate, at worst it is damaging to the soul.

The situation in Russia is much worse for LGBTQ Orthodox youth.  The Russian Orthodox Church fully supports the passing of a law by the Russian Parliament which would make it an offense, punishable by fines of up to $16,000, to hold public events or disseminate information about the LGBT community. How far could this be taken?  Imagine being arrested on charges of looking up information on the internet about being gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgendered in Russia. And one of the reasons that the Church officially supports the ban is “It would help Russia’s declining birth rate”!  Is it any wonder that many of our youth have fled the Church in droves?

  1. Noel Warren Said,

    Dear Fr Andre, The other issue for the church is hypocrisey. In gay circles in my city in Australia the anecdotal stories of Catholic priests with boyfriends are common. In the Anglican Church it is so common that even the parishioners follow the “if you don’t tell we won’t ask” rule in most cases. I once had a fling with a Catholic priest. He told me he had regular sex with another seminarian the whole time he was there. I asked him if he was ever given any advice on how to manage sexual desire and the commitment to celibacy. He said no, not ever. This was in the early 2000’s. He said that in the confessional he was very supportive of gay and lesbian people and welcomed them into his parish. But he was never “out” and neither were they to the rest of the parish. It seems that what goes on at the ground level is quite different to what the Vatican expects or even knows about. Basically the Catholic Church is in crisis. The Anglicans have almost reached rock bottom in Australia. Fortunately no one goes any more unless they really want to so there is a slim chance of regeneration. it is in God’s hands. I can’t help but think He is giving us a very clear message to return to Loving Kindness and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Cheers, Noel.

  2. andre Said,

    Noel,
    Certainly the same hypocrisy exists in the Orthodox Church. There were and are bishops who are married to women, bishops with male partners, “celibate” priests with husbands and boyfriends and other hypocritical situations. And yet the bishops would not address allowing a married episcopate or an honest dialogue, in light of scientific truths, about homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism. How sad.
    Andriy

  3. Tim D Said,

    Andre,

    Can you please expand on this quote, and back it up with scripture? You do realise that when you make an assertion as a Christian, it has to be supported by Biblical truth, yes?

    “certain Churches have taken up as a mission to make sure that children know that they are loved by God just as He made them. They are also there to tell young adults that the love they might feel for members of the same sex is natural and can be life-creating.”

    Question 1. How is love for the same sex life-creating? One male and one female (2 people of the opposite sex, not 3, not 4, not 2 males, not 2 females) is required to create life.

    Question 2. How do you categorically know that love for same sex is natural?

    Question 3. (a) How do you know that God makes some children gay? I’m having trouble finding this in His Word. (b) If you really believe this, are you saying that God is homosexual also, since we are made in His image?

    Question 4. Why aren’t you willing to err on the side of caution? For example, are you prepared to risk the possibility that God actually doesn’t approve of homosexuality and the fact that your words are aiding people to be slaves to their homosexual sin? (Nobody supporting homosexual Christianity has been able to answer this one using reasonable arguments, without just attacking me. Hoping you can answer it. )

    Tim.

  4. andre Said,

    Tim,
    I can only assume that you are not an Orthodox Christian. The Orthodox Church has always based its teachings on the Bible as well as Holy Tradition. There are numerous beliefs and practices in the Orthodox Church which one cannot find in the Holy Scriptures. For example, there are second and even third marriages in the Church, women are not allowed, according to strict canonical law, allowed to receive Holy Communion (Eucharist) when menstruating, the various fasting rules and regulations and a myriad of other laws and practices not found in the Bible. Some are still adhered to with great reverence – for example, the calculation of when to celebrate Pascha (Easter) – a fourth century decision and other practices are not so strictly enforced. To answer your questions directly:
    1) When I write about “life-creating” I am not only speaking of the flesh, but of the spirit. When elderly persons enter into a marriage they are also unable to procreate and yet their marriage is full of life, in that it is full of care, compassion, love kindness, charity and compassion.
    2) Same-sex love for those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual is natural for them. As a gay man, I live the fact that same-sex love is natural. I did not choose to be a gay man, I was created this way.
    3) As God creates all humans, white and black, male and female, gay and straight, deaf and blind, blue and brown eyed…. He is all of those things.
    4) The only error is to tell LGBTQ people that God does not love them as He created them. The only error is for LGBT people to spend a life time in grief, pain and suffering trying to change something that biologically cannot be changed.
    Andriy

  5. Anthemius Said,

    Meh, Soviet Union wasn’t that crappy as you imply, you always had the basic stuff for living available. If anything, the worsening of almost all social statistics post-USSR collapse suggests that its downfall wasn’t unambiguously a Good Thing. Admittedly, its collapse was a result of severe structural problems of the USSR itself.

  6. andre Said,

    Anthemius,
    Perhaps you are right, but getting those basic supplies was not easy. Maybe during the time of Brezhnev it was, but certainly it was far from us walking into anyone of numerous stores in the US and getting what we want, in the quantity we want with competing markets. I understand and appreciate your comment about the fall of the Soviet Union. Certainly our brothers, the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, would have to disagree with you as their church emerged from the underground. There are certainly pros and cons to the argument.
    I do appreciate your comments.
    Please stay in touch.
    Andriy

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