When I was looking for a web designer to create Orthodoxandgay.com, I answered an ad from someone who was just starting his business. He was offering a special rate for non-profits and community based organizations. We had just started to talk over the phone about the design I might be interested in when he asked “so, what will the website be about?” I barely got the words “Christian and gay” out of my mouth, when he immediately retorted that he would not work on such a site. When I asked him why, he snapped, “homosexuality is a sin, read your Bible.” I said I was sorry that he felt that way and hoped that he was not having a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch while wearing a polyester shirt. (Both are things forbidden by the Bible).
Emphasizing certain passages from the Bible, while ignoring other passages, has become a favorite recreational sport of some Christians. Inevitably when someone mentions homosexuality, another always will bring up the Old Testament passages found primarily in the book of Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, that state “for a man to lie with a man is an abomination.” Numerous theological treatises have been written about these and other passages, which have been used for centuries to beat gay Christians over the head with. I leave the debate about the meaning of the terms malakoi and arsenokoites, to Biblical scholars. The issue of the word “homosexual” appearing in modern translations of Scripture when the word was not even used until the 19 century is also not a discussion that interests me.
However, the discussion that interests me is why people hold on to certain passages from Scripture and yet ignore others. The Orthodox Church has never been a fundamentalist church in that it does not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.
If Leviticus 18:22 – the prohibition of men having sex with each other – is enforced, why not enforce Leviticus 11:7 – the prohibition of eating pork? Every Ukrainian, Russian and other Slavs that I know of would not be able to exist, let alone celebrate Pascha (Easter) without eating significant amounts of some form of smoked pig.
If Leviticus 18:22 is enforced – why is Leviticus 19:27 – the prohibition against shaving – not followed? Has any Orthodox priest ever refused to forgive a penitent who has confessed to shaving? Any quick glance at recent photos of Orthodox bishops and priests will reveal that numerous clergy are indeed clean-shaven or do shave to some extent.
Those that want to further malign gay people turn to the New Testament for two more Scriptural passages to use in their arguments. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (6:9-11) is a favorite – used to tell gay people that they will not get to heaven unless they repent of their homosexuality.
If the Orthodox Church believes that I Corinthians 6:9-11 can be used in such a fundamental way, what about I Timothy 3:2 – that the bishop must be the husband of one wife? How many bishops of the Orthodox Church today are openly married or are allowed to be married by the Church? NONE!
There are numerous other examples of Biblical mandates that the Church has chosen to ignore or not enforce and for logical, theological, historical or pastoral reasons.
Orthodox Christians, especially bishops and priests, need to stop picking and choosing certain Scriptural passages and outdated interpretations of Scripture to destroy the lives of gay people, simply because they are gay and want to be in healthy, loving, and secure relationships.