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.

There seems to be a lot of people, including bishops and priests, who are doing “God’s will” lately by attacking gay men and lesbians who have been peacefully marching or protesting against hostile government action denying basic human rights. In Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova and Belarus – traditional Orthodox countries – the LGBT community is under attack and with the blessings of the Church.

Perhaps the most aggressive attacks were recently seen in the country of Georgia where priests in black robes with crosses hanging from their necks accompanied protesters wielding stones and home made weapons. Some 20,000 people amassed to attack a much smaller group that had gathered on the International Day Against Homophobia. The New York Times reported that “priests from the Georgian Orthodox Church led the charge and broke through a heavy police corridor.” Various news agencies (The Moscow Times, BBC, AFP, New York Times – all with reporters on the ground in the capital, Tbilisi) reported that priests were shouting “kill them”, “don’t leave them alive”, and “fuck your mothers” among other curses and threats hurled at the much smaller group of those protesting homophobia in Georgia. Those curses and threats came with rocks, stones which struck several of the pro-gay rights protesters. Twenty- eight people were injured and certainly there would have been deaths if police forces had not intervened. However, the intervention was minimal as video from the day showed priests commanding policemen to step aside so that the priests could push forward to attack those who had peacefully gathered.

Where is this hatred coming from? Who is responsible for this vitriolic anger? What is the cause of such rage and fury against gay men and lesbians?  The answer is simple, the Orthodox Church is responsible. In particular Patriarchs, bishops and priests are responsible for the hateful speech and reprehensible actions which is anything but Christ-like. In every recent incident involving violent actions against LGBT communities in predominantly Orthodox countries, a direct line can be drawn from the words and actions of the clergy to the odious words and abhorrent actions against lesbians and gays. In Georgia, Patriarch Ilia II, who enjoys wide popularity in the country, called upon the mayor of Tbilisi to ban the march against homophobia because “homosexuality is a disease.”

 If the Patriarch truly believes that homosexuality is a disease, wouldn’t Christian ethics demand that he call upon the faithful to offer prayers and anointing (James 5:14) to the “sick” homosexuals? Instead his priests brought weapons, bullying and slurs to those who are “sick”. Were any of the priests defrocked or excommunicated for such actions? No.  In fact Patriarch Ilia II has referred to the actions of the priests as “impolite”. And yet with a few words directed at the priests and faithful, such as “pray for them – don’t beat them up” the Patriarch could have avoided some if not all of the violence committed in the name of God.  Therefore the Patriarch is partially responsible for the actions on that day. There is no remorse on the part of the priests or others who took up arms on that day. Instead you can hear the crowd rejoicing in their actions blessed by the Patriarch, as if they were saying: “their blood is upon us and upon our children.”  What the Patriarch should have done was remove his robes, cover those who had gathered to protest homophobia and with his own body protect them from the violence. This is what Christ would have done.  Since the Patriarch believes that homosexuality is a sin, he should have stood in front of those wanting to throw rocks and said to them: “let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” (John 8:7)

One woman who came to protest the gay pride parade in Kyiv, Ukraine stated that she was there to promote Christian family values. At what point does she separate herself from those throwing rocks at people and yelling “go fuck your mothers” and stand with the children asking to be loved? That is where Jesus will be standing.

  1. Noel Warren Said,

    Do not give up. I think about 35 yrs ago the first gay and lesbian “Madi Gras” march in Sydney was shut down by the police and marchers arrested. Now more straight people than gay line the streets to watch the parade, loving its outrageous fun.
    On my recent visit to Turkey our wise tour leader commented that wherever there is a conflict between the true principles of a religion and “tradition” , tradition always wins. And so it is in in Georgia, the traditionally patriarchal and homophobic values win out, for now, over the foundational values of Orthodox Christianity. That being said, I have never been able to understand why they hate us so much. Do you have any ideas?

  2. andre Said,

    Noel,
    You raise a question that can be categorized as “an oldie but a goodie”. I suppose that that there are numerous reasons: historical, theological, ethical, political, societal – but they all boil down to ignorance. The Church certainly plays a major part because for years it has adhered to ancient and faulty interpretations of Scripture, adherence to church laws that are no longer valid, as well as picking and choosing certain teachings that have oppressed gay people, women, certain ethnic or racial groups over the centuries. As we know the history of the church “getting into bed” with civil authorities is a long one. Looking at present day Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, and other countries certainly show this “mutual admiration society” born out of the desire for power.
    However, in most modern, Western societies, the walls of animosity do seem to be falling down slowly. This has happened because LGBT persons have come out, become visible and straight people have seen that we are not monsters, but average, rather boring people. While I realize that the climate can still be difficult or unsafe for many to reveal who God truly made them to be, whenever we can come out, to family, friends, co-workers etc. we do make it easier for others to accept us. That realization is a necessary step to making changes in civil law for equality.
    As far as the Church goes – I truly believe that most of the younger bishops and priests understand this, but the fear to openly express such views is immense and the repercussions greater. They are trying to save an image of the Church that is more suitable for Byzantine or Romanov times instead of 2013.
    I bid you peace. Please stay in touch and thank you for your support.
    Andriy

  3. Rachel Said,

    Lord have mercy on us.

  4. Anonymous Said,

    According to Saint John Chrysostom, not even wild animals go beyond their heterosexual boundaries. They live according to their erotic nature and compulsion which was given to them by the Creator God, for the purpose of perpetuating the species.
    I mean, honestly, were in the entire history of the universe do we see a male-male or female-female ‘familiy’ procreating offspring?

  5. andre Said,

    If you are quoting the holy Father John Chrysostom correctly, then St. John is wrong on this issue. There are numerous examples of homosexual activity in the animal world. Any basic biology book will point this out. If marriage was only for the creation of offspring then the church would deny marriages to a couple where the woman is past the age of he possibility of giving birth or in instances where conception is not possible – such as where the woman has had ovarian cancer.
    Andriy

  6. andre Said,

    Thank you for your email. This is another example of why the Orthodox Church venerates the saints not because they were infallible but because of the holy lives they lived. St. John Chrysostom (assuming that you are quoting him correctly and not out of context) is simply wrong on this issue. Modern studies in biology have proven numerous examples of homosexual activity in the animal kingdom. See the link below.

    Also, if procreation were they only criteria for marriages and relationships blessed by the Church, then there are several wedding of older people that I personally celebrated that were not valid. Every other Orthodox priest in the world can probably say the same thing. There is nothing in Church law that states that two people (heterosexual) should not be married because they are both or individually passed an age where procreation is possible (post-menopausal women for example or men unable to produce sperm).

    I do indeed wish you a blessed Pascha-Easter and much peace and love in the Risen Lord.

    Andriy

  7. glory | Nina Sabak Said,

    […] How do you make sense of an Orthodox holiday when you aren’t sure if there is space in the church for […]

Add A Comment