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.