November 6, 2011
“Homosexuality is so evil that even the devil does not want it.” These words were spoken by an Orthodox priest, educated in Australia, serving in Greece and given as “pastoral” advice to a younger man who was struggling with what he was feeling – love for another man. This is the face of true evil – a priest, ordained by the Holy Spirit, called to spread the good news of the Gospel, the good news of love and forgiveness, telling an anxious young man that he is worse than the devil.
Counseling him that the feelings, thoughts, desires and hopes that he has are not only abnormal, but they are pure evil. “Get ready to drop into the eternal fires where the gaping mouth of a dragon is waiting to gobble you up!” (See the icon of St. John Climacus and the divine ascent.) The man is twenty-five years old and for a brief time after this horrific encounter considers harming himself.
How many lives have been spiritually destroyed by such “pastoral guidance”? How many lives have been physically destroyed by such “pastoral guidance”? How much irreparable physical, emotional, spiritual and mental harm has been done to men and women by such “pastoral guidance?” How many faithful men and women have left the Orthodox Church or even Christianity because of such “pastoral guidance”? This priest might as well have told the young man to go out and hang himself. Is not the penalty for sin, death? (Romans 6:23) This priest was in violation of every known humane and Christian, and Orthodox principle. This priest was in violation of his own ordination. This priest should have been called in front of an ecclesiastical tribunal and tried for spiritual malpractice. I only shudder to think how many bishops and priests, sitting as judges on that tribunal, would either have agreed with the priest’s words and opinion and perhaps even worse, how many would have disagreed with the priest but would have been too afraid to say anything. They might upset the status quo, yet silence is complicity.
The priest was wrong! What the man was feeling was God given. No one, especially someone raised in such a conservative, Orthodox society as rural Greece, as this man was, would choose or want to be gay. He would do everything in his power to want to be “just like everyone else.” Fortunately or unfortunately, one cannot change nature – one can manipulate, obscure, pervert or even distort nature – but those are the decisions and actions of man and not God. How many gay men and women have jumped through Olympic size hoops mentally, emotionally and spiritually in order to deny who they are and to deny creation? And for what reason?
Sexuality and sexual orientation are given by God. The Orthodox Church, the Church established by Christ to spread the good news must reconcile itself to this divine fact of nature. The Orthodox Church must stop persecuting its gay members and embrace them, serve them, nurture them and offer the mysteries to them with the same love that it reserves for its heterosexual members. Gay people are not evil or more sinful than straight people.
What stopped the man from harming himself was love. He searched his soul and came to the conclusion that the love he felt was not evil or even sinful, it was good. It was as good as the creation of God of which he was a part. (Genesis 1:11) He never spoke to that priest again, never went to that Church again. Whose actions were evil – the priest’s or the young man’s? Who did the devil’s work that day?