November 25, 2012
The 2012 Presidential election in the United States was particularly divisive and malevolent. It has also had some tragic consequences, everything from states petitioning to succeed from the United States to at least one individual committing suicide. The election process and subsequent re-election of the President has even caused some sad effects upon personal relationships.
A few days after the election, I pulled into the parking lot of a coffee shop and saw a men getting out of a Mercedes SUV. On the rear bumper he had the Christian fish symbol (Ichthys) and a Romney for President bumper sticker. My first reaction was one of anger and disbelief. How can a man who drives a car that costs over $70,000 profess to the follower of a poor and homeless man, Jesus, who called upon His followers to give everything away and follow Him? I am not sure which was more infuriating for me, the Romney sticker or the Christian symbol on a car that costs more than I make in almost two years. A few days later I went out for dinner with a female colleague from my school. While I teach at a Christian school, I am out to the administration and all of the faculty members whose reaction to my being gay ranges from indifference to full acceptance. I was surprised to learn that this friend of mine had voted for Romney for President. I took it personally. How could a friend of mine vote for a candidate who did not view me as a citizen with full and equal rights? Indeed Romney was not very supportive of the rights of LGBT people, in particular he did not support my rights as an American to marry someone of the same sex. My choice would forever be under the cloud of illegality under a Romney administration who might have had the chance to nominate several Supreme Court justices which would have had even further negative consequences for me as a gay man and for my same-sex relationship. I immediately began to re-think my friendship with this person and question whether we could ever be as close again.
What these two situations have in common is my quick nature to judge. Without even knowing the man in the parking lot, I was very quick to judge his affluence and how he spent his money. For all I know the car with the Christian symbol and Romney sticker might not have even been his. I certainly did not know what he did with the bulk of his finances. But I was very quick to assume a myriad of uncharitable things about him. The same goes for my friend, who I was so quick to judge. Her vote was not a direct attack on me but her personal decision based on what were for her, rational criteria. For a man who spent much of his priesthood preaching against judgmental people and encouraging his parishioners to remove “the wood beam from their own eye before taking the speck out of their neighbors eye (Matthew 5:7), I was certainly not following my own advice nor the edict of our Lord. The last few years in particular have found me calling upon others not to judge my sexual orientation or my relationship and yet I am still so quick to judge the ideas, actions and intentions of people, especially of those I do not know as well as those I care deeply about. That is not right.
This is exactly what LGBTQ people who are Orthodox Christians want from the Church. Yet still, the Church judges us because they do not know us. The Church has not taken the initiative or the time to understand Orthodox Christians who are LGBT. Within the walls of an Orthodox Church we were warmly received into the life-sustaining faith. Whether through the mysteries of holy baptism and/or chrismation, the sacred invocations of the priest gave us the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we might live our lives fully as people called to emulate the teachings of Christ. What we need from the Church is not to be judged for our nature, for who God created us to be, for He created us “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psalm 139:14). What we need from the Church is acceptance of our humanity, not our fallen humanity, but our God created humanity as gay, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. What we need from the Church is the acceptance of our choices to love and be loved in relationships which are sanctified in the mystery of holy crowning. Just as I and many LGBTQ people confess their sins daily, especially the sin of judging, it is time for the Church to confess that she has judged us on this issue without cause. Christ is already present in the lives of LGBTQ people and He has already presided at our same-sex weddings, as He did at Cana in Galilee. Christ judges us for our sins and not our orientation which He created, and it is time for His Church to do the same.