Never Forget that you are the Child of a King
June 30, 2013
The Jewish rabbis posed a question: “What is the worst thing that man’s evil inclination can accomplish?” The answer: “To make someone forget that he is the child of a king.” This fundamental question and answer is taken from Tales from the Hasidim, a collection of stories based on the wisdom of Rabbi Baal Shem Tov who is considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism. Hasidim, meaning pious, was used to indicate someone who goes beyond the legal requirements of ritual and ethical Jewish observance” and expresses kindness and love for God and other people. Thus, it is not enough to follow the letter of the law in order to be pious or righteous, one must also be a practitioner of the spirit of the law.
The parable of the Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke is perhaps the best known example for Christians of the observance of the “spirit of the law” as opposed to the “letter of the law”. In the parable the letter of the law dictated that the priest and Levite could pass by the man who was beaten by robbers – helping the man was not in their specific duties as outlined in Scripture. However, the spirit of law demanded that the man be helped and so a Samaritan, one who was a foreigner to Jews, helped the man who was wounded. The priest and the Levite forgot that the beaten man was also a child of a king – God.
We live in a world where forgetting that everyone is a child of God, has become all too frequent. No matter their race, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational or socio-economic status, everyone is a child of God, the king. Every moment, evil actions are committed by man against man. Any simple perusal of the daily news will reveal man’s inhumanity to man. Whether it be on a grand scale of atrocities committed by governments – wars, genocides, indifference to poverty, or brutal acts committed by individuals – murder, theft, indifference to human suffering – we can indeed be very cruel to one another. Every evil action committed by humans against others, whether through governmental decree or individual choice, is an evil act committed against a child of the king –God’s creation. To make it easier on our conscience when we commit despicable acts, we reduce people to groups and categories – Whites, Blacks, Arabs, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Northerners, Southerners, etc. as if “those” people are less than we are – they are the lesser children of God.
Among Ukrainians, and other ethnic groups, there is common question when asking about an individual – “is he/she one of us?” (The Ukrainians use the term – nash -ours?) I heard this question frequently when a wedding was to take place in my parish. Was the young woman or young man marrying “one of ours?” I was always tempted to reply, “no they are not marrying of us, they are marrying a chimpanzee”. This perspective is not, of course, a Slavic phenomenon. In the Greek Orthodox Seminary of Holy Cross outside of Boston, some of the seminarians who are ethnically Greek refer to themselves as “white” and the non-Greek, but Orthodox seminarians as “non-white”. This is the type of attitude, labeling and language from those who will one day be called to lead the children of God. What is sadder is that the Seminary authorities know about this humiliating and debasing practice and yet tolerate it. We have given in to the evil inclination of which the Rabbis spoke – making other people forget that they are children of a King.
The Orthodox Church has also been guilty of this sin – coercing LGBT people into forgetting that we are all equal in the sight of God, that we are all created in His image and likeness and that we are all daughters and sons of the King. By overemphasizing certain passages in Scripture while ignoring others, by pointing to ancient canons while disregarding others, by choosing to believe that modern day scientific and biological facts and discoveries, especially concerning homosexuality, are incompatible with Orthodox Christian teachings, the Church has done an excellent job in reducing her LGBT children to the forgotten and maligned children of God.
The issue of homosexuality, and indeed all LGBT issues, has been very poorly addressed by the Orthodox Church. What has recently occurred in Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and Moldova surrounding the topic of homosexuality and the role played by the Orthodox Church might be easily dismissed as political given the 20th century history of those countries. The Orthodox Church in the West, the diaspora, which is educated and has been influenced by Western values, has largely ignored the topic or given only simplistic, negative, or damning statements. I wonder for how much longer the Church will able to be silent or remain in the dark on this topic at the peril of losing touch with its younger, more educated and accepting members who live and work in a world where the acceptance of diversity is commonplace.
The Orthodox Church needs to listen to all of her children and begin with the premise that everyone is a child of the King, our Creator, the Lord God. For in Christ there is neither “Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28) and by extension, there is neither gay nor straight.