Purging the Faithful

July 14, 2014

Rollkartei_hgDo people use Rolodexes anymore? How many people under the age of 30 even know what a Rolodex is? Pictured here, it is, according to Wikipedia, “a rotating file device used to store business contact information.” The word was created from the words “rolling” and “index”. I imagine that most people, these days, store contacts on their smart phones, eliminating the need for rolodexes and “telephone books”. As a parish priest, my Rolodex was perhaps the most important thing in my office. Each and every parishioner had a separate card with their name, address, phone number and other important information relevant to their relationship to the parish.

My Rolodex was vital in keeping in contact with not only parishioners, but others who visited and expressed interest in the life of the church. Records of important spiritual events such as baptisms, conversions, marriages and funerals were kept in separate record books. These books were large, imposing, old and semi-sacred registry books known as “metric books”. The books in my previous parish went back to the early twentieth century when the parish was first formed. Recording each event was a milestone for the individual, his/her family, and the parish community. When a parishioner passed away, a record of their burial was entered in the metric book. But there was another action, less formal, but just as final. If there were no longer any living family members of the deceased, who had any contact with the church, I reluctantly removed the index card with their name and address from the parish Rolodex. Their memory was kept alive however, through the prayers of the community. Still, the removal of the card was somehow very sad and final. It was a visual reminder that the person no longer had any earthly contact with the parish. Reluctantly, I used to throw the cards away.

Parish churches were not the only places with index cards in Rolodexes. “The Normal Heart” is a play written by Larry Kramer that was recently turned into an HBO movie with the same name. The movie recalls the early days of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s and the terrible toll that it took on the gay community in particular. One of the characters, Tommy Boatwright, played by Jim Parsons in the movie, delivers a stirring eulogy at the death of a close friend who has died from AIDS. Boatwright says:

I have this tradition,” he states, “it’s something I do now when a friend dies. I save his Rolodex card. What am I supposed to do? Throw it away in the trash can? I won’t do that. No, I won’t. It’s too final. Last year, I had five cards, now I have 50. A collection of cardboard tombstones bound together with a rubber band.[1]

Tommy kept a visual, a very emotional remembrance of loved ones who had departed. In analyzing the action of his character, Parsons stated: “when you see something as simple as a Rolodex card being taken out because the person is no longer with us, it says more than the grandest gesture ever could. You don’t have to be gay and you don’t necessarily have to have known anybody who’s gotten sick to understand the depth of what’s being told here and the heartbreak of it.”[2]

How many index cards has the Orthodox Church deliberately thrown into the trash? How many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered, baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians have been covertly or overtly removed from lists of Church membership simply for expressing who God made them to be? How many people have been turned away by the Church because they were honest about who they loved and who they wanted to share their life with? How many parents of gay and lesbian children have been counseled by the Orthodox Church to reject their children because of their sexual orientation? How many times has the Orthodox Church committed spiritual and psychological malpractice by pushing gay men and lesbians into harmful “conversion therapy”? How many Orthodox gay couples have had to seek the sacrament of marriage outside of their own Church, because they were refused a marriage in their own parish? How many times has a gay or lesbian individual been unable to properly mourn for their deceased spouse or partner at a funeral, due to the prejudicial and unpastoral restrictions placed on them by the Church?

Does the Church mourn for the faithful it has purposely discarded into the trash? Do they somehow comfort themselves by continuing to cling to the sad adage of “love the sinner, hate the sin”? Do the bishops of the Church wonder about the souls they have rejected based on archaic interpretations of Scripture, and canon law? Are the priests of the Church concerned about the precious souls they might have spiritually damaged, because of a lack of knowledge of modern science, psychology and gender? At what point does the laity of the church, especially those with LGBT children, siblings, and friends say enough is enough? The Church needs to stop the continued practice of throwing souls and lives away. Stop throwing the Rolodex index cards in the garbage! The cards still fit, and if they do not, it’s time for the Church to change the container.

 

[1] http://kwbu.org/post/hbos-normal-heart-looks-early-days-aids-crisis

 

[2] http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2014/05/21/normal-heart-hbo-adaptation-of-kramer-aids-crisis-drama/9146231/

 

  1. C Said,

    Important questions that unfortunately not many Orthodox Christians ask themselves. The Church’s hostility towards homosexuality is a major reason why I completely lost faith as a teenager. This intolerance turns people away from God, not towards Him. Not only that, but it gives organizations like the New Atheists fuel to attack the Church and Christ in the name of human rights. Terrible. I pray every day for LGBT Christians across the globe, and also for the various clergy and churchgoers who have internalized this toxic dogmatism towards homosexuality. Hopefully we can all get past this soon and unite together as one in love and understanding the way Christ intended.

  2. andre Said,

    Thank you for your comment and support of this website. We all need to ask questions. While humility is important, ignorance is not. You are correct that there is an intolerance in the Orthodox Church.  Perhaps this is most evident in the “ethnic” parishes in the diaspora.  They can be very uninviting. While there are usually historical reasons for this, there is not a deep desire to change. I am sorry that you lost your faith as a teenager.  But, it is probably hidden and not lost. I encourage you to find a new parish and live and express the love and acceptance of Christ.  You will help, in the words of St. Seraphim of Sarov, countless others, if you obtain the true peace and message of Christ.  I bid you peace. Please stay in touch.

    Andriy

  3. Maria Said,

    Thank you so much for your posts on this site. I find them so helpful. 

    I will soon be moving to a new city. There is only one Orthodox Church there (a Romanian one, if memory serves), but this gives me a chance to "start over". Please pray for me.

    God bless! 

    Maria 

  4. andre Said,

    Maria,

    Thank you for your email and kind words. I am very happy for you and hope that the move will be very good for you. You are in my prayers. I bid you good health and inner peace,

    Andriy

  5. Katerina Said,

    Please forgive me, but due to a recent announcement by someone I truly care for, I’m confronting the thoughts and feelings I have about this subject. I’m struggling on so many levels… I really want to understand.

    I thought everyone had a private life? I thought what people do in the privacy of their own lives was personal. What does a person’s sexuality have to do with them doing a job, or keeping a home?
    Again, forgive me.
    I cannot see why a person’s sexual orientation has to be the fount of their being? It certainly isn’t that of a child’s, and we should all aim to be children of Our Heavenly Father.

    How can one see the face of God when in male homosexual intercourse one cannot see the face of the other?
    I’m struggling to understand the point of male anal penetrational contact, being, as it is, in an exit, not an entrance. How can this be procreational?
    We all do things for recreation, and that’s also the point of prayer. To reCreate.
    I’m struggling with many passions , the demon of gluttony especially, so I won’t inherit the Kingdom, except the Lord, Have Mercy upon me.
    Pray for me, a sinner.

  6. andre Said,

    Katerina,

    Thank you for your comment and interest in this topic and website. When you state that “I thought everyone had a private life?”, I must ask you, what is private about the way the heterosexual world celebrates, announces, demonstrates and exhibits their life decisions, love life, marriages, etc.? Every magazine, television show, church bulletin, movie, commercial, conversation, includes information about people’s life choices when choosing a life partner. An entire wedding industry has emerged in the western world to facilitate just that. Gay people are no different. We want to announce our happiness, and invite others to celebrate with us. Everyone wants to love and be loved.

    On the issue of sexuality and one’s job or home, have you ever heard of anyone being fired for discussing their wife or husband or not allowed to rent an apartment because they were heterosexual? No! And yet in numerous states, I, and all gay people can be fired simply for just being gay. While most people do not have a second thought when in casual conversation with their boss or work colleagues mentioning their opposite sex spouse, many of us have to go through mental gymnastics in not mentioning our same-sex spouse. Why do I have to remember to say “I went to the movies” instead of “we went to the movies”. Can you pretend not to be straight, even for one day? I have no intention of discussing my sex life with my husband at work, but I should not be fired because I might mention that we went grocery shopping together.

    Under the topic of anal penetration, you are a bit misinformed. To make some general statements: Not all gay men participate in anal sex. Lesbians usually do not usually participate in anal sex. Many heterosexual couples participate in and enjoy anal sex. This is not a gay issue.

    Finally, on the issue of procreation. As a parish priest for over 20 years, I performed numerous ceremonies for couples well past the age of procreation. This has always been accepted by the Orthodox Church, as second and third marriages are allowed. Marriage is far more than for procreation; this has always been the theology of the Church.

    Thank you again for commenting.

    I bid you peace,

    Andriy

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