The beauty within us
July 3, 2015
“Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone He met, at the prostitute or the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what He did was to call out this beauty.” (Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh of blessed memory).
What is beautiful about a person? Most of us are often quick to judge others. We look at people’s clothing, height, race, weight, age, occupation, home and car and numerous other aspects about them, and judge them based on these very superficial and fleeting features. We decide within an instant if a person is poorly or extravagantly dressed, too fat, too short, bald, wearing too much makeup, driving an old car, living in a certain type of neighborhood, or holding a job that we deem more, or less important, than our own. The quick judgments that we make can be detrimental not only for healthy social interactions, but also to our own spiritual health. If we see a person’s race or clothing, or any other particular trait, before we see the beauty of the whole person, we are diminished as human beings.
The admired and much respected Metropolitan Anthony urged us to see beyond the shallow and ephemeral for two reasons. The first reason is to remove us from the temptation to make quick and irrational judgments and therefore fall into the sin of judging others. This initial action harms us, as we quickly compare and contrast ourselves with others. We can immediately fall into the trap of excessive pride, by thinking that we are better than others. Or, we can also fall into a pit of self-doubt and feelings of low self-esteem, not believing that we are indeed very blessed and the recipient of numerous gifts from our Creator. The second, and perhaps even more important reason that we should not be quick to judge others is that our quick judgments and reactions to a person being different from us, does not allow us to get to know the beauty of the whole person, to love them and offer help to them from our own talents and gifts. At times, that help is simply a kind word, a reassuring gesture, or an acknowledgment of a person’s dignity. Often the beauty of others is unseen and not immediately obvious. Therefore, we need to make every attempt to take the time to see the beauty in everyone, especially the hidden beauty, which requires more effort on our part.
When it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, the Orthodox Church has been guilty of not seeing the beauty within us. Many bishops and priests of the Church are quick to judge us based only on our sexual orientation. The bishops and many priests of the Church, not knowing much about gay people, have declared that LGBT persons are “rebelling against the order of the Creator.” Many within the Church only look at one aspect of our humanity, and see only something that is “wrong, ugly, or distorted,” without seeing, in the words of Metropolitan Anthony, “our beauty”. Because many of the hierarchs and clergy do not know gay people very well, or are ignorant in the areas of biology and psychology, they often make quick and erroneous judgments about us. Some even believe that a significant portion of our lives are spent in gay bars dancing with drag queens. To judge us based on the media’s portrayal of gay pride parades is equivalent to judging the rest of society based on Mardi Gras festivals in New Orleans.
The words of Scripture are clear on the point of equality in the eyes of God. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus…heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29) And by extension, the following is true: that there is neither straight nor gay, lesbian nor transgendered, married, or unmarried, for we are all beautiful in the eyes of Christ, and heirs to the promise of our Creator. When we first see only a person’s sexual orientation and their marital status, we fail as humans and we fail as a Church. We need to see the image of God in every person, and we need see the beauty of the face of Christ in every person. Otherwise we will miss the opportunity to love and minister. If we do not see the beauty of creation within others, we will be unable to love them as commanded by Christ. Instead we will see something that we agree with or disagree with, something that needs fixing or something that needs to be condemned, or protested against, and “contribute nothing” to the person.
I, like numerous other LGBT persons, am so much more than my sexuality, which God gave to me. And when the Church judges us, based on our created sexuality, or our marriages to someone of the same sex, they have failed to fulfill the commandments of Jesus Christ. When the bishops issue false edicts of condemnation and judgment based on archaic interpretations of Scripture and canon law, instead of embracing and loving and seeing all of us, they have failed to take care of their flock and “feed the sheep”. All of us are somewhat damaged, or bruised, or injured whether it be emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually. We all need the loving care and compassion of God as exhibited and shared by others. The Church needs to look at all of Creation, male, female, black, white, gay, lesbian, transgendered and see the fullness of God’s beauty
 This phrase was recently used by an Orthodox priest to discredit LGBT persons.
 This was expressed to me by the same Orthodox priest on a listserv.
 John 21