September 30, 2012
Many gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have at numerous times in their lives felt like outcasts. We grow up in a world where we are quick to recognize that we do not feel or experience the same things that other kids our age are feeling and experiencing. While I might have noticed that certain girls in my class were pretty, I certainly did not experience the same stirrings that other boys in my class were feeling when noticing pretty girls. And since in my generation no one was talking about what I was and was not feeling, I was led to believe that I was the only one who was experiencing something different, and thought that there must be something wrong with me.
While growing up, gay people quickly realize that to express different feelings from the norm is to risk calling great wrath, and even harm upon ourselves at the hands of others. These experiences make LGBT people feel like outcasts. An outcast is defined as “a person who is rejected or cast out from home and society.” (dictionary.com). Due to the fact that we are not in the majority, we are by definition, outsiders. Other people, institutions and society at large not only make us feel like outcasts, but in numerous cases they have literally cast us out of their lives and homes.
Jesus Christ was the chief outcast. He was rejected by his own people, scorned by society and arrested by the civil authorities for His righteousness. Many gay and lesbians are drawn to Christ and ultimately to worship Him in His Church for this very reason. His message, His life, His example, the hope that He provides and the forgiveness that He offers is the impetus to become and/or remain a Christian. We, as outcasts, are particularly drawn to the message of the Lord: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) When family, friends, employment, and the social order have rejected you, LGBT people have been able to find refuge in Christ.
For centuries the Orthodox Church has always welcomed outcasts. Christ Himself made the appeal to outsiders to “follow Him”. The Evangelist Matthew, a tax collector, and St. Mary Magdalene, the one Jesus cured of evil spirits (Luke 8:1-3) are only two examples of Christ calling people from the fringes of society to be His disciples. The Apostles carried the good news of the Lord to outsiders to become newly illuminated by water and the Spirit. Outsiders were the catechumens, the converts, the newest members of the Church. The appeal of a new life in Christ was very appealing to those belittled, scorned and forgotten by society. Frequently, once they became Christians, they were even greater outcasts as many chose martyrdom rather than give up their newly found faith.
The sad truth about those who rule the earthly Orthodox Church today is that they have become imperial gatekeepers and have created numerous outsiders by having irrational reasons for making sure that outsiders stay outside the Church. They reject numerous people who seek the truth and mercy of Christ within the solace of His Church. For example, in countries of the Orthodox diaspora there are abundant stories of people being unwelcomed in the Church due to their lack of “Greekness” or “Russianness” as if one’s ethnic origins were a choice as well as an obstacle to the saving mysteries.
Furthermore, the Orthodox Church has turned its gay faithful into outcasts. Biology dictates if someone is born gay. Being gay is not a choice. I did not choose to be gay any more than I chose to be born of a Ukrainian father and an English mother. God Himself created gay people and He created them with the potential to love and be loved and experience that love in the form of life-long unions with another person of the same gender. Rejecting people for something they have no choice over is to reject God Himself.
Thankfully the Lord takes great care of those who are rejected, the outsiders. In the book of Jeremiah we find these comforting words and actions of the Lord: “I will restore Thee to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord, because you are called an outcast, Zion, for whom no one cares.” (Jeremiah 30:17) The prophet Jeremiah points out that Zion, synonymous for Jerusalem, has been made an outcast by others. Jerusalem is deemed worthy of healing and help because others have rejected her. Gay people do sin and do need to repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness as do all people. But we do not need to repent for being homosexuals or our need to love and experience love anymore than heterosexual people need to repent for their biology or their natural inclinations to love, be loved and express love in life-long relationships. The Orthodox Church and her gatekeepers, the bishops and priests, need to stop turning its gay faithful members into outcasts. They need to stop throwing the stones of archaic scriptural interpretations and antiquated ecclesiastical laws at gay people in order to keep us outside of the Church. Those who throw the stones are the hypocrites, because Christ invites the outcasts in and throws the Pharisees out.