The Christian Faith and Same Sex Attraction (Part 2)

This essay is a continuation of the discussion of the book advertised below (and continuing this post). In that post, in reading the sentence, “This is so because same sex intercourse … [ed: a bit trimmed here] … can never be complementary, unitive, life-creating, and life-enhancing in the ways that God intended sexual intercourse between a man and woman.” my commenter responded:

Would the authors argue the same about an opposite-sex couple if one of them were infertile? What about post-menopause.

The argument against homosexuality from lack-of-reproduction-capability strikes me as the result of casting about for a difference between opposite-sex and same-sex couples and, when finding it, seizing upon it as the reason same-sex couples are lesser, even when it turns out that many opposite-sex couples are on the same side of the difference as same-sex ones.

This is a misreading of the intent of Mr Hopko. First of all, my commenter falls prey to the same fault he ascribes to Mr Hopko. That is, in the list of four things (complementary, unitive, life-creating and life-enhancing) he “casts about” and picks the one, “life-creating” and wonders if opposite-sex (married) couples for which one is infertile can be what God intended.

In a later chapter (9), Mr Hopko writes about Same-Sex Attraction and God’s will. Mr Hopko distinguishes to “flavors” of God’s will, essential goodwill and providential permission. God essentially wills good for all. He does not will, sickness, suffering, or death for any creature. Only Christ we believe has achieved and matched what God willed for humanity.

According to Orthodoxy, God knew from all eternity that human beings would refuse to acknowledge His power and divinity in creation and so to give Him the glory and gratitude that is His due. God’s providential permission, therefore includes human rebellion and corruption. […] And it includes human sexual passions and actions in the flawed forms in which we now know them, both heterosexual and homosexual, in ourselves and those around us.

But returning to out point, he write:

… Or to put it another way, perhaps a bit more accurately, Orthodox Scriptures, sacraments, and saints testify to the conviction that praiseworthy passionate love between people of opposite sexes is betrayed by sexual activity with anyone other than one’s spouse.

Part of the question is how this plays out, what is the teaching of how those who experience same-sex attraction treated in the church community, with respect to the sacraments, and the civic community.

  • In the church community, they are just the same as the rest of the church community. All are fallen. All are repentant and have been “deal with that which they have been dealt”, that is trying to repent and not repeat their own particular temptations and sins. He does not advise “coming out”, as each sinner in his own way, need not burden the community with their particular struggle, which is just the same as anyone else in the community. Confession and the guidance of ones spiritual father is the way all Orthodox Christians seek to find our spiritual growth to maturity.
  • Only if a person publicly affirms and promotes homosexual behavior should one be denied the sacramental life of the church. That is in accordance with any other teaching of the church. Those who public deny or promote theology or actions counter to the teaching of the church are all so denied.
  • In pastoral care, special care is advised in application of oikonomia, a word for which there is apparently no good translation. The explanation given is it is an application when commandments or laws cannot be followed a path of applying those which can be applied so that the person in question can grow to their next stage of spiritual maturity.
  • In civil life, Fr Hopko in somewhat emphatic terms, speaks clearly for all human and civil rights to be given to those who feel same-sex attraction. Such people should be treated justly in every way and to be afforded all protections and benefits of society. However, he contends calling such unions marriages by civil law, Orthodox Christians should tolerate that just at they tolerate divorce, remarriage, or abortion. A bitter battle over the word “marraige” however, is unreasonable and counter-productive.

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  1. Clark Wilson says:

    I have read the book.

    I see no reason to restrict “life-creating” to bio. I rather think the presumption should be that Fr. Thomas includes or is primarily concerned with zoe, and that restricting it to bio requires substantiation from the text.

    For a single-sentence defense of the presumption I note that in the liturgy we always use “life-creating” to refer to the holy mysteries or to one of the Trinity, usually the Holy Spirit, and never so far as I know do we use it in the sense of bio alone. Mark, feel free to correct me.

    Maybe bio isn’t the right rendering of the Greek for mere organic life. Zoe is the right rendering of the Greek for spiritual life. Outside Orthodoxy the two terms were used to differentiate between “biology” (life in general) and “zoology” (animals, i.e., things with anima, i.e., souls). Please pardon my poor Greek and Latin.

    FWIW, the one area in which I think the book is weak is the political chapter, which I think makes huge assumptions about the relationship between church and state (and between an Orthodox Christian citizen and the government). The assumptions may be good ones or they may not be; and they may be documented in other writings by Fr. Thomas or not; but in this text they are not handled with the expertise and careful thinking that the rest of the book displays. Fr. Thomas’s specialty is not political thought.

  2. Mark says:

    I think your first point is really good.

    On the political one, I think that his point of view about politics are not necessary or to be taken as doctrinal (unlike his theological statements which are better supported as you note). But it is important to note that those positions are possible and easily follow from the theology.