“It Gets Better”: Orthodox Version
In my frustration about the lack of an Orthodox Christian “It Gets Better” video in response to gay teen suicide, I began to wonder what such a response would possibly be like coming from Orthodox clergy or hierarchs. But whenever I sat down to try to write one ( imagining myself in the kamilafka of any of our bishops) the result ended up satirical. So I made a special effort to make it non-satirical, to empathize with someone in the “traditional” position on sexuality and to postulate a compassionate response from that position. The following is what I came up with. I had to make up a fictional “help line” to make it reasonable. I, of course, don’t agree with this response, and I can spell out its flaws very specifically (and may be called on to do so). But this little exercise in empathy may serve the purpose of showing that those of us who support the inclusion of gay people in the church understand to some degree the position of those who don’t. I find it telling that not even something like this has appeared in response to the teen suicide awareness. Only silence.
IT GETS BETTER:
The love and mercy of God pervade creation and surround you in every moment, even moments in which you suffer at the hands of insensitive people. This is a universal truth upon which everyone can rely. That’s the most important thing for you to understand if you find yourself in a place of suffering or persecution by your peers or even family members for who they perceive you to be.
Adolescence is a time when you discover the primal force of sexuality as it arises in you. If with that discovery, you learn that your erotic attraction is toward members of your own sex, and if you suffer persecution from those you share that with or even those who merely perceive it about you, you need to know that IT GETS BETTER.
Understand that no Christian can in good conscience act on every sexual impulse that arises—this applies to every one of us, whether heterosexual or homosexual. To act irresponsibly sexually only creates suffering for everyone. When you examine the church’s holy tradition as well as the lives of the holy men and women whose lives show us the way to God, you’ll see that sexual relations between members of the same sex have always been seen as acts that lead one away from God rather than toward him. Understanding that in the context of discovering your own homosexuality can thus be a liberating thing, but it’s also challenging, and you’ll need to be cautious in sharing it. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing it with your parents or your parish priest, please contact [[here would be an 800 number and email for some nonexistent organization that supports gay kids]]. People there understand what you’re going through. They won’t deny that you don’t face challenges, but they will show you how it truly can get better. How so? There is for you the possibility of a life of great freedom in Christ unfettered by the usual responsibilities a family can bring, the possibility of devoting yourself to God and your fellow person more completely than would be possible for a married person, the possibility of discovering deep and meaningful friendships untainted by the difficulties of romantic attachment, and the possibility of channeling the energy of sex into increased levels of creativity in other areas. It most definitely gets better in all those ways, and what’s better yet is that you’ll have the support of the whole body of Christ in your special ascetic labor. And you have as examples, guides, and intercessors the celibate saints from throughout history who’ve traveled the path before you. Though there are challenges in store for you, it most definitely gets better.