This little document of mine serves two purposes; I hope everyone will indulge me in what the French would call *un document polyvalent* — a multi-purpose paper.
Purpose number one: clearing up some confusion about what St. John Chrysostom said and did not say, and, with any luck, proposing a way forward for today’s Orthodox Christians to read patristic documents in an authentic way… a way that doesn’t distort the original author’s intent and doesn’t force artificial parallels between ancient society and contemporary culture.
Purpose number two: sharing a bit of personal history about how I came to my understanding outlined in Purpose number one. The beauty of the Orthodox Tradition is that it is never a story of abstractions, bodiless truths floating in space. Ours is an incarnational faith; Tradition has a *personal* character and progression.
Below are a few comments on Fr Hopko’s article on homosexuality that was recently posted here. My comments are in boldface—if you can’t see the bold, go back and click on the document title itself, which should give you a version in which the bold shows up—it really can’t be read without the bold showing. This goes with apologies to Fr Hopko for the fact that these comments are on an article that’s now twenty years old, in case any of his views in it that I comment on have since been revised. Though I believe the criticisms remain apt because the article is still used as a reference by those who aim to shut down the gay dialogue.
I originally wrote this paper for a New Testament course while in seminary. The text reflects a couple of changes from the original, including substitutions for the word queer which can be a stumbling block in conversations where people are not familiar with its use in academic discourse. The original, complete with instructor’s comments can be found here: http://www.brycerich.net/seminary-papers/nt/of-olive-trees-and-unnatural-acts.html
As I revisit this essay, I feel that perhaps the metaphor of the olive tree might have a new iterative resonance in our present context. While Paul’s cultivated olive tree was Judaism, I wonder if Orthodox readers might now hear the cultivated olive tree as the Tradition of the Orthodox Church. Great. This then opens to the question: is the work of the Great Horticulturalist continuing as other wild branches continue to be engrafted into the cultivated tree?
Because modern science studies only observable and testable phenomena, it obviously cannot determine the moral acceptability of these phenomena. This does not mean that science has no role to play in Christian discourse, however. The Orthodox Church rejects the troubled epistemologies of explicitly anti-scientific movements such as young-earth creationism. Likewise, it would be foolish to think that Orthodox Christians could justifiably ignore modern empirical findings on a topic as complex as homosexuality. I would like to share my views, and to hear from others, about the ways that such research might inform moral thought and pastoral practice.
Holy Sexual Persons: Conjugal Relations in Orthodox Marriage
“When did marriage begin? When man sinned. Before that, there was no marriage, not in the present-day sense. It was only after the Fall, after Adam and Eve had been expelled from paradise, that Adam “knew” Eve (Gen 4.1) and thus marriage began.”
(From “Excellent Advice on Marriage”, A Sermon delivered in the Church of St. Nicholas, Trikala, Greece, 17 January, 1971 By Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Mount Athos)
There are some really disturbing ideas about marriage and human sexuality circulating in the Church these days. There’s this one stated above. As well, this next jewel was recently posted over on Monachos.net:
Basil in the Hexaemeron says that angels procreate by a process of simple fission, i.e., splitting apart like amoebas. God’s reason for the duality of sexes in humanity, according to Basil was that He forsaw the fall after which humans would not be able to procreate like angels, they (we) were left to procreate like animals.
Or, as one certain poster on the Orthodox-Forum Yahoogroups list wrote,
The Orthodox Fathers tend to teach that Adam and Eve were sexless. In light of these ideas we as Christians involved in the process of returning to heaven should be doing the work of being cleansed from the sexual energies which came with the Fall from Paradise.
New beginnings in community
Gender issues and the Church
Fr. Alexis Vinogradov
July 10, 2011
The vertical axis and the Creed
From the Sunday bulletin at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Tacoma, WA, 10 July 2011 (author unknown)
During recent decades, some feminist Bible scholars insisted that Saint Paul had changed Christianity from something good for women to something very bad.
These feminist scholars said that Jesus Christ brought a brand new teaching to the world: that men and women are truly equal, especially in the sight of God. But Saint Paul, they said, had used his vast influence and powers of persuasion to change that teaching. He believed and taught that women are inferior to men, as they had always been.
It has been a while since we reminded people of the purpose, goals and rules of this group. It seems that now may be a good time since we have acquired quite a few new members recently.
This, I think, is worth reading and digesting and taking to heart, for all of us. If I have judged anyone here, forgive me.
Response To Myself
Is the legalization of same sex marriage/union a threat to the Orthodox Church’s stance on matrimony being the sanctified union of one man and one woman? This question is again becoming the focus of many Orthodox Christians in light of the recent passage by the New York State legislature to legalize same sex marriage.