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The Orthodox Church and gay marriage


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#1 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 01:29 PM

The Supreme Court of Canada has just ruled that gay marriage is constitutional in Canada & that parliament has the right to pass legislation making it legal. The Prime Minister immediately said that legislation legalising gay marriage would be introduced in parliament as soon as possible.

What do you think should be an Orthodox Christian response to the two following points often made by gay couples or those who support gay marriage:

1)gay marriage doesn't hurt those who are involved in heterosexual marriage; it doesn't hurt anyone else at all.

2)gay married couples provide the same loving care to each other & their children as does heterosexual marriage.

Thanks for considering this question.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#2 Eugene

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 02:36 PM

I think a sin is not only something that hurts anyone or not necessarily lack of loving care. Hurting or not caring is sertainly sinful, but not hurting and caring is not enough. I'm not sure if I can define in general what is sin, but I think we can say that sin is anything that doesn't allow us to be in Communion with God, that breaks the communion, that doesn't allow the Holy Spirit to abide in us. Homosexuality is sertainly one of those things, even though it may not hurt anyone explicitly. Yet we can still say that it hurts spiritually. It spiritually hurts the homosectual people themselves first of all (exactly because it doesn't allow them to enter in communion with God), and it hurts other people around them spritually because it constantly sends a message that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality.

However, this concept of sinfulness of homosectuality is totally alien to people who don't accept the Christian faith. From the point of view of humanistic-relativistic ideology of the modern society there is nothing wrong in it. This fact simply shows how far the values of the modern humanism stand from the values of Christianity.


#3 Owen Jones

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 03:06 PM

The problem with the so-called "gay" debate is as much a philosophical as a religious one. A religious person can say that, ipso facto, engaging in sodomy is wrong according to the Bible, but has no means of actually confronting the various arguments in favor of "gay rights" that will have any social/political impact, other than to become an Orthodox Christian. That is offered as the only solution. Not a bad solution, but it is a solution, again, that has no impact on the society, or on so-called "gay people" themselves, unless one has an agressive evangelistic effort among "homosexuals" themselves, much as Christ admonished us to minister to prostitutes, to the sick, to those in prison. We do not wait for such people to become Orthodox Christians first in order to qualify for Christ's ministrations. So absent either a philosophic refutation of the idea of "gay rights," and ministrations to "gay people," the Orthodox Christian position on both "gay rights" and on homosexual behavior is really a narrow sectarian position.

One has to look at the arguments in favor of homosexuality and on "gay rights" and engage those arguments head on. The argument is that it is a natural part of things, part of the natural order of things that some people are born homosexual, it is part of their nature, not a fault or a sin, and a homosexual is merely expressing his or her true nature, and that therefore it is a sin for society to suppress that true nature for narrow sectarian reasons. This is a very powerful argument, taken on its own.

So without a real profound theological and philosophical discussion of the nature of nature, one really cannot deal with the issue. What do we mean when we use a word like "nature?" Is there even such a thing as nature as an authority to which one can appeal to justify certain beliefs, attitudes and behaviors? Since that is what is being done.

Christians are simply on the defensive on this issue because we have no working knowledge of what WE mean by nature, and end up reinforcing the stereotype of Christianity as a force against human freedom by saying that homosexuality is wrong, full stop. Is nature wrong? Is nature mistaken? You see, what has happened is that we say that God cannot be wrong, and yet we see that much in the world is wrong. But we also say that nature is good in its essence. The pro-gay argument is that nature is good, not evil, just as we say it is. So they appeal to the authority of nature. Nature says it is so, that some people are born "gay." It is wrong to go against what nature has authored. One must therefore first dispose of the naturalistic argument, a form of fundamentalism, that has its roots in Rousseau and the 18th Century Romantics. Christians must know about all of these antecedents in order to understand the "gay debate" if we wish to have any social impact. And there must be ministrations to so-called "gay people," if we wish to speak with moral authority on the issue.


#4 Eugene

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 03:39 PM

Good point, Owen. This is another axiom of humanism - everything natural is good (sometimes they say - as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else). A simple problem is that this statement contradicts to reality. Humans have "natural" inclination to love himself, to lie, to steal, to please himself as much as they can possibly do, many of those "natural" forces do harm other people, so it would be wrong to say that everything natural is always good. The Christian point of view, I think, is that humans inherited sin from Adam and Eve not as a blame or curse, but as a sickness of soul - the inclination to self-love and everything that pleases this self-love. Holy Fathers actually cal this sinful decease anti-natural, although it seems like this anti-natural inclination is deeply and "naturally" rooted in our soul. St. Maxim the Confessor, for example, explains that a human can experience and exercise natural, anti-natural, and super-natural. Humanism, however, has no concept of super-natural, considers natural everything in human and doesn't differentiate between anti-natural and natural the way Christianity does.


#5 Owen Jones

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 04:36 PM

But an even more primary question is, what is nature? Good, bad, indifferent, what is it? Can we even say with assurance that there is something called nature? Or is that term shorthand for an ideological formulation, or a mythology? Is it an experience? What is it?


#6 Eugene

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 05:26 PM

"what is nature?" Good question! I will let more theologically knowleageble people answer it.


#7 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 06:12 PM

From my reading of the Holy Fathers (since they do address this subject) I would say that first of all nature does not exist in the abstract. There is human nature, dog nature, cat nature, etc. It is nature which constitutes the distinct being & character of each species (St John of Damascus uses the word species in the general sense). So it is human nature which makes us human.

Further it is also a Patrisitc teaching that specific to human nature is the fact that it always exists within individual hypostases.

In any case a discussion of nature is what applies properly to the subject of homosexuality since as Owen rightly points out the gay community & society at large has used the argument that gays are so by nature.

This obviously then brings us to the characteristics of human nature; ie what are the characteristics that God created it with? St Gregory of Nyssa said that at the deepest level human nature is unknowable which is analogous to how God's nature is unknowable.
However we can still I believe understand the characteristics of human nature by looking at the virtues. In other words what God has given us in His commandments for us corresponds exactly to the nature we are created with. However due to sin this aspect of our nature is now darkened and it is not at all clear at times how to distinguish sin from virtue.

To jump ahead I would say that the point is crucial about nature and homosexuality. In a sense this is what my questions are trying to get at. In other words we must explain how married love is according to human nature while the appeal to 'gay love' is not. I agree that just saying "it's wrong" won't cut it precisely because (for example as I saw while watching this on last night's news) the images of the sweet female or male couple with their children sitting in a nice suburban kitchen seems the most 'natural', innocuous and even sweet thing in the world. One could sympathise with our faithful thinking to themselves after seeing that, "so what's the problem anyway? Just as they say, they don't seem to be hurting anyone."

By the way: there was an interesting choice of words used by the Supreme Court judges. They specifically mentioned that legal change was valid because 'modern society evolves.' I don't want to get into a discussion about evolution (I wasn't thinking about it in this way anyway). But I thought it was interesting that as a legal principle evolving society was appealed to. As I have pointed out before especially in the British legal system & those influenced by it- legal interpretation is influenced by moral standards. Thus legal changes of the present may well have seemed abhorrent to people of the past even though the constitution is identical. The Supreme Court judgement thus recognises & legitimises changing moral standards to interpret one law.

#8 Owen Jones

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 06:13 PM

Dear Evgeny,

You don't need a theologically knowledgeable person to tell you the answer. If they did give you a formulaic answer -- a definition if you will -- it still would not be an answer to your question. The answer lies within you and is answered in the process of loving questioning. You are nature. Nature is not some external thing to yourself which is given a definition apart from who and what you are. Once you understand who you are you will understand nature. Because, as St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain states, man is the macro-cosmos.


#9 Owen Jones

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 06:36 PM

And of course that flawed legal theory stems from a fallacious theory of nature stemming from the fundamentalism of Newton et al. It is the case of the reductionist fallacy, and the literalist fallacy, what Whitehead called the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. It is not a problem of either particularity on the one hand or universals on the other, but the tension between the two, and it is this tension that is dismissed in principle by the fundamentalists of the naturalist persuasion. One cannot "explain" nature just by describing nature. In the next post, I will quote a case in point that very nicely exposes the problem.


#10 Owen Jones

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 06:42 PM

On the Immediate Experience of Nature


A plant is a plant. You see it. You don't see its physical-chemical processes, and nothing about the plant changes if you know that physical-chemical processes are going on inside. How these processes will result in what you experience immediately as a plant (a rose or an oak tree), you don't know anyway. So if you know these substructures in the lower levels of the ontic hierarchy (beyond the plant which is organism) and go into the physical, chemical, molecular and atomic structures, ever farther down, the greater becomes the miracle how all that thing is a plant. Nothing is explained. If you try to explain it in terms of some mechanism, you have committed the fallacy of reduction.
If you deform your experience by trying to explain what you experience by the things which you don't experience but which you know only by science, you get a perverted imagination of reality—if you see a rose as a physical or atomic process.


#11 Eugene

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 08:19 PM

Right, Owen. Or, stated in simple words, created nature can't understand itself on its own. That's why we can uderstand ourselves and our nature only when a true knowledge is revealed to us by God, when our nous is enlightened by Holy Spirit.


#12 Irene

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 09:01 PM

Father Raphael,

If Canada has made Gay Marriage Legal then what happens when A Church refuses to let them marry within the Church? Could the Gay people call on anti-discrimmination laws to cause the Church grief?

The last I heard our Prime Minister said he would never agree to legalising gay marriage.

In Christ
Irene

It looks like while I sleep everyone talks.


#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 09:45 PM

Dear Owen,

You wrote: "If you deform your experience by trying to explain what you experience by the things which you don't experience but which you know only by science, you get a perverted imagination of reality—if you see a rose as a physical or atomic process."

Yes there is a serious flaw in much current thinking that tries to grasp reality by the secular method. Many ascribe this to modern man's arrogance. Perhaps however it is as much a longing to know and be in communion again with that which he has lost being in communion with; a deep nostalgia for communion with the reality that surrounds him.

Perhaps in a way the inclination to know others in a sinful way is also a nostalgia for that deep communion with others which we have lost.

We will know others sacredly through & in Christ. Or we will crave to know others in a most sinful variety of ways.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 10:04 PM

Dear Irene,
You asked:

"If Canada has made Gay Marriage Legal then what happens when A Church refuses to let them marry within the Church? Could the Gay people call on anti-discrimmination laws to cause the Church grief?"


Thank God any legal religious body has the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. This is because in the Charter of Human Rights & Freedoms (our constitution) there is a clause to protect religious freedom. As the issue of gay marriage is still very divisive with about 60% or so in favour the courts & parliament are always very careful to make mention of our right to perform a religious gay marriage. Civil commissioners however do not have this right & have already been notified in writing by the government that they cannot legally refuse to perform such marriages.

I heard that New Zealand just passed some sort of law legalising same-sex 'unions' rather than marriage. Australia is another case as I believe the governing party is Conservative(?). You might see a change if Labour gets back in. Here our Conservative party is against all of this. But they have lost every step of the way in the courts. With the Canadian Charter of Rigths & Freedoms there is absolutely no legal leg to stand on.

As a Church we are legally protected. But it does feel like another one of those barriers has been crossed for society. I consider it a tragic day for our country.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#15 Irene

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 12:02 AM

Dear Father Raphael,,

Sorry I didn't mean to be disrespectful by addressing my msg to Father Raphael and not Dear Father Raphael! I was very preocuppied with the thought of Canada passing this law, it is so very dissapointing. Canada to me means cleanness, the great outdoors, God's country, family suitable movies (the ones we have seen anyway) and lovable actors (or actors that at least give that impression) such as (the departed) John Candy and others I can't recall off hand.

And ...... You are very right that we have a conservative government at the moment. Mr Howard has been Prime Minister for ever and in the last election the swinging voters swung in his favour so he increased his power even more. So I can see there is some good in having the government we do. (Even though our Prime Minister doesn't have a clue that a packet of bread does not cost under $AUD1 but actually nearer to $AUD3!)

I am very glad that the Church hasn't been put in a hazardous position. Thank God indeed.

In Christ
irene

#16 Eugene

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 04:13 AM

Dear Father Raphael,

I also heard that it's illegal in Canada to publicly criticize homosectuality. Does this apply to preaching in Church?


#17 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 03:04 PM

Dear Evgeny,

Preaching against homosexuality is not illegal in Canada as protected under the freedom of religion clause of the Charter of Human Rights & Freedom. We are also able to legally criticise homosexuality in a public way because of freedom of expression or opinion.

I do not know the details of the law protecting homosexuals from discrimination and persecution. It could be part of the anti-hate law (ie anti-racism law) which usually applies to racism.

Personally I do not think that Christians or those religions which do not accept homosexuality are under direct threat in Canada for their beliefs. Not to deny that as society increasingly supports such change there could be legal grey areas where a homosexual might claim discrimination. But to my knowledge in other areas such as women's ordination where discrimination could be charged there has never yet been a legal case launched against those Christians groups which do not allow this.

I would say that the greatest danger to the Church is the gradual erosion of Christian values, of a Christian mind-set (phronema). This is all the more pressing because those such as homosexuals appeal to tolerance which at first glance seems a Christian virtue.

As others have pointed out homosexuals already seem to have everything that God has created humanity with. A good, loving nature. Nurturing families; well-adjusted children. What except pure prejudice and closed-minded hatred could refuse to accept this? It is in this area that I believe we must devote ourselves so that we have a suitable Orthodox Christian answer.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#18 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 03:11 PM

http://www.worldnetd...RTICLE_ID=41841

TROUBLE IN THE HOLY LAND
Israel recognizes homosexual couples 'Jewish state risks becoming
next Sodom and Gomorrah'

By Aaron Klein
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com

Same-sex couples in Israel will now have many of the same rights as heterosexual spouses according to a decision today by the Jewish
State's attorney general which drew fire from many rabbis who warned Israel risked becoming another Sodom and Gomorrah.
In a precedent-setting directive, Israel's Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided not to appeal a district court decision in Nazareth
recognizing a same-sex couple in a recent inheritance ruling, indicating homosexual couples have the same rights in matters of
property, taxation and inheritance as common law spouses.
Mazuz's decision reverses the previous attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein's decision not to recognize same-sex couples, although
homosexuality has been legal in Israel since 1988.
The decision not only equalizes homosexual couples in matters of taxation and real estate, but dictates they will also be able to
transfer gifts between them without paying taxes.
Haaretz quoted an unnamed source close to Mazuz as saying, "There must be distinctions made between various types of property, with an
emphasis on pragmatism and flexibility, in the spirit of the times and the changing reality as well as personal status, which requires a
more cautious approach and is usually a matter for the legislature."
Moshe Gorli, a legal reporter for Maariv, said the courts and the Knesset are already preparing the groundwork in light of Mazuz's
reversal.
"The State of Israel will stop formally fighting against the efforts of same-sex couples to institutionalize their relationship. I think
this is an honorable sign as to how far society and the state have come over the years," Gorli told the Jerusalem Post.
Knesset member Roman Bronfman said the attorney general's decision was "a milestone in the struggle of the gay community for equal
rights and an expansion of the concept of the nuclear family."
But the Orthodox community was not pleased. Some rabbis warned that Israel risked becoming the next Sodom and Gomorrah. According to many, God destroyed the biblical cities because of their rampant homosexuality.
David Batzri, a prominent Israeli rabbi, said the ruling will bring God's vengeance and possibly a great flood upon Israel. "There were
such laws in Sodom," his son, Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri, told Army Radio in his father's name. "The Torah, our book of laws, says that such things are sacrilegious," he said. "To make this permissible and positive ... is very grave. Instead we need to help these people to come out of this."


#19 Edward Henderson

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 08:15 PM

This is such a complex issue. However, I think we often try to confuse marriage in the theological sense with the legal understanding of it. Strictly speaking, Orthodox Christians are only allowed to marry other Orthodox Christians. Now, as an American citizen, I have the right to marry any unmarried woman I please, whether she be Orthodox, Hindu, Moslem, etc. The Orthodox Church also has the right to refuse to perform the Marriage rite, if they do not approve of whom I am marrying. So, I think the issue of legal gay "marriage" or "civil union",is not a theological debate. We know where the Orthodox Church stands and should a homosexual couple request a marriage ceremony in an Orthodox Church, we know they will be refused.

However, I believe we must give individuals the freedom to make their choices. A civil marriage is in reality a contract that handles taxation, property, child custody, inheritance, medical decisions, etc. It is a legal relationship. If we believe in individual liberty (within reason), how can we oppose the will of a homosexual couple who wish to enter into such a legal contract? God has given us all free will. For the sake of order, we have submitted some of that freedom to governments. The question with gay marriage is, how much of our divinely given freedom do we wish to give to a governing body. Do we wish for governments to decide whom we can and cannot marry? While I will stand by the Church's teaching on sexuality, I do not feel that consenting legal adults engaging in sinful acts such as fornication, adultery, or homosexuality should be considered in violation of any civil law. They are in violation of God's law, but it is their choice and a choice to which the civil government, in most cases, has no business, in my opinion, meddling in.

I, personally, prefer a society that is free. I would prefer to continue to attend church services, partake of the Church's mysteries, and try (though often failing) to be an obedience child of the Church, not out of any legal compulsion from the State, but because I have chosen, of my own free will, to do so.

#20 Eugene

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 08:47 PM

What you said, Edward, makes sence. Senturies ago in Christian countries, when the Christians were majority, civil law reflected the Christian values. In our days, when we are minoirty, civil law reflects the values ans choices of the majority whch do not share our vaues. So, what can we do? Thanks God we still have freedom to live according to our Christian values, in some countries people don't even have that privilege.





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