One of the hot-button issues of our day is that of so-called "alternative lifestyles." Many today are clamoring for societal acceptance of homosexuality and lesbianism as a legitimate "alternative" to the traditional ideal of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. One has only to read current news magazines, watch TV sitcoms or talk shows, or attend a few movies to see that this crusade on behalf of homosexuality as an "alternative lifestyle" is being very successful. There are even so-called "Christians," even whole denominations, that officially take the stand that homosexuality is a legitimate exercise of the sacred gift of sexuality that God has given us.
Many practicing gay men and women claim that the Christian faith is the guiding rule of their lives. They see their sexual orientation as given them by God and therefore cannot accept that homosexual practices are sinful. It is important to realize that there are homosexual Christians who know their homosexual orientation is not at all from God but is a bitter fruit of our common fallen nature. They know that they are called by God to struggle against the sinful passions, just as all of us are called to so struggle. These homosexually oriented brethren desperately need the support and love of their fellow Christians to aid them in their spiritual struggle. Too often, many Christians consign the homosexual to oblivion, forgetting that every last one of us is just as much a sinner as the homosexual brother or sister. These Christians may not be gay in orientation, but they certainly are not free of the sinful passions!
The Orthodox Christian Tradition on this matter is set forth in the Church's Scriptures, liturgical worship, canonical regulations, and the lives and teaching of the saints. When these sources are consulted, it is crystal clear that the Orthodox Church is identified solidly with those Christians, homosexual and heterosexual in orientation, who consider homosexual orientation as a disorder and disease and who, therefore, see homosexual activity as sinful and destructive.
Scriptures such as the following are clear:
"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination" (Leviticus 20:13); "For this reason [e.g., their refusal to acknowledge, thank, and glorify God] God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameful acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error" (Romans 1:26-27); "Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral [fornicators], nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals [sodomites; literally those who have coitus, or who sleep with, men], nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, and were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6: 9-11).
According to Orthodox Tradition, Christians are redeemed sinners. We who are in union with Christ through Holy Baptism are delivered from sin and the passions, from Satan and death, by God's amazing grace through obedient faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit! We are baptized into Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit in order to live God's life in the Church! Through regular prayer, eucharistic communion, confession, fasting, and struggle against every form of sin, we give witness to the deliverance that is ours in Christ. The homosexual Christian is called to a particularly rigorous battle since his or her orientation cannot be blessed through the mystery of marriage. He or she is called to complete celibacy, as are all unmarried Orthodox Christians. The great struggle (ascesis) of the homosexual Christian is not made easier by the demonic hatred of those who despise and ridicule these brethren who carry this painful cross! And the battle is not made easier by those who demonically teach that the homosexual lifestyle is perfectly acceptable.
As is true of all of us who are sickened by our sinful passions, homosexuals can be healed, and homosexual actions can cease. As St. Paul exclaims, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." When homosexuals are willing to struggle in Christ against their sinful passion, and when they receive the strong love and support of their Christian brethren, they can be healed! We are all struggling with various passions and sins. We all need one another in Christian community! The Lord Himself tells us, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. But narrow is the way that leads to life" (Matthew 7:13-14). The key, the Holy Fathers tell us, is to keep on fighting!
Brethren, let us condemn the sinful lifestyle of homosexual activity while always being careful to love the person, created in God's image! This is the Orthodox Christian Tradition. And let all of us determine to overcome all sin in our lives, no matter how hard the battle. For in this struggle, in union with Christ, lies our salvation!
Fr. Caldaroni is the priest of Holy Transfiguration Antiochian Orthodox Church in Warrenville, Illinois. This article can be found on the Holy Transfiguration website.