by Editors –
In an online exchange on the popular Monomakhos Blog, the topic of discussion focused on the views on homosexuality expressed by Fr. Alexis Vinogradov a priest in the OCA, rector of St. Gregory the Theologian Church in Wappingers Falls, NY.
Fr. Hans Jacobse, a priest in the AOCA, rector of St. Peter Orthodox Mission in Naples, FL, challenged the presumptive opinions of Fr. Alexis and presented the truth from a proper Orthodox Christian understanding.
Fr. Alexis Vinogradov’s views were originally published in 2011 in an article titled New beginnings in community Gender issues and the Church on ocanews.org. Here’s the relevant excerpt that Fr. Hans responded to in the comments section of Monomakhos Blog:
“Homosexual persons did not decide to become homosexual. It was not the fruit of their supposed depravity or sin. That much we know today. There can only be a continuing conversation if we can cross that hurdle of blatant intransigence by those who refuse to acknowledge this fact. But homosexual persons, just as much as heterosexual ones, need to feel the warmth and love and nurture of other persons. God created them for that love, that love is the substance of our humanity; it is what constitutes all of us in bearing his image within us.” ~ Fr. Alexis Vinogradov
Fr. Hans addressed the presumptions and clarified each point.
The grave weakness in this presumptive call to moral rectitude is its flawed anthropology.
Presumptive: “Homosexual persons did not decide to become homosexual.”
Clarifying: It is true that people experiencing same-sex desire did not choose the passion. However, there is no such thing as a “homosexual person.” Defining personhood solely in terms of desires or sins is reductionist. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27) is the foundation of Orthodox anthropology. The scripture does not say that God created both man and woman either heterosexual or homosexual.
Presumptive: “It was not the fruit of their supposed depravity or sin.”
Clarifying: Same-sex desire is not sin.
Presumptive: “That much we know today.”
Clarifying: Orthodoxy always knew this. See 1 Cor. 6:9-11:
Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Presumptive: “There can only be a continuing conversation if we can cross that hurdle of blatant intransigence by those who refuse to acknowledge this fact.”
Clarifying: What fact? That Orthodox anthropology reduces the definition of what constitutes a human being to passions and sins?
Presumptive: “But homosexual persons, just as much as heterosexual ones, need to feel the warmth and love and nurture of other persons.”
Clarifying: Man is created for communion with God and others and that communion occurs within the bond of love (love constitutes that bond). Indeed, one of the therapies for healing same-sex attraction is the restoration of the male to male (or female to female) bond within the proper moral boundaries (violation of those boundaries prevents the healing from occurring).
Presumptive: “God created them for that love, that love is the substance of our humanity; it is what constitutes all of us in bearing his image within us.”
Clarifying: Men need communion with men and women with women in order to grow into deeper self-knowledge. Fr. Vinogradov’s implicit conclusion that same-sex behavior fulfills this need violates the Orthodox moral tradition and reveals a flawed understanding of Orthodox anthropology. God did not create men to have sexual relationships with men (or women with women) as the means by which the need for brotherly love is met.
From the Comments section on Monomakhos.com
— UPDATE — The discussion continued on this topic in the comments section. Fr. Hans responded to additional questions and further clarified and explained the Orthodox Christian teaching.
Question: “Is it also true that people experiencing anger did not choose the passion? Is there therefore nothing wrong with them? Aren’t they doing something wrong when they get angry?”
Fr. Hans Responds:
Feeling angry and doing something in anger are two different things. Feeling same-sex attraction and acting on it are two different things.
Sin enters when a temptation takes root — when the passion is engaged, first with the mind and then through action.
One does not choose his passions — the temptations they fight or the sins they struggle against. Most people struggle against one or two major ones.
Question: “Doesn’t personhood involve not just nature but also behavior — logos and tropos, as St. Maximus says? So persons can be either heterosexual or homosexual, just as they can be either good or bad?”
Fr. Hans Responds:
If you are arguing that homosexual or heterosexual is a category of being, part of created human distinctiveness, then no, one cannot be homosexual. God does not create people homosexual.
If you are arguing that homosexual behavior reinforces homosexual orientation, then yes, one can self-identify as a homosexual. But this is true of all passions that are internalized, not just same-sex attraction. A person with a passion for stealing (greed?) is called a thief. He self-identifies as such and can be said to have a thief’s orientation (kleptomania). God does not create a person a thief however, thus the passion is inordinate.
Question: “Isn’t heterosexuality all about the difference of male and female? Didn’t God intend all along for men and women to live heterosexually, as either a man or a woman? Isn’t it possible to live both heterosexually and celibately at the same time?”
Fr. Hans Responds:
Yes, yes, and yes.
Question: “Is it really that simple? Can you say the same for other passions? What about anger? Is anger only wrong when acted upon? What about the difference between so-called blameless passions like hunger and the “shameful passions” [πάθη ἀτιμίας] St. Paul mentions in Rom. 1:26?”
Fr. Hans Responds:
Passions acted upon affect the inner structure of a person (orientation). Passions brought to Christ can be healed. Romans 1:26 deals with the former. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 deals with the latter.
Editor’s NOTE – Here are the relevant Scripture passages Fr. Hans was referring to.
“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”