To all the people who believe that I have a secret agenda behind my writings on gay marriage, that my true intention is to push the Orthodox Church to become more Episcopalian (which is apparently an insult), to make our priests wear rainbow colored vestments and bless the marriages between two men and a horse, picture me blowing you a raspberry.
Honestly, I was tempted to make a ruder gesture, but that wouldn’t set a very good example now would it? Obergefell v. Hodges made gay civil marriage legal, which means that for me, as an issue, it has more or less dropped off my list of priorities.
[Quick Aside: Didn’t this happen in June? So why am I just now writing about it? First, I wrote in this post that I have been dealing with a personal hardship. Maybe I’ll say more about it later. But probably I won’t. Second, my summers are already incredibly busy. Writing is hard when you are working 60+ hour weeks. Third, I have a book. So there. ]
The legalization of gay marriage has always been more of a civil rights and human dignity issue for me. It was certainly theologically motivated, but it had a lot more to do with “political theology” than “queer theology.” I know pretty much nothing about the latter, and only kinda a little about the former (and even that is questionable).
My main concern was that people who are gay be treated with dignity and respect as individuals for whom Christ died and who bear the image of God. Those opposed to gay marriage also believe in their dignity and respect, but I remind them that pious words are pointless if they are not followed by pious actions. Dignity and respect only look like nouns. In practice, they are verbs. Treating people with dignity and respect means making sure that a dying man’s estranged family does not have more rights to visit and make decisions for him than the partner he has shared the past 20 years of his life with. It means not forcing gay people to pay more to secure basic rights and privileges that the rest of us take for granted. It means when a biological parent dies, never, ever putting the law in a position to remove a child from the only other mom or dad she has ever known (see this legal stuff).
Do I think Orthodox Christianity needs to deal with LGBTQ theologically? Yes! Definitely! But somebody else is going to have to do it. I really just lack the expertise to contribute very much to this kind of discussion. (Haven’t I already said this?) Nor, frankly, do I really have the interest. Issues of civil rights, particularly when it comes to parents and children, connect with me on a visceral level. Questions about the status of LGBTQ individuals in the Orthodox Church do not. Sorry. I know it is not fair. And I know that I might feel differently if I were gay. But there is little point in trying to light a flame where there are few burning embers. This does not mean I lack compassion. Nor does it mean I refuse to thoughtfully listen. I welcome it. It only is to say that my writings are usually driven by a kind of outrage, and I am more outraged about other things.
I do care that the Orthodox Church deal with LGBTQ issues in a constructive and respectful way. We have not really begun to draw upon our rich theological heritage, particularly in the realm of theological anthropology, to provide our own unique answers to the questions LGBTQ advocates and allies ask of us. We need to go beyond arguments from natural law (which is another term for “intellectual prejudice”) or quasi-fundamentalist biblicism. But other people are going to have to start answering those questions. I cannot say I will not follow them or will not contribute, but at this point in time I am not sure how I could. Like I said, when it comes to queer theology, I am not even a novice.
So what makes me so sure we even need to have this discussion at all? For one, I am paying attention. This issue is going to hit us hard if we do not get out in front of it. This is because, in the second place, a lot of people are not persuaded by the arguments the most vociferous opponents make about the sinfulness, or at minimum the gravity of the sinfulness, of LGBTQ individuals/relationships. That does not yet mean one side is right and the other side is wrong. It simply means that a large, and certainly growing, portion of the Orthodox Church is able to recognize bad arguments when the hear them, even if they do not yet know what the good arguments are.