(Image via Wikimedia Commons.)
When it comes to moral, political, and religious controversy, I am not the sort to rush to the fray. I have as many strong opinions on these things as most people I guess, but I highly value being able to enjoy friendship and camaraderie with a variety of people representing sometimes very different views. I would just as soon maintain the peace most of the time, so I choose my battles very carefully.
That said, as a clergyman I have increasingly come to believe that it is often important for me to speak out, even when I am not personally inclined to do so. I am burdened by the conviction that I’m supposed to set some sort of example for the Christian faithful, and at the same time to reach out to those outside the fold, many of whom have been seriously hurt and wounded by my fellow Christians, and perhaps especially by my fellow clergy.
Don’t get me wrong—I firmly believe in traditional Christian teaching, properly understood. I am no relativist or syncretist, and I do not believe that the world should set the agenda for the Church. But there are certain things one notices about our Lord’s teaching and behavior in the Gospel—His most damning words are reserved for the rich and for hypocritical, judgmental religious people. If I myself do not heap condemnation on these as unremittingly as Christ does, I at least want above all to avoid identifying with them or their ways to the slightest degree.
It is this above all that alienates me so powerfully from that movement in this country commonly known as ‘the Religious Right’. For historical and sociological reasons, I understand how this movement came to be, but I find it no less reprehensible for that. I am particularly appalled to find many members and even clergy of my own communion, the Orthodox Church, willingly and forcefully identifying themselves with all of the worst tendencies of this movement. When I see Orthodox priests using words like ‘homofascists’ to demonise the gay rights movement, I am angry and ashamed.I have no illusions that as a traditional Christian clergyman I am going to be loved or embraced by those who have been repeatedly rejected by my coreligionists. If, as the direst of our modern-day prophets predict, we will be eventually deprived of our tax-exempt status, or forbidden to express in any way Biblical teachings about sexuality, or if some other, real persecution finally comes, I do not expect my own Church or parish to get a pass because I tried to practice some sort of tolerance. Though this post, however inadequate it is, is for them and for my own deeply troubled conscience, I don’t ask my gay friends to speak up for me. I really only want to do the right thing and speak the truth as I understand it. I’ll willingly continue to love others even if I am not loved in return, even if I am called a ‘bigot’ from the left and a ‘liberal’ from the right.
So, make no mistake fellow Christians, if you have made it your mission to attack and demonise gay or transgender people and the gay or transgender rights movement, if your primary concept of Christian morality revolves around sexual ethics, if for you the Church’s role in the public sphere is primarily to fight the so-called ‘culture war’, then you are doing far more damage than good for Christ. Try rereading the Gospels, and then be not only hearers, but doers of their words.
Aaron Scott Taylor is a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. He teaches Medieval and Renaissance thought and literature at a Christian classical school