Monday, August 23, 2010

Bishop Suriel and the Gay Agenda

I have met H.G. Bishop Suriel once.  He's the kind of man that at first sight, would frighten you if you did not know him or his position.   He towers over a congregation with a height not typical for an Egyptian.  The man stands at least a foot and a half above my slightly below-average stature.  With broad shoulders and a stern look which melts quickly when you can get a smile out of him. He is a very kind man, and very well educated.
I recently heard an mp3 of a lecture he gave to a congregation in 2009, and while unlike many of the less than learned discussions initiated by clergy and sunday school teachers on the subject, it is researched and well thought out;  however, it contains not only the undertones and speech that foster the further shaming and degradation of LGBT people in our community, it also contains false information, in order to prove a point, which I am not so sure is solid to begin with.   While this is all in efforts to obey Jesus, how can one find God when the truth is hidden?    How can the people be edified when they're being, maybe unintentionally, manipulated?

To listen to the entire lecture, you can find it here:
http://orthodoxsermons.org/sermons/human-rights-and-homosexuality

I just wanted to talk about a few points and talk about some of the problems of these kinds of teachings in regards to its purpose as well as the effects it has on the church.

First of all, what is the purpose of this lecture?   If I could summarize it:  it is a warning to the community, to beware of both gay people and their agenda.   He paints a picture that gays are actually indoctrinated and brought into what is a very organized cult, a cult called "The Gay Agenda", one that targets not only every man and woman in the world, but also every little boy and girl, to join their ranks early.   He paints a picture that not only are gays and lesbians enemies of heterosexuals, they cease to destroy the human family and all that is decent in the world.


The Big Bad Gay Agenda Monster


A lecture like this presumes something very interesting.  It assumes that the "gay problem" being discussed is something not found within the walls of the church.   So subtle, but speaks volumes, His Grace begins the lecture as follows:
"Some of you may think: 'Why are you speaking to us about this subject [homosexuality], this probably doesn't relate to us.'   I hope it doesn't relate to you."
That last sentence, shows his desire that nothing so bad and vile, would ever befall the lives of the people sitting in that congregation, however, statistically speaking, quite a few gay people were probably in attendance, some very self-aware, and probably a few others in denial.    I wonder what it must have felt like to hear those words, which seem rather innocent in passing, but already set the tone of where a gay person belongs, if they belong at all, within the walls of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

However, His Grace mostly talks about the homosexual agenda, and not the homosexual person, removing the person from the picture, as if the issue has taken a life of its own, a large, manipulative, force, with a pink boa, consuming all in its way.    When you remove people from the issue, we all find ourselves on very dangerous ground, because the issue of homosexuality is as human as it gets.  It is an issue that deals with peoples livelihoods.  It is an issue that deals with ones choices in regards to love, partnership, and sex, and all these things that are so fundamentally human.   I don't believe one can or even should approach this topic if they intend to remove the person from the equation, however this is a tactic that makes it much safer.   We can empathize with people, but we don't need to empathize with a topic.   De-personification is safe and effective, when shaping the minds of masses.  And when it comes to creating an enemy, there is no room for empathy.

He goes on to talk about what human rights are, where he draws inspiration from the American Declaration of Independence.
"If you want to know what rights you have, you ask God.  If God is not hte originator of our rights, and if we can make them up as we go along, maybe one day someone will argue that they have the right to murder people just because they feel like it."
I cannot even comment on this, because to compare murder with homosexuality is like comparing a great tragedy with, oh, I dunno, gummy bears?

There was also a brief and humorous mention of how Spongebob Squarepants is a tool of manipulation by gays, in order to lure children, and as proof, His Grace gave couple of pieces of evidence.   One form of evidence is that Spongebob toys are found in gay shops.   Um, ever heard of Kitsch?  (or would it be Camp, in this case?)    Either way, we love the stuff.    The other piece of evidence is that Spongebob is known to hold hands with his starfish friend.

Men Holding Hands:  an effective tool in
 brainwashing your children to become homosexual
I enjoyed mostly hearing him say the words "Tinkly-Winkly", with his very proper deep Australian-accented voice.   It turned my look of concern into a smile for a brief moment.

His Grace talks about Sara Michelle Geller's girl-on-girl make-out scene in Cruel Intentions, as if it was part of Hollywood's attempt to homosexualize America.   Now, let's get real here.   Girl-on-girl make outs on screen, especially in a film like Cruel Intentions are generally born in the fantasies of and entertainment for heterosexual men.

He also speaks about a questionnaire given to students in Framingham, MA.   His Grace claims this questionnaire was given to students to undermine their heterosexuality, and an attempt to make heterosexuality seem abnormal, while homosexuality is the norm.   The questions were as follows:

1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?
2. When did you first decide you were heterosexual?
3. Is it possible heterosexuality is a phase you will grow out of?
4. Is it possible you are heterosexual because you fear the same sex?
5. If you have never slept with anyone of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn't prefer it? Is it possible you merely need a good gay experience?
6. To whom have you disclosed your heterosexuality? How did they react?
7. Why are heterosexuals so blatant, always making a spectacle of their heterosexuality? Why can't they just be who they are and not flaunt their sexuality by kissing in public, wearing wedding rings, etc.?
I think the questionnaire is brilliant.   It is not an attempt at ostracizing or even debasing heterosexuality, but it's an interesting point to make regarding how the world sees, and questions homosexuals.  In an attempt to understand what it is like to be gay, asking heterosexuals these questions, I feel can show the truth about sexual orientation of those who are not in the majority.   Why do we not have the capacity or right to be understood?

But I would say the most troubling part of this whole lecture, is the association His Grace draws between homosexuality and pedophelia, by quoting passages from the North American Man / Boy Love Association, a pro-pedophelia organization, that His Grace presents to the congregation as a mainstream gay thought and ideas.  NAMBLA is condemned by the gay community!  Just have a conversation, I'm sure most do not know it exists, and if they did know the organization existed, they would be as opposed to it as you are.
Today, almost all gay rights groups disavow any ties to NAMBLA, voice disapproval of its objectives, and attempt to prevent NAMBLA from having a role in gay and lesbian rights events."
Gregory King of the Human Rights Campaign later said that "NAMBLA is not a gay organization ... They are not part of our community and we thoroughly reject their efforts to insinuate that pedophilia is an issue related to gay and lesbian civil rights." NAMBLA responded by claiming that "man/boy love is by definition homosexual," that "man/boy lovers are part of the gay movement and central to gay history and culture," and that "homosexuals denying that it is 'not gay' to be attracted to adolescent boys are just as ludicrous as heterosexuals saying it's 'not heterosexual' to be attracted to adolescent girls."
In 1994 the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) adopted a "Position Statement Regarding NAMBLA" saying GLAAD "deplores the North American Man Boy Love Association's (NAMBLA) goals, which include advocacy for sex between adult men and boys and the removal of legal protections for children. These goals constitute a form of child abuse and are repugnant to GLAAD." Also in 1994 the Board of Directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) adopted a resolution on NAMBLA that said: "NGLTF condemns all abuse of minors, both sexual and any other kind, perpetrated by adults. Accordingly, NGLTF condemns the organizational goals of NAMBLA and any other such organization."
Wikipedia entry on NAMBLA 
To draw the association between gay people and NAMBLA is about as fair and about as truthful as quoting Nazi propaganda while giving a talk about Germans.

My response is as follows:

Your Grace,
I am disappointed that a man of your stature and ability, one I respect greatly, has settled for fear-mongering and fact twisting in order to shape public opinion on a very human, sensitive, and controversial topic.    I cannot say I blame you completely because maybe your sources lead you in the wrong direction.  
  As a gay man who has struggled his whole life to find answers to why he was so different, and has found a place of peace in regards to his faith and his relationship to God, I can honestly say that I am completely misrepresented in your lecture and I don't think I would be out of line if I said that I do not just speak for myself.  
  I am afraid for the people in your congregations who are gay, who will hear lectures like these and think "this is how the church sees me, this is how my family will see me."  There are few options if they believe these things:  1) to hide and repress, only to express their God given desires in very unhealthy ways.   2) to cut off completely, becoming vulnerable to true evils, and to very unhealthy behavior.
  How many people have left the church, not because their homosexuality has made them lose interest in faith and in God, on the contrary, it is their church who has lost hope in them.  It is their church who has told them there is no place for them within her walls.   The result of such disconnection is far worse than you can imagine.   Some like me have been lucky to have maintained close ties, especially to faith, while others have felt they needed to walk away completely for safely.   While for others there have been some great casualties, and preventable disease and anguish, if understanding was sought, and love and compassion were given.  
   To the average gay or lesbian, it is clear that sexual orientation is not a choice, nor is it something that can be changed, that it is as natural and as it can be.  While it may not be the majority of what humans feel in regards to sexuality, as one myself, I can assure you that I did not choose this, nor has embracing it taken me further from God or from what is true, on the contrary, my life has improved for the better, and I only have God to thank, and I truly feel lucky that I was not one of the many causalities of being both Coptic and gay.
  Your Grace, I urge you to reach out to gay people and ask them questions about their lives, build relationship and have dialogue, I assure you that what you will find in the process may surprise you.   Gay people are not an agenda, in fact most of us just want one thing: to be safe to find love and companionship in this world, that is all.   We don't want to brainwash people, we don't hate heterosexuals, we don't even want to rape children.   Many of us feel afraid, and many of us suffer both emotional and physical harm, not just in the USA but throughout the world, and it is for this that people are fighting for equality, so that such atrocities cannot occur.  Injustice is something that we are taught to fight against as Christians, so why is the church only adding to this injustice?
Yes, the gay community does have a lot of pain and and carries scars due to the decades of having to build a culture without role-models or approval, completely in the shadows, and we often have become reactionary to the world around us, but the time of reaction is over, and the time to build and self-accept is now.  The imperfections of the gay community is also a result of being human, there are imperfections in the church, and it is also easy for the gay community to de-personalize Christians and talk about "the church" and withhold compassion because of fear.   Do you not see the parallels?  Instead of dealing with our shortcomings with more misunderstanding, why can't we start having compassion for each other?
  Your Grace, I am just a gay man, son of heterosexual parents, friend to several, brother to many, and boyfriend to one, who is seeking truth for my life, and justice for those who are suffering at the hands of men; those who are suffering not for the sake of truth or justice, but who are needlessly suffering vain.

I also want to say:

Dear LGBT Coptic Brothers and Sisters,


  One man's voice, and often many people's voices are not the truth of how God feels about you and where you belong in this world.   Above all things you are loved and accepted.   Do not allow the imperfect voices to tell you who you are.   This verse is for you:
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven" Matthew 5:11-12
My hope is that truth can find you, and love can embrace you.

8 comments:

  1. Brilliant. Absolutely FULL of grace and truth.

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  2. I subscribed. Maybe that means I can get another follower on my blog, eh? (Nudge, nudge, nudge).

    Seriously though, good article. It's sooooo frustrating to hear people rant about the supposed "gay" agenda.

    I love your deconstruction. You may also want to be aware of another piece of anti-gay propaganda (probably the dumbest story you'll ever read, but I think it'd be good to get a deconstruction of it in those google results):

    http://www.oodegr.com/english/psyxotherap/crazy_john2.htm


    Also, I think for a lot of people, Eastern Orthodox and Coptic the homophobia probably stems out of a larger view on sexuality. I've had to sit through the lectures of a Fr. Josiah Trenham (ooooohhhhhh so painful). I think the views he espouses which appear to be commonly accepted are part of the larger framework of what makes up a view of sexuality which is incompatible with homosexuality.

    http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/frjosiah_holycross06.aspx

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  3. The Homosexual person, whether by choice, by mutation, or by any physical, psychological, biological, chemical, or psychosocial imbalance, whatever the reason... needs to realize that homosexuality is NOT God's plan and is therefore part of the fallen nature that the sufferer must fight against, like a person born with a predisposition to cancer and develops the disease. The person carries his cross and fights against it till death, just like any other sin or fallenness in nature. Everyone, gay or not, who wants to be a Christian MUST bend their will to the will of God.

    The Will of God is NEVER a homosexual lifestyle- this is condemned clearly in the Old Testament and the New Testament and by the Orthodox Church since its existence.

    Anyone who condones, accepts, or promotes any sinful lifestyle that is contrary to God's will and intention, contrary to holiness, should be excommunicated.

    There are persons suffering from this abberation, many of them confessed their sinful homosexual desires (whatever the cause) and are living a life bending their will to Christ's will and recognizing that something is wrong... God blesses them and helps them in their struggle, even a life-long cross. Such a person is lead to paradise by fighting the evil nature, the fallen nature, not accepting it... that is the Orthodox Christian.

    The same applies for any sin. The ONLY sexual relationship acceptable to God, and Sanctioned by His Orthodox Church is a between a man and a woman in the bonds of Holy Matrimony. The only other alternative for an Orthodox Christian is a pure and holy single life with friends and family, living in purity and holiness, carrying a cross.

    If I am attracted sexually to children (pedophelia), or animals (bestiality), or auto-eroticism (masturbation), or others of the same-gender (homosexuality), or sexual activity outside of marriage (fornication) or to other people's spouses (adultery)... all of these fall short of God's will and are an abomination, and lead to death and hell when acted upon without repentence, requiring repentence, struggle and come from our fallen nature and should be condemened and fought against, for the Glory of God as we partake of the Divine Nature.

    May the Lord enlighten us all to fight hard against sin, whatever its name, including homosexual desires. Those who approve of homosexual activity and practice such acts will not inherit the Kingdom of God, and nither will fornicators, adulterers, theives, drunkards, liars, idolaters, etc. Do not be deceived, focus on Christ and his call to purity.

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  4. Only persons struggling against homosexuality, recognizing as part of the fallen nature that needs redemption can take communion and consider themselves Orthodox Christian... The faithful struggle against homosexual attraction, whatever the cause of it, until death, is a cross that leads to heaven. Like any of our fallen natures, under the guidance of your Father of Confession, and with taking communion, can one cope with this abnormality and live a holy life of repentance, as with any other sin.
    As with cancer, you don't accept it, you fight it until death. No one ever says, cancer is normal for me, I accept it. No, it is a mutation that needs treatment, even if one eventally dies from the cancer, they fight it. But anyone who endorses, accepts, or promotes homosexuality, can not consider themselves Christian. Such would be an oxymoron. If I am a fornicator seeking repentence, there is a place for me in the Orthodox Church. If I am an adulterer seeking repentence and condemning adultery, there is a place for me in the Orthodox Church and in God's kingdom. If I am suffering from Homosexual desires and I am fighting against it because it is not God's will and I recognize it as part of the fallen nature, then I am on the right track. But if I accept any of these things and justify them or promote them... that I can't call myself Christian, because clearly God hates all these things, but is pleased when we struggle against sin, with His grace.


    The Homosexual person, whether by choice, by mutation, or by any physical, psychological, biological, chemical, or psychosocial imbalance, whatever the reason... needs to realize that homosexuality is NOT God's plan and is therefore part of the fallen nature that the sufferer must fight against, like a person born with a predisposition to cancer and develops the disease. The person carries his cross and fights against it till death, just like any other sin or fallenness in nature. Everyone, gay or not, who wants to be a Christian MUST bend their will to the will of God.

    The Will of God is NEVER a homosexual lifestyle- this is condemned clearly in the Old Testament and the New Testament and by the Orthodox Church since its existence.

    Anyone who condones, accepts, or promotes any sinful lifestyle that is contrary to God's will and intention, contrary to holiness, should be excommunicated.

    There are persons suffering from this abberation, many of them confessed their sinful homosexual desires (whatever the cause) and are living a life bending their will to Christ's will and recognizing that something is wrong... God blesses them and helps them in their struggle, even a life-long cross. Such a person is lead to paradise by fighting the evil nature, the fallen nature, not accepting it... that is the Orthodox Christian.

    The same applies for any sin. The ONLY sexual relationship acceptable to God, and Sanctioned by His Orthodox Church is a between a man and a woman in the bonds of Holy Matrimony. The only other alternative for an Orthodox Christian is a pure and holy single life with friends and family, living in purity and holiness, carrying a cross.

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  5. Violence and descrimination against gay persons is wrong, just as violence and descriminiation is wrong against adulteres, fornicators, or idolaters in the work place.

    But when it comes to Christianity, one can not call Himself an Orthodox Christian while accepting what both scriptures, the Church Fathers and all of Church Tradition condemns as clear sin and abomination, which are homosexual acts. The homosexual needs to bend his will to Christ's will and fight against homosexual desires, because they are agaisnt God's will, just like any other desire to sin, whether to fornicate, or have sex with children, or animals, or other peoples spouses, or to steal, or lie, or whatever the sin... all are sinful actions and should not be accepted as they lead to hell, but should be repented from. "You have not yet striven against sin to the point of bloodshed, says St. Paul. Do not be deceived, those who practice or condone homosexual acts will not inhereit the Kingdom of God. "Blessed are you if you are not condemned in what you approve." If I feel homosexuality is "natural", but the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Old Testament, and the New Testament clearly teach that it is an abomination, I will bend my will to God's will and I will not induldge in my fallen desires. I will carry my cross and walk according to God's will... for the glory of God. I will not call evil good and good evil. It is right and holy to condemn homosexual acts, without condemning or judging the sinner or homosexual person.

    Christ died for all sinners- all of us. It is not fitting then to defend the sins that he died to redeem us from. We can not defend homosexuality or homosexual acts. We respond to Christ's love for us, by condemning homosexual acts, fleeing from them, and carrying our cross, crucifying ourselves, for His sake.

    For many "gay" people, their life-long repentence (not necessarily a cure) but their fight against this sin until death, with Christ's grace, is their key or path to entering heaven, and their giving into it or excusing it or accepting or promoting it is the gate to the other place.

    Love is not love if it is not pure. A man who lies with another man... the Bible Calls this an abomination- in both old and new testaments. It calls this ungodly. Whatever the reason we feel we have to do it... if my fallen nature, whatever the casue... is an abomination... I live in my baptism... dead to myself and sin... alive in Christ... That's what baptism and Christianity means.

    That is the Orthodox Christian truth. God save us all, forgive us our sins, and lead us into the Truth.

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  6. There is a lot to respond to here so I will only take a few points:

    1) Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts on the matter.

    2) I have a real hard time comparing homosexuality with pedophelia and bestiality. Pedophelia and Bestiality is a form of sexuality that has nothing to do with intimacy or love or the well being of anyone involved. In both cases, a child or an animal is having their will determined for them. A donkey does not have the communication skills to say whether or not it wants to engage in a sexual act with a human being, nor would that make any sense? Both cases involve a person, going after something that was not pursuing them, and then manipulating / forcing a sexual experience to occur. If that happens between a man and a woman, a man and a man, or even between a husband and his wife, I would say, that is wrong and indeed harmful.

    There is just too big an inequality there for such an act to be ok.

    3) Now - you compare homosexuality with such things, and even compare it to cancer. My problem with this is homosexuality is too broad a term, just as heterosexuality. What exactly are you speaking of? Is it a certain act? A certain relationship? A certain attraction? A certain physiological response? You have to be clear about this.

    And secondly, cancer kills a human being. One can say there are behaviors that kill the soul, but there is usually evidence to support such claims. Someone whose soul is dead, often knows it or there is some sort of quantifiable symptom, whether it be in overall attitude, peace, balance, ability to connect with God, ability to be in community, ability to serve, strength of character, etc… Tell me, my friend, what is the evidence of the "sinfulness" of homosexuality? And how do you explain the fact that there are people, myself included, who have been able to find true relationship with God once coming out? And how can a man or woman say that such a relationship with God is not genuine or true?

    I understand where you are coming from with a lot of your statements, however, I cannot agree. Life is full of difficulties and hardships, and my life is full of shortcomings and mistakes. But fighting homosexuality I've learned, is like trying to take down a wall in my house, with a tiny fork or hammer: a wall, that if chipped away at, may cause the roof to come down over my head. Your sexuality is a part of you, and a big part of your identity and how you relate to others, it's not as simple as "fight" or "Carry your cross" believe me, creating crosses is like playing God, and who are we to do such things?

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  7. With all due respect I ask why we do not have examples of homosexual saints- people who have, as the above commenters recommended, fought their desires to the grave? If we do, why are we not told about them? In any case we are not given a choice as to whether we will love gay people: we are to love everyone. Do we reject or excommunicate people for other sins? Not often. It makes me sad that we can't at least be more open about this. If I have a gay child, I will let him know he is loved no matter what.

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  8. Regarding your question regarding gay saints: for the most part we are not informed about the psychology and sexuality of any of our saints, unless they were married, and even then, that doesn't say much about what their sexual orientations were.

    We do know, however, that there were many female saints who lived their lives as men. We do know of saints who had deep affectionate love for members of their own gender, and I am in no way claiming that the nature of those relationships were sexual,in fact they probably were not sexual in nature. and I don't think it's relevant either way, however I am suggesting that there are saints who have found their deepest human to human love with the same sex. yeah, these are bold claims, but do your research, you'll be surprised what you find.

    But we never call into question the morality of their acts, since their motivation was to serve God. For the most part, we know many of the saints had taken vows of celibacy, and we know about their works of service, miracles, and martyrdom, but we know very little else about them. And I think that's the point, those other details, I believe do not matter. The saints were canonized because of their examples of sacrificial love which stood out among the masses. What they were attracted to, who they may have fallen in love with, all these things kind of pale in comparison to the fact that they lived out the gospel. However the Bible does say we are all saints, justified by the love of God.

    I respect and honor your desires for a more open community and love for all people. You are among the few in our community who would love a gay child no matter what, it really humbles me to hear that. Whether or not you personally agree that homosexuality is right or wrong, we need more people like you who are able to have dialogue and at least engage with us. Thanks for reading, brother/sister.

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