Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hate The Sin, Hate The Sinner

1600 years ago, a (quite famous) man named Augustine wrote a letter to a community of nuns, giving them some advice on how to deal with grievances among the community.    Apparently some of these ladies were doing some real malice to the other.  He offered some advice to this particular community in how to deal with some of these wrongdoings.  He offers means of discipline, but reminds the leaders to do so with "Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum", which translates  to "With love for mankind and hatred of sins."

Many years later, in his autobiography in 1929, Mohandas Gandhi wrote : "Hate the sin and not the sinner is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world." In regards to our command to love each other despite the evil things that we do to each other.   It was a statement made in regards to the violence he witnessed against his own people, and despite this violence, he stands against the deeds themselves but intends on loving his enemies, for a reason he explains at another time "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Years later still, in a supermarket in Portland, a woman notices a young single mother and her baby shopping for some cereal.   The woman imagines the vile, back-arching, moan-inducing positions that lead this young girl to a fate of early motherhood, the kind of lewd acts that the older woman fantasizes about in the privacy of her own bedroom when her husband is away.   After being lost in these fantasies for a brief moment, and in reaction for the fear that the flushness of her face and secretly dripping sexuality is noticed by her fellow Safeway shoppers, scowls at the thought of the young victim, and believes that her 6-month old "punishment", although unfortunate, is quite deserving, but then remembers that while she herself is not partaking in the wild passions of sexual bliss, she is, after all, a better person than the young mother, so she remembers something her pastor said a few Sundays ago: "love the sinner, hate the sin", and with a pat on her own proverbial back, she sighs, smiles to herself, and whimsically turns the corner into the bread aisle.

Years later still, a young man tells his parents that he is gay.   The deeply anguished and self-blaming couple, after many hours of arguing, blaming, and wrestling, kick their son out of the house, but agree to give him money every so often, and tell him the reason is, because they "love the sinner, but hate the sin."

Such an overused non-biblical phrase (equally taken out of context as anything else in the scriptures), with the utility of separating oneself from another person who is different.  It is a callous gesture from a self-righteous people, who have somehow incorporated the call for true love for an enemy despite their malice, in order to preserve the peace and end the cycle of hatred, into a modus operandum that stratifies and slices the society into the deserving and undeserving, the acceptable and the intolerable.    It has become a phrase that is infused with an undertone, that not only brands the sinner a sinner, but by virtue of using the phrase, separates the speaker from the sin they will tolerate the sinner in spite of.

If you are gay, and you have Christian family or friends, you have heard this quote!  It has been spoken about you, it has been spoken to you.  Every time you hear it, becomes more painful than the last, but somehow loses its potency.  Show of hands, how many of you felt the warmth and passionate love delivered by this phrase, the kind of warmth and passion when a loved one holds you and says "I love you, always and forever."  It doesn't quite have the same mojo, does it?   Another show of hands, does anyone know what "love the sinner, hate the sin" love looks like?

It usually ends up looking something like this:

and unfortunately this:

What is the sin of homosexuality that is hated?  Why is homosexuality compared to murder and theft?  Why is it that, when a more open-minded person repeats how God loves us, and our sin is just like murder and stealing, and they have mistakes too, so we're all people with mistakes, it somehow just does not sit right.     I heard one say once, and it makes so much sense, that sexuality is part of the body.  It's part of the mind and psyche.  Sexuality is not just the state of being physically attracted, but it ties in, inseparably with the desire for love, and the need for companionship.   Such desires and needs are celebrated by society when they are fulfilled, just look at how much money you spent at weddings last year. There is a whole industry that the godly and godless alike partake in, in order to celebrate these aspects of being human.   But when someone reminds us that they see our sexuality as equal to their taste for gossip, either as a petty crime, or a grave abomination, it cuts into our bodies, and our minds.  It is comparing that which is life-giving to us, to what is petty, or harmful to others.   Such a phrase is an attack on the body, on the person, on their mind and heart.  It is a form of great disrespect, a psychological "bitch-slap", if you will.

I have received many such comments and emails from people, and I shudder every single time.   I wanted to know if I was the only one, so asked some people out in the social web, how this phrase hits them, and I got some great answers, I had to share some of the quotes:

"Anyone I have EVER heard make that statement doesn't love "the sinner". I've seen and experienced really evil stuff having been done to people by those who have said those very words. Enough that I believe they are a farce."  
"Those of us on the receiving end of this philosophy rarely experience the love, but we certainly reap the hate." 
"For me, it comes across as shallow and self-righteous. It's supposed to sound benevolent, but has a arrogant ring to it. I think it should be, "Love the sinner and hate your OWN sin".

"The only way I can explain it is to explain how being in a gay relationship is so very different in so many ways, from other things that are called "sin." In the conversation, their defense always ends up being, "Well, then we'd have to say we don't hate child molestation, rape, or murder." It reveals a broken moral compass------unable to tell the difference between a harmful act and a harmless one. It makes me want to report them to child services." 
"It smacks of the "I'm OK but you're not," attitude...And it shows a lack of unconditional love." 
"It is, and has always been a "not so subtle", statement of smug moral superiority."

We have gotten many comments recently, saying how while they don't think homosexuality is wrong, it's OK to be gay, just don't associate the word Coptic or Christian with it.    I won't even get into this, but for a moment consider the statement.

I know the phrase this article is about, will be told to me time and time again, and with each time I tire more and more of hearing it.   But until people can be humbled enough to know that they may not have all the answers and they can see themselves as equals, even with us gay people, this dividing line will continue to be placed.   To go back to the original meaning of the quote, before it became bastardized by the masses, that while there are atrocities, judgements, and pain being inflicted, that we stand strong and do not repay an eye for an eye.   That we can separate this immature and fearful thinking from the scared and unsure human being behind it.  That we don't lose the sense of humanity in those who want to strip our dignity.

If you are one of those people who uses this phrase, think again before using it again.  Find another way of saying that you love your brother or sister. You don't have to remind us that you are against homosexuality, we already know.  But if you love, then just love.  End of story.

Even if His Grace Bishop Youssef tells you otherwise.

And to those who are being put down, remember this:
"See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ. For rin him the whole fullness of deity dwells sbodily, 10 and tyou have been filled in him, who is uthe head of all rule and authority. "  - Colossians 2:8-11

Research shows...

Have you ever been misunderstood?  Has anyone ever spoken on your behalf, only to describe you close but not exactly right, or maybe they got you completely wrong?    What were your feelings about that situation?   What did you want to tell that person?    At the end of the day, did this person have the right to represent you to others?  If so: why? And if not:  why not?

"This is who you are!  Believe me!  I know better!"

Do a web search on being Coptic and gay.   What do you find?    A few articles, sermons, Q&A, and web forums where people discuss it.   The lay people talk about their own theories, which is mainly based on hearsay and projections, and the clergy quote Bible verses out of context and use their own interpretation to make rash judgements without really looking deeper into the issues.    No matter where one stands on the moral implications of being gay, there is a lack of compassion and understanding and it is evident in the writings of the church leadership.

The main response is: "Well, we're just echoing what the Bible is saying."   The Bible says a lot of things and if being Coptic Orthodox has taught me anything, it has taught me that you cannot take a verse on its own and built a doctrine about it.   Sola Scriptura is something the Coptic Church does not embrace, in fact, Coptic Orthodoxy prides itself on being able to take a holistic and historical approach to interpreting and understanding scripture, but they embrace a shallow view of the Bible when it comes to not only this issue, but to many issues where there is not a clear understanding.

I wanted to focus my attention specifically to what I've read regarding what the coptic church is saying about homosexuality, because I believe this is the reason why many LGBT folks in the church are suffering in silence.  And I want to say that I am doing so not to berate the church leadership, but to make light of misinformation and prejudice that is being communicated.   There is a reason many people live in fear, if they cannot turn to their community and family, who can they turn to? Most likely there are many people out there who would more than likely take advantage of the insecure closeted gay person, but why does it have to be this way?   The LGBTs of the church need to find a safe place to explore themselves and their faith, and not feel like they are being told who they are by people who frankly cannot understand what it is like to be in their shoes.   Unfortunately, that place does not exist in the church.

Not In My Church!

The language used to describe LGBT folks is generally postured in a way that bears an assumption that it is an issue not found in the church.  Generally, the language used assumes its someone else out there.

"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."
- H.G. Bishop Suriel, Sermon to St. Mark Church, Jersey City, 10-25-2008

Your Grace, statistically speaking, there were probably a few folks who were gay oriented in the congregation that day, how do you think that statement resonated with them?  

This is why our blog and our page exists.    What has your experience been like?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reader Submission: A Letter From Sharon

The following brought tears to my eyes and pain to my heart.   If anyone questions your intentions, your origin, or your faith.  Pass them this note.   Thank you Bob Gnzls who posted this on LGBT Coptic Christians on Facebook.

Published on May 04, 2000 

Sunday, April 30, 2000 

By SHARON UNDERWOOD For the Valley News 

(White River Junction, VT) Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people. 

I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny. 

 My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay. 

 He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6. 

 In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity. 

You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that. 

At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.

If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters." 

 You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance. 

 How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage. 

 You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?"

Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gummy Bears and False Promises

My prediction for the 2013 Exodus International catch phrase:

"The Opposite of Homosexuality is Gummy Bears."

Why? It's simple.  Every few years, Exodus International changes its slogan for a variety of reasons probably attributed to marketing, however, I think one of the main reasons is their nagging consciences.  In the early years, Exodus claimed that they could change anyone from being homosexual to heterosexual.  Over the years, countless people have come forward, not only claiming that their orientation was never actually changed, many came forward talking about the harm they experienced going through homosexual reparative therapy.

An early snapshot of the Exodus website makes this claim.  Can you change, the answer is YES!

In the last decade, studies came out that showed the actual ineffectiveness of such treatment for people who would describe themselves as homosexually oriented.   Exodus published their own press-releases, one of which includes a claim that they have a 53% success rate!     However when asked later that year, they cite another study conducted by Dr. Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College, to back up their claims.   The report is linked here.   However if you dig into the study itself,  you see Dr. Throckmorton did not conduct the study at all, but rather is citing a study put out by Spitzer (2001), where he calls the study the most recent study of reparative therapy to date.  But this study does not show a 53% success rate, as claimed by Exodus International at all:
Spitzer (2001) reported that 46% of the men and 42% of the women assessed themselves as exclusively homosexual in the year prior to change. Regarding postchange efforts, 17% of his sample of men and 54% of the women reported exclusively heterosexual attraction.
So to put it bluntly, of the percentage of people who decided to participate in this study, 17% of 46% of the men have shown a change from being gay to straight.   That is about 7%.   And 54% of 42% of the women show the same change, and that would come out to 22%.     I am not even going to go into whether or not these cases were actually successful, because one year of study does not show a change to someone's sexual being, however, these numbers most certainly do not add up to 53%, not by a long shot.

So in addition to these mixed messages, Exodus offers another answer to their success rate:

What is your success rate? The answer never really was a WHAT. It always is a WHO. Jesus Christ is “success” because He was obedient to the Father’s plan. When we find our identity in Christ and not in our own strengths or weaknesses, we too can find success in living. Not perfection, but perseverance. Not absence of temptation, but freedom from feeling we have to give in. Not a guarantee by following rules, but genuine hope empowered by grace.
Now, there is a lot in this statement I very much agree with and can relate to, but not in regards to sexual orientation.   Why are they charging so much money, to help people do what they can do for free?  Develop a relationship with God, no?  Then why go to Exodus?  Oh, because they can help change you… but wait, they aren't that successful at it.  So why do all these people participate?!

Exodus decided to clean up their act and change their message again, to say "The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality… it is holiness."   Flip that around, and it says, "hey, are you gay? guess what.  the opposite of holiness is your sexual orientation."    Nice.

But there is some wisdom to this catch phrase, because it removes from themselves the claim that they can change your orientation, but rather, can help change your behavior.   Which yes, I believe anyone can change any behavior, and anyone can learn to do anything, or not do anything.   The question is: is it beneficial?    The subtext here is, while you may still be gay, we'll help you not act on it.

But wait, there is still more to this story!   Exodus has AGAIN changed their catch phrase.   We can now learn that the "Opposite of Homosexuality is Holy-Sexuality."   Are you as confused as I am?   So they can't change people completely from being gay to straight, so they're going to work on the holiness factor, which for the majority of participants is abstinence and celibacy.  But now, they're claiming to change people from homosexuality to holy-sexuality.   Exactly what orientation is that?  Well, I guess according to the teachings that Exodus International follows, in the modern evangelical movement, we find that the only "holy" sexuality is heterosexuality within marriage.

But at the end of the day, these catch phrases make no sense.  "The opposite of homosexuality is… " basically is a guarantee, or a service offering.   Whatever comes after that sentence, is the promise Exodus makes to its members.   However Exodus cannot deliver a consistent service offering, so they change the catch phrase, to things completely unrelated to the first part of that sentence, i.e. the  state of the people who arrive at Exodus for help.   They would do better just sticking random words at the end of these catch phrases, and at the very least be able to deliver something to its members: and I want to suggest GUMMY BEARS!   

By offering gummy bears, to gay and lesbian people who come to Exodus for help, they can at least deliver something tangible, and real.  They are cute, and they are chewy.  It's something you can really sink your teeth into.   I believe, if Exodus did change their catch phrase to what I am suggesting, they could at least be an organization of integrity, that will not leave their members psychologically harmed, and their hopes destroyed by false promises.    Because they position themselves as an organization of spiritual authority, they can at least rest in the fact that, by delivering what they promise, they will not leave thousands of people at a crossroads with their faith, and their view of spirituality as a whole.

Ultimately, gummy bears taste much better, and are a lot more digestible than what they are offering today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Playing Monopoly With God

An old joke goes like this:

A man died and went to heaven, where he was promptly greeted by St. Peter at the pearly gates.   St. Peter welcomed him and took him on the grand tour.  They arrived at a room full of people in silent meditation, when Peter explained "Here are where the Buddhists go."    They walked down a few more doors and he said, "And here, we find the Catholics", and everyone inside waved at the new arrival.   A few more doors down the recently deceased heard clapping and singing, and St. Peter explained, "here are the Pentecostals", and then finally they arrived at a room with a closed door.  Peter explained, "Well, you see here is where the Copts go, when they go to heaven, but be very quiet, they think they're the only ones here."
The same could be said about almost any religious group with a strict following and self-important dogma.  But this becomes relevant today for one reason, and it's a question that I have not been asked in a very long time, but it's the question of: "How can you call yourself a Christian and be gay?"   At this point in my life, it's very simple actually: I'm gay.  I'm a Christian.   And that's all there is to it.   But I can see why this idea may be foreign to some, and easier for others.   It really depends in the church environment you grew up in.

I for one, grew up in an environment that taught us, that there was only one correct faith.   From basic dogma, to the resolution of councils, to the explanation of great mysteries (like the nature of Christ, for example), to the proper liturgy, to the kinds of worship, to the modes of dress, to the food you eat, to the things you think, to the people you associate with, to the TV shows you watch, to the music you listen to, to the amount of time you are allowed to shave after receiving communion, I could go on.   It's apparent that we are pretty damn special.   So the idea that I was gay, was one that sent chills of fear up my spine.  We weren't talking about eating a burger on good friday, we were talking about some Soddom and Gomorrah type wrath and destruction!   You know the kind where fire falls from the sky, your aunt Jessie turns to salt, and you miss the last episode of Friends because a meteor just hit your TV: and your dog.

Many years later, I can go to bed at night, knowing that I have an ally upstairs.  I have a Savior in my heart.   It took a bit of work though.  Previous posts can tell you about this process I went through:

The Great Misconception

Of Sheep And Men

So now there is a small movement of people crying out and saying that a gay person CANNOT label themselves as a Christian.  I think I've posted enough about this topic, but I did have a few questions:

If I choose to call on Jesus in an hour of need:  What does it matter to you?
If I choose to pray every night for my loved ones and the world around me:  What does it matter to you?
If I choose to go to Church and seek spiritual and personal growth and worship and praise within a community: What does it matter to you?
If I choose to serve others: What does it matter to you?
If I believe that I am loved by God, unconditionally, in the John 3:16 fashion: What does it matter to you?

Faith is a personal thing.  I would not tell anyone what to believe or not.  There is a great story of seven blind men and an elephant which explains why I deeply respect all faiths.  But if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and someone is telling you, that you need to abandon things that you believe in your heart to be true, just because you are who you are, I will say to stand up, and shake off the dust, and not believe these lies.   You are more precious than you could ever imagine yourself to be.  And you are deeply and utterly loved.

No, the moment there is a monopoly on who can approach God, we already have a problem, and we find ourselves facing a road, or an opinion, that is just not worth exploring.   If you don't believe me, you can ask some of my friends:    Zacchaeus, The Centurion, The Woman at the Well, and the Good Samaritan.   You can even ask King David, I'm sure he'd say a few things on the matter.   Monopoly is for insecure children, and greedy adults, even when it comes to religion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Let's Recap... Shall We?

Yeah, I think this picture says it all.  This is what I returned to when I logged on the other day.  But, let's step back for a moment.

A lot has happened since I've last posted, let's review:

1. I got a second job (temporarily)
2. I am single and wanting to remain so, for a long while.
3. I turned 29!   Last year before it's all over, and memory loss begins!

What can I say, I kind of dropped the ball, as they say.   Life got hectic, and I lost focus.  What brought it back?    Well, I was alerted to an influx of spam and hate-speech on our Facebook Community, and was absolutely shocked and disturbed as to what I found there.

After two hours of deleting posts that were just vile in nature, like the one above.  Reminded me of a quote by Ghandi: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."   But there is a silver lining to all this.   Having spoke to many people of various ages, it seems that this crudeness is concentrated among those in high school and college.  Most people of young adult status, who have entered into the real world, who have been broken down by the reality of life, outside of depending on their mom and dad's financial support, they become humbled and realize, that maybe they shouldn't be judging people.  I had the same lesson myself, and life sure did humble me.   I pity people like the young man, above.   Usually those who are the most aggressive towards gay people, have latent feelings of their own that they do not know how to deal with.   And people who are straight, generally are straight, and do not really care what other people do.

But yes, it's been a few busy days, cleaning up the mess of these so-called representatives of the church, but I know better, than to say that these people are the reps.  The true representatives of faith, are those who you least expect, they are the quiet meek voices, the smiling faces that greet you in the street, the helping hand to those who are week, the one who forgives easy when being wronged, the one who shares his or her meal, and the one who loves unconditionally.  These are the people I aspire to be like.   If the church had more of these people, I do not think a single gay person would have been ostracized by the communities they come from.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

He set an example...

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

I attended the Holy Thursday prayers at my church this morning and afternoon. It was a great time for reflection on the Lenten journey we have all gone through. Battling the inevitable hunger pains, we arrived at the "Laqqan" or blessing of the waters, where the water is blessed and prayed on, and then the priest symbollically washes the feet of the congregation by wetting a towel and putting the sign of the cross on the front of their lower legs. This of course comes from the gospel, where before the Passover, Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, leaving some offended at the notion of a great teacher humbling himself to such a menial task, but does so as an example of what it means to be a true servant, and how we are to treat each other. For some reason, I had this thought in my head: I wonder what it would be like if we as a congregation actually washed each others feet. That it wasn't the task of the priest to put a wet towel to our legs, but that we could actually wash the feet of our neighbors in the pews.

I could imagine the discomfort. Many people hide their feet, it is a very sensitive part of the body. Allowing someone to wash your feet is in a way letting them see a not so clean part of you. For some they would rather have their feet covered, rather than show the world what they look at. Others are self conscious, while, for the most part, unless you've spent a lot of time and money in pedicures and such, most likely, you would not be quick to put your bare feet in the hands of another person in church, let alone let them wash them. On the flip side, how many of us would want to take the bare foot of a congregation member into our hands? I wonder what kind of congregation we would be if we were the type of congregation that could wash each other's feet.

It's not about washing feet, though, but its exposing ourselves. It's allowing someone else to clean us, to acknowledge our shortcomings, and to take the dirt and wash it away. I'm sure we can have no problem doing this with strangers, but what about with people we know well, who maybe have hurt us or fallen short of what we wanted. Or maybe for some of us, we don't want to be seen. We don't want our dirt and our filth exposed to our neighbor, even in the church, even if he or she has dirt of their own. It's being in a very vulnerable position, and putting ourselves in the hands of our neighbor.

I thought about the conversations in past weeks on several message boards, in light of the passage in John 13, and I wish we could come together, humbly, gay and straight Copts, alike. "Pro-gay" and "anti-gay" Copts together, and come together in that same spirit of humility and love and service, and for a moment, take the time to wash one another's feet. To take the dirt that we see in the other, and pour the cool water of forgiveness, understanding, compassion and love, over what we see that offends or bothers us. That for a moment we can stand humbly as one, imperfect, but covered by grace and love. For we are all loved, and greatly so. We fear the other, we blame the other, we accuse the other, and we think we know the other, however, the greatest One among us, was able to wash the feet of the one who betrayed him, who are we that we could refuse to do the same?

These were some thoughts that affected me today. I hope after Lent, we can continue the dialogues out there on the net, in a better Spirit where we can follow that example given to us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Did Someone Light A Candle?

It comes to no surprise that the survey that was distributed a number of weeks ago has caused a reaction in the community.   The topic of homosexuality and the church is one that polarizes.   I wish it weren't so, but it is.   In many web communities, the survey was faced with a lot of backlash, and distrustful skepticism.  Immediately, we were accused of plotting a way to change the church's dogma on homosexual sex.  The mention of the survey alone, brought out some interesting thoughts from people.   I have to say when we are in a place of fear, we are not at our best.

Fortunately, the church need not worry, as there is no secret agenda of a gay takeover of the Coptic Church.  That is not the intention of the survey nor is such a thing possible through the asking of questions.   If popular vote was a way to set and alter church dogma, are we saying that the council of Nicea went something like this:  "Ok guys, show of hands:  oneness of Christ with God the Father, yay or nay?"

But despite the distrust and heated arguments, there have been some great moments of dialogue and mutual understanding!   Many of us have had a chance to tell our stories to people, and it is through this exposing of ones life in detail that takes away the mystery.   One man in particular reached out to me via email, and asked me to explain more about the survey and why we did it.  This is what I had to say.  I say this to all people who are wondering why we made this survey.  Something to think about:

The people who made the survey, and now I'm helping out with them, because I definitely feel in line with what they're doing.

Yes, they are all copts. Initially the survey was intended to capture some of the stories of other gay coptic people out there, and their experiences, so others can feel that they are not alone in their struggles. But it turned into something different, more like a survey for all Coptic people. The fact is that no one wants to talk about this issue. And, , I happen to believe exactly what you believe, that we should not be defined by our sexuality or sexual orientation. But the fact is, everyone is defining us."


"The aim of the survey is mainly just a way to get the people in the church thinking: "Do I know any gay people? How have I dealt with them? Do my actions further ostracize them or am I part of making my church a safe place for everyone to be in fellowship with?" Also, the fact is, everyone I know who has struggled with their sexuality, or have either come out, get different reactions from clergy and their community. I've seen some pretty harsh stuff, but I've also seen some loving stuff as well. But the harshness says that many of our dear clergy members do not know how to attempt to deal with this. Some even go by way of the ex-gay route, which only leads to further destruction. I'm all for gay celibacy btw, if one truly believes that it is the only path to holiness and wholeness in their lives."

"Yes, it is a difficult issue with no easy answers, but we feel that the conversation needs to start. And it needs to start within the church. We are not saying the church needs to accept homosexuality as a viable lifestyle. The fact is, someone who identifies as gay, says nothing about how they actually live their lives. Many are celibate. Many are promiscuous. Many are monogamous. etc. etc. etc. We are not saying the church needs to change her doctrine. But the question is, ok we have brothers and sisters who have fallen short one one point, on a single point. Should this separate us from the community? Does the community want us separated? The survey responses that have really surprised me the most, are the ones that say "yes I believe homosexuality is wrong. And yes I believe gay people should be one with us in the community." If Christ can meet me, here and now as I am, I have to have faith that he will lead me to the truth."

"By offering Christ to everyone who wants, without condition, you are putting them in line with grace. You are putting them in direct contact with the love of God."

"So this survey is for gay copts, to see what "those closed minded coptic people" really think, and I know in my heart, they will be surprised to see the results. And it's for straight copts, to challenge them to think more about what it is they believe and how that belief should be carried out in terms of dealing with others different than themselves. This survey is for clergy to see who their congregation is, and not who they want them to be, or who they might present themselves to be. It's for reconciliation. And yes, we are a small number. But, yes, I care about my brothers and sisters who deal with this, because I've been through it myself, and it's a miracle that I am where I am today. I don't know why I feel spared, but I have been, and I thank God every single day."

"Hope this clarifies, sorry that this went so long. I will never forget when you said "I know God can love a gay person: because he loves me." you give me hope in my community, whom I also have feared. Those words stick with me, and I'll never forget. Thank you!"
The gentleman wrote me back.   His quote that I mention was from a previous email.  This man has really inspired me.  He made me realize that in this community which many of us have felt so estranged from, there are people who are willing to stand next to us and call us brothers, even if they may not agree with us on all fronts.   If you are gay and Coptic, or straight and Coptic.   We invite you to stand with us.    We have a fan page on Facebook.  We'd love to interact with friends, those who are willing to acknowledge that we exist, and are willing to stand with us.   Not all of us believe the same thing about what it means to be gay or how that is expressed.  If you have questions, ask us.  We'd love to share with you.    If you're gay, but are in the closet, you don't need to out yourself, but a time will come when you'll be ready, and know that when you are, you are NOT ALONE.

I feel hopeful.

Take our SURVEY!  We want to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Apple Says "No" To Ex-Gay Therapy

Exodus International:  God bless 'em.

But really, do we think the world is ready for a mobile app that can cure "un-wanted same sex attraction"?
I thought that was the purpose of iFart.   Who wants to be with a man who can generate gastro-flatulant noises like that?    That would have been the wiser approach for Alan Chambers, if he had gotten his marketing team in order.   You can't just join the social and mobile web, and expect to make an impact, if the shit you started with wasn't that great to begin with.

So it was Apple that decided to pull the plug on Exodus's mobile app, because it was deemed offensive to a large number of people.

On the one hand, I do see the need for freedom of speech, however, Apple is not the government.  They are a corporation, and have the right to censor as they will.   No one is stopping Exodus from existing, in fact they're a growing organization in this country with all the freedoms any other organization would have, despite the fact that many people in scientific and spiritual communities can agree that their methods are actually harming people deeply.

Now, Exodus will cry "victim", as they continue to victimize thousands of people, and take their hard earned dollars in exchange for false-promises, touch-therapy, and years of psychological anguish.

Read the article here.

And if you're done feeling sorry for Exodus, take a moment and fill out a brief survey!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Important Survey and Study

A few people reached out to me tonight and told me about a study they are conducting in order to get a sense  of how LGBT Coptic people co-exist with their church communities.   The survey is meant for any and all Coptic people regardless of sexual orientation.   The survey is short, only 10 questions, but I think it touches on a few important points.  

From the survey itself:

Thank you for participating in this survey. People who may identify as an LGBTQ (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning) exist in all communities regardless of culture. This is a brief study conducted by members of the Coptic Community who are interested in understanding how LGBTQ persons are represented within the Coptic community, and are hoping to get a brief introduction to how the community and these individuals co-exist. Any person affiliated with the Coptic Church in any way should participate, whether or not they identify as LGBT. Participation in this survey is completely voluntary, and while the results of this survey may be published, the identity of those participating will remain completely anonymous.

Why Participate?

1. Having as many people participate as possible will ensure accurate representation in the results of this survey. By participating you help paint an accurate portrayal of the beliefs of our community.

2. In addition to understanding how LGBT people are represented within the community, we also want to understand how the mainstream views this topic.
Please take a moment, whether you are straight or gay, or whether you are Coptic or not, and fill out these questions.  I think the results can help both the church and people who identify as LGBTQ understand the lay of the land, as well as maybe understand each other better.

The link to the survey is here:   A Brief Study of Sexual Identity In The Coptic Church

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent, Lentils, and The Gay Man

It's Lent: Let the vegan cooking begin!

It's been a long time since I've posted, as life sometimes brings in the tide, and a lot falls onto your plate, however, in prayer tonight, I realized that maybe this can be a good place for me to get some of these thoughts out.  

It is very difficult at times being gay if you wanna live a life of purity and wholeness.  The culture around just doesn't quite get it, or doesn't really want to get it, I'm not exactly sure which one.   I most certainly would rather not worry about wholeness and healthiness when it comes to what I do with my heart and body, but when you get a taste of the real deal, it's hard to look back and say anything less is satisfactory.   

So, I'm not the biggest fan of fasting for Lent.   For the most part it often involves some sort of indulging, then depraving, followed by indulging.  That's been the common spiritual practice amongst my fellow church members, at least in the mainstream.   How often do you take a trip with your friends to a Brazilian BBQ before, and probably after Lent.  I mean, yeah, I totally get it, but what the hell is the point?   Is lent just a time to start stocking up on margarine, imitation soy-based meat products, and non-dairy creamer??

So the last few years, I stayed away from fasting, and focused more on how I can get myself to live a more moderate and healthy lifestyle all year around, than focusing on depriving myself for 40 days for a particular reason.    

This year is a little different.  With certain changes in relationship status, possibilities begin to open up, and while the heart is not looking, and is rather broken and confused at the moment, the body finds itself looking at ways to feel good, and connect.  I look back a few years, and see the kind of life I was living.   I treated my body like an amusement park, and I'm lucky that I don't have the scars that usually come with that.   While I never practiced anything that could be deemed to risky or unsafe, I put myself in compromising positions with compromising people, and enjoyed the fact that I could get attention by my charm and looks, and readily used it to my advantage.  Many connections were real and authentic, while others were down-right detached and a time waster.   It took an angel to slap me in the face with a few simple words, which woke me up to realize what it was that I truly wanted:  a complete whole experience where heart followed mind, and body followed heart, and all things followed spirit.   

I guess deep down I had begun to lose hope that it was possible to find such people who shared these beliefs in the gay community.   I believed it with my lips, but I thought I was alone, and therefore a part of me had given up. 

You never know what can happen when you're asked to keep your clothes on.   You almost always know what will happen once the clothes come off.

But yes, this angel of mine, whether intentional or not, yet to be determined, re-awakened a value system, that I would most certainly would have admitted to with my lips, but over the course of several years had slowly began to unfold and disintegrate, and I remembered what it was like to be innocent again, and what it meant to unlearn all that I had been taught by people who had no business teaching me.   

In time I began to feel pure again, and whole, mind body and spirit.

Yes, I'm talking, in relationship, I had learned to slow down, and to take things the way they were meant to be.   There's a reason, we as gay men rush to get naked, and it has little to do with feeling good.  We know that once the climax hits, we can detach, (or if it's really good we may unexpectedly get attached, to someone we don't even know), but we know that orgasmic detachment is inconsequential, and less is risked (besides health and safety), but the important stuff is well protected, the stuff inside, the stuff of the heart.     Whether we know it or not, we love sex because it keeps us safe from getting hurt.  I can just think about me, without having to give or open up.    

Of course the irony is that sex is one of the most intimate, vulnerable things one person can give another.

So yes, it was through a gay relationship that I feel my body and heart were redeemed. And of course I see the work of God in all this, as God was ever present, and the gospel was always the undertone for our dealings with each other.

As life goes sometimes, not all things are a straight road, no pun intended, and I find myself in a way not as attached as before, and while I'm still trying to wrap my head around all this, I realize that I most certainly have a green light to revisit old ways.  For sure the mental pathways have been entrenched and a year of good behavior doesn't quite erase the several years that preceded it.     And I'm forced to think, what do I wanna do with all this?    Yes, I'm "free", but free to do what?   

The pressures are unbelievable.   But I remember, I remember what I compromised, and I certainly don't wanna go back.   I experienced some dark stuff, in some dark places.   I know where I come from, and to see where I am today, I don't know how I survived.  It's a slippery slope that you have no idea how far you can fall until it's almost too late.   The scars inside are still there.  It makes me more distrustful of people, it makes me wonder who people really are inside.   I wish I still had an innocent view of who people are or could be.  But if I learned anything, is that even a hardened heart can be redeemed.

So in relation to Lent, while yes, the green light is there, I'm going to take a time out for now, and I'm going to revisit what this means to be a gay man who is single who follows Jesus, or tries to at least.   I'm not sure where this will lead me, but I know sacrifice is going to be a part of it, it is to make a commitment, even in the short term, to just wait, and put my energies into different things, outside of dating and the like.

At the end of the day, I know parts of my heart are really sad, and there's no quicker way to put a mask on the heart's mouthpiece, than a sloppy knob polish, but I did not experience the last x months to just bring me back to where I started, even if T.S. Eliot does speak the truth, there is forward motion that needs to happen, even if we find ourselves taking 1,2, or 20 steps back, we are always growing.

A friend once told me, it's not about what we give up.  It's about what giving this up does to us inside.  If eating a cheeseburger results in not eating a cheeseburger, then what the crap is the point?   What do we need to give up for Lent.  Is it just dietary?  Certainly not.    The things we give up should lead us into right relationship with God and others.   We look at relationships, friendships, and family bonds: what do we need to give up in order to move towards right relationship with our loved ones?  Is it fear or pride?  It's a lot harder to give up chocolate, than it is to give up our fears or our pride.   What are the things getting in the way of us getting real with ourselves and others, getting in the way of us spending time and energy to serve and love others?

Which is the symbol for lent?
This is WHY I believe that the Coptic Church needs to stop turning her back on us.   When young gay men and women are not given proper guidance from people who have the authority to speak, we learn from those who may not have our best interests in mind.    And let me make it clear, I'm not here trying to argue with anyone about the morality of homosexuality, there are plenty of other posts out there for that.   I know that God can be very much preset in the lives and relationships of gay people as He is with straight people, and it is based on this firm belief that I say these things, the church is causing MORE HARM by leaving us be, without surrounding us with proper love and community.   To give us ultimatums to not be gay, or be gone, is only making matters worse.  Again, I feel redeemed, but it didn't have to be this way.  I could very well have been a statistic.   There are so many brothers and sisters of ours who have to deal with scars of being misguided and extreme.   

But while the church is not doing her part, we as a community need to start doing our part.   We need to remind each other of what is important, and what is true, to call out in each other what it is we truly seek, and what it is that will make us whole.    

That's it for now.   It's nice to be back.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Look Who's Back!

Hello friends, I've been gone for quite a bit.   Work is busy and then I got very distracted by this whole Revolution situation in Egypt.   Life is tough, and I'm grateful to be here to tell about it another day.
I apologize deeply for being delinquent, I have so much to say and so much to hear from you all.  I see so many folks have joined up on the Facebook community, so awesome!

It occurred to me the other day, we have work to do.   More to follow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reader Submission: One Man's Story

The following post was submitted by a reader, a young man from our community who goes by the name Atheous.  I want to thank him for taking the time, and for his courage in sharing this story.  

It doesn’t matter what my name is or where I’m from. None of these things matter when lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender teens commit suicide because they’ve been bullied. None of these things matter when they’re alone during the holidays because their families have shunned them. None of this matters when a wife finally realizes that she can’t change her gay husband and that their marriage is over. It’s important that my story gets out there because I know I’m not the only one.

Once upon a time in a far away place, a young boy innocent of the evils of the world began his journey of life. He was the only child and his parents toiled day and night to provide the basic necessities. Life was hard. My father juggled two jobs and medical school in hopes of making the American dream. When his dream turned into a nightmare of never ending student loan payments and the failure of medical school, he became controlling, domineering man, who liked to control every detail of our home life. My mother was an overworked woman, suffering from a terminal illness and found solace from her miserable life in fundamentalist Orthodoxy.

As a young boy, I remember my father calling for me in Arabic, “come under the covers, habibi. let’s snuggle.” I didn’t know what would happen because I was innocent of the evils of the world. I couldn’t say no to my father. He was my protector, the one who gave me unconditional love and provided me with food and shelter. My mother had an inkling of what was occurring at home when she found me hiding in my room scared one night. I didn’t tell her what had happened. I couldn’t tell her what had happened. I was afraid of my father’s wrath.

As the years went by, the abuse continued and my father’s anger grew uncontrollable. My mother’s denial reached a high point. On her days off, she would sleep through out the day. She began to call in sick from work and sleep even more and more. One day she had witnessed my father breaking into the bathroom while I was showering. He yelled at me to use more soap because I was a ‘dirty’ boy. He watched me as I lathered my body from head to toe with soap hoping to get the ‘dirt’ off my skin. At this point, she had enough and confronted my father about his behavior. He wouldn’t have any of it. He couldn’t handle having a woman telling him what to do. A physical altercation occurred. I closed the door, climbed up on my bed and went under the sheets. I kept on telling myself repeatedly that everything was going to be alright. I woke up the next day to an eerie silence: broken glass on the floor, over turned furniture in the living room and food on the walls. My mother had given up hope, she had complained to the priest at the local church and nothing happened. After that, she complained to the Bishop of diocese about the abuse: again, nothing changed. Her despair increased and her illness had begun to take a toll on her body. Every day, she prayed for a miracle.

Unfortunately, life wasn’t any better outside of home. I was bullied at school because I was different looking, had coarse hair, and acted ‘girly.’ But the bullying I encountered at school couldn’t compare to the bullying, I encountered at church. At church, I was bullied because they said I acted ‘girly,’ because I wore hand me downs, and because I didn’t fit in with the boys. Despite all the bullying at church, I went to church every Sunday, attended every bible study class on Wednesdays and even the pre-servants class on Saturday afternoons. Despite the bullying and hate around me, I achieved the deacon rank of aghnostos and taught Sunday school classes for more than 3 years.

However, behind the polished church creditails lay an incredibly broken boy. I was fourteen, 6 foot tall, lanky boy who was extremely na├»ve. One afternoon, I went to church for alhan lessons. I rode in a van full of other deacons and rode 40 miles to my church. I suffered the usual annoyances of any fourteen year old boy: wet willies, name calling and an occasional punch or two. I got out of the van and took a chair towards the back of the class. I opened up my psalmody and paid close attention to how Abouna sang the hymns. After about an hour and a half of learning praises, Abouna decided to take a break and hear another parishoner’s confession. All of the deacons went into the kitchen to get a bite to eat. That’s when the humiliation began: one of the deacons pinned me up against the wall and started to hump me. Then another boy, humped me, then another boy, then another boy, then another deacon, then another deacon and then another boy. All the while, I heard them calling me a “fag,” “gaywad,” and “gay.” After it had all happened, I was in complete shock and couldn’t speak. I stopped taking communion and believing that there was a higher power. My disbelief in God stemmed from the fact that I had encountered such evil from human beings that wore the touna, took communion and read the holy bible.

I couldn’t speak about what had happened for another 10 years. After I graduated high school and moved out for college, I began experimenting with drugs, alcohol and wanton sex to fill the void once held by religion. I was so high, so drunk that I didn’t know what was occurring around me. However, I am fortunate that I met a group of friends that rescued me from myself and my bad decisions. It was from my continuing interaction with non-religious, liberal and secular-humanists that I began to understand that there are people in the world that I can trust and confide in. I am proud to classify myself as a Coptic-Atheist because the people who gave me unconditional love, devotion and respect were non-judgmental regular folks who didn’t condemn the sinner to hell, nor hate the ‘sin.’ It was through their unconditional love, devotion and respect that I was able to close this dark chapter of my life, finish college with high honors and graduate medical school.

- Atheous

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bishop Youssef And Throwing Stones

I feel I need to add a little pre-amble to this post, as it's gotten quite a reaction.   This is a commentary on some of the teachings of His Grace Bishop Youssef of the Southern Diocese, in regards to the nature of homosexual orientation, as well as how to treat gay people that you may know.   I found these teachings troubling.  Bishop Youssef is a well respected leader in the church, because of his service and his education, and he has done a lot to build up the Southern Diocese to what it is.   I write this post, not to bash him or everything he says, but I felt the need to make light of certain teachings.   These particular teachings are common in our culture, among common people, and it just shocked me that His Grace included such opinions in his Q&A section on his site.   These particular attitudes have justified some terrible behavior towards LGBT Coptic people in our community, and everyone just seems OK with it.   We forget who our neighbors are, and don't think how our words may be piercing the hearts of the person who may be sitting next to us.   I mean no offense to His Grace, personally, however, I had to speak up, because no one else is.  Take it for what it is, this is just a blog, and I'm just one person.  If you agree, wonderful, and if you don't, well that's OK too.   Dialogue is more important to me than being right or being wrong.   We're humans after all and we have much to learn.

"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, I would ask you to come down and I would ask to stay at your house, however I do not want to appear like I approve of tax collecting, I do not want my reputation to be ruined by associating with you, nor do I, or would I ever want to be mistaken for a tax collector."
Wait, is that how the passage went? According to certain things I've read on the internet, this passage may as well have been written as such. More on this later.

There should be something made absolutely clear in regards to the Coptic Church's view on homosexuality: it is uninformed and very extreme. In comparison with even other Orthodox churches, there is something missing within the Coptic Church. The church has an official stance that does not take into account any of what studies have taught us about human sexuality, and results in a very inhumane and stubborn approach to not only the topic of homosexuality, but in the way it deals with people who identify themselves as LGBT.

One resource of particular interest to me, was that of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States, where H.G. Bishop Youssef has a section on Frequently Asked Questions organized by topic, one of which is that of Homosexuality. Most of the questions receive the same answers, but at the same time, some of these answers were very troublesome to me, not just because I'm gay, but there seems to be something inherently wrong in the way that His Grace answers these questions, and I dare say, it is quite dangerous.

It is no wonder gay and lesbian people live in such fear:  fear of humiliation, fear of rejection by family, priests, and of course, by God.   Even other Orthodox Churches do not take such a backwards approach in teaching this subject.   There are many reasons, that I can objectively respect, why a Church may feel that practiced homosexuality is not something that God desires for His people.   While I do not agree with these reasons, and there is plenty in the Bible that shows why this approach is flawed, I can understand why an individual or community may come to that conclusion.  However, there are beliefs being taught that are not only just flat out wrong, in their essence, they debase the message of the gospel. It is a message that leads to the further marginalization of gays and lesbians within the community, to the point where we do not even exist, not because we're not alive, but because we CANnot exist.   It just saddens me to know that a representative body of Jesus could really care less about a certain group of people. I want to touch on these things being taught within the Coptic Church and explain why such beliefs are damaging to the community at large.

One such question given to His Grace, is regarding the Ukranian Orthodox Church in Canada's official statement on homosexuality which goes as follows:

"Orthodoxy distinguishes between a homosexual orientation and a homosexual expression of one's sexuality. While denouncing same sex sexual relations, we affirm the basic human dignity and rights of the person with a homosexual orientation. In short, homosexual acts are condemned, not homosexual people. The homosexual man or woman, then, is faced with a particular struggle with his/her sexuality that, by the grace of God and guidance of His Church, he or she can find a healthy, Christ-centered means of life."
His Grace responds as follows:
"You may find the church's complete formal statement regarding homosexual practices and persons at the link below. A term you used in your statement requires caution: "...but does not condemn someone for being naturally oriented in such a way so as to be attracted to the same sex?" We do not hold the notion that one is "naturally oriented" towards homosexuality, but rather the individual has consciously or unconsciously submitted to this desire (see Romans 1:18-32; Genesis 1:27). The church invites all people to repentance and agrees to baptize repentant persons (if baptized as adults) who adhere to all the teachings of the Coptic Orthodox faith."
So the Coptic Church as represented by His Grace believes this premise about human sexuality: that that no one can be naturally oriented towards homosexuality, but rather the individual has submitted to these desires. I'm not sure if His Grace understands that the book of Romans is not a manifesto on human psychology, any more than John 2:1-11 is a cookbook recipe on how to turn water into wine. In fact, 14 verses in the Bible should not be enough to explain the complexity of what human sexuality is. If the Orthodox Church at large recognizes that human sexuality is more complex than we have previously realized it to be, why is the Coptic Church so stubborn? There are countless sources and research that indicate that sexuality is something that is absolutely not chosen. It is no wonder, that the church's stance has become so oppressive and its dealings on the matter have not helped but harmed so many people, it's because the premise it's based on is a bold faced lie. To make such a bold statement, His Grace needs to back up such a statement, rather than flippantly throwing a verse out there that explains why human sexuality is indeed a choice.

There are plenty of people who are gay and lesbian within the church, and even those who have decided to live a life of celibacy, who can tell you, they have not chosen this. It's such a slap in the face to the scores of thousands of gay christians out there (and among whom I know hundreds) who I believe have prayed, fasted, and cried tears of desperation asking God to change them. To say it's a choice, even subconsciously, is to say the power of God is not as powerful as our psyche. It is to say that our subconscious, 100% of the time, trumps God's grace. It is to say that "ask and you shall receive", is nothing more than an submission of a request form into heavenly beauracracy and politics, hopefully if you know the right people, miracles can happen. For those who have been "healed" from homosexuality, I do not know of a single documented case where the "healed" person no longer is attracted to the same sex. Even those who have managed to move onto possibly being married to the opposite gender, all claim to still wrestle with homosexual attraction. With such little understanding of human sexuality, how is the church even equipped to dive into this issue and teach on it, without fear that they might be marginalizing God's own children, and turning the minds of the rest of the congregation in a way that teaches them to be less-Christ like.

Another question is posed:
"I do believe that homosexuality is a sin, but I feel that homosexuals are some of the kindest people I have ever met, and I fairly enjoy being around them (homosexual men in particular). Is this wrong?"
Minus the "homosexuality is a sin" part, this question could easily have been submitted by Grace Adler. He goes on to answering the question:
"Homosexuality is a sin and Christianity invites us to hate sin not the sinners. However, being around homosexuals and befriending them is wrong for the following reasons:
1.  St. Paul's teaching about homosexuals is clear: "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" (1 Cor 6:9-10). God considers all those mentioned in these verses ungodly; and do not deserve to inherit the kingdom of God. The Holy Bible tells us "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful" (Ps 1:1). It is a blessing not to be associated with such a crowd nor stand in their path, nor go their way.
2.  By associating with them you will make them feel accepted and that there is nothing wrong with their behavior. This feeling would encourage them to live the life they are leading without considering changing it."
And my favorite:
"3. Your own reputation could get affected. When people see you around homosexuals; they might label you as one of them."

Do I need to comment on this?  I think it speaks for itself.  To be part of a faith that has for generations, tested the bounds of societal norms, whose very Leader lead a life of example where it was the workings of the heart, not social status or personal wealth, that determined the worth of a person, how can such nonsense be taught, let alone tolerated by its members.   What is the point of being Christian, if the very essence of the Christian life is traded in for that which is saturated in fear and paranoia?  I'm certain Bishop Youssef does not teach this way of approaching love and friendship for other people all the time, what makes it ok this time?

I have a few theories:    One may be the fact that, he assumes that there aren't gay people in the church who are reading this.   Another may be the fact that, gays are expendable members of the church, and their absence is of more value than their presence.   If all of us are equal in the eyes of God, then who else should not be tolerated in the church?   Have you ever asked: what makes this sort of marginalization permissible in this one case?

What is unfortunate, is that the words and statements made by higher clergy such as Bishop Youssef carry a lot of weight and power. People decide to turn their brains off when a Bishop speaks, and all is absorbed, and recorded, and not tested in the way we're called to test all things with discernment.   Your Grace, if you happen to read this, whatever happened to compassion?  Whatever happened to trying to understand those you disagree with?   If Christ is the Good Shepherd, why allow your children to wander so far?

While we have leaders who may be spreading messages of intolerance and misunderstanding, we also have bishops and priests who are teaching messages of love and compassion, I just wish they'd raise their voices.  The people can choose to follow the example of the Church's true founder and leader, and learn from the good news, as we see in the true conclusion to the story of Zacchaeus:
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”