I confess that this is a subject that I don't know yet *how* to deal with.
I think that's the first and most important step towards understanding how to deal with anything
The next step, I think, is trying to make a connection with something in my own experience. For example, I know what it's like to crave a cigarette even though I know that smoking them does me damage. But no amount of public health warnings was ever able to stop me smoking. I even worked in palliative care with people dying of lung cancer and emphysema, and even that didn't stop me smoking. My Mother (God rest her) called it "the incense of the devil" and my Father (God rest him) once got me to take a $10 note out of my wallet and burned it in front of me saying "It would be better if you burned your money this way!"
- and even that didn't stop me!
After a period of some years with my current Confessor, and having dealt with some more pressing spiritual matters, he got me to start looking at my nicotine addiction, not as something to be eliminated, but rather, as an opportunity for spiritual growth. Rather than listing all the reasons why I shouldn't smoke (which I knew anyway), he got me to start looking at the possibility of learning live with nicotine craving, and using it as a way of coming closer to God. As St. Anthony the Great says: "Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Without temptations no-one can be saved.'
If we think of smoking as sinful
and morally wrong
, then nicotine craving is the passion
and is morally neutral
. This is the Orthodox understanding of the difference between "passion" and "sin".
Similarly, homosexual orientation
is the passion
(and therefore morally neutral) while homosexual acts
are the sin
, and morally wrong. As a psychologist, I think that this Orthodox view offers the only
way out of what is termed "Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality"
. In the Diagnostic Manual we use to diagnose mental illness, homosexuality is not a mental disorder unless the homosexual themselves considers it to be disorder
, that is, their homosexuality is dystonic to their own self identity. Now, among some Protestant and Catholic groups, the current "treatment" for ego-dystonic homosexuality such as "Courage International" and "Exodus International" is "reparative therapy", that is "reorienting" the sexual attraction. The problem with this is it just doesn't work. I personally know of two members of "Exodus International" who have committed suicide (one after having entered a hetrosexual marriage as part of his "reorientation"). It's boloney. It would be like myself trying to give up smoking by pretending that my very powerful cravings for cigarettes don't exist. Let me tell you, they darn well do exist!
With it's keen understanding of how the passions work and how to manage them, Orthodoxy offers a way out of homosexual behaviour while not attempting to deny the existence of homosexual orientation. It offers another option- yes, a difficult one, but an option nonetheless, and that is the martyric path of chastity
. And St. John Climakos in "The Ladder of Divine Assent" makes this keen observation in Step 15:24:"Do not expect to overthrow the demon of fornication with refutations and pleadings. For, with nature on his side, he has the best of the argument."
Orthodoxy acknowledges that, in demanding that the People of God avoid fornication (whether heterosexually or homosexually) she is demanding something which goes against nature
. In other words, she acknowledges that yes, the desire is there, but that we are not to act on it. This is
a big ask, and St. John Climacus acknowledges this when he says in Step 15:7:"Let no one thoroughly trained in purity attribute its attainment to himself. For it is impossible for anyone to conquer his own nature. When nature is defeated, it should be recognised that this is due to the presence of Him Who is above nature. For beyond all dispute, the weaker gives way to the Stronger."
So, rather than continually rattle off the same stuff about "homosexual agendas" and "homosexual sin" that occur on every Christian forum, why don't we offer on an Orthodox forum the unique perspective that yes, homosexual orientation exists, just as the desire to fornicate or be an adulterer exists, and these are "natural", but even this does not mean that acting
on these "natural desires" is morally neutral. And even more
importantly, we can offer the uniquely Orthodox understanding of the difference between passion and sin which may offer homosexuals a way out of having to act on their desires, while at the same time not attempting to deny that their desires exist.
But if the only thing we have to offer is the same old hackneyed thing that one sees on every Christian forum such as "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve"
then what's the point? No one's gonna listen, it's the same rubbish they get everywhere.
We cannot tell people outside the Church how to live their sexual lives. And with nature on their side
(as St. John Clmacus points out) they'd laugh us to scorn. All we can do is bear witness to another
way, and offer it as an alternative.