December 14, 2017

Tokah’s Journey, part 2: Grant Me to See My Own Transgressions

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Note from CM: Thanks to Tokah for this fine follow-up to her post in December. If you didn’t get to read it then, or would like to review her story, you can read part one HERE.

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Grant Me to See My Own Transgressions
by Tokah

Last month, I had the privilege of sharing some of the most important bits of perspective I gleaned from growing up queer in an evangelical church during the culture wars. I think the monicker of “Tokah’s Journey” may have been a bit misleading since I did not speak very much about my journey, rather I gave an account of the damage done during that period, how it is still affecting me today, and how we can try to avoid common pitfalls so others don’t have to live with the fallout I still struggle with.

Your comments on my post were generally excellent, and I think we had a great discussion. A few people asked follow-up questions that were too big to answer in a comment, and today I would like to take one of them on:

“But why Orthodoxy? Were there no queerness-affirming churches that offered the same sense of community? Your particular congregation may be friendly, but they go arm-in-arm with brethren who engage in *literal* gay-bashing.”  • Faulty O-Ring

FOR is often incendiary in the comments, particularly towards Orthodoxy, but in this case his question was very fair. Some of the comments defending my choice showed that he has a better grasp on how my church functions than my defenders do. Eastern Orthodoxy is not just a label, not just an institutional church. We are a communion. Our jurisdictional splits are not comparable to the Lutheran synods or Baptist conventions, and I cannot disavow the actions in another jurisdiction as if they were committed by people from some other religious group. I approach the chalice at each Divine Liturgy with all of my brethren around the world, including those who are mired in bigotry. Why do I do that?

I will be speaking on this topic as it relates to my own faith tradition, but it is a question every christian has to wrestle with in his own church context. When I gained my first adult group of friends, they were very understanding about my gender, sex, and orientation. None of that was a problem for them. What they could not understand was why someone in my position would want to stay a christian at all. Wouldn’t it be easier to be a member of a religion that seemed to want people like me in it?

I could not the articulate the answer well at the time. As the psalmist wrote, “I kept my faith even when I said ‘I am greatly afflicted’, and when in my madness I cried, ‘Every man is a liar.’ What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me?” It was the Lord who kept me during this time, the time when I privately didn’t even believe He loved me, and ultimately it is Jesus who I have stuck with Christianity seeking.

orthodox2-jpgTo set about answering my college friends’ question and FOR’s both, let me begin with a story:

Jay’s grandmother Em suffers from dementia. Unfortunately, Em’s dementia ruins her ability to make new relationships. She remembers her older family with fondness, but new people all seem like enemies to her. This has lead her to treat Jay’s wife, Bee, in a very nasty way, despite the fact that Bee is her primary caregiver. Em has benefited very much from living with Jay and Bee, recovering some of the mental and physical health she lost in the nursing home. She can feed herself, attempt to use the bathroom, and help with the transfer from wheelchair to car. Her dementia has not improved sufficiently that she can accept Bee, though. At best, she can focus her angry gaze on even newer people, and sometimes that is all the break Bee gets.

I hope that no one would suggest that Bee should not have married into Jay’s family just because Em detests her. I also hope no one would suggest that Bee should lobby to have Em kicked out of the family on the grounds of her dementia. Instead, Bee shows God’s love to Em every day and prays for her continued healing. Whether healing comes or not in this life though, they are bound together as family through Jay. In the meantime, she tries to keep Em’s dementia-born rudeness from hurting others.

I think bigotry is a lot like dementia. It is a peculiar blindness that prevents its sufferers from seeing the image of God in an arbitrary subset of the human race. It is a hearing impairment that makes it nearly impossible to hear what a member of the particular group is saying. It is a weakness that makes it easy to fall into active sin when brought into contact with the targets of this prejudice.

There are those in the Eastern Orthodox family afflicted with bigotry that detest me, not based on disagreeing with my actions, but just for being born the way I am. Blinded by bigotry, there are those that see me as an enemy rather than as a sister. Some are so deafened by this that nothing I say will ever reach their ears. A few are so weakened that they would beat me if they were in the position to do so.

“O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our transgressions. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.” Surely God is answering, even if it seems that He does so in a glacially slow fashion. May the Lord have mercy on them and by their prayers have mercy on me, a sinner.

Despite the ugliness of some, there is nothing about Orthodoxy itself that should make someone who is queer feel less than a full person. While it maintains a traditional sexual ethic, it gets the separation between orientation and choices correct, and it doesn’t demand secrecy from its gay members.

Men and women with homosexual feelings and emotions are to be treated with the understanding, acceptance, love, justice and mercy due to all human beings. People with homosexual tendencies are to be helped to admit these feelings to themselves and to others who will not reject or harm them… Persons struggling with homosexuality who accept the Orthodox faith and strive to fulfill the Orthodox way of life may be communicants of the Church with everyone else who believes and struggles.

• Holy Synod of Bishops, OCA, 1992

Orthodoxy asks a lot of all of its members, and those of us who are queer are no exception. It does not shirk from affirming our value as people and equal importance to God, though. It sees gay sex as a sin, but not a special and uniquely large one, despite recognizing the issues in this area of identity and relationships that require proactive assistance. If you are going to be a conservative church on this topic, I think this is the way to do it.

That isn’t to say that things are perfect. Even our best writings on the subject are somewhat tone deaf, and our implementation sometimes leaves much to be desired. Some regions implement what we say on paper well, but other regions do it very poorly. (I just lost the ability to get a driver’s license in Russia!) Our internet voice is dominated by extremists, some questioning the very bishops who write these well balanced encyclicals. All of those things I wrote about in my last article apply to us as well, and we should be doing better there.

The other big weakness we have is explanation. We have beautiful and inspiring writings about the workings of sacramental marriage, and these are often offered as an explanation of why we must keep marriage between a man and a woman. For those of us not born straight, though, we can just as easily see ourselves in that description with a same-sex partner. The Bible verses that address it directly describe gay sex as a sin, but never actually explain why it is. The writers of our earliest texts simply took it for granted that it was, and that includes the apostles.

I made the decision to take up the tradition of the early church in regards to sexuality when I was in my teens, but as a purely personal decision, long before I even heard the word “orthodox”. I think Orthodoxy has a good framework for making such ascetic decisions, but an explanation of why we should undertake such a difficult fast is lacking. I am willing to undertake this fast myself, but I cannot demand it of anyone else.

st_mary_of_egypt_500So where does that leave me? It leaves me in Bee’s position. I love Jesus, and He has led me very clearly to be here. Day by day, I am quietly wearing away at the prejudice in my personal circle of influence. I live in complete honesty, trying to be loving and gracious, a force of healing in my tradition. As an adult, I can choose to bear the brunt of the pain and questions and be the voice of reason and moderation. I can prevent the kind of mistakes that scarred me so badly from being passed on in my local setting, and hope my writings make a dent in the larger setting. Most of all, I can pray without ceasing.

As I said in my short answer, I did not join Orthodoxy on the basis of how it dealt with gender and sexuality. That it has a good approach to it and that I found a parish that lives it well was a happy surprise. I was drawn to Orthodoxy by its teachings on far more important topics, such as “His dispensation for us: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection from the dead, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand, the second and glorious coming…”

If you can understand the draw of Orthodoxy at all, hopefully that explains why I would marry into this family with the crazy relatives. After all, Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! In the resurrection, we will see each other as God sees us. All of our stupidity, divisions, and prejudice will fall away and we will be joyfully united. Just as the lion lays down with the lamb, I hope to be embracing the most ardent Westboro Baptist.

For those of you not drawn to the historical traditions, for whom the Catholic and Orthodox ways of looking at things are foreign, you may still be in the position that I am. If you count yourself part of the church universal, you too are part of a body that has members doing things you very much disagree with in the name of Jesus. We are all part of the church that made the past 2000 years of mistakes, and I am sure our grandkids will be aghast at something we are doing right now that seems as normal as breathing to us. The only response we can give to this truth is grace: constant, daily grace.

In the meantime, He tells us to pray:  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That includes those who hurt us, those who disagree with us, and those who make us feel unwelcome. It includes the bigots, even while we are trying to heal the wounds they inflict. Each and every one of us needs a full sized dose of God’s mercy.

Comments

  1. Wow. I am deeply humbled and edified. I’m going to chew on this a bit, and perhaps give a more specific comment tomorrow. It will be a slow snow day here in NH and I may have time to think a bit. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, my dear sister.

  2. Thank you, Tokah. I am in a church which was traditionally open, but has been pulled away from that position by current leadership. My friends and I have decided to stay and fight for our church, because it is our community. This issue is a part of the problem, though not all of it. I appreciate the idea of bigotry being like dementia. It gives us a way to look at our position as minority voices asking for change, and being shut down or accused of wanting to go backwards, that may help strengthen us to keep trying.

  3. David Cornwell says:

    Tokah, this an eloquent statement of faith. Thank you so much. And the words you quote from the Holy Synod of Bishops rises far above many other attempts at inclusion that I’ve seen. So much about Protestantism has been divisive from the beginning, and will probably always remain thus. This is our nature, and we seem not to be able to escape it. What you say, and what you believe Orthodoxy to be about is very attractive.

    I too, living in Indiana, will be having a snow day, so will be following the discussion. May it be a very good one.

  4. Tokah, beautifully written, and an excellent apologetic for all of us who are ‘Cathodox’, regardless of the particular life issues that make our Christian walk a challenge. We all have a challenge-or two, or two-thousand, and the church is present to enfold and enlighten us on our journey to become Saints. It is a long, uphill road for every single one of us….

    I appreciate you sharing the church’s view that homosexual tendencies are one temptation amongst many, and that any sin arising from this is no more or less heinous than any OTHER sexual sin that does not involve marital sexual expression, based on sacramental love and open to life. The “shacked-up” couple and the spouse committing adultery are not engaged in any ‘lesser’ sin, by any accounting (in the Catholic and Orthodox faith, for those of you in other expressions of Christianity.)

    If, please God , we can keep this discussion on a level that we would not mind Jesus or our Granny reading outloud, I have some heartfelt questions to ask later in the day, if this remains a safe place and the strident warriors from both sides of the discussion behave (or remain absent!)

  5. A sane and beautiful expression of life within the Body of Christ for everyone, Tokah. Thank you for your depth of understanding and peaceful spirit.

  6. “Bigotry is like dementia.” I am familiar with both diseases. Your story of Bee is a light-bulb explanation of both. Thank you.

  7. Thank you, so much, for this reasoned and humble explanation of where you are, why you went there, and what it means to be not straight in the Orthodox world. I’ve been in the Episcopal church, leaning toward the Catholic and/or Orthodox end of things, for many years. I wonder what’s going on over on the other side of those fences, and whether, perhaps, they have better insight into what it means to be lay, celibate, and not straight, in the world as we know it today. So few people address these things dispassionately, so thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  8. Hi Tokah~ Your post inspired me to do a quickie self-education online to see if Orthodox had nuns. Yes, they do, as I’m sure you know. I found monasteries for men and for women in Michigan in places I had never heard of before and thruout America. Not for me as the discipline would drive me crazy, but it has always interested me. Also driving me crazy would be the lack of solitude, tho this varies. Thomas Merton had to beg special permission to be allowed to live separately. At this point in my life the celibacy would be mostly irrelevant, but not so fifty years ago.

    Not suggesting this as the a final solution to sweep troublesome folks under the rug, but curious whether you have ever considered the possibility for yourself.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi CHARLES,
      many monasteries offer sanctuary to visitors for a while, sheltering them, feeding them, and allowing the visitors to join the monks in the sanctuary for prayers, and just allowing visitors time for rest and reflection. The monks are available to ‘listen’ to visitors, and to offer prayers for their needs. I’m sure there are many in the world who would benefit from a time spent at a monastery as an opportunity to heal from wounds, and find strength again in the faith of Christ. Solitude and celibacy are in their ways a kind of sanctuary for a wounded person, for a time of healing, but a person who follows Christ is never truly ‘alone’ . . . and sometimes the only place to learn that IS experiencing a bit of solitude and reflection.

  9. Tokah, I, also, was impressed with the idea that bigotry is like dementia. Thank you.

    I believe that for a lot of Americans, the introduction to homosexuality came in the 1980’s, with the advent of AIDS.
    We learned about bath houses, and quick sex in dark places, and multiple partners. The cameras focused on the flamboyant Queens, and the Mardi Gras celebrations of homosexuality. Conservative people had our noses rubbed in what was for us, a shocking disrespect for morality.
    Images like that were burned into our consciousness. It was, and still can be very hard for some of us to get past those images.
    Now we are given images of homosexual people being in committed relationships, which is a 180 degree shift in public consciousness. Please try to understand how hard it can be for some of us oldies to be able to adjust.

    A former friend who divorced her husband and moved into a relationship with another woman, with whom she has been for 25 years, has come back into my life. They are a funny, loving, generous, and and kind couple, and we have a lot of fun hanging out. I must admit that they are my first contact with a lesbian couple, (imagine that!) and they have done much to open my eyes to the fact that homosexual people are people first.

    Sometimes I think that homosexual people will only be accepted as people first when all us indoctrinated oldies die off!
    Actually, IM has done an awful lot to open my mind to the idea of homosexual people who love the Lord. People like you, Tokah, who sound a lot like somebody I would like to get to know.

    Peace be with you.

    • -> “Actually, IM has done an awful lot to open my mind to the idea of homosexual people who love the Lord. People like you, Tokah, who sound a lot like somebody I would like to get to know.”

      Yes.

      Another big one for me was taking a semi-traditional Christian stance with my sister – who’s had relationships with women in the past – and seeing this huge wall form between us. One day over coffee, I could sense her “seeking” for God and God sorta told me, “Just tell her I want to have a relationship with her.”

      So I did. I let go of the “traditional Christian stance” and simply said, “All I know is God wants to have a relationship with you.

      Boom…the wall between us came down just like that. And let me tell you something, this sister of mine who has non-traditional beliefs…she’s bearing good fruit of the Spirit, fruit against which there is no Law. And I have to admit, she bears better fruit than I do. So the LGBTQUIAEA issue (whatever the letters are these days) has become more of a “Meh” for me. Show me your fruit, brothers and sisters, before you throw stones.

      • David Cornwell says:

        ” non-traditional beliefs…she’s bearing good fruit of the Spirit, fruit against which there is no Law. And I have to admit, she bears better fruit than I do.”

        Rick, I’ve noticed some of the same things in people I know. I also know some very traditional LGT persons seeking a place and a way to express their faith. It’s difficult for many of them to find a church home to call their own.

        • Christiane says:

          TOKAH and PATRICIA,

          when I think about bigotry being like dementia, I know that sometimes people who have emotional and mental problems experience self-loathing and the way they deal with it is to ‘project’ it on to other people and then comdemn those people, all the while appearing as unstained by that which they despise within themselves . . . this ‘projection’ is of course a form of ‘denial’ and is also extremely destructive to those they preach against . . .
          here, I’m thinking of George Rekers and Ted Haggard who presented an appearance of self-righteous condemnation of people who had homosexual tendencies, and then (perhaps mercifully) were exposed and made to abandon the deception and the hypocrisy . . .

          I am wondering for all of us who throw stones at others, how much of our own failings are we directing our rage against unknowingly? And why instead can’t we face our own sins directly?

          TOKAH, I think you are right about this: “In the meantime, He tells us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That includes those who hurt us, those who disagree with us, and those who make us feel unwelcome. It includes the bigots, even while we are trying to heal the wounds they inflict. Each and every one of us needs a full sized dose of God’s mercy.” Thank you for your gracious words that, in their very humility, give us so much to ponder. God Bless.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        So the LGBTQUIAEA issue (whatever the letters are these days)…

        I just call them “The Unpronounceables” and let it go at that.
        Bonus is, “Unpronounceable” is immune to letter change.

        • But isn’t it more fun to try to say Ell-Ggg-Bet-Quiz-tet-ee’s?

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          The letters “MLP:FIM” must be in there somewhere…

        • Its rapidly turning into LGBTLDR…

        • My daughter’s told me of a new acronym, MOGAI, that’s gaining popularity because it’s inclusive without the alphabet soup. It stands for Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex. With that said, the “alphabet soup” represents an attempt to include those who have often been excluded or further marginalized even within what those of us in the straight, cisgender world lump together as a single “community”. Functionally it isn’t necessarily a unified community nor are the issues faced necessarily the same. The one thing they do have in common is being marginalized for their sexuality or non-cis gender alignment. I don’t always get it right, but I try to be respectful and do my best. I will laugh at the jokes those within the community make (if they feel free to make them around them), but I don’t try to make the jokes myself. The latter easily crosses the line into ridicule.

          I may be an old guy who came of age when we mostly just thought of it as the lesbian and gay community, but I like to think I can be sensitive and learn. Of course, my daughter has transgender, gender fluid, asexual, and pansexual friends at her high school. So perhaps I’ve had a certain responsibility to pay attention.

  10. Tokah…I have a poem (almost more of a short story) that touches on some of what you talk about here. I’d love to have you read it for your thoughts. I’m sending Chaplain Mike a copy to forward to you if you’d like to read it. Just contact him for the copy.

  11. Oh, my goodness…I’ve been a Christian for 28 years now, but it wasn’t until I read this line written as a stand-alone that something just dawned on me:

    -> “He tells us to pray: ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ ”

    HE being Jesus. That’s JESUS praying “Forgive us our trespasses…” JESUS, who did not trespass, equating himself with those who DO trespass. JESUS, who was in NO NEED for being forgiven, equating himself with those who DO need to be forgiven.

    I don’t know if I’m just dense, but I guess my mind just got blown as another scale got removed from my eye, another layer of the onion peeled back. His willingness to say, “I’m with you, sinner.” I’m reeling…

    • Jesus, who certainly didn’t need to be baptized, came to be baptized by John just so he could be one with all us crazy people in one big baptismal covenant. How about that…?? Too cool.

      Tokah, thank you so much. I came out of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church into the ELCA years ago because of how they marginalized and wrote off women, gay people, science, literature, and “others” who were different from them. I came out from them, but they didn’t come out from me. My family (most of them, NOT including my gay cousin and nephew, of course) are still LCMS; and I still love them all. But it’s been a challenge. Your loving and perceptive narrative today, and particularly your story of Jay and his family, have given me a whole new lens through which to view the situation, and even new language with which to talk about it.

      Thank you! You are a blessing.

  12. Christiane says:

    I am very grateful for Tokah and Chaplain Mike sharing this with us.

    I agree that those who heap contempt on others are already wounded themselves, and I have often thought of the ‘stone-throwers’ as being blind to their own sins, finding some kind of twisted affirmation of their own self-righteousness in attacking the sins of others;
    but the problem is that their stones once thrown, can destroy their victim. Because of this, I believe the stone-throwers are not under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    The fire of the Holy Spirit does NOT consume.

  13. Dana Ames says:

    Tokah,

    Please email me at ldames at pacific dot net (first letter is an L) at your convenience. Not a heavy question, just Orthodox trivia…

    Dana

  14. Faulty O-Ring says:

    “Almost thou persuadest me to become a Chalcedonian Orthodox…”

    And what if your demented grandmother Em were going around beating people up? Would you keep your mouth shut for the sake of (very disfunctional) family harmony? What if many of your in-laws turned out to be in the klan or the mafia?

    Okay, the usefulness of analogy and metaphor has limits. An institution is not really like a family–a partner would be obliged to care about you personally, whereas to your church you’re just one more member. And Jesus is not really like a spouse–he’s at least half imaginary. You’re free to imagine him being pro-gay, just as the more typical Orthodox are free to imagine the opposite, but the situation is a bit like that of the older Star Trek / Dr. Who / Superman fan who dislikes the direction of the franchise,thinking the character “just wouldn’t do that.”

    The Orthodox like to think that they own Jesus–that they’re the original church, that they have the perfect magic ritual for calling him up, that they are “universal” in a way that the Lutherans aren’t, even though one is the traditional religion of northern Europe and the other of eastern Europe–but all this is just special pleading. First-century Christianity wasn’t really like Orthodoxy, everything we know about it suggests it was very diverse. If anything, Orthodoxy represents the moment when Christianity became co-opted and corrupted by the Roman state (and notice how Orthodox hierarchs cling to imperial symbolism).

    Even if your particular congregation turns out to be a wonderful community, very nurturing and so on, is that really what religion is all about? Is it okay to let the rest of the world go to hell, as long as I am happy? By being Orthodox, you add (slightly, to be sure) to the political strength and social respect of bigots–and worse. Really, what effect does Orthodoxy have on the world today? Pick a country, any country, and think about Orthodox activity there. The Catholics, for all their faults, run some serious charities. The Quakers are involved in all kinds of peacework and social reform movements. As far as I can tell, the effect of Orthodoxy ranges from neutral to very negative. But you tell me.

    • David Cornwell says:

      In other word you detest the Orthodox. I can probably launch a diatribe against almost any denomination in the USA or Europe. Or, if you prefer, against “independent” churches. And I can name a list of denominations that would like you to think they “own Jesus.”

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        Sure, other denominations (not that the Orthodox recognize themselves as a denomination) have their sins / crimes to answer for, but that hardly absolves the Orthodox, who are a regressive if not fascistic social force in perhaps a dozen European countries. Indeed, Orthodoxy may be the only large Christian denominations where anti-Semitism remains mainstream (though not universal). I focus on it because Tokah was here trying to make it Orthodoxy) sound respectable.

        • When I told my parents that we had joined the Orthodox Church (which we left a little over 3 years later), my dad, somewhat surprised, said: “The Orthodox Church was the reason your grandparents left Russia.” 🙂

          (My whole family is Jewish, from Russia on both sides, though their Judaism was/is ethnic and cultural, not religious.)

        • “but that hardly absolves the Orthodox”

          Where in this text is the request that you “absolve” them?

          “who are a regressive if not fascistic social force in perhaps a dozen European countries”

          Even if this is true – is not the author in the United States of America? And thus not in “a dozen European countries”

          As someone who despises Evangelicalism – I can still maintain the distinction between the Evangelical church down the road and the one in Nigeria, or any one of “perhaps a dozen” African nations where homosexuals face brutal, perhaps even lethal, oppression. These are not them, and them are not these.

          “the only large Christian denominations where anti-Semitism remains mainstream ”

          Just over a mile from my house the Jewish temple and the Orthodox church are only a city block from each other. I have not heard of any issues, even during Sunday morning traffic.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing, Tokah. I have to say, in my experience a good bit of this goes back to “Cathadox” soteriology. When one has a perspective on salvation as a process, it changes us. The binary “in group/outgroup” LMX theory of much of evangelical theology (not their practice, the actual theological backbone) is, I believe, counter to this.

  16. Faulty, I believe the Orthodox wing is not as monolithic as you make it out to be. Even within a particular section of the church the local churches have their own way of doing things, and within that local church there is a range of belief and behavior. It’s not that anything goes, it’s that people are different one from another. It is hardly fair to take Tokah to task because her fellow believers are not all like her, or like you for that matter.

    From my perspective the Orthodox Church has maintained the teachings and beliefs concerning spiritual union with God while this was lost in most of the rest of the church except as lip service. In my view this concept of becoming Godlike and One with him is the main point of Jesus’ teachings. This is a mystical teaching and isn’t acquired thru intellectual endeavor or social betterment.

    The concept is slowly reawakening in the Western world and it is very helpful to have two millennia of teaching and counsel available to counter the skepticism and derision it meets here. Contemplative prayer and practices are the main means of growing in spiritual unity, and this not only lifts up the person practicing it spiritually, it lifts the whole world up as well, including you, whether you recognize that or not.

    The Orthodox wing of the church isn’t perfect and doesn’t claim to be. Some of their practices and beliefs are not my cup of tea, but I believe the world would be much the worse without their presence and faithfulness. If Tokah has found a place of healing for all its faults, let us be glad. Let us hope you come to find a place of your own as well, whatever that might be. If that should happen, be warned, it won’t be perfect, maybe not even close. We’re dealing with human beings here.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      To introduce another analogy, we can usefully compare the situation of Orthodoxy with that of Islam. Most Muslims are just ordinary people, and have nothing to do with terrorism or anything–and in fact may strongly oppose it–but as a group, they clearly do have a problem. Now it sometimes happens that an outsider will be attracted to some aspect of Islam (Sufism, let us say) and convert on that basis. Perhaps this is what Tokah has done. Does an individual Muslim share responsibility for Islam as a whole? If not, then what if they join a group with ties to al-Qaeda–would they then share responsibility for al-Qaeda’s crimes? I think so (assuming they knew what kind of group they had joined).

      “Spiritual union with God” is just fancy talk. Anybody can come up with some highfallutin (“mystical”) theology, and then pretend that this just the thing that humanity or Western civilization really needs. And what, pray tell, is the difference between “contemplative” prayer and regular prayer? This too is a rhetorical strategy designed to make certain churches look better than others. I see nothing in Orthodox tradition that deserves to be valorized in this way.

      • FOR…

        -> ““Spiritual union with God” is just fancy talk. Anybody can come up with some highfallutin (“mystical”) theology, and then pretend that this just the thing that humanity or Western civilization really needs.”

        I disagree, but I’ll give you bonus points for using the word “highfallutin”! 😉

      • Who said there is any “difference” between contemplative prayer and regular prayer? Did Tokah? Do the great mystics of the Christian East or West? Simple prayer and mystical prayer are different facets of the same spiritual practice and relationship, as far as I can tell.

      • The great mystics of the Church are renowned for their holiness, not their mystical transports. Mystical prayer is one path that may lead to holiness; it’s not the only path that leads there.

      • “And what, pray tell, is the difference between “contemplative” prayer and regular prayer?”

        One uses words, the other silence. They use different parts of the brain and of the mind, as do speaking and singing, and result in different growth. That you see nothing in the Orthodox tradition of worth is obvious, but that does not make it so. It is easy to find fault in others, not so easy to find it in yourself, and that is where the help of God’s Spirit and others on the same path is most helpful, and sometimes not so easy to find.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          Lots of people pray silently–there’s nothing magical about it. Lots of Orthodox prayer is vocal, and of course there’s a whole body of discourse *about* prayer which is not silent at all.

          Why the sudden interest in my faults? Is this the only way you can rescue Orthodoxy–by comparisoin with me–or are you just trying to distract us from the subject?

          • “Why the sudden interest in my faults?”

            This from a guy who calls himself Faulty. The idea of me rescuing a quarter of a billion people from you is certainly amusing. The subject? I guess it goes back to Tokah’s prayer, “Grant Me to See My Own Transgressions”. And I guess that makes you an answer to prayer.

            Contemplative prayer is praying without thought, word, sound, or image. It is a silence of mind and is difficult to maintain, is meaningless or nonsense to most people in the Western world. It has little or nothing to do with the kind of prayer offered during a gathered moment of silence or private unspoken devotions.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            Your description of “contemplative” prayer would be foreign to most Christian understandings of contemplation, and seems superimposed. Yes, there do exist traditions of silence, but to single these out as the highest / best form of prayer has little warrant even within Orthodoxy (where monologistic prayer is also regularly valorized), let alone other traditions (although it would be true of Quakerism). In any case, there is no such thing as an entirely non-discursive / non-conceptual state of mind, and “silent” prayer in particular comes molded by very discursive / conceptual expectations.

          • “Your description of “contemplative” prayer would be foreign to most Christian understandings of contemplation . . . .”

            Agreed. That is why I said it “is meaningless or nonsense to most people in the Western world.” Which obviously includes you, but not the Orthodox Church going back to the desert fathers and mothers who began the mystical tradition still familiar in that part of the world. Faulty, not even Jesus requires you to practice matters you don’t believe or understand. Make that especially not Jesus. You get a pass, but do watch out for those Quakers.

  17. senecagriggs yahoo says:

    Poet Burns from a previous era –

    O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!
    It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
    An’ foolish notion:
    What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
    An’ ev’n devotion!

  18. Thank you for sharing this Tokah. I’m finding it so hard to not have resentment toward brothers and sisters in Him who I disagree with. Ironically I have the hardest time having compassion for those i PERCEIVE as having no compassion at times. Lord help us please.

  19. According to psychologist Dr. Lisa Diamond, the old/current LETTERS and definitions are questionable. A lesbian and the author of the groundbreaking Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire, her more recent and expansive and statistically-strong data is going to change the conversation. Watch this interesting video lecture of hers from October 2013. The legal and social implications begin at about 39:03.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2rTHDOuUBw

    • Sorry – this was supposed to be a reply to the replies about LGBTQAIA etc.

    • I watched the entire lecture. It was interesting, but I’m not sure I found it particularly revolutionary. Maybe it’s because I’ve kept up with the research to some degree.

      I also want to note that she was dealing with sexual identity and fluidity and primarily focusing on the frequency with which that identity could change and whether or not those with one identity ever had attraction different from their identity. And she focused on more of the Kinsey model, which presupposes sexual attraction, so in that lecture she didn’t really deal with asexuals.

      It also has less impact on the “alphabet soup” than you appear to propose. She was dealing with sexual identity, but a significant part of the letters actually deal with gender identity, not sexual identity. Those two groups don’t actually have a great deal in common. More than anything else, it’s their shared experience of marginalization that forms them into a “community”.

      And that distinction matters because research shows much less fluidity in gender identity. I just recently read a study, for instance, that demonstrated tremendous stability in the gender identity of transgender children over time. Even given non-binary and fluid gender identities, most gender identities are pretty stable.

      Finally, of course, there are intersex individuals with their own unique challenges and issues.

      I will note that while sexuality may be relatively fluid, it’s still not so fluid that the sexual identities lose their meaning or relevance.

      • I’ll have to rewatch it with your comments in mind, as well as get better grounded in the semantics of gender identity vs. sexual identity. I thought there was enough of an overlap that discussing the fluidity of sexual attraction among same-sex-attracted people is still sufficient to raise questions about the legal definitions connected to L, G, B, T, etc.

        • Raises a possible question about whether or not sexual identity is sufficiently immutable as a class to warrant protection under the equal protection clause of the US Constitution. So it was a pretty specific legal question. Even though it was raised in the one brief she mentioned, it appears that the Supreme Court has chosen to answer that question by not directly addressing it at all. So far, anyway.

        • Or SCOTUS ignored it because they didn’t believe it had merit. It’s tricky when non-lawyers discuss Constitutional law at that level. A brief can sound pretty convincing, but have some flaw that’s not immediately obvious to the non-expert reader.

  20. Wow! Good post Tokah! I still have your crutches and would like to get them back to you. Sometime in the next couple of months let me drive down to Richmond and return them. I haven’t forgot and its still on my mind. 🙂