So a few days a go I posted a quote from private correspondance by Rich Bledsoe concerning the connection between liturgical worship and homosexuals. His thoughts came in response to some recent posts like this and this.
For what it’s worth, the broader context of his comments actually included the point that the Orthodox Church is finally coming out into the open, coming out of the various cultural ghettos she has tended to hide away in for centuries. And part of coming out into the mainstream of western culture means dealing with all the same sins that all the rest of us have been dealing with already. Part of the “pristine” reputation of EO is bound up in the fact that lots of their churches spoke Russian and Ethiopian and worked (in some measure) to stay separated from mainstream American culture. The point wasn’t to point at EO and laugh, the point was in part to say, “hey, look who decided to show up to the party.” Now you get to fight along side the rest of us Bible believing Christians. So in one sense, you could take the whole comment as a compliment.
But the point I zeroed in on was relative to liturgy, glory, and homosexuality. Now here’s the argument, and I really would like to hear honest feedback. I thought the argument made good sense.
We know from Scripture that the woman is the glory of man. She is his crown. In fact, in the Hebrew this is underlined. The man is called “dirt” because he was taken out of the ground, and then God rips a rib out of his side and “builds” the woman. Literally, God builds a “fire” (Ishshah), and then (and only then) the man is called a “fire” (Ish). In other words, man becomes glorious when he has a woman at his side. He becomes a fire, when the fire-babe becomes his crown. The woman is the glory of the man. We might wonder what it is about a woman that is glorious: Paul points to her hair (1 Cor. 11), Solomon says it’s her wisdom (Proverbs), and elsewhere we gather that she is created to be beautiful physically and make and do beautiful things (like magically making babies inside of her).
Ok, here’s the thing: homosexuality is an attempt to thwart God’s intentions. It’s like trying to reverse gravity, but liars gonna lie. So here we are.
Particularly in the case of male homosexuality, you’ve got one of the guys (or maybe both) trying to make up for the woman’s glory. Like it or not, God made the world like this, and so somebody’s got to try to make this look good. God created the world such that husbands are crowned with a wife, but when you ditch this plan, you’ve got to try to duck tape together something else to make a crown out of. And so men go domestic and delicate and nurturing in various ways. And the tricky thing here is that everybody’s watching and waiting for you to say something specific like men who are into cooking must be gay or men who wear pink sweater vests must be gay or guys who stay home filing their nails, mincing about in curlers, and cooing in alto tones while cooking and cleaning, leaving their wives to climb the corporate ladder in power skirts… yeah, well, actually that is gay.
Of course many people can point to all kinds of exceptional cases. And praise God for the odd cases. Sometimes dad gets sick and mom has to support the family. Some of the most exceptional chefs in the world are men. Thank God. And sometimes good, masculine men run strategic aspects of ministries and industries that are primarily for women. My point isn’t about the exceptions. My point is that we can’t allow the exceptions to become our excuse for laziness. Just because there were three or four good soldiers in Hitler’s army isn’t a good reason to stop saying Nazis were bad guys.
So here’s the deal: God created woman to be the glory of man, his crown and beauty, and when a couple of guys start pretending to have that kind of love, that kind of union, one or both of them have got to try to make up for the lack of real glory in their DNA. So one or both try to be girls in some fashion. They aren’t actually girls, and so there’s a problem. But that doesn’t stop them from trying. Sodomy is the ultimate physical attempt to turn a man into a woman, but just because you wished upon a star doesn’t mean you can unmake God’s Word.
And here’s the liturgical connection: Liturgy is glory. This is because worship is glory. Going back to the tabernacle, God covenanted with Israel to be their God, and this included coming down in glory to rest in and with the people of Israel. Peter Leithart has pointed out that the covenant at Sinai resembles a wedding with Moses acting as the officiant. God is marrying His bride, Israel, and then He gives instructions for building their house together. God is teaching His wife how to become His glory and crown. And so the tabernacle, where worship occurred night and day, was full of gold and bronze and beautiful colors and candles and incense. The priest’s garments were for “glory and beauty,” and were an embodied tabernacle with Israel’s names engraved on the priest’s armor. The temple only increases that glory, and the psalms are full of this recognition:
“Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Ps. 29:2)
“So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.” (Ps. 63:2)
“Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds.” (Ps. 149:5)
Likewise in the New Testament:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Pet. 1:8)
And the entire book of Revelation can be read as a long, heavenly worship service where the glory of God is erupting like an ever expanding volcano dealing justice, bringing salvation, all through the songs and prayers and praises of the Lamb on the throne.
But this worship is not something that men think up for themselves. It’s not a self-evident math problem, a simple plug the numbers in here and watch this worship flow out. It’s not good enough that you’re using the Westminster Directory of Worship or Jeff Meyer’s The Lord’s Service or St. Chrysostom’s Hand-Dandy Book of Praise. In its most fundamental sense, worship is actually joining the eternal communion of the Father, Son, and Spirit. This is why Jesus says that worshippers must worship in Spirit and in Truth. There really is no other kind of true worship. There is only worship that is offered in the name and blood of Jesus (who is the Truth) and by the power and intersession of the Spirit. That’s the only kind of worship the Father receives. Everything else is empty words, goofy gestures, and a lot of hot bother.
So worship and liturgy when empowered by the Holy Spirit and done in truth faith in Jesus, crucified for our sins, raised for our salvation, that kind of worship, that kind of liturgy thoughtfully and prayerfully embodied within the freedom of Scripture is glorious, wonderful, lovely, and awful. But throughout the Bible we see that the sinful heart of man is on a constant search for cheap glory. Man started grasping for glory in the garden and we’re all like our father, Adam. Men want easy glory, cheap glory, all the glory and none of the pain, sweat, blood, or tears. And at it’s core, that’s homosexual. That’s gay.
So, Rich Bledsoe nodded at the Eastern Orthodox and suggested they need to watch out for homos cause they got all the smells and bells. But he didn’t say any other churches don’t have to, just that if you’re self-consciously interested in recovering real, God-given glory, you’re going to attract fakers, posers, and men in skinny jeans and penny loafers.
And all of this is why I have previously likened praying to icons to masturbating while looking at porn. Jamey Bennett (who I don’t know and don’t mean to pick a fight with!) in the comments of the previous post thanks me for backing away from this, but I haven’t. Look, I can kind of, sort of squint and imagine some faithful EO Joe who grew up in the Orthodox Church, whose great-great-great Grandpa was a Bible-thumping, bearded Priest Dude, and this guy loves Jesus, gets the gospel in his heart, and goes along with the normal EO practices. But the Reformed and evangelical blowhards who are currently riding ideological camels to the Bosporus shouldn’t be good news to you. Maybe Joe EO shrugs his shoulders and wants to know what the big idea is. Well, that’s the thing. These guys are in it for self-stimulating ideological orgasm. That’s what. They are men in search of easy glory, cheap respect, and faux honor. They want people to look up to them, praise them, and link to their latest blog entry full of theological profundity. And to their credit, God has placed this longing for glory in the heart of every man. But there’s only one true glory, and that’s through the cross of Jesus. Glory comes through the blood of Christ. That means confessing sins; it means hard, faithful labor vocationally; it means gracious, gentle leadership of a wife and children over the long haul.
But many men latching on to EO and RC in recent years are looking for cheap glory. They find the cheers of the EO and RC priests an easy way to get the respect and adulation they would have to work decades for, remaining where God planted them.
I think the argument holds. If you want glory, you’re gonna get fakers. And Reformed and Evangelical churches are not exempt from this danger. Truth always attracts liars in a strange and ironic twist. And homosexuality is just the bottom of the barrel of embracing hypocrisy. And in that sense, it’s just normal run of the mill sin: sin Jesus died to free us all from.
And any RCs or EOs reading who really love Jesus should be glad to hear a friendly warning like this. But don’t pull a Rachel Evans, emotional, defensive response because, dude, that’s totally gay and your beard’s not burly enough to make up for it.