—by Ryan Ogrodowicz
The rare Greek word παιδοφθορέω, defined by BDAG as “to engage in same-sex activity with a young male, commit sodomy” (BDAG, 750), occurs within the Didache. Absent in the New Testament, this infrequent word is found only in a handful of other ancient texts (Justin Matyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, Taitian’s Address to the Greeks, Clement’s Christ the Educator, and The Epistle of Barnabas). The etymology of this compound word reveals the combination of the words παῖς and φθείρω. The former generally denotes a child before the age of puberty (BDAG, 750), while φθείρω refers to the deterioration of the inner life—ruination and corruption that can be physical and/or spiritual (BDAG, 750/1054). There is no question that for the writer(s) of the Didache, it was an egregious sin “in the way of death” to sexually corrupt a child.
Society still has no problem agreeing with the Didache on this point. Examine the recent treatment of Jerry Sandusky, the ex-Penn State coach convicted on forty-five counts of sexual abuse. The media relentlessly condemned Sandusky for his crimes, showing no mercy to the man whose atrocities destroyed a legacy and rattled the public conscience. The media got it right on this one. Violating young boys is repulsive to a society not yet desensitized to these types of adult-child relationships, and the media brazenly vented this revulsion in their overwhelming disapproval. Such criticism was warranted, and Sandusky is where he should be—locked away from children and hopefully receiving the physical and spiritual help he needs. While we thank the media’s outcry, however, a new question emerges: why is the same media that champions and embraces homosexuality ruthlessly criticizing pederastic crimes?
There is an obvious difference, one being the age gap. Young children can be violated as victims of predatory adults and this differs significantly from the reciprocating same-sex relationships advocated today. But the age gap does not necessarily mean a lack of reciprocity between two agents nor is the physical act any different. We’re quick to note the differences at the expense of similarities. What if a sixteen year-old falls in love with someone thirty years his senior? Strikingly, the same argument for same-sex marriages, that love and commitment should determine the nature of marriage, is not intrinsically confined to an age barrier. If you think the Didache’s warning belongs tucked away in the dusty past of the ancient church, think again. Recently the story broke of an eighteen year-old football player possibly being removed from the team because of his sexual orientation. The shocker, however, is his boyfriend is allegedly sixty-five, a difference of forty-seven years. As boundaries are increasingly pushed, many see the writing on the wall. Without an objective morality anchored in the name of God, it is a matter of time before society slips further down the slope leading to a sexual ethic tantamount to ancient Greece. Let me be bold at the risk of ridicule: the line between homosexuality and pedophilia is thinner than we care to admit. The cure for all of this remains the Word incarnate, Jesus Christ. Let’s pray that his law is sternly preached and heard, that sinners are driven to repentance, and that the baptized believer in Christ remains faithful. Forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus is glorious news. It’s glorious for Sandusky and indeed for all sinners in need of God’s mercies.
In Christ our hope still lies.
The Rev. Ryan Ogrodowicz serves as pastor of Victory in Christ Lutheran Church in Newark, Texas.