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Monday, May 14, 2012

Rainbow Rights!!

So lately, gay marriage has been a hot topic of debate.  All across America, people have either decided that they are for or against allowing homosexual couples to marry and have the same rights and heterosexual couples.  I mean, I really don't see the big deal about allowing people, who are attracted to the same sex, marry and fully enjoy their love of another human being.

However, there is the religious debate for many.  Many people quote Leviticus as being the reason why men should not have a sexual relationship with other men, and women with other women.  Horseshit!

Okay, so the Bible states, 'man shall not lie with another man as he lies with a woman'.  It is 'an abomination'.  Perhaps that means that men, when lying with men, 'are not lying' as they do with women, as women have different parts.  Catch my drift?  Homosexual sex is very different than heterosexual sex.  Though, if the language is right, and it might not be a direct translation, as the Bible was written in Aramaic, was translated to Hebrew then Latin and other languages.  So, even if it is the correct sentiment in English, who knows if we got God's intention right.

Also, I fathom that many people are bothered by that very thought because they themselves are insecure with their own sexuality.  The famous biologist and zoologist, Alfred Kinsey, who created the field of sexology, came up with a theory on human sexuality that debunks the idea that people are either gay or straight exclusively.  With his research, he formulated the theory that most people are within the grey area of sexuality, not being purely 'gay' or 'straight'.  Yes, the two labels exist, but according to Kinsey, most human beings are attracted to both the opposite and same sex; this means that the majority of people in the world are bisexual.  Okay, so sexuality might be more fluid than we think. 

Kinsey report on homosexuality

Sexual fluidity is especially called into question with those who are so strongly opposed to gay rights and homosexuality, in general.  I say that people often hate and discriminate what they don't understand and what they are afraid of.  Many of the religious and political figureheads who come out against gay marriage and gay rights are gay themselves.  What about all of those politicians caught with male escorts or masturbating in a mens' restroom.  Or, what about those Jerry Falwell or Fred Phelps type religious zealots who say that 'God cures fags through AIDS'.  What's disgusting and immoral are the members of the Westboro Baptist Church who protest military funerals, and were taken to the Supreme Court over such activity.  By the way, the WB Church hates Jews and homosexuals equally; they dislike any group and people who are 'sinners'.  According to them, apparently God hates both Jews, homosexuals, and all Americans who condone homosexual behavior.  I would not be surprised if there were some statistic that 60% of people involved in gay bashing, hate crimes, and extreme homophobia had some questionable tendencies of their own.  Many gay people, themselves, talk about going through a period of self-hatred and denial, where they antagonize and make fun of other gay people, that is before they officially come out themselves. 

Westboro Baptist Church

Going back to religion, I get the whole religious debate, sort of.  Okay, so the Bible talks about homosexuality, supposedly condemning it.  However, the Bible/Torah never outright condemns the attraction itself as immoral.  There is no passing or judgement; only the act ITSELF is listed as profane.  Also, there never is an exclusive prohibition, as in, never is there a clear statement where God says that only heterosexuality is 'natural'.  There is not a very clear outline; one shouldn't eat a kid boiled in its mother's milk.  Does this mean that gay men and women should live a life being heterosexual?

I mean there's the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, where homosexual behavior flourishes.  However, I am to understand from this story, that the people living with Lot and his family were immoral and corrupt in many ways that preclude their sexual preferences.  For those who don't know the story, Lot is told to leave Sodom and Gomorrah because of its corrupt ways, and the fact that it will be destroyed.  This is what angels tell Abraham; Abraham asks God to save his nephew, Lot.  These same angels (appearing as men) visit Lot, and when some men want to supposedly rape these men (who are really angels).  Lot offers his virgin daughters to the men of Sodom, but the refuse.  At seeing this, the angels proceed to let the town get destroyed.  As Lot leaves with his family, they are told not to look back; Lot's wife, however, does and she turns to a pillar of salt.  Interestingly, this reminds me of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  When Orpheus is allowed to go to the underworld to get back his deceased wife, he is told not to look back; he does and Eurydice spends eternity in Hades.  Back to Sodom, though.  Perhaps there just happened to be a lot of gay men/women there because if there are loose morals, then there is more acceptance.  It's possible, just like it's possible that Kinsey was right.

I want to try and discuss the claims about why homosexuality is wrong within a mostly Jewish context (since that's what I know best):

  People condemning homosexuality quote the Bible for Leviticus 18:22 where it says "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination"The Bible goes on to say that this behavior should result in one's death.  Note, however, that there is a lot of condemned behavior where death is prescribed. There are many instances in the Old Testament where a person should be killed or stoned for their actions/behavior.  Religious and Leviticus.

 As religious scholars/students know, the passage from Leviticus is not isolated.  Within Jewish tradition, in the Torah, this passage is read within the parshah (Torah portion) Acharei Mot.  Within context, the whole of this describes many sexual forbidden relationships including those with relatives such as family and people like family, which include parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins. etc.  There is also a prohibition on sexual relations with menstruating women and a neighbor's wife.  Also, as we know one cannot have sexual relations with idol worshippers or animals.  However, the passage from Leviticus is always taken in isolation, and people ONLY pay attention to the prohibition on gay behavior, if that's what it is.  By the way, I really do believe that God loves everyone (at least the God I believe in).  If God hated gay people, then why does homosexuality exist?  To tempt us toward living in hell?  Again, bullshit.  For starters, Jews don't believe in hell, so nice try with the whole argument 'you don't believe in Christ so you're going to hell'.  Also, we don't know what God's true intentions are.  No one does, and I believe in a God who loves and acts with compassion.  In Judaism, this form of God is known as Elohim (the all loving incarnation of God, or Hashem). 

Moving back to Leviticus, if we look in context, the parts before and after the sexual transgressions speak about idol worship and not making figurines to worship.  There are pieces of the Torah which say that one should knock down and destroy all idols and temples of idol worship.  However, Jews don't go around destroying churches, temples, and mosques do they?  Also, it is clear, within Judaism that other religions do make idolatrous images, but we let them be.  Also, as Jewish Torah scholars know, the Torah cannot be taken in pieces.  It has to be weighed against everything within itself.  Everything is important, and I think of it as a beautiful woven tapestry.  The Torah brings up many important ideas and illuminates countless contradictions within itself. 

In fact, a very imporant piece of the Torah states the following:

הריני מקבל (מקבלת) עלי מצות הבורא: ואהבת לרעך כמוך 
I am taking upon myself the command of the Creator to "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Judaism and homosexuality 101

So, yes, religious Jews believe that homosexuality is a to'veh (a forbidden act).  However, the act is separated from the idea.  The actual act is called a mishkav zakhar (ie. male-to-male anal sex) There is no prohibition against the actual attraction of men to other men and women toward women.  So many rabbis would say that gay men and women are fine as long as they live a life of celibacy.  I don't buy this either.  The link, for me, about this passage is the idea of family.

Perhaps the thought is that Jews have been through many times where we were almost decimated beyond repair.  So, maybe many rabbis are scared that allowing homosexuality would deflower the Jewish people in the sense that they could be led astray in the same way that the Torah describes the situation both with Lot and Pinchas.  However, within modern times, there are many immoral and abhorrent things going on in the world.  Homosexuality is NOT one of those.

Obviously, the common thought about the Leviticus portion and the prohibition in general (for many Jews and non-Jews) is that homosexual behavior transgresses one of the most vital pieces of Jewish (and non-Jewish) culture/religious practice, having children.  The idea of family, and for Jews to be numerous 'like the stars in the sky' and 'the sands of the ocean' goes back to Abraham and God's promise to him.  God says that he will make Abraham's people numerous, too numerous to count.  Also, a big mitzvah (good deed) within Judaism is to procreate, have children.  However, can't gay couples have children?  Is that a sin?

I urge everyone to see the movie Trembling Before G-d which speaks about Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality.  Yes, there are Orthodox Jews who are also homosexuals (both openly and closeted).
Look, I am not condemning religion at all.  I believe very strongly in religion and my own, as a principal.  However, the commandment 'to love your  neighbor as yourself' trumps many other things in the Torah for me, personally.  I treat everyone with respect and dignity.  I believe in the rights for every single human being.  I don't buy into the whole God hates gays argument at all.  God created all of us, and we're as different as can be.  The most important thing in life is to be an upright person, and stand tall for those who cannot speak for themselves.  It is important to be moral and promote as much positivity as possible.

I'm not saying that every other commandment in the Torah/Bible is stupid.  I try, as much as I can, to be 'a good Jew' by: going to synagogue on Saturdays, eating matzoh/in a sukkah, lighting candles on Hannukah and Shabbat, laying teffilin, and observing the rites and rituals for festivals/holidays.  I am not perfect; no one is.  However, I will not condemn other human beings solely because one passage in the Bible might lead to that conclusion.  The Bible proscribes many things that we should not be doing.  However, many of these have gone out of practice or fashion.  Take, for instance, what I say above about wiping out idol worshippers and destroying their temples. 

The Torah and its commentary continue to be in dialogue about a great many things.  Many scholars believe that homosexuality is not outright condemned, rather that when people worshipped idols, they also engaged in orgiastic behavior.  This is clearly condemned.  The Israelites are not supposed to cohabit with or become prostitutes.  Note: This happened with the story of Balak and Ballam, where the latter, a wizard, was sent to curse the Jews and failed.  So, the former sent idolatrous, loose women to tempt the Israelite men.  This story ends with the passage where Pinchas stabs an Israelite male and non-Israelite female to save the Jews.  Look up the Torah portions, Balak and Pinchas for the full story. 

In conclusion, I stand tall for gay rights, as I have many gay and lesbian friends and I tolerate respect and rights for all people.  No one chooses to be gay, as I imagine that people would never choose to be a minority (if there were ever a choice).  The pray the gay away campaigns (a la Michelle 'bat shit crazy' Bachmann and her husband) are bullshit too.  Again, if someone had a choice to be gay or not, many would probably choose to be heterosexual in the sense that they would love to be viewed as 'normal'.  However, it is not them who have to change.  The non-gay and non-accepting world has to change.  We need to see homosexuals not as pariahs but as people.

There is too much shit going on in the world today not to be more tolerant and loving to everyone else, our fellow humans.  If the world will prevail and continue on as the society we know, then we HAVE to turn this around, people.  Love they neighbor indeed!

I will leave you with a FB status from one of my college professors.  I think it was originally a statement made on Dr. Laura.  It is great:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from y'all, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, howeve...r, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

 Feel the rainbow,


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