Sunday, May 25, 2008

The problem with homosexuality (R-rated)

A guest post by Charlie Hall (written about two years ago)

'Facts cannot be wished away by theories, no matter how cherished.' - Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm:

There has been a flurry of blog activity recently regarding homosexuality, triggered in part by the success of Ang Lee's film "Brokeback Mountain" and also by the fact that the Conservative movement is discussing the issue this week. I'd like to take a moment to discuss this issue not from a public policy perspective nor even from a halachic perspective, but to point out from an Orthodox perspective some hashgafic problems that I think have been ignored.

Regarding Rabbi Dr. Lamm's quote above, the hashgafic problem stems from the fact that there are some people who just seem to have been created by HaShem to be sexually attracted only to people of the same sex. Of course, there are many who disagree with that statement, which I'll get to in a moment, but I want to speak first to those of us who consider ourselves open-minded, liberal, and accepting of empiricism.

It is clear that there is a prohibition in the Torah against men having sex with men. Oh, you can come up with some pilpul that might limit it a bit, maybe to anal-genital intercourse, but the fact is, it is there. It has been there for over 3,000 years. There is nothing I can see in the tradition that would limit it much if at all. And it is equally clear from our tradition that Jewish men are supposed to get married and try to have families. It is, according to our tradition, a mitzvah from the Torah. And according to our tradition there is a similar prohibition from the Rabbis against women having sex with women.

This should be a huge hashgafic problem for those who see Judaism as a Way that all should be able to follow. It is a problem for those of us who notice that the biggest Gay bashers tend also to be the biggest anti-Semites. It is a problem for those of us who notice that Hitler was just as adamant to exterminate homosexuals as to exterminate Jews. It is a problem for those of us who see Torah as having no conflict with modern society and modern liberal sensibilities -- and can cite compelling sources in favor of our position. This just doesn't fit.

And maybe that is the point. I am one of those folks whose politics shifted quite a bit to the left as I became observant and discovered the Torah's ethical teachings. I strongly believe that it is the Jews who support laissez-faire capitalism who ought to be troubled by the Torah -- it just isn't a Torah value. But this is the one for us liberals. It isn't easy. It is a challenge. And it has no easy resolution.

This is not a justification for bigotry, discrimination, or even exclusion of anyone from the Jewish community. Yeshiva University doesn't even discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation: But those few of us Orthodox liberals left do understand that this is not easy for us. Torah is indeed supposed to be a challenge and this is the big one for me -- not Shabat, not kashrut, not taharat hamispacha, not believing in God and in miracles.

Now, to the folks who deny the problem: It isn't going away. Homosexuality is as real as evolution, and it isn't going away. Those of us who assume that it is all a matter of choice are in denial about both the facts and this problem. And that there are so many who choose to stay in denial represents to me a discouraging sign for a religion. Denial makes this problem easy. It is *their* fault.

That's not Torah. It isn't supposed to be easy. If we don't get our ideas challenged, what is the point? Making it look like things are always clearcut and that it is easy to always be on the right side of things actually misrepresents Torah. If it were truly so easy there would be no point, no stimulus for growth.

Any feedback is appreciated.

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