Disclaimer: These are my thoughts. I have no intention of influencing anyone else’s thoughts, feelings, or religious ideology. I just have a lot of feelings.
Something a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’m a fairly observant Jew. I tune out of technology on the Sabbath, I don’t drive, I go to services at a synagogue, I discuss religious texts over Shabbat lunch in between conversations about social justice and last week’s Mad Men. It’s an important part of my life and my spirituality and the crazy thing is – ZOMG – none of it is affected by the existence of homosexuality. I mean, to the point where I have friends who are gay (!?!). And yet somehow, I am able to persevere and stay strong, maybe because someone else’s life choices don’t affect my own spiritual ones. Possibly. It could actually happen.
This isn’t the Crusades, y’all, put down the swords and let’s all just have some cookies. I understand that for Judeo-Christian religions, homosexuality is not something that’s been given a stamp of approval, unlike having only one wife and marrying her with just a ring and no exchange of mules or sheep, or no longer keeping slaves to legally rape. I get that homosexuality is considered an “abomination,” even if that’s an exaggerated translation of the original Hebrew. And not to nitpick or anything, but the Bible doesn’t really tell you what to do about The Gays, it just states its opinion. There are two kinds of issues in the Ten Commandments and in the rest of the book – issues between man and God (nacho business), and between man and man (let’s build a society!). Homosexuality is the former. So, just going with logical conclusions here, if you’re going to get all judgmental on someone for their sexuality, you’re taking up God’s role, which I’m pretty sure is problematic.
It’s important to me to hold space in my life for my traditions. It’s important for me to pursue spirituality and God, just as it’s important for me to keep that in my own personal space. It’s important having a space to discuss spirituality, for building and sustaining community. As an Eastern European Jew, being able to pursue tradition holds a lot of significance because it’s kind of amazing that I even exist, considering what happened in my family just a couple generations back. I enjoy being able to debate religious text, learn about it and use it as a springboard for philosophical and ethical debate. Religion is not something that makes me feel superior to others, nor is it a tool with which I can control the world around me. In fact, I don’t feel compelled to control the world around me at all, which makes it much easier to exist in it.
There’s a great scene in the movie ‘Saved!’ that I’m often reminded of, because of the moment when Jena Malone’s character picks up a Bible thrown at her and says “this is not a weapon.” It sums up so much, and reminds me that Jewish or Christian, we’re both using the same book, except some versions have extra chapters.
– this is where I would embed the YouTube clip, but embedding is disabled so I’m just going to link to it **HERE**–
And so, as someone with a strong rooting in religious life and monotheistic Western ideology, I would just like to say: go do you. Love who you love, marry who you want to marry, because why on earth should my opinion on it even be relevant? Who am I to assume that my personal beliefs have any relevance to you and your life? They have none. Nor should they. The above statement is condescending in its assumption that you might even need my, or anyone else’s approval to be who you are. Not being able to marry who you want to in a religious setting is specific to that faith and its values, and that’s personal business on a communal level. Denying anyone the rights of other citizens based on religious ideology is just absurd to me, and of no threat to communities of faith, only to civil liberties.
Of course, when President Obama spoke last week about his views on same-sex marriage, religious leaders were not pleased. Fun fact: separation of church and state means no religious institution has to marry anyone against their will, and in exchange, civil rights legislation gets to stay secular. Does it bother anyone else that this is a one-sided coin? Because if the government did to religion what religion is doing to the government, there would be hell to pay (lolz puns).
This is a complex issue and a complex debate. If you believe that religion and homosexuality are not compatible, then please don’t rail off in the comments section because we’ve heard your opinion already. So much my ears are bleeding. I have the talking stick right now. I want to speak on behalf of those of us who see religion as a space for community, love, and support, and don’t believe that Judeo-Christian practices promote hate or intolerance. Our ideas are valid, informed, and personally, I am infinitely frustrated by how much they get drowned out by the loud homophobic rants of haters. I’m tired of people looking at me differently when they find out religion has a space in my life, as if it means that I spend my weekends shredding rainbow flags to make Molotov cocktails with them outside the local Planned Parenthood. Angry homophobes, please stop making the rest of us look bad.
There was a great post yesterday on Lillith’s blog about figuring out how to reconcile being religious and alienated by religious leadership, which touched on a lot of thoughts I was already having. When a community alienates members for their sexuality, they also alienate members who went to services for the wisdom, not for the bigotry. In the scope of the religious text, homosexuality is fairly low on the list of things to be concerned about. It’s not an issue given weight by God, but by man’s fear and discomfort with it. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that “thou shall hate thy fellow man” (except where it says to wipe out the people of Amalek unconditionally, but come on, they started it). The most emphasized idea (with 11 repeats in the Old Testament) is to “welcome the stranger in your land, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” That’s a pretty overt theme, and I can’t find any other way to read it than as encouragement to open my door to others, be it my home’s or my religious institution’s.
If I could sum this up as eloquently as James M. Kauffman did in his letter to Dr. Laura Schlesinger, I would. Instead, I’ll just leave you with this picture of it that I pulled off Facebook, and the West Wing monologue it inspired (because if the West Wing were a religion, I’d be chief Rabba).
Featured image ⓒ Fox Broadcasting Company