Girl Talk Religion & Homosexiness – I Have a Lot of Feelings Julia Gazdag

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

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  1. People also argue against homosexuality by saying it is a biological abomination. That since they cannot reproduce, the relationship is against nature. Well, I guess that applies to infertile heterosexuals as well as couples who choose not to have children.

  2. Thank you as a Christian I feel the exact same way.! Wonderful article :-)

  3. This is so great to see! I live in North Carolina, so I’m sure you can imagine the environment right now. There seems to be a pretty clear division, and both sides of the argument are what you would expect religion-wise. It’s so difficult to tell people, yes, I am a Christian, but no, I do not believe that people who are not like me are going to hell. It’s also so difficult to tell my super-Christian friends relatives that, while their faith is beautiful, it should not be the basis for this argument. I really love your comment about the issue of homosexuality being between man and God. I’ve tried pointing out that the New Testament says that we should give unto God what is God’s and unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but it’s amazing how easy it is to pick and choose which verses are relevant depending on which side of the argument you’re on.

    This is just great and feelings and bah. <3

  4. Ahhh, Julia, I love you! For this article, which is so well written, and I completely agree. I, too, have many feelings about this topic. I also love you because you hail from Budapest, because my father’s family is Hungarian (my maiden name is Csakany). I hope to go someday!

  5. Thank you for this piece.

  6. Beautifully written and so very true. I plan on spreading this like wildfire. I love your style, voice and everyone needs to hear you!

  7. As a spiritual individual, I definitely don’t believe in walking about judging people and condemning them for their lifestyle choices, because I believe God gives freewill, and it’s not my place to judge, but people who go around saying, “There should be no religion! We should just accept everyone as they are. You should keep your beliefs/faith completely private and never speak or express them publicily…”, etc, are expressing their BELIEF and trying to COVERT everyone to it, which is really no different than someone of a religion who might try to covert people to their beliefs, for what they also feel is for the better. People who are atheists, BELIEVE and have FAITH there is no God, just as people who believe there is God, have faith that He exists. Basically, there s no such thing as being a “non-believer”, or having no “faith”, even though what you believe it may differ greatly. I don’t know, I’m not the best at articulating this, it’s a bit of complex subject and like the title of this article expresses, I have a lot of feelings about it.

    • Perhaps the largest qietsuon is whether gays are made that way, and have any choice in their sexual behavior. Admittedly, our culture tells them to follow their feelings, and hypes any indication of any possible genetic source for the behavior.Trying to figure out if it is a learned behavior or a genetic “defect” pre-assumes that there is something wrong with them, rather than that they are living as God made them. It’s an effective means for those who wish to not accept their fellow man as God made them to neatly avoid doing so— “Sorry, we’re just trying to find out if you’re sick first”.There are also claims, both secular and religious, about people who have altered their sexual preference with outside help. There is no such thing. You can shame someone into suppressing an urge, but you cannot change who or what they are genuinely attracted to. I’m a heterosexual male; There is nothing anyone could say or do that would change my mind about that. Assuming that gay people can be “changed” preassumes that their love is a lesser one than mine, and I think that’s a dangeous road for Christians to travel.Simply put, I suspect the “hate/resist” and the “love/accept” dichotomy is a false dichotomy. No, it’s not. You either believe in accepting your fellow human beings as God made them, or you do not. Jesus was pretty clear on what side of that particular fence he came down on. I notice that the abortion part has been left alone, too….what are your thoughts on that? I believe in a woman’s right to choose. Until there is something inside her that can breathe on its own if exposed to the outside world, then the choice is about her body and what she wishes to do with it. Once that mass inside of her is actually viable as a human being, I believe in protecting it.So I believe in a woman’s right to choose. That does put me at odds with my own church— I’m Catholic too. But what I’ve found is that the Vatican is increasingly out of touch with the wishes of its parishioners on this and many other matters.

      Anonymous | 6/12/2012 04:06 am
    • P.S. Sorry, I forgot to add at the end, that this was a wonderfully-put, thought-provoking article and quite refreshing take on this whole issue.

  8. I love this post, and I love this sentence:

    “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.”

  9. You, My Dear, are a beautiful soul.
    This is one of the most wonderful things I’ve read about the whole issue.
    Thank you thank you thank you.

  10. Meghan, it’s not your business, no matter how badly you want to preach to your friend. Because preaching is exactly what you are doing when you”introduce them to God’s love and hopefully save their souls.’ It’s between God and the person. When you place yourself in the position to enlighten your friend about God, this is condescension. If you feel you must do something, then pray.

  11. I recently watched a fantastic documentary called “For the Bible Tells Me So” about how the Bible is taken out of context when people say that it says homosexuality is wrong. It profiles the first openly homosexual Episcopalian Bishop as well as some other people. It was really good.

    • For the Bible Tells Me So is an incredible documentary. I grew up believing that homosexuality was a sin, but once I got out of that church I quickly realized otherwise. The church I attended was much like the ones featured.

  12. If you agree, as a Jew, with what the Bible has to say about homosexuality… do you feel burdened at all to get through to people to show that what they are doing is a sin? Not to condemn or belittle them, but to introduce them to God’s love and hopefully save their souls?

    I agree that we shouldn’t rant on and on about hate and blah blah blah. The Westboro Baptist people should be shot. But where does tolerance end and a recognition of eternity begin? I mean, sure you’re lifestyle is YOUR lifestyle… but if what the Bible says is true… and there is a heaven for God’s people… then if I LOVE you, I am going to want you to end a life of sin? Even if saying so makes you unhappy with me… ya know?

    • I agree with the interpretation of the Old Testament wherein homosexuality is not something we get to judge our fellow people for. I agree with the interpretation wherein not making sure there are no bugs on your lettuce, ie. eating insects, is a greater sin than homosexuality. I agree with the Jewish cultural choice not to proselytize, and leaving each person to their own relationship with God, whatever that means for their soul, because that is between them and God alone. I believe in the Old Testament’s teaching that we are not to shame others, especially in public. I also believe that what I have is faith in this text and its ideas, not irrevocable knowledge — and that like all people, I too am fallible. Just because I don’t hate people, that doesn’t mean I have to love them, especially strangers I’ve never met, but I do believe in coexisting with them in a positive way. And that, I believe, is what the Torah’s message is.
      The Bible says things very simply, and most of what various religions and denominations of those religions have taken from it are interpretations. At its core, it’s like Shakespeare – there are no stage directions. If you’re going to figure out what they are, do it to create something beautiful and inspiring.

    • Any God who would condemn me for putting love into the world and caring for another human being – regardless of sex – is not a God I want anything to do with. Interpret scripture all you’d like, but the fact remains: if God is love, that’s ALL love, not just the love you or any other man or woman (who is indeed fallible) have decided is correct.

  13. It is so absolutely necessary for people to hear the voices of religious people who are accepting of homosexuality. Int he same way that there is a lot of ignorance about homosexuality, there is also a lot of ignorance about religion.

  14. Thank you for saying what so many of us are feeling. Not all of us who consider ourselves religious feel the need to judge or condemn others. I feel very strongly that this is a government issue, and that religion has no place in it.

    Anonymous | 5/15/2012 11:05 am
  15. Very well written! It’s wonderful to hear about people who have religion that are accepting, mostly you see people like the Westboro Church in the news. A terrible representation! I prefer yours much more. And you also had me laughing a couple times in this piece; love it.

    • “Jesus would have homosexuality or abritoon as his top priority.”After all, they could have interpreted that as raising awareness about the need for acceptance of such things…I think Jesus wouldn’t accept the limiting set of choices offered to him by CNN’s pollsters. I think He would talk, as always, about His Kingdom, which is not of this world.Of course, Jesus might also echo the prophet whose work he claimed to fulfill–Moses had some pretty harsh things to say about homosexual behavior. He could also update some of his teachings to give us a better understanding of how to apply His Word (living and active, sharper than any sword, etc.) to modern dilemmas like abritoon, contraception, etc.Right now, we have the wisdom of spiritual leaders, not the direct Word of the Lord, on those things. The leaders may be wrong, in part or in full. We don’t know, and our recourse is usually to either the Spirit of the Age or the Spirit of God. I know which I trust; I also know that I am an imperfect listener on that front.I, myself, have a hard time associating preaching about homosexual behavior with hate. It can come with or without hate; just as sermons about murder, theft, rape, adultery, fornication, lying, and pride can come with or without hate.Perhaps you’re being judgemental to automatically diagnose hate.

      Anonymous | 6/12/2012 07:06 pm
  16. to post a comment

    • My bad on the above “to post a comment” post. What I WANTED to say is that I am a practicing Mormon who feels exactly the same way you do. The doctrine of my religion teaches me to “love one another” and to “judge not.” Unfortunately, sometimes the culture of my religion has a tough time catching up with its doctrine, and I often have to answer for that when people learn that I am Mormon. But the culture will catch up one day. And that day will come sooner if more religious people like you and me and the other commenters keep speaking up.

  17. I am not jewish but agree with your sentiment 100%. We were not put here to judge. Period. We are not supposed to judge by religion, skin color, gender, etc….what makes sexual orientation any different. What busniess is it of anyone else? Does it make them any less of a person. NO! In fact, in most cases, they are better people than most…they do not judge!

  18. Thank you.

  19. I was just having this conversation with some people who found out I am a practicing Catholic and automatically assumed I was homophobic. You expressed my thoughts exactly! I always struggle with “the bible says it’s wrong” that i get from my parents and “that which is hateful to you do not do unto your fellow” that I feel in my heart.

  20. I love this article so much! I’m a Catholic and live in Mexico, and if I speak about my religion (not in a ‘I want to convert you’ kind of way) I get a lot of heat because of other catholics going off and saying demeaning things about gay people. I have nothing against homosexuality and I believe in accepting people no mattherwhat their sexual preferences are. Not ALL Catholics hate gays and lesbians, and even more of a shocker for some, not even all priests. I personally know a few priests who are against discrimination and actually reach out to gay people and let them know that no matter what others might say, God loves us all equally.