Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Spiritual Self-Destruction, Gay Pride & Identity

We were sitting outside of a coffee shop. My friend was angry with me. I was pleading with him. "Don't you understand the need for compassion?" I questioned, filled with righteous fervor. "These are people who are truly struggling and who need a voice, an outlet for expression. They need others to understand who they are. Too many people are homophobic, hating homosexuality and homosexuals rather than simply acknowledging that it is a Torah prohibition. There's a line between those two points of view. These are people in pain."

"They can be in pain," my friend replied, "and there are many Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbanim who will be happy to speak to them about their pain. I just don't understand why it has to be made public. What's wrong with the don't-ask-don't-tell policy? This is a private matter. Why not speak to someone who can help them handle their emotions privately?"

"For one thing," I replied, "that doesn't help the student body. The student body as a whole has to realize that this is a real issue which friends of theirs are struggling with. They need to be more careful about who they judge and how they judge them. They have to understand that a Torah prohibition is a Torah prohibition, but it doesn't mean that anyone with homosexual feelings should be viewed through a lens of disgust."

"It's breaking a barrier," he warned. "To make this issue public is to be poretz the geder. Soon, not only will the issue be about Jews with homosexual feelings needing compassion, but it will be about larger matters. Gay pride, for instance. It's not going to stay contained."

Back then, I couldn't see eye to eye with my friend. Unfortunately, today I think I can.

There's a difference between understanding and support. To understand the dilemma of a person who is Orthodox who finds himself attracted to members of the same gender when the Torah states clearly that a man may not lie with a man as he does with a woman is important. It is necessary in order to understand the difficulty and pain that lies on this person's path, to treat them gently and with respect.

That does not suddenly mean that their every choice is okay. That to understand them is to support their conception of gay identity or gay pride. That their mentioning which men they find attractive in casual conversation is ideal. That their attendance at He'bro events is acceptable.

The concept of sin is a complicated one. Sin, as explained in various commentaries, is that which draws us away from God and closer to spiritual darkness. It is a form of spiritual cancer, eating away at the soul. To long to commit sins is part of human nature; after all, the heart of a man longs for evil from his youth. But that's not something to be proud of.

Someone who is struggling with being gay while also being Orthodox is similar, at least from the religious perspective, to someone struggling with other self-destructive tendencies. Obviously, a man being sexually attracted to another man is not obviously self-destructive in the way that anorexia, cutting or alcohol addiction may be. Those are all destructive patterns that affect the physical body, and thus are easier to spot. Yet from a religious point of view, to act upon one's gay feelings and really, to commit any sin- is to act in a self-destructive manner as you distance yourself from God.

People who struggle with a difficulty like this need support groups, which is why AA exists, anorexics are treated with a full team of specialized doctors and cutters have groups like S.A.F.E Alternatives. So it makes sense to organize support groups, speakers and forums. But that's very different from pride. Gay pride makes as much sense as anorexic pride, alcoholic pride or self-injuring pride if you really believe that to act on one's gay feelings is a sin. Gay identity is also odd from this perspective. Firstly, it seems shallow- is that really all that can be said about you- that your sexual orientation is gay? But worse, at least from a religious perspective, you're defining yourself by a potential sin you want to commit. It would make as much sense as my declaring that my identity is as a person who has the desire to touch my husband even when that is forbidden due to my status as a niddah. Why define myself by the sins I may long to commit?

What this means is one of three things. Either those who have feelings for those of the same gender and choose to "celebrate their gay identity" and support gay pride

a) don't really believe that to act on one's gay feelings is a sin which distances them from God, a spiritually self-destructive behavior

b) think that a feeling is different from an action and they can take pride in their desire to commit a sin as long as they don't commit the actual sin

c) simply haven't thought the matter through.

I support the struggle of those who are gay and who simultaneously wish to remain Orthodox Jews. I think it makes sense that they may wish to be acknowledged openly and allowed to speak at open forums, to meet others who are similarly struggling. I don't support the casual or cavalier attitude that may potentially follow, however. I don't think it's appropriate to consistently identify oneself as a potential sinner or cheer that process on. I wouldn't support that for any individual- I don't think it would be good or healthy for people to introduce themselves as 'Rena who wants to break the harchakos' or 'Talia who wants to eat treif' or 'Dina who wants to marry a non-Jew.' I don't think one's defining identity should appear within the context of potential sin. And I don't think it should be assumed that unless one supports this identity and pride in a feeling that leads to a spiritually self-destructive behavior, one is a sexist homophobic bigot.

46 comments:

Jewish Atheist said...

Wow you've really turned into a good little Inner Party Member, haven't you? I honestly didn't think you'd turn out this way.

Do you have any non-dogmatic reasons, at all, to believe that homosexuality is self-destructive? Open your eyes and look. There's what your eyes see, and there's what the book tells you. Your eyes, the book. Wake up and realize which one is a bunch of nonsense.

EJB said...

Atheist - You must be in Chana's category c.

1. The purpose of Chana's blog is not to debate Judaism vs. apikorsus. If you wish to waste time with purposeless polemics, I can direct you to several blogs/message boards where you may do so.
2. Here's a basic rhetoric lesson for you: know your audience. You're telling Chana (and indirectly, the predominantly orthodox readers of her blog) to completely disregard what the Torah tells us. Learn your audience.

From the mere fact that I open my eyes every morning I see that there is a God, who declared homosexuality to be a 'toeivah.'

The Shipper said...

JA,

You are correct in that spiritual self-destruction is not always apparent to the eye. Judaism's acceptance of God and the Torah creates this category for us.

You believe that one must physically experience something to believe in it, and one cannot trust anyone else. A believer, however, can also look at 'the book' and at tradition to form his/her belief.

It's sad that you have a need to put down Chana, and can't respect her for her beliefs the way she accepts you. Why is that? Why is it necessary for you to resort to name calling?

Shades of Grey said...

As usual, Jewish Atheist's remarks are patently not on topic and add nothing to the conversation. I totally agree with EJB and The Shipper.

Regarding the post itself - I think Chana as very eloquently portrayed a rational, though sympathetic Orthodox perspective. I don't think I've ever read anything so well written on this hot-button topic.

Bravo, and thanks for sharing!

Sisterbear said...

So, is gay Nature or Nurture?
By nature I want a ham 'n cheese on toasted club with lite mayo, lettuce and tomato.
By nurture I know that The Lord requested that I don't.
Am I shamed by the fact that I really crave that sandwich?
No.
Even though eating pork is a to'ayvah, in the same category as gay sex.
There's something about being gay which is somehow more condemnable than other issues.
Maybe it's just the fact that it goes against the natural need for a species to procreate.

Jewish Atheist said...

Was my long comment deleted??

Chana said...

JA,

It's not my policy to delete comments unless they are ridiculously offensive. I did not delete your comment. Probably the Internet ate it.

Jewish Atheist said...

Rats. I basically explained why I thought this issue was so important and that addressing the belief in the Divine origin of the Torah is the best way to address it, since that's the source of your belief. I also explained the meaning of my "Inner Party Member" shot (1984 reference, obv.) and why I felt it was appropriate. I then offered a defense for the idea that the conflict between what the Torah says and what we can see with our own eyes about homosexual people and the relationships they have itself serves as a reductio ad absurdum on the Divine origin claim.

I'll just add that homosexuality isn't just about an urge to have gay sex, just like heterosexuality isn't just an urge to have straight sex. It's an orientation that affects who you love.

It was a pretty good comment. :-) I'm sorry it was lost.

Chana said...

JA,

I think it's nice it got eaten, because it gave you an opportunity to be friendly towards me. Which is nice.

Jewish Atheist said...

Chana,

I'm almost always friendly. :-) I genuinely like you, as far as anyone can without having met in real life, but this post was just so... I want to say disappointing without coming off as condescending, but that's pretty hard to do. It is the truth though. With your intelligence and compassionate spirit, I thought you'd end up more along the Orthoprax or at least super-Modern Orthodox side of things rather than parroting or, worse, rationalizing this anti-gay rhetoric.

I just get mad when people spread this nonsense about homosexuality being self-destructive. That lie (and the idea that God Himself The Great Creator of the Universe and the Arbiter of all that is Good considers gay sex an abomination) has caused way too many suicides, ruined lives and families, and just miserable childhoods.

I don't see how you can reconcile a God who literally wrote that men who lie with men should be stoned to death and a God who is good and worth obeying. It's the epitome of a reductio ad absurdum. Either God is good or God wrote that pasuk (or neither) but not both.

This is homophobia. You don't like to think so because homophobia is bad and you don't think of yourself as bad, and in fact you aren't bad, but everybody rationalizes their prejudices to themselves. This is what it looks like from the inside. Racists think that they have good reasons too.

theonlywayiknow said...

jewish athiest

my eyes

EJB said...

Atheist,
"I don't see how you can reconcile a God who literally wrote that men who lie with men should be stoned to death and a God who is good and worth obeying."

I believe that God defined what is moral and what is immoral because He created the concept of morality. If He would theoretically say that bathing in the blood of children you mercilessly murdered in the bathtub for fun was moral, then that would be considered moral.

Society's definition of morality has changed over the ages. Biblical morality has not. Why do you think your perception of morality is more accurate than ours?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you can also not reconcile why a man is stoned for desecrating the shabbos. He has harmed no one. Or if he bows down to an idol. I can go through all the mitvot which are not between man and man and ask the same question. How can you reconcile a God who 'kills' people for 'nothing'.
Perhaps the answer is on these lines. It says by the golden calf that they didnt stop at idol worship but did all the other major sins as well. It is possible that part of the reason we have a Torah with so many mitvot which are not between man and man, is because these other mitsvot are to 'refine' you in such a way that you should not come to do aveiros bein odom lachaveiro.
The difference between balaam and abraham is mentioned about their 'middos'. This proves what 'middos' which are basically between man and man are without the Torah.

Primum Non Nocere said...

Kudos for a well written and on-target post.

PNN: The DOG Score

Jewish Atheist said...

Why do you think your perception of morality is more accurate than ours?

Because if I thought God wanted me to murder babies (or my first-born, etc.) or to stone gay people, I would say no.

Your perception of morality, on the other hand, is both monstrous and based on some obvious falsehoods.


Perhaps you can also not reconcile why a man is stoned for desecrating the shabbos... How can you reconcile a God who 'kills' people for 'nothing'.

I can't and I don't. I see old-school Torah morality (before the rabbis defanged it) exactly the way I see Muslim extremists. Why do you think it's different? Don't they believe they're following God's orders too?

Charlie Hall said...

I see two problems:

(1) Celibacy is NOT an option for a Jewish male according to halachah, and to suggest that a gay man should marry a heterosexual woman is actively promoting a disaster.

(2) There currently is NOTHING that we know of that can change sexual orientation. Anyone who says otherwise is promoting junk science.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

1) So do you suggest frum homosexuals attend gay pride parades (or gay shabbatons) instead?

2) I can personally introduce you to people who have changed their attractions. You can argue that they weren't "very gay" or whatever, but who are you to degrade their tremendous triumphs to junk science?

- Me

EJB said...

Because if I thought God wanted me to murder babies (or my first-born, etc.) or to stone gay people, I would say no.

You're being circular here. There is no reason to believe your perception of morality is "better" than God's.

And I have yet to hear anything "monstrous" or any "obvious falsehoods" about my perception of morality. Other than the fact that you disagree with it.

Anonymous said...

JA and others,

Based on the dialogue it seems important to raise the issue of whether there is a moral-ethical principle that exists outside of Halacha, according to those who believe in Torah's Divine origin and authority. This question is very much debated and there those who believe that once Torah was given that its norms replace or govern morality and ethics completely. Other's feel that a moral and ethical principle can coexist with Halacha. As such there can be deep contradictions when these two principles of Torah and independent ethical-moral principles come in conflict, as is the case here with addressing homsexuality. The resolution is not always practically attainable, but for those with a strong commitment to Torah the halachik sensitivities prevail despite their inability to be justified from our moral perspectives. Abraham, was able to question G-d's decision to destroy Sodom and Gemorrah. Based on that model, we may licensed or even instructed to ask the same questions as well when faced with similar conflicts. However, at the end of the day we must accept the divine will.

Jewish Atheist said...

You're being circular here. There is no reason to believe your perception of morality is "better" than God's.

I don't believe in objective morality, so it's not something one can "perceive." For me it's about having compassion, empathy, and sympathy for my fellow human beings. You're free to believe that stoning gays and shabbos-violators is moral (or was moral, back in the day) because God said so, and I'm free to believe you're a bigoted monster. It's ultimately a matter of opinion, but I can't see why you'd want to worship such a God.

And I have yet to hear anything "monstrous" or any "obvious falsehoods" about my perception of morality. Other than the fact that you disagree with it.

This is monstrous:

"If He would theoretically say that bathing in the blood of children you mercilessly murdered in the bathtub for fun was moral, then that would be considered moral."

You're thinking exactly like a Muslim terrorist except that you believe in a different set of nonsense and your religion has been transformed through cross-pollination with western civilization over the centuries.

Jewish Atheist said...

Anonymous:

However, at the end of the day we must accept the divine will.

1) You don't know there even is a divine.

2) If you did, you wouldn't know for sure what the divine will is.

3) Even if you knew what the divine will is, you don't know that following it is moral. Maybe God is kind of a jerk. Frankly, a quick read-through of the chumash leaves no doubt on the subject, as far as I'm concerned.

Baruch Pelta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noam said...

JA

I know this is an old argument. but would you condone killing Stalin Hitler or Mao?
Would killing them pre-evil action be moral?

On the one hand killing is evil, so no way, you can't kill even despots like those.
On the other hand you'd be sacrificing one life to save millions. Its worth it.

OK so how do you know if kid Mao will be evil? We don't.
The only way would be, if we had a time machine and all the knowledge in the world past, present and future.

OK now we fantasize that an alien shows up with these abilities. And he proves these 'skills' to some, say the president and congress. You have a grandpa who is a member in congress who come for Thanksgiving weekend to share his experience with the whole extended family.
Do you believe Grandpa?
He tells you about some guy in Texas that's going to be a mass murderer in the future. and will kill 20 young women, including your child.
Do you believe?
Are you OK with the execution of this possible-future-mass-murderer?

The alien discusses changes in our lifestyles, that will lower our cholesterol, prevent disease, gives up tips to raise good kids and a whole slew of info that will make us happier in the long run.
Are you going to allow these changes?


We believe, and we call this alien God.

Gay and ok said...

Orthodox Judaism is no place for a gay man. Asking one to hide, to pretend he is someone others than who he is, to be the object of scorn and pity: that is self-destructive. I left my chasidic family at age 15 and haven't once looked back. I converted to a religion - ancient and traditional - which has given me a wonderful spiritual life and never once asked "straight or gay?" One's sexual orientation is not a choice - but I ask: why would anyone "choose" to stay in a community which denies him the opportunity to grow and fulfill his God given potential?

Holy Hyrax said...

>Even if you knew what the divine will is, you don't know that following it is moral. Maybe God is kind of a jerk

That is pretty silly JA.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jewish Atheist,

I wrote a whole response to you coming from the angle that even from a non-religious point of view, homosexuality can be perceived as destructive. But the internet keeps eating my comment. Maybe they don't like that it has so many links. Anyway, if you're interested, please email me at levine.morton-at-gmail-dot-com

Jewish Atheist said...

That is pretty silly JA.

I don't think it's silly at all. The God of the Torah slaughtered the overwhelming majority of human beings during the flood, destroyed Sodom and Gemorrah, ordered genocides, condoned slavery, set the death penalty for homosexuality and violating the Sabbath, etc. etc. That's not even getting into the Problem of Evil, with the holocaust and child sex slavery, etc. etc.

What reason is there to a priori assume God is good, even if he does exist? Because he created the universe? I don't see how that follows. Maybe the creator of this universe is a very intelligent being in another universe. He could be a sadist who created us to torture us. He could be completely indifferent. He could be using the Jewish people as a plaything.

I know you're just going to blow off this line of reasoning like I'm being ridiculous, but you can't actually point to a flaw, can you? You have no reasons to believe what you believe other than wishful thinking and a lot of denial. That would be okay if you kind of kept it to yourself, but when people start spreading lies about gay people, actively making their lives worse, then it's everybody else's business.

Jewish Atheist said...

Noam:

OK now we fantasize that an alien shows up with these abilities. And he proves these 'skills' to some, say the president and congress.

Good analogy, except that if God has ever shown up we have no evidence of it (and don't give me the lame Kuzari argument.) Obviously, if he showed up tomorrow and proved to scientists (I sure wouldn't trust Congress to make that decision!) that he could see the future AND if there was good reason to believe he genuinely had our interests at heart, then yes, listen to him, to an extent. If he just demanded that we kill some random person, say Stephen Hawking, because he was going to destroy the universe, well, I'd have to be pretty freakin' convinced. Can he really be that sure? How could it be that we can't change the future except by killing him? How do we know he's not a monster who wants to prevent an amazing technological breakthrough that Hawking will make because he's a Luddite? Etc.

As for whether it's okay to kill a young Stalin or Hitler, it's relative. If you could prevent them from turning into monsters, then do that instead. If you could just lock them up, then do that instead. If your choice was as simple as killing them or letting them grow into mass murderers, then obviously killing them is morally correct.

To this day, nobody can demonstrate that there's anything wrong or harmful about homosexuality without resorting to some BS "spiritual harm" like Chana does in this post.

Holy Hyrax said...

>but you can't actually point to a flaw, can you?

Actually....I can.

You bring up slaughtering people in the flood, in sodom, genocides of canaanites. But context is king. And if you ARE going to argue about the hebrew God, then argue.....the hebrew God. Don't argue some made up God, that he is smart to build the universe, but morally a quack.

You can start from there and get back to me.

Holy Hyrax said...

>How do we know he's not a monster who wants to prevent an amazing technological breakthrough that Hawking will make because he's a Luddite? Etc.

These are childish arguments that sounds like unless God is a liberal who agrees to your standards of what needs to be done, (and what is right and wrong depending on the latest trend of social justice), he is a monster.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

So you think the context justifies all those behaviors? I note you left out some of them, for which I assume even you cannot argue context.

Don't argue some made up God, that he is smart to build the universe, but morally a quack.

What does "morally a quack" mean? Being smart necessarily precludes being evil or dispassionate?

These are childish arguments that sounds like unless God is a liberal who agrees to your standards of what needs to be done, (and what is right and wrong depending on the latest trend of social justice), he is a monster.

If you'd never heard of Judaism and someone came to you and said that men who have sex with men should be killed, you would think that person is a monster. At least I hope so. It's got nothing to do with trendiness, except in the sense that the trend is a move towards sane moral beliefs based in reality and against insane moral beliefs based on dogma.

Holy Hyrax said...

>So you think the context justifies all those behaviors? I note you left out some of them, for which I assume even you cannot argue context.

I am taking you step by step. At the very least, you should argue under proper context as to why Gods creation (man) was needed to be whipped out, in a larger case, and then on several mini cases. If you posit there is no God, then you are right. If you are trying to argue about a particular God and HIS creations violating a morality HE set forth, then you have to argue THAT.

>What does "morally a quack" mean? Being smart necessarily precludes being evil or dispassionate?

You are anthropomorphising this particular God, which is your mistake.


>If you'd never heard of Judaism and someone came to you and said that men who have sex with men should be killed, you would think that person is a monster. At least I hope so. It's got nothing to do with trendiness, except in the sense that the trend is a move towards sane moral beliefs based in reality and against insane moral beliefs based on dogma.

Of course if I never heard about Judaism and this God you would be right. So what? Homosexuality aside, man has a propensity of doing things that they are not supposed to do and need to be shown not to do it.

Again, if you are positing the hebrew God, then you have to talk about this God (ie, creator of time and space, of morality of man, is above space and time). If this God was to PROVE himself to you JA, then really nothing has changed right? You would still argue your morality is right, and his is wrong. But based on what?

Holy Hyrax said...

Again

This is a God we are talking about. Not a politician. Not man. Not a general. Not a hippie. We are talking about a God that knows all of creation (because it is his). Foresees all because all is his. The Book says these particular people were evil. He didn't destroy a people because he woke up one night and got bored.

Your argument is that this God (knower of everything and everyone and consequences to everything) needs to subvert himself to what you believe to be moral.

Jewish Atheist said...

I think we've reached an impasse, HH. You're the one positing a God that believes homosexuality is an abomination, established rules, and literally dictated a book, but *I'm* anthropomorphizing?

Holy Hyrax said...

Nope.

I merely suggest you start arguing within context of this particular God. Not some Akkadian God. You bill him out to be a monster and then bring up XYZ to show it and to show how your sense of morality is greater then a this particular God...who by definition (again, if you are arguing this God) is the creator of everything including morals. In the mean time your examples simply don't work.

I also don't see how a God establishing his morals onto his creations is anthropormorphisising.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

Obviously, IF you accept that God created morality and that whatever God says is moral is moral by definition, then God is moral. It's a neat little piece of circular reasoning that means nothing and justifies atrocities.

You keep telling yourself that a Being who issues death penalties for gay people is moral because he invented morals. If that's moral, then moral doesn't mean squat. I'd rather be immoral.

Holy Hyrax said...

>It's a neat little piece of circular reasoning that means nothing and justifies atrocities.

a) Its not circular, since He would be the First Cause
b) if so...by default it can't be an atrocity. (ie, IF you have reasoned the Hebrew God is the root of morality). Your examples of the flood and sodom and the canaanites end up being wrong, since what were the reasons for them needing to be whipped out? (hint: it wasn't because they didn't keep shabbat)

>If that's moral, then moral doesn't mean squat.

Based on what?

Jewish Atheist said...

Based on my sense of compassion and empathy. Again, I don't believe in "objective morality." You see that as a weakness or something, but I don't. I think the capacity for believing in objective morality and that you can know what it is is terrifying.

It's the way Muslim suicide bombers convince themselves that slaughtering Israeli or American children is moral. The only difference between you and them, as far as I can tell, is that you worship a different made-up God (or the same one, but believe they have the rules wrong.)

Holy Hyrax said...

Fair enough. At least we know where we differ. I find nothing terrifying about it. The fact that arabs blow themselves up in the name of an objective morality is irrelevant. Just because other people have a sense of objective morality and may be wrong doesn't mean everyone else is wrong or that it doesn't exist. It reminds me of you claiming another commentator was using a slippery slide argument. He (rightfully) agreed he was, but correctly noted every slippery slide argument is wrong.

Again, if God was proven to you, nothing would change right? Because in the end of the day, you would simply say to God that your subjective morality is superior to His...that of the Creator of morality. Correct?

Jewish Atheist said...

If God were proven to me and he seemed to genuinely want what was best, sure. But if he just (for example) told me to offer up my first-born as a sacrifice? Hell no.

Holy Hyrax said...

>If God were proven to me and he seemed to genuinely want what was best, sure

This is where we go around and around in circles. I ask you how would you judge a God genuinely wanting the best? You answer: My subjective morality based on compassion and empathy.


>But if he just (for example) told me to offer up my first-born as a sacrifice? Hell no.

Good thing this God isn't going to ask that of you eh?

Jewish Atheist said...

Good thing this God isn't going to ask that of you eh?

Or asked me to kill a person for having gay sex, etc.

gg said...

I think in the general discussion over the authority of Torah in morality, both views have lost sight of the essential.
First of all, saying that being gay is like wanting to eat a ham sandwich shows a strong disregard for the feelings and welfare of a fellow Jew. A gay person who cannot act on his feelings of love and the desire for intimacy is left with a life completely cut off from the companionship the rest of us take for granted. I can accept that some see that this is his only halachic option; but to trivialize it this way is wrong.
Second, if we acknowledge what is at stake for the gay Jew, we need to look again at the halacha. If the Torah is being read to create misery, we are taught that we are reading it wrong. It is to live by, not to die by.
It is clear that our understanding of a mitzvah lo saseh cannot be changed overnight, or maybe not at all. But neither can the essential wellbeing of a group of fellow Jews be minimized or disregarded.

Noticin' You said...

GG, You make an interesting point.

There is an article by Norman Lamm which expresses, in more detail, the same idea as this post by Chana and simultaneously addresses your concern.

Here it is:

http://www.jonahweb.org/sections.php?secId=90

gg said...

Thank you, GG. Thanks for bringing that to my attention--it is thought-provoking.

Rabbi Lamm deserves credit for looking at the issue in context, which is exactly how halacha is supposed to work.

What's puzzling is how skewed his language is. Pederasty and homosexuality are two different and unrelated activities (the former is much more common among heterosexuals than homosexuals); he uses them interchangably. Calling homosexuality a "current sexual fashion" is both inaccurate and belittling. And statements like "if we declare pederasty [sic]to be merely idiosyncratic and not an "abomination," what right have we to condemn sexually motivated cannibalism" shows a level of illogic and antagonism that makes it hard to view his point of view as objective, let alone compassionate.

The issue is not self-gratification; the issue is the choice between a life with loving companionship and a life lived alone, until death. The halacha regarding homosexuality cannot be properly approached as long as the issue is categorized as 'fashion' or akin to eating pork or endulging in fetish.

And while R. Lamm's discussion of halacha is accurate, some of his homelitic use of Jewish sources is unfortunate. Both the t'nakh and the medrash make crystal clear that Sodom's fault was cruelty and ungenerosity, unrelated to homosexuality. And his contention that "toeva" as "prima facie disgusting" and "repulsive" is a little hard to sqare with the torah's application of the word to, among other things, the eating of a korban after the time for eating it has passed.

The website on which the article appears is devoted to the 'curing' of homosexuality. Mountains of research has shown such cures to be not only ineffective in the vast majority of case, but harmful. This is before we look at the plight of a woman who marries such a 'cured' man.

So -- it would be great to see more contextual halachic discussions of homosexuality, but perhaps not from someone with a preconceived result centering on offering a scientifically dubious solution.

Boy - there went an hour. I promised myself years ago to stop participating in Jewish board discussions because they are enjoyable enough to be addictive and time consuming. Anyway, thanks for taking my opinion into account.

Benjamin E. said...

There's one issue to deal with that you brought up tangentially, and that is the issue of the nature of identifying yourself as homosexual as a defining part of one's identity. The reason it is significant is because the fact is that heterosexual people *do* identify themselves by their sexuality on a regular basis. When a woman introduces herself and says, "And this is my husband, Joe," she has just effectively identified herself by her sexuality. When you ask a man you just met what his wife does for a living, you have assumed his sexuality and called him out on it. Because a homosexual person cannot answer those questions the same way as a heterosexual person.

The point is simply to note that making ones sexuality an explicit part of one's identity is actually not the same as making your hamburger condiment preference a part of your explicit identity - the mainstream world identifies most people by sexual orientation all the time.