Homosexuality and the Holy Law
by Rabbi David Eidensohn
The issue of homosexuality, soon to be decided by the United States Supreme Court, roils the land. People have privacy, the right to live their life, but society thrives only with family and adherence to biblical mores. The bible considers homosexuality an abomination. On the other hand, most Americans, even the 46 percent who consider themselves evangelicals and the millions of Catholics do not accept much or most of the Five Books of Moses. Therefore, the Gay Lobby asks the religious and family advocate, Why do you invoke the bible when it suits you with homosexuality, and yet eat foods proscribed by the bible?
What role does the bible play in human affairs? Why should something thousands of years old dictate who can marry? Can people update the bible?
Modern physics has accepted the anthropic principle, otherwise referred to as the A word, meaning the cosmos is designed for people, not for chaos and chance. If the four basic forces of modern physics digressed a bit the world could not exist. The balance of various parts of the atom, an electron circling at the speed of light around the nucleus quarks, depends on physical and mathematical laws. If the nucleus could pull in the electron, the universe would implode and cease to exist. If the electron flying at the speed of light could slip its attachment to the nucleus of the atom, the universe would fly apart and disappear. A similar cosmic precision guides every DNA phase as the double-helix splits and gathers new bases to create life.
If there be an anthropic principle and Intelligent Design aimed at making people, why did the Creator of man make our world? We surely cannot invent it or guess it, because to do that would make us compare our minds and will with G-d, something unlikely. We know how limited we are. Surely we cannot invent the mind of G-d. Only G-d can reveal the Mind of G-d. The Jewish people received the Law or Torah from G-d at Sinai 3,000 years ago. All of Israel heard the Ten Commandments. During the Forty Years of the Desert Sojourn, G-d taught Moses and the Jewish people the Written Five Books of Moses and the Oral Law, the Code of rabbinics that govern the interpretation of the Written Law. The bible itself seems, in literal and even working translation, a book with difficult concepts. The Oral Law smooths these over, especially the enormous amount of capital punishments, which are treated more as a warning than an actual punishment.
No Jew, no rabbi, no prophet may ever modify our Sinaitic theology. He may only declare what we received from Moses. The Talmud says, No prophet may create, only inspire, predict and perorate us with threats and blandishments. The theology never budges from the basics. The bible does not evolve. My religion is exactly the same one as practiced by Moses and my ancestors. We do not question why the bible proscribes homosexuality or why it is an abomination. After the fact, we may deduce various ideas and seek to understand, but we cannot do much more than that.
This is fine for Orthodox Jews. What of everyone else? They dont accept the absolute primacy of the bible. Some foreign language speaks to all of us from the flowers and the stars, but we cannot understand it. Thus, people seek religion. For all of human history people have had religions. Even in the French Revolution, Rousseau attacked atheism as the luxury of the aristocracy. For most people religion is a reaction to something beyond us, but inside of us. Religion is a very powerful emotion or force, but we cannot clearly describe it. Will such a religion succeed in defining objections to homosexuality? Religion based upon purely subjective feelings as opposed to finite facts will discuss homosexuality with subjective feelings. Can society govern with such obscurity?
The Oral Law and rabbinics designate homosexuality a universal law, meaning that even Noahides or non-Jews may not commit homosexuality. Those who do not accept the bible may nonetheless invoke the proscription of homosexuality because it violates a basic tenet of humanity, the most sacred human relationship of marriage. Ultimately, however, each person must either invoke the authority of the bible directly, or, failing this, must explain why this particular law is sacred while other biblical laws are not. This is done by demonizing homosexuality and setting it apart from other sins, such as eating ham and shrimp. However, once the pro-family position is expressed by labeling homosexuality in secular terms as unnatural or perverse, we change the terms of the debate from the will of G-d to the determination of people. We willingly decide that homosexuality is unnatural and perverse, and then invoke the bible. Others can disagree with our assumptions, and do.
The enormous agitation in major Western religions between liberal and conservative is a war that will never end, because Western religions are created by individuals and debated by others. As long as there is no sacrosanct bible and Code to interpret it, there will be differences. Indeed, the founding principle of Western religion is that mortals coming thousands of years after Sinai may disagree with both the Written and Oral law given at Sinai. A religion founded in innovation and progress will never survive an attempt to arrest innovation and progress. The enormous battles going on now in Catholicism and Protestantism are nothing new. It has always been this way, except that in earlier generations the variant sects attempted to settle their differences with the sword. The secular society is the answer to continual social destruction, and there is no other solution. Therefore, when the religious right attempts to impose its moral views by making America a religious country, people rightfully tremble and seize hold tight of secularism. This is why the Gay Lobby succeeds. The religious right buries itself on this issue by expressing itself in religious terms, insinuating that a vote against the Gay Lobby is a vote for religious values in government, and ultimately, a return to the terror of the past between religious believers. Contrast our failings in the homosexual issue to the successes of the Right to Life movement. A Catholic doctor had the good sense to make abortion a non-sectarian cause. The religious right refuses to do this with the Gay issue, and it is badly losing, not only this issue, but its entire status in society. The great hope of the Gay Lobby is for someone to get up and say that religion must take back America .
Homosexuality is tearing all Western religions apart, and as time goes on, the debate will grow. Those who battle the Gay Lobby must fight inside the religious community as well as the secular gay lobby outside of it. How painful it is when secularists, intellectuals and media types outside of the religious community hurl missives at the family activists from religious people. The issue therefore is first the authority of the bible and secondly, general values. All is focused on the homosexual issue. At stake are the status of homosexuality in our society and the status of the bible. If the gays succeed, the bible will become a hate book. If the biblical people advance, homosexuals will not be able to consider themselves married, and will not achieve some of their goals.
Inherent in the religious treatment of homosexuality is the future of Western religion. Will it remain rooted in the Sinaitic Revelation, or will it turn to the Eastern call of mysticism without the clear details? The universe reveals man, but hides his purpose. Spirituality awakens the soul but does not speak clearly to the mind. Thus, the bible with its specifics is usually ignored. Transcendence is translated by individuals; the new religion enters the world determined to spread Truth. When religions clash, society trembles. The impossible situation of religious warfare then pushes society against religions, and secular barriers are posted to secure civilization. One who believes that G-d spoke the prohibition of homosexuality has nothing against homosexuals. One who denies that G-d said this but nonetheless proscribes homosexuality must add to homosexuality some secular or cultural onus, and demonize it.
The Talmud is the Oral Law that interprets the Written Law, or the Five Books of Moses. Bar Kaporo, a rabbi of about two thousand years ago, said that the Hebrew word for abomination used regarding homosexuality is an acronym for you are lost in it. Abomination in the English has a connotation of something repulsive. TOEIVO in the Hebrew is surely a vile thing, but the Oral Law adds you are lost in it to indicate a twist on the onus of homosexuality. Sexuality far removed from the holiness of marriage is a very sensitive thing. The spirit is searching for resolution. The fire of biology needs peace. Some forms of sexuality supply neither resolution nor peace. Some homosexuals do find some peace and resolution with a partner, but in general homosexuality is a sexual style of the traveler, seeking but not finding. Some homosexuals go from partner to partner, meeting utter strangers in the street, mating without any delicacy, sometimes through holes in toilet walls. This is more than sin. This is the soul adrift in pain. A prominent gay writer of a conservative bent was recently horribly humiliated when some of his own kind found his e-mail address on some perverse Internet sites. For some reason I cannot fathom, they decided that since he was a conservative he deserved to be publicly revealed, as if only liberal gays deserve privacy and self-respect. Many people are lost in it, such as the highly respected Dean of Divinity at Harvard whose downloads in his computer did him in.
We dont resolve Homosexuality by calling names. You are lost in it means that we have to help people find their way back. This is an integral issue of the Gay battle. The Gay Lobby wants to remain lost and declares that nobody can return from homosexuality. When Dr. Epstein, the editor of Psychology Today, allowed an ad from NARTH about therapy for homosexuals, the Gay Lobby threatened him. Central to their program is that a) no gay can change and b) no gay should change. Both are lies. However, the Surgeon General of the United States , not long ago, released a report backing the open lie that gays cannot change. This was only a few weeks after Dr. Joseph Spitzer of Columbia released a study showing that homosexuals can change. If they can change, should they? Or should they remain lost in it? Common sense says that every effort should be made to allow homosexuals relief from their substantial pain. As one lesbian said, I adopted children, and hope that they will not be gay.
The homosexual issue cannot be fought on religious grounds in the West, for the simple reason that religion is too confused. One study showed that over eighty percent of Protestant clergy did not accept the basic tenets of its theology. Editor David Kupelian wrote an article about this for World Net Daily. When asked whether they believed that the Old and New Testament Scriptures were the inspired and inerrant Word of God in faith, history and secular matters, mainline ministers responded "NO" in overwhelming numbers:
* Episcopalians, 95 percent
* Methodists, 87 percent
* Presbyterians, 82 percent.
The Catholic Church is swimming in confusion. To tie the battle against the Gay Lobby to such murkiness is to destroy it. This is not to say that people who believe religiously that homosexuality is wrong should not summon their minions to do battle to preserve the family and biblical values. The tactics of the battle, however, must be secular. What are they?
The Gay Lobby is itself a religion, whereby homosexuals are privileged to infect thousands of others and the state does not interfere. We are what we are. You cannot argue with a Gay. You must do exactly what they demand, or else. You cannot ask why HIV Confidentiality Laws exist when they result in huge epidemic and terrible waste of lives and money. The Gay Religion has spoken. If you disagree with Gay you must be silenced. You are mentally ill, and must be cured. Hater, homophobe, inciter, you must be removed from influence over your children. The Gay Lobby is a global religion whose tentacles protrude in public schools, your television set, the liberal media, teaching your children to despise you, to spurn you, to reject you. The Gay Religion wars against the bible, against the family community. The Gay Lobby is one of the most fanatic of all world religions, dominating with determined and vigorous hate all who stand before it. If we dont get our act together, if we dont apply ourselves to defending America and our freedom to be religious and biblical, the gays will take our children and everything else we hold to be sacred.
posted on 06/20/2003 2:23:28 PM PDT
(Why is it called "International Law" if only Israel and the United States are expected to keep it?)
A religion founded in innovation and progress will never survive an attempt to arrest innovation and progress.
Never has anything been more obviously true, yet treated as though it were not. Chr*stianity is always seen as l'ancien regime while the older religion of Judaism is treated as some sort of younger freethinking heresy, the expression of which requires a post-modern, enlightenment world. When will this illusion be dispelled?
The most tragic thing are those Jews who never hear of G-d until from the Notzerim and who convert to that religion convinced that it is the only form of Biblicism or religiosity that exists. Then their misguided efforts to confront their brethren is cast as a crusade to awaken "freethining heretics" to religion. But how did this religion, which is a thousand years later than Sinai, whose founder contradicted the Bible and the laws of G-d so explicitly, ever come to be perceived as so "conservative?"
J*sus may be a conservative icon, but he was an irreverent iconoclast. Most iconoclasts eventually become icons of conservative societies, from Jefferson to Marx.
The inter-Jewish debate now is too often between combatting chr*stianity in the name of secularism or else acquiescing to the leadership of that false religion to save the world. Whatever happened about letaqqen `olam bemalkhut Shaqqay? That is the true Jewish position.
The bible itself seems, in literal and even working translation, a book with difficult concepts. The Oral Law smooths these over, especially the enormous amount of capital punishments, which are treated more as a warning than an actual punishment.
I would add just a word of caution here for those FReepers who are unfamiliar with the topic of Judaism and capital punishment, who might take this statement as teaching that Judaism does not really inflict capital punishment at all. It is true that the carrying out of death sentences must be carried out according to the Oral Law and that this does indeed set severe boundaries. For one thing, the person must have previously been formally warned before two witnesses (I think the number is two) that he is engaged in an activity that is punishable by death. If this warning has not been given, the person cannot be put to death by the court. Also, there must be at least two witnesses to the exact same overt act. Two witness, each of whom witnessed a different act, are not sufficient. Neither is confession by the person himself admissible, or hearsay, or circumstantial evidence (though the King of Israel has the authority to order one executed based on circumstantial evidence). Also, as I understand it, people not mentally competent may not be put to death.
Now it is true that with all these requirements in place that capital punishment under the Torah is indeed rarer than might be at first assumed by a mere reading of the Written Torah itself (the Talmud noted that a court that inflicted the death penalty once in seventy years was considered brutal). However, it must be stressed that if anyone met all these criteria he had to be put to death by the court. In fact, the Torah specifically forbids having mercy on someone who has met all the criteria for being put to death.
Also, even in those cases where someone has committed a capital crime but has not met the criteria which would allow the death sentence by the court, HaShem Himself reserves the right to inflict the penalty. I have read that, for example, someone guilty of a crime punishable by death by strangulation, but who cannot be punished by the court, may choke to death while eating. It requires a total trust in G-d to obey Him even when He forbids the human court to take action for some technical reason when the person has done something worthy of death. The lack of this type of faith shows just far yeridat hador (the regression of humanity through the generations) has come.
Finally, the laws for Benei Noach (non-Jews) are somewhat different. While confessions and circumstantial evidence are still not admissible, no prior warning is required and only one witness is necessary. Also, as I understand it, a non-Jew is responsible for obeying the Noachide laws even if he is ignorant of them. So the fact that the current state of Israel does not have the authority under the Torah to enact the death penalty (and that Torah Jews must not allow it to do this) does not mean that Torah requires a crusade against the death penalty among non-Jews. However, our current legal system is not that commanded by HaShem, and only one form of capital punishment--death by beheading--is permitted to non-Jews. It is imperative for Jews and non-Jews to educate themselves and fight for obedience to G-d in our laws and systems of justice, and this includes not only the fight to maintain capital punishment but also to see to it that it is carried out only in accordance with Divine instructions. I am afraid we are a long way from there yet.
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson