I’m extremely proud to announce that all three arms of the Reconstructionist movement have released a joint statement condemning the recent passage of gay marriage bans across the country. Read all about it in this JTA article. It was particularly gratifying to read this acknowledgment in the piece:
The Reconstructionist movement, the smallest of American Jewish religious denominations, has long been a leader in liberalizing Jewish approaches to homosexuality. In 1984, the movement became the first to ordain openly gay rabbis, followed six years later by the Reform movement and in 2006 by the Conservative movement.
Here’s the text of the entire statement:
The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College deplore the passage of Proposition 8 in California and similar discriminatory initiatives recently passed in Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas. We are saddened and deeply disturbed by the denial of fundamental human rights—to marry, to adopt and care for foster children—to thousands of gay and lesbian citizens across the United States. We are particularly dismayed by the passage of initiatives that have reversed previously recognized equality for same-sex unions.
Beginning in 1993, in a series of resolutions, the Reconstructionist movement has affirmed the holiness of commitments made by same-sex couples. Religious recognition of marriages does not confer the legal and civil rights and responsibilities bestowed by the state upon married couples. We recognize the right of every religious denomination to affirm its own definition of, and limitations upon, the sacred ritual of marriage. No member of the clergy should be compelled to sanctify any union that is contrary to his or her understanding of sacred text and tradition. But neither should any gay or lesbian citizen of the United States be denied the legal rights confirmed by civil marriage.
We call upon leaders of other faith communities who share the commitment to civic equality and to the separation of church and state in the realm of marriage to speak out against bans on same-sex marriage and discrimination against GLBT people in the realm of adoption and foster care. We look forward to the day when all states will grant equal access to the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage.
Perhaps these are Jews who didn’t read Leviticus 18. The Jews of Jeremiah’s day didn’t read that book either; look what happened to them.
I’m a Jew and I read Leviticus 18. (I take it you are referring to verse 22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. It is an abomination.” )
This is what I learn from Leviticus 18: I learn that in ancient Israel, there was a concern about the pagan practices in the surrounding nations – practices that seem to have included homosexuality. Since these nations are long gone, I don’t believe that this verse has any relevance to a 21st century world far removed from the ancient Near East. And it does not seem to teach me ANYTHING about how I should regard marriage between two men in the context of a loving and committed relationship – something that was unheard of in the Biblical world. That is simply not a scenario relevant to this text and we certainly shouldn’t look to it to teach us anything about the issue of gay marriage. This verse also doesn’t address a sexual relationship between two women, so we shouldn’t look to it to teach us anything about that either.
(And by the way, there were no “Jews” in Jeremiah’s day – I believe you mean “Israelites.”)
You know, Brant. I’m pretty much a center-left, love-me-I’m-a-liberal guy, except on this issue. The notion that state power should be used to keep gays and lesbians from marrying sickens me, and the fact that my denomination has taken the lead in support of same-sex marriage makes me deeply proud.
I remember when my daughter, as a very little girl, asked me whether men could marry men or women marry women, and I was able to say, without missing a beat, “They can in our synagogue.” In her lifetime, those marriages won’t just be recognized by the state–they’ll be taken for granted, utterly unsurprising, and whatever Mr. Bunch says, we’ll all be better off for it.
(Read Leviticus 18? Dude, we WROTE Leviticus 18. And the rest of it. A human document, all the way down.)
Here’s a link to an op-ed from the Jerusalem Post by (orthodox) Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. You (and Rabbi Rosen) may disagree with some of his perspective, but he makes some important points.
Here are a few quotes:
“Gays as the New Religious Bogeyman
TAKE THE American religious obsession with homosexuals. Last week, This World: The Jewish Values Network, which I founded, hosted a debate between a leading evangelical scholar and myself on whether Judaism and Christianity are religions of peace. My opponent, a man of great learning and even greater decency, made it clear that in stating “Love your enemies,” Jesus included Osama bin Laden. Yet, when it came to gay men who want to get married, he seemed to concur that were this to happen the whole of American society would begin to unweave. Indeed, I have heard some of my evangelical brethren make it sound as if gays were a greater danger to America than terrorists.
I will not get into the arguments for and against gay marriage in this column. What I will say is that religion in America has made homosexuality into a false bogeyman, which has seriously distracted religion from giving real values to an increasingly valueless society. Is this really what religious values in America has come to, opposition to gay marriage?
What do you think would do more to save heterosexual marriage in America? Making sure gays can’t get hitched, or making marital counseling among heterosexual couples tax-deductible so that couples can afford the help they need? What should religion be devoting its energy to? Opposing gay marriage in California, or supporting an effective national campaign for school vouchers so that parents can afford to send their children to schools that teach religious values like male respect for women and the sanctity of a loving relationship? ”
America has serious social problems. … And yet, I cannot name a single religious initiative that appeared on a single ballot to combat any of these problems, save for Proposition 8 in California that sought to ban gay marriage. “
I stand correct about “Jews” in Leviticus. I teach highschool, and tend to oversimply things. No disrespect intended, but I use the terms Jews and Hebrews interchangably when talking to 9th and 10th graders. I know the difference.
Leviticus is being given to an ancient race surrounded by pagen religious practice. And you’re right about there being no mention of women who love other women. In the New Testament (I’m a Christian, you’ll have to understand I read that also) the Apostle Paul mentions male and female homosexaulity, to a more modern group of people, the Romans. Paul had been a very zealous Pharisee before conversion, so maybe his word still means something to you, I don’t know. In Romans 1 he says
“For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another…”
All of my modern worldview is based on the writing of first century Christians. Our world changes over time, I do not believe God does. What was sin in 6,000 years ago, and also 2,000 years ago, will also continue to be an abomination to God tomorrow. A healthy, loving relationship between two men that involves sex in unheard of being honorable to God in any time period. Period.
Obviously we have very different ideas about God, revelation and scripture. You view the Biblical text as the immutable reflection of God’s will. I view it our ancestors’ sacred struggles to understand God’s will in their day; a process that necessarily evolves from generation to generation. I don’t begrudge you your views or beliefs and don’t think it would be particularly fruitful to engage in a theological debate when we both begin from fundamentally different premises.
I would challenge you, however, to be intellectually consistent in your claims. You write: “what was sin in 6,000 years ago, and also 2,000 years ago, will also continue to be an abomination to God tomorrow.” Of course it’s not that simple. The Bible also prescribes the death penalty for such “sins” as rebelling against parents and gathering sticks on Shabbat. I am often struck by the religious right’s virtual obsession with homosexuality in this regard (and I appreciate Rabbi Boteach’s highlighting of this point). After all, Leviticus 18:22 is only one law among many – it is not repeated or emphasized nearly to the extent as other more central Biblical injunctions. (And though I’m not an expert on New Testament, I note that the Roman’s I verse you quote is not even worded as a commandment but as descriptive narrative.)
You are certainly welcome to your belief that “a healthy, loving relationship between two men that involves sex” is not “honorable” to God, but let’s be honest: the politicization of the gay marriage issue in this country is cynical and disingenuous. Why the insistence upon this issue above all others in the voting booth? It seems to me that if we are to apply Biblical/religious values to the political arena, there are many more critical places we could start. Those truly interested in creating a community based on Biblical values would do well to let go of their determination to outlaw gay marriage and begin with the most critical and oft-repeated Biblical laws: those that command us to demand justice for the most vulnerable members of society: the poor, the workers, the immigrants, the widowed and the orphaned.
I’m a lesbian. An out lesbian. An out, Jewish lesbian. An out, Jewish lesbian who is also a single mother. An out Jewish lesbian single mother anthropologist and sociologist. Given my identities, I take this debate very seriously, although I am not a biblical scholar.
As a lesbian, I need to (as the cliche goes) stand up and be counted. I am not an abomination and, although I’m currently single, my love is also not an abomination. We find same-sex sexuality in many (maybe all!) human cultures in the world and also in the animal world. Given that homosexuality is not culture-bound, I think that we must use that empirical evidence to understand that homosexuality is one part of the natural human expression of sexuality.
As a Jew (and a Reconstructionist), I have to face the writings of my people. Sometimes, we’re wrong. I think that Torah, as the sacred story of our people, has to include those ideas that were current at the time(s) of writing, but no people can fully foresee changes in human culture or society. As a Reconstructionist Jew, I don’t see Torah as the literal, divine word of God. Instead, I see it as the starting place for our struggles with ourselves, our society, and our spirituality. If there is a God (and I’m not sure there is), then I believe in the Jewish version–a God who demands that we take Her word seriously and argue and fight and struggle for richer, deeper understandings so that we can live our lives in moral ways, in ways that heal rather than hurt. I know that my love of women and my sexual attraction to women is healing, not hurtful.
As an anthropologist and a sociologist, I cringe when I see people asserting a single understanding of God. While all cultures must address the supernatural and spiritual, we do it in so many different ways! I am unwilling to say that my “take” on God and what God wants is absolutely the only right, correct understanding. If there is a God (or Gods), then I believe that being is so much greater than me, that I cannot ever truly understand Her or Her words. Instead, as a social scientist, I have to acknowledge the diversity in the world and, as a spiritual person, recognize others’ spirituality.
I am not interested in getting married. Even if I were partnered, I’m not sure that I want the state involved in my relationship. However, I demand that my relationship is as honored as the relationships of heterosexuals. I demand the economic and social benefits that come with marriage. I demand the cultural ritual of recognition of my relationship that comes with marriage. I need the help in raising my wonderful son that comes with the recognition of marriage! Data show that children raised in gay or lesbian homes are as well adjusted as children raised in heterosexual homes (citations available upon request). If marriage is about children, then we qualify. If marriage is about love, then we qualify. If marriage is about creating family, the bedrock institution of our society, then we qualify! I would never ask a religious institution to sanction my marriage if they did not believe in the full humanity of gays and lesbians, but religious institutions have no business telling the state that our relationships are less than heterosexual relationships!
I’m sorry about the length of this comment. I probably should have written it in Word and then edited, but I wanted to respond before the topic becomes too cold or I become too tired. Thanks for listening!
For me, the question is quite simple: Should my gay brother and my gay friends and colleagues be allowed to marry? And the answer is even simpler: Yes! They deserve the same opportunity to enjoy the rights and joys of marriage as anyone else. I do not see any way that allowing gay people to marry would weaken the institution of marriage; it would only be strengthened.
Thank you Brant and the rest of the Reconstructionist movement for speaking out against discrimination.
The solution is to have the state get out of the marriage business. Only civil unions should be recognized by the state. These should be available for any couple– heterosexual or gay. All current marriages should be converted to civil unions.
Marriages should be reserved for and recognized by only religious institutions (ie churches/synagogues/mosques/temples…)
If the Mormon church does not want to recognize gay marriages, then they do not have to perform them or recognize them. If the Jewish Conservative movement wants to allow gay marriage, then they can. Each religious organization can set their own standards without imposing on legitimate civil rights of a group they do not approve of.