Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baby Steps

Jewish Journal: Incredible Orthodox Response to Homosexuality

On one hand, I’m impressed at the stretching of old boundaries and inclusion of alternative views.  I’m happily surprised at the compassionate welcoming and allowances they delineate.  On the other hand, there’s still the black and white bottom line: Halakhic Judaism views all male and female same-sex sexual interactions as prohibited. There’s really no way to get around that.  They can instruct on kindness and welcome differences with softness, but for someone striving to live a strictly orthodox lifestyle, it would be impossible to simultaneously be in a committed same-sex relationship.  Still, I appreciate the discussion, and the modern approaches taken by a community who roots itself in biblical days.  I appreciate the avoidance of cause, leaving out the debate of environment versus genetics, nature versus nurture.

 I appreciate the comments about “change therapies”. I’m always struck by the fact that it was only in 1978 that the psychiatric diagnostic manual removed Homosexuality as a mental disease.  Ironically, the same day I read this article, I stumbled across another website – JONAH: Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing., which is one of the aforementioned ‘change therapy’ sites helping ‘unwanted homosexuality’ sufferers and family members.  I want to rant about how prejudicial the mere idea is.  I want to rally for gay rights and tolerance for all.  I want to march for the right to keep bedroom practices in the bedroom.  And yet, I get it.  I can understand how if I was a strictly Orthodox Jew and was homosexual, maybe I would want help ridding myself of those urges.  I can understand if I believed that observance of torah was the path to bliss, then being gay would be a struggle to overcome much like depression, addiction, anxiety, greed.  I can understand.  It doesn’t mean I agree.
 I wish there was a way for greater inclusion, for participation regardless of sexual orientation, for equal membership without concern for dating practices.  I wish it didn’t have to be an issue, that the torah was mute on the subject.  But for those that believe in the word of Torah as binding and literal, then there really isn’t much more room for compromise.  So I’m impressed with the new Orthodox rabbis’ response to Homosexuality, and I cheer for all human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot). Within the confines of black lines and stone-set rules, they worked hard to carve away room for differences and to address prior prejudices that ran rampant within the community. 

There will be those who cry outrage at bottom-line beliefs and point fingers of homophobia.  There will be those who sneer at refusals to perform marriages and statements of same-sex acts being prohibited.  I will not be among them.  Sure I wish for a different outcome.  Sure I believe that it doesn’t matter who you sleep with when it comes to matters of faith and living a good life.  But I also respect those who seem to be trying their hardest to extend compassion while still grasping the roots of their life guidelines.

 So instead, I nod with appreciation, remembering that all big change comes in baby steps. 

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