Monday, July 18, 2016
To Call Something Unnatural Is To (Unwittingly) Acknowledge Nature's Role
Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, head of the the Bnei David religious military academy, recently referred to LGBT individuals as "perverts", and criticized the Israeli military for allowing them to "force their way' into the IDF's ranks". [source]
Really?! There is such a paucity of things to criticize in our fraying society that able-bodied citizens who want to serve in our country's defense forces should be publicly shunned and shamed?
One would at least wish that Rabbi Levinstein's ill-advised comments could be dismissed as a lone, confused voice among otherwise reasonable people.
Sadly, another prominent religious leader, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan (a wealthy suburb of Tel Aviv), recently declared that gays and lesbians are "disabled people suffering from a real problem that must be solved with psychological and pharmacological treatments."
Rabbi Ariel went on the add that, "pride in one's sexual orientation is unusual and presenting it as "progressive" causes many young persons to choose not to identify as straight. Young boys going through puberty who are looking for their identity—instead of helping them to find their natural and normative identity, they push them to go in the opposite direction and ruin their lives". [source]
Under what rock have these people been living to be able to spout such antiquated and discredited ideas?
I have a news flash for Rabbis Levinstein and Ariel. When I hit puberty, I didn't go looking around for my sexual identity, and there is exactly zero chance that I could have tailored my newfound longings to prevailing trends. It fell on me like a ton of bricks!
That I was hit by the equivalent of heterosexual lightning was, perhaps, fortunate for me, since my urges and actions were naturally channeled into socially acceptable rituals of dances and dating.
But had my hormones come on-line at puberty and powered up a plant tuned to a different frequency, I would have been forced by society to hide in the shadows and watch with envy as my peers openly kissed and groped one-another at proms and in the back-seats of their families' willingly lent cars.
In the not-too-distant past, being anything other than heterosexual was considered a criminal offense in many parts of the modern, western world (and remains a capital offense in much of the less evolved third world). And there was widespread belief not too long ago that such 'deviants' could be hypnotized, counseled, shamed, punished, drugged, shocked or tortured out of their non-traditional 'life-choices'.
The root of the problem, then as now (IMHO), is the completely mistaken idea that one's gender identity and sexual orientation are, in fact, matters of choice.
To those who would say otherwise, I would remind them that you can't call something unnatural (which implies a clear natural order), and in the same breath imply that it is a product of a conscious choice. Nature decides our gender and sexual proclivity. If a religious person has a problem with the cards that nature dealt an individual, I suggest that their beef is with G-d, not with the person who, according to religious doctrine, was created according to G-d's will ("ברוך... שעשני כרצונו").
Just as with natural hair color, a person can use dye to try to conform to current styles, trends and mores. But the dye doesn't actually change the natural color. It simply offers a temporary mask which fades and is inexorably pushed aside by time.
I would respectfully suggest to these (and other) Rabbis who feel inclined to offer commentary and criticism on the sexual activities of others, that there is fertile, un-plowed territory awaiting their much-needed scrutiny: Their efforts can be best employed in weeding out predators and pedophiles from among the ranks, not of the IDF, but of the clergy and educators who are their professional peers and colleagues.
By perpetuating a medieval approach to human sexuality, these religious leaders are stifling enlightened, educated discussion of the most basic of human urges, and are thus both marginalizing it and relegating it to an exiled underworld without rules, communal norms or oversight.
It is within this dark, unmentionable world that far too many religious educators and community leaders are allowed to abuse and prey on the most vulnerable members of the human flocks that are entrusted to their care.
This abuse spans the entire spectrum of human sexuality (it isn't just a gay thing), and will continue only so long as un-enlightened Rabbis (and priests, ministers, imams, etc.), continue to err in their most basic assumptions about what makes us all human.
Personally, I am not offended by images like this:
I see two, responsible adults walking hand-in-hand in the light of day, who have agreed to defend me and my family... even at the cost of their own lives. That they happen to be gay is as relevant to me as their hair color. And if my pre-pubescent son were to see them walking down the street holding hands, it wouldn't make a bit of difference to which ton of hormonal bricks falls on his head in the coming months.
I would suggest to Rabbi's Levinstein and Ariel et al, that their exhortations to exclude LGBT individuals from serving in the IDF is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. Rather, their time would (IMHO) be better spent worrying about the wolves in sheep's clothing who are lurking among the leaders and educators they call their colleagues.
[Before anyone posts a knee-jerk rant accusing me of insulting the Torah or the Sages of Israel, please don't make me post a list of convicted sexual abusers from among the leaders of our religious community. That would, indeed, be a hillul hashem (a desecration of G-d's name.]
Posted by David Bogner on July 18, 2016 | Permalink
I don't know if this link will post properly - but here is an Orthodox Rabbi with an open-minded approach to the topic.
Posted by: Mata Hari | Jul 18, 2016 10:50:22 PM
Thank you for this.....I'm searching for words to say how much, but can only say thank you. And wonder if you've ever considered becoming a Rabbi?
With enormous respect
Alex, in sweltering( for here) Scotland
Posted by: Alex | Jul 19, 2016 4:48:33 AM
Mata Hari ... Thanks for sharing the link. Very interesting outlook.
Alex... I already have a thankless job. ;-)
Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 19, 2016 7:34:43 AM
as always, right on target David. Kol Hakavod
Posted by: blog fan | Jul 19, 2016 6:30:15 PM
Nice post, David.
Posted by: Val | Jul 20, 2016 1:38:39 PM
The written and oral Torah regards homosexual behaviour as a sin, so a believing Jew cannot be supportive of people who choose to broadcast anti-Torah behaviour.
I am not saying that homosexuals should be discriminated against in any way,just that the activity is not permitted under Jewish law.
Is this view any more "medieval" than not driving a car on Shabbat or not eating ham?
Posted by: Moshe | Jul 21, 2016 3:16:49 PM