Orthodox Gays Ask For Recognition

Orthodox Gays Ask For Recognition May 26, 2011

There are few issues today that illustrate the superiority of humanism than homosexuality.  For all of religion’s talk of honoring people because they are “created in the image of God,” for the more traditional and hidebound among the faithful, this is often a meaningless slogan.

An article in today’s ynetnews (English version of Yediot Achronot) talks about the creeping acceptance of Orthodox Jewish gays:

A once unimaginable movement is emerging from within Israel’s insular Orthodox Jewish community: Homosexuals demanding to be accepted and embraced, no matter what the Bible says.

Living alongside a secular majority that has largely embraced the Western gay rights movement, Israel’s religious gays are increasingly rejecting age-old dictates to ignore their attraction, abstain from sex or undergo therapy that supposedly will make them straight.

A decade ago, says Yuval Cherlow, a heterosexual Orthodox rabbi, he would have dismissed the phenomenon as “two or four crazy people that are assimilating into Western world culture.”

Then he was invited to a meeting of Orthodox homosexuals. More than 50 people turned up, nearly all graduates of Orthodox religious seminaries. Cherlow said he began to realize the issue had to be addressed, and he now advises religious gay groups.

First of all, I have to give kudos to Rabbi Cherlow and the handful of others who do take their rhetoric seriously.  Even so, as the article goes on to explain, no one has any illusions that this will grant anything to gays that Jewish law explicitly forbids.  Tensions have already broken out over just how much they can really ask for and just how loud and proud they should be.

Humanism doesn’t use scripture as a starting point, except insofar as it points to a long history of suffering for women, minorities, gays, the physically disabled and so on.  Humanism simply asks this:  How can we elevate the dignity and well-being of a person without diminishing the dignity and well-being of another living being?  That’s it.

Scripture can be very good literature.  But when we’re trying to figure out the place of a person or group in our society, it’s the humanistic question we should pose.  I can certainly understand the horrible position that these religious gays find themselves in.  They want God’s approval so badly.  However, God never gave or withheld approval from anyone or anything.  It’s we humans who do that in his name.  Even the theists should see this, given that there is rarely any agreement among them about what it is their God wants or approves of.

They, too, might try asking the humanist question first.

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