Leviticus

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote: “I have been thinking for some time about how to fashion an argument against the “Gay Parade” in Jerusalem (and elsewhere) that would resonate with non-religious people and those who do not view homosexual acts as sinful. Citing Leviticus will be inadequate.”

I have also thought about this for a very long time (not in the context of the parade, but in the overall context of gay marriage) and have concluded that there is no such perspective; those who do not accept that there is a G-d Who gave us Leviticus have no source for a consistent moral code. Absent this consistency society can legislate whatever it wants based on passing trends. For example, witness the shift in ‘morality’ concerning abortion, euthanasia and gays over the past 35 years. The great ‘ethicist’ Peter Singer has written that “we find that we can no longer accept the ethics of the past.” I would argue instead, as Henry James said, that “a great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ”

Our current cultural debate about gay marriage necessarily engages two camps who cannot hear each other precisely because they are living under different mental and psychological regimes – one has a G-d given moral system while the other, unfortunately, does not. (If this sounds familiar, you might want to think about the current debate in Israel about the disengagement plan….) Once G-d is not in the picture the world pretty much becomes do as you wish, with periodic adjustments to window dress a perceived morality which upon objective scrutiny does not have much in the way of legs.

I’ve had a recurring thought of a way to explain to others our opposition to the gay lifestyle. In a nutshell: It is an essential aspect of our Jewishness that we strive to be other-oriented rather than self-oriented. This leads us directly to G-dliness, or is perhaps a subset of G-dliness, as we strive to serve His needs rather than our own. By marrying someone who is wired like me (a male) or even someone not wired like me but nonetheless innately familiar to me (a female, but a close relative of mine) I will not become as other-oriented as I would had I married someone who is completely different than I am. (This also gives context to the linkage between feminism – ‘no differences’ between roles of men and women – and the gay lifestyle.)

Even if this analysis is accurate, though, it is probably not effective as an explanation to others. In Western society heterosexual marriage itself has become little more than a temporary bond between the spouses, ‘serial monogamy’ they call it, and as soon as someone is bored or frustrated they move on. This itself is very self-oriented, so once heteros are acting selfishly within marriage, why can’t we extend to gays the same status? To those who say that marriage stands for the idea of striving for life-long monogamous relationships and ought to be preserved as such even if the realities fall short, the standard response is that the marriage institution itself would motivate gays to be long term ‘monogamous’, rather than promiscuous, something that, given those limited choices, can only benefit society. There is no satisfying answer to these challenges unless you have Leviticus.

I have obviously over-simplified some things in this post, but I thought it better to articulate the basic idea rather than write a magazine length piece on the subject. Comments?

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6 comments to Leviticus

  • ralphie

    Another relevant response would be: Even if one accepts that within certain religions, people of the same sex cannot marry each other, why should that necessarily impact a secular legal code? In other words, it would seem that to convince others of this position one would by definition need a secular reason (e.g., its potential impact on society), as Stanley Kurtz and Maggie Gallagher have tried to put forth.

  • Edvallace

    Very nicely done. Much food for thought.
    Thank you.

  • JewishAtheist

    With all due respect, I find your rationalization utterly uncompelling. What you seem to ignore is that gay people cannot enter into a good marriage with a member of the opposite sex. It’s just not an option. (Please note that I specified a good marriage.) Clearly, by even your logic, marrying someone, even a member of the same sex, would make you more “other-oriented” than would remaining single. Forbidding same-sex marriage forces people to be LESS other-oriented, and so you should be against a prohibition.

    Moreover, proponents of a ban on gay marriage seem to believe that if it’s forbidden, gay people will just go away or magically become straight. This is not the case. There are already gay couples who live together, have children together, and create families. Banning gay marriages serves only to discriminate against such couples and their children and does not provide any benefit. You must first recognize that gay families exist and then deal with that reality rather than assuming that if you ban gay marriage, gay people will just disappear.

  • Hanan

    Comments?

    Sure, how about the fact that Im tired of the fact that people equate Morality with the disengagment plan. You were talking about gay marriages which got my attention, then you just had to bring up the withdrawal and strap on to it that fact that if someone is for it, he is for some reason immoral and does not hold up to the belief in a God given moral system. Thats a very black and white view of reality

  • moshe kuhr

    Gedalia Litke is on to a critical tenet of our faith when he speaks of other directedness. The holy act of sexual union between spouses, is a case in point. The intent of the male, i.e. the mitzva of ona, transforms what would otherwise be a profane act of self-gratification into the holiest spiritual experience. This idea is missing from our pervasive popular culture, and is not often heard, regretfully, in the study halls of our yeshivot either.

  • Gedalia Litke

    Hanan, your point about the morals of disengagement is correct; my intended emphasis was that the two sides simply cannot hear each other, as in the gay marriage debate. But I think you’d agree that it is still true that someone who is G-d oriented will approach the issue very differently than someone who is not, even if they arrive at the same result.