Last published on OS Jan. 29, 2012. Being published here in support of Jonathan Wolfman's latest post:

Also being published for those who read my stuff on OurSalon who didn't know me on OS

This was originally a pair of posts, now combined into one. I originally posted this after some fundamentalist American Christian clergymen went to Africa and encouraged the persecution of gays. Given the recent killing of a prominent gay activist in Uganda, David Kato, talked about in
Jonathan Wolfman's latest post and probably due ultimately to the influence of these same clergymen, I thought it was time to repost these.



Before I get to my reasons, we need to be coming from the same place. There are two assumptions I start from:

1. Homosexuality cannot be "cured." I don't define homosexuality as pathology, neither does the psychology/psychiatry field in general, so there is actually nothing to be "cured" of by definition. Be that as it may, there are a lot of gay people who would rather be straight for a variety of reasons including, to use a prime example, religion. No approach has thus far been able to turn gay people straight and keep them that way for any length of time. There are people who claim to have "cures" but they are basically analogous to homeopathic cancer cures - some will try them out of desperation but if said "cures" really had a track record they'd be in wider use.

Some claim that homosexuality is "unnatural." Given the number of gay people (and, for that matter, animals) in existence, homosexuality clearly occurs in nature, so to define it as "unnatural" is wrong by definition. Some claim it is unnatural because it doesn't lead to reproduction but that is true of an awful lot of heterosexual sex, including recreational sex in general and sex involving one or more non-fertile partners (due to anything from age to vasectomy).

2. Homosexuality is not a choice. How do I know this, aside from the obvious - that every gay person I've ever heard discuss this says it isn't? Simple: Because I'm straight and didn't choose to be. I grew up in a household where I would have been accepted had I been gay and I attended a college (Oberlin) where it is only a slight exaggeration to say that being gay was encouraged. My heterosexuality is not a result of pressure or of my morals. I am not attracted to men, so I can't claim credit for resisting nonexistent temptation. Because I didn't choose my orientation, I can't assume that others chose theirs.

Why would anyone claim that homosexuality is a choice? Because that would remove a major religious dilemma. If homosexuality isn't a choice, then one could conclude that people are gay because God made them that way, and if God made them that way, then He bears direct responsibility for that which He ostensibly rejects. That is a dilemma that a lot of people would rather not have to face; it's so much easier to blame gays for their own plight.

Homosexuality isn't a feasible choice because there are too many downsides and not enough advantages. Why choose an orientation that can get you rejected by your own family, friends, house of worship, place of employment and, depending on your beliefs, God Himself? There are a number of fundamentalist gays (both Christian and Orthodox Jewish), people who really believe that Scripture prohibits what they are and who, as a result, hate themselves and hate their lives; given their priorities, it is unimaginable that they're putting themselves and their families through this by choice. A choice would entail a motive and there isn't an obvious one here.

I occasionally hear the following: "Sexual orientation isn't a choice but isn't prohibited by Scripture to begin with; however, acting on that orientation is both. You can be gay and not be a sinner; you just can't act on that." This argument is literally true but way too facile. When I hear it, I answer the following:

"Imagine that God comes down and says 'The Earth is overpopulated. As a result, I reverse My earlier decree. Same sex relationships and marriages are now approved but opposite sex relationships and marriages have lost My approval and are now an abomination.' If this were to happen, would you be prepared to give up sexual and romantic relations with the opposite sex? Because that's what you're expecting gays to do." It's amazing how few unqualified yesses I hear.

I am happy to enter this argument but only if both sides conduct it honestly. The contention that homosexuality is a choice isn't honest, it's a Conviction of Convenience, a conviction held to avoid having to face a very real dilemma. The only way to deal with such a dilemma is to have the courage to face it. Blaming the victim represents nothing so much as intellectual cowardice, and arguing with people who are married to such a viewpoint isn't worth my time. In other words, if you can't stand the heat, please stay out of my kitchen.


Some people support gay rights in spite of their religious convictions. I support gay rights because of mine. This is why. I am Jewish, currently participating in the Reform Movement, but my reasoning also applies to Christians. I'm too poorly informed on Islam to include that here (except insofar as the Koran states that the Torah is valid which, oddly enough, it does).

I've learned a lot from my religion. I'm supposed to love my neighbor. I'm supposed to do justice and love mercy (Micah). I'm supposed to be empathetic to the stranger and the slave, because I was both once. I'm not supposed to hurt people who haven't hurt anyone....but there's an exception, an exception involving those who participate in male homosexual conduct. (Lesbianism isn't actually addressed at all in the Bible, at least not in what Jews call Tanakh and Christians call the Old Testament.) I'm not completely sure why it's there and it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of what my religion teaches me but, unless I am ultimately rescued by what turns out to be a translation issue, there it is. I'd love there to be a translation issue but I can't count on that so I'm going to have to make my choice based on what's currently on the table.

One day I'll die and I envision having a conversation, a sort of exit interview, with God. On this issue, He'll ask me one of two questions:

1. "Why did you tolerate homosexuality when I expressly forbade it? Didn't you read?"


2. "Why did you tolerate the persecution of My children? Didn't you think?"

It gives "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" a whole new meaning.

How will I best be prepared for that conversation? How will I have lived my life most morally? On what basis do I make my choice?

What my choice really comes down to is whether I'm prepared to take the heat for being too compassionate or too vigilant. To really be Jewish (or Christian, for that matter), you need both compassion and vigilance. Which takes priority? To me, the answer is obvious, though there are apparently many out there who would disagree with me based on their own conduct. It is this answer which ultimately drives my choice.

From what I can see in Judaism, compassion takes precedence. I base this on a lot. The Torah itself introduced an element of humaneness that I believe was unprecedented at the time. This humaneness isn't limited to people; a lot of it involves animals, everything from not overburdening them to feeding them before you feed yourself to not eating those that haven't been slaughtered humanely. Yes, there are a lot of rules, over six hundred of them, but they're only part of the story - a key part of understanding the moral center of Judaism has to do with the exceptions to the rules. Violating Sabbath is a big deal but, in order to save a life, violating Sabbath is not only permitted, it is obligatory. Fasting on Yom Kippur is required, unless you're sick, in which case it's forbidden. The rules that are most central, the Ten Commandments, are mainly about how to treat others (don't murder, steal from, lie about, or cheat on others, honor your parents) and yourself (you need rest - Sabbath) rather than about ritual.

The best answer to my question comes from the sage Hillel. When asked mockingly by someone to "teach me the Torah while I stand on one foot," he replied, without missing a beat: "That which is hateful to you do not do to another. The rest is commentary, now go study." He summed up our entire religion by going straight to compassion, bypassing even God. He doesn't talk about vigilance. This is pretty unambiguous.

Jesus, if anything, is even less ambiguous, because he makes the point that vigilance is less important than compassion explicitly, in a single amazingly elegant sentence:

Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone.

There are Christian clergymen who are now running around the world advocating the persecution of gays (like what just happened in Malawi). I'm a pretty intelligent guy but, try as I might, when I try to connect the man who gave us the above sentence with what they're preaching, I find I can't get there from here; I don't know how. Frankly, if they gave the same question serious thought, I suspect they wouldn't be able to either.


That's my reason. I don't expect everyone looking at this question from a religious standpoint to agree with me because the prohibitions do after all exist. However, what the aforementioned clergymen are doing falls under a completely different category. That's not about faith; that's about having prejudices, finding some backup for those prejudices in Scripture, and going with it. That's just being bigoted and trying to force God to be their accomplice.

I think this because there is nothing in either Jewish or Christian scripture that supports this sort of emphasis. Yes, the Tanakh/Old Testament refers to (presumably) male homosexual congress as an Abomination; however, it also refers to eating shellfish as an Abomination (same word in the original Hebrew as well as English), and you don't see any of these guys suggesting long prison sentences for eating shrimp cocktail. One could, I suppose, make the case that sexual law is more important than dietary law (though I'm not sure on what basis). OK, let's use that standard: The prohibition of male homosexual congress doesn't show up in the Ten Commandments, unlike the prohibition of adultery, which does. This makes sense - adultery always entails at least one victim, while homosexual congress typically entails none. Adultery also involves the betrayal of a close and sacred relationship, which homosexual congress does not. Do you see these clergymen running around Africa or anywhere else saying we ought to put heavier penalties on adultery? Based on every standard except one, that would make more sense than what they're doing. The exceptional standard is the gross-out factor, the allegation that such conduct is unnatural (see Pt. 1 for my answer to that).

A good measure of the justness of any given policy or law is its objectivity. The gross-out factor is a completely subjective standard. That in itself is a great clue that we have an unjust policy here, with enforcement being driven by taste rather than law.

Are these stone-casting clergymen without sin? Didn't they read? Didn't they think?

The truth?

Probably neither.

Views: 152

Comment by JMac1949 Today on December 11, 2012 at 12:49am

Kosh, I'll repeat my comment from Jon's post: I personally feel that the entire problem can be easily resolved if the state governments, and federal tax and employment policy simple got out of the "marriage business" altogether and left the "sanctity of marriage" to the various churches.  By eliminating the words "marriage, married, matrimony" and such from all state and federal law and substituting "legally recognized monogamous partnership" and clearly identify that as protected under the 14th "Equal Protection" amendment (something that the federal courts will eventually do in any case), the entire gender bias issue would be rendered moot. Reserve "marriage" for religious ceremonies and "monogamous partnership" for legal matters. and BTW if anyone wants to be "married", I'm an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church and I'll be happy to perform the ceremony of their choice in any state.  Language is important, but in the final rinse it is legal protection and intent that comes out in the wash... I can't believe I wrote that.  And I'll add that my favorite passage from American literature is Huckleberry Finn's conclusion with the argument he had with himself as he considered turning in his good friend Jim as a runaway slave, "I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.  I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself, 'All right, then, I'll GO to hell."

When caught between that proverbial rock and the hard  place and faced with the choice of "Damned if you do and damned if you don't"  the only real sin we can commit is the sin of omission.  G-D knows that, that's why He made that stupid bet with Satan about the soul of Job.  R&L ;-)

Comment by The_Traveler on December 11, 2012 at 6:01am

Nicely argued, written.

I do find it difficult to conceive that, in this day, any of this needs to be said.

That's the saddest commentary.


Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on December 11, 2012 at 6:48am

So pleased you re-published this here, Kosh.

Comment by James Mark Emmerling on December 11, 2012 at 7:01am

i consider myself one hell of a religious person, goddammit, although i haven't found a damn religion yet that i like.

an organized one, that is. i hate groupthink. and my sage, a.n. whitehead, an extremely religious dude, said, "religion is what a man does in solitude".

"From what I can see in Judaism, compassion takes precedence". Yes, it surely does. And your quotes from Wonder Boy, the Christos, the Anointed? Perfect.


Religion begins with a charismatic person touched by God.

Meaning: interpreting this mysterious force or entity or presence ''God" in terms of his/her personal circumstances and of course cultural limitations. I can find alot of good stuff in the Bible. And alot of utter nonsense.

but that is par for the course.


Homosexuality was frowned on in the Old Days cuz no children resulted from such a union.

They were desperate to procreate successfully.

These days are different. Too much procreating!

But ideas and memes are also creations of the human mind, and the homosexual/bisexual community has always been a source of such creativity.

Judge not! How hard is that to swallow? Yer damn savior commanded it,ye hypocrites, ye vipers, so DO IT!

Comment by koshersalaami on December 11, 2012 at 7:03am

Thank you.

We could go the route of trying to separate the religious function of marriage from the civil function of whatever, what are typically called Civil Unions but what you have labeled Monogamous Partnership. Here are the functional problems with that:

1. The vernacular for any of this stuff will continue to be "married." There will be a few pastors who insist on drawing the distinction but that will be it.

2. It answers a nonexistent problem: No one is contemplating forcing any clergy to marry gay couples. That would be the equivalent of telling my rabbi for whom he must perform a bar or bat mitzvah ceremony. Churches and other religious organizations will continue to recognize or not recognize marriages on religious grounds. That's what they've done for millenia and it's what they'll continue to do. How does the Catholic church react to divorces and remarriage? It depends where you are.

3. Regardless of what kind of couple you are, you can find some kind of clergy who will marry you in some denomination or other. As soon as any given couple does that, they're Married. Their marriage wouldn't necessarily be recognized by other churches, but it isn't now, so nothing changes. So, if we go through the charade of calling marriage a civil union, it's a relatively simple step to turn that civil union into a Marriage. My guess is that there will be clergy who make a point of turning civil unions into marriages.

I have no objection to answering religious objections to gay marriage, real or imagined. There are, after all, people for whom religious objections to gay marriage are both real and primary, meaning the sole reason they object to gay marriage is because of scripture, not their own prejudices. This is particularly true of fundamentalist gay people. If an answer can be provided, I'll help provide it, though there are others who have different rationales than what I've presented here. I'm unfortunately not thoroughly conversant with those rationales, so I don't make them.

Comment by koshersalaami on December 11, 2012 at 7:11am

Thanks. This is actually its third iteration. It was one of my earliest posts on OS but at that point it was a pair of posts because I was still trying to keep them short. Then I reposted because I picked up a lot of readers in the meantime. Now I'm reposting here because I have a bunch of new readers here (or, in the case of James, readers I picked up on OS but after my repost).

I've never heard him referred to as Wonder Boy before.

Comment by I wooden DoDat on December 12, 2012 at 12:42am


As with most things these days, there is a great deal of confusion between "Religion" and "Spirituality" - ( law and Justice)

I tend to view organized religion as secondhand spirituality, just as I view government and legal systems as secondhand Justice. The governing spirituality of the "Christian" philosophy is compassion, shared feeling- not to be bound by written rules or laws. The highest shared feeling is agape love, the literal extension of feeling to others as if they were a part of your own being ( they are).

The injunction to "know thyself" and become as a small child is to explore your being fearlessly with love and joy- I admit that the thought of MY personally  being sexually attracted to another man gives me a feeling of repulsion, much as the one I might feel when contemplating swallowing a spoon full of mustard -

This is where thought takes over and guides compassion- I know someone who eats mustard as I eat ice cream- it's a taste that I don't ever see myself developing, but it's also none of my business that he enjoys it. Each individual is weird in their own way- unless their is actual and foreseeable cause of harm to someone other than the people involved, it is none of the government (organized religion)  business either.

As with everyone else, I'm allowed to like or dislike the individual, but both my religion and spirituality require love and compassion for all of Being.

Comment by koshersalaami on December 12, 2012 at 6:15am

As so often happens with me, I've got a couple of answers independent of each other. I'm sometimes not sure I have the capacity to write anything without counting at least to two.

Your second to last paragraph is a great description of where conservativism should be and, in fact, used to be but where the Republican Party has left.

Organized religion is about more than law. It's also about two other things: community and exploration. The exploration aspect sometimes gets ignored and, when it does, people end up alienated from organized religion because all they see is a bunch of requirements. I know Judaism has lost a lot of people as anything more than occasional practitioners at best because their congregations weren't involved in the exploration side. My congregation has a Torah study group on Saturday mornings and it's often extremely crowded, in part because it's just analytically cool.

This exploration thing is sort of doubly important in Judaism because Jews as a population have a lot of statistical tendencies we tend to like whose source is ultimately the exploration process. I think a lot of Jews tend to think of our differences as automatic without understanding the role of their ultimate source, by which I don't mean God, I mean the exploration process. (Whether it's actually God is a question of faith and I'm not addressing that here; I'm more or less addressing the process of reaching God, which is not really about faith.)

I might have the roots of a post here but probably not a post on OurS.

Comment by koshersalaami on December 12, 2012 at 7:47am

I'd like to bring to the attention of anyone who's following this the following link:

Safe Bet's Amy posted this with a credit to the original source. This is a link to the original. It's quite good. It says some of what I say a lot more succinctly, though it's strictly focused on Christianity while my post isn't.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on December 12, 2012 at 8:19am

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  REALLY, Kosher?  I had to ask myself WHY you would feel the need to post something like your last comment.  Then it came to me!

 You had to try to take a whack at me by saying that what I posted wasn't original and implying that it  "just kinda, sorta, mighta been"   plagiarism!

Nice try, doucheboy, but if you'd have actually READ the man's web site you'd have seen the following request by HIM:

"You are welcome to share anything you find on this site. Please link back to"

This is exactly what I did.  

Nice try at your ongoing fucking "hobby" of character assassination, but it didn't work this time.  Not to worry, I'm sure you'll try again.


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