independent and unofficial
Prince fan community
Forum jump
Forums > Politics & Religion > Fantastic editorial on Gays in Clergy
« Previous topic  Next topic »
  New topic   Printable     (Log in to 'subscribe' to this topic)
Author

Tweet     Share

Message
Thread started 05/01/06 5:07pm

NorthernLad

Fantastic editorial on Gays in Clergy

excellent editorial from USA Today

http://www.usatoday.com/n...edit_x.htm

A rabbi's struggle: To allow gay clergy or not?

By Gerald L. Zelizer
Over the past few decades, the cultural battles over homosexuality have been waged in courtrooms, workplaces, schools and any number of other public forums. Religions, too, have become divided over the issue. You need not look very far for headlines showing splits over the acceptance of gay clergy or congregants.
My faith is in the midst of just such a struggle.

My personal journey in rethinking this choice reflects one side of the debate underway in Conservative Judaism, a denomination with an ideology between the more stringent Orthodox and the more liberal Reform. Its resolution will affect the roughly 1 million American Jews who identify with our religious approach.

The issue of lifting the ban on gay rabbis was first considered, but rejected, in 1992. I was then serving as the international president of the 1,200 Conservative rabbis in the USA and worldwide. At the time, I supported our decision: No. The Torah's prohibition in Leviticus — "Do not lie with a male as you would with a female; it is an abomination" — seemed too absolute to allow any wiggle room.

After all, I reasoned, those who violated other biblical injunctions — such as not keeping kosher or committing adultery — also were unsuitable to be rabbis.

My fealty both to the Bible and my denomination's decisions affected me personally. My cousin, a gay rabbi, openly challenged the refusal to lift the ban and had difficulty securing a synagogue. Sadly, he abandoned the pulpit. Surely, my support of the ban contributed to his exodus.

But the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, composed of our most learned rabbis and professors, is revisiting the earlier ruling. (A decision is expected by year's end.) The debate goes on.

At our Rabbinical Convention in March, the matter was passionately debated, as it is in the field. A survey taken in 2003 by Keshet (rainbow), an advocacy group at our New York Jewish Theological Seminary, found that 83% of 222 respondents at the seminary want gays and lesbians to be admitted to Conservative rabbinical and cantorial schools. Others, though, such as Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, the retiring chancellor of that flagship seminary, contend that uprooting the Torah prohibition would do violence to the underpinnings of our whole religious faith.

What I think:

I feel differently. Since the last go-round, as I have become acquainted with more pious and knowledgeable gay and lesbian Jews, I have asked myself why God would design some people with a trait — for which there is paltry evidence that it can be reversed — and then designate individuals with that characteristic as "sinners?" Even if triggered by a gene mutation, as some argue, what is sinful about that? Too many gays I met suffered in their efforts to engage in heterosexual sex, marry heterosexuals, even bear children, only to realize that their homosexuality was immutable.

Conservative Judaism has always taught that we must upgrade our biblical understanding with new scientific knowledge. Contrary to the biblical assumption that gayness is a sinful choice, our best knowledge today indicates that it is as determined and irrevocable as blue or brown eyes. Of course, adherents of Orthodoxy and even some in my own movement will charge: "How can one be so presumptuous as to think he can improve on the biblical word of God?" Well, Judaism has done that from its inception, especially when moral considerations required it.

The biblical demand of "an eye for an eye" was interpreted in the Talmud as the monetary value of a wounded eye, and not an actual gouging. The Bible also orders the stoning of an unruly son, but the Talmud already qualified that as theoretical, saying, "It was never done nor will it be done."

Abraham Heschel, a pre-eminent 20th century theologian, wrote that the Torah is not a literal stenographic recording of God's voice, as over a long distance telephone, but a human interaction with the divine revelation.

Adapting to society

Changes in secular society have also contributed to the push for a change in my denomination's attitudes. Of course, religion should adhere to its beliefs and not slavishly respond "me too" to all of secular culture — as with, for example, the growing sympathy with euthanasia. But in instances where secular society develops just insights, religion should not stubbornly retain its own unjust ones. Sometimes, the sensibilities of society are ahead of religion. This is the case with homosexuality.

I have changed a lot since 1992, as have many colleagues. Gay/lesbian Jews are God's creatures, too. Some, like my cousin, are knowledgeable, observant Jews, qualified to be rabbis but prohibited because of a sexual preference not of their own making. It is time to lift the prohibition against gay rabbis by using the same blueprint that Judaism has employed to rectify other unjust religious dictums.

Will I rush to hire an assistant or intern rabbi who is gay? No. I need some time for truths that my mind now understands to reach my gut. I need to get comfortable, for example, witnessing a rabbi and his male partner dancing at my synagogue's spring social, or seeing two lesbians hand-in-hand at the Torah while celebrating their daughter's bat mitzvah. I am confident that, eventually, religious commitment will trump sexual orientation.

Should other faiths allow gay clergy? That is not for me to say. I know only that other faiths have the same goals of both incorporating believers and encouraging the most committed to serve as clergy. Beyond that, I can only describe my journey, in hopes others might learn from my experience.

Gerald L. Zelizer is rabbi of Neve Shalom, a Conservative congregation in New Jersey, and a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #1 posted 05/01/06 7:25pm

Lammastide

avatar

I think something like this takes guts to write. It's honest. It's neither romantic, flowery or all-tolerant nor is it jaded, bigoted and closed. It suggests a fight for inner clarity that must precede anything that'll happen congregationally. And regardless of where one falls on the matter, I think it's an inspirational confession of struggle.

Here in Ohio, we have a fascinating guy, Steven Greenberg, who is the U.S.' first openly gay orthodox rabbi. The stuff he's been through is HARROWING, but he keeps his faith, and he's won a lot of people's respect in a community that is famous for its stringent conservative doctrinal stance.

People will come out of the woodwork to issue opinions on whether gays should be permitted anywhere in clergy. If I agree with anything Zelizer said, it's his suggestion that dictating to others' congregations what they should or should not do is not for him -- or us -- to say. People have their own angels to wrestle with... and we'd be wise to keep our twocents out of it.
[Edited 5/1/06 19:41pm]
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.”
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #2 posted 05/01/06 7:28pm

Lammastide

avatar

NorthernLad, if you haven't already seen it, you should check out the movie "Trembling Before G-d." It's about LGBT Orthodox and Chasidic Jews, and while I wouldn't call it "profound," it's definitely an eye-opening experience. Steven Greenberg is one of the Jews featured in it.
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.”
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #3 posted 05/01/06 7:47pm

ehuffnsd

avatar

that's great
You CANNOT use the name of God, or religion, to justify acts of violence, to hurt, to hate, to discriminate- Madonna
authentic power is service- Pope Francis
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #4 posted 05/01/06 7:52pm

NorthernLad

Lammastide said:

NorthernLad, if you haven't already seen it, you should check out the movie "Trembling Before G-d." It's about LGBT Orthodox and Chasidic Jews, and while I wouldn't call it "profound," it's definitely an eye-opening experience. Steven Greenberg is one of the Jews featured in it.


Thanks for the recommendation, I will definitely seek it out!
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #5 posted 05/01/06 8:14pm

ehuffnsd

avatar

do... these rabbis know how read Hebrew... i'm sure ED would educate them on their errors in the language and how they have it wrong
You CANNOT use the name of God, or religion, to justify acts of violence, to hurt, to hate, to discriminate- Madonna
authentic power is service- Pope Francis
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #6 posted 05/01/06 8:18pm

Lammastide

avatar

ehuffnsd said:

do... these rabbis know how read Hebrew... i'm sure ED would educate them on their errors in the language and how they have it wrong

C'mon, ehuff. Why pick a fight?
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.”
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #7 posted 05/01/06 8:50pm

NorthernLad

Lammastide said:

ehuffnsd said:

do... these rabbis know how read Hebrew... i'm sure ED would educate them on their errors in the language and how they have it wrong

C'mon, ehuff. Why pick a fight?



but that's what makes message boards FUN! wink
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #8 posted 05/01/06 8:51pm

Lammastide

avatar

NorthernLad said:

Lammastide said:


C'mon, ehuff. Why pick a fight?



but that's what makes message boards FUN! wink

doh!
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.”
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #9 posted 05/01/06 9:32pm

ehuffnsd

avatar

Lammastide said:

ehuffnsd said:

do... these rabbis know how read Hebrew... i'm sure ED would educate them on their errors in the language and how they have it wrong

C'mon, ehuff. Why pick a fight?



after telling me that my great aunt who has a been a nun for 55 years doesn't know what she's talking about... i just wonder what he thinks about these people.
You CANNOT use the name of God, or religion, to justify acts of violence, to hurt, to hate, to discriminate- Madonna
authentic power is service- Pope Francis
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #10 posted 05/01/06 10:02pm

Lammastide

avatar

ehuffnsd said:

Lammastide said:


C'mon, ehuff. Why pick a fight?



after telling me that my great aunt who has a been a nun for 55 years doesn't know what she's talking about... i just wonder what he thinks about these people.

Ahh...I see. hmmm Do you really need to wonder, then?
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.”
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #11 posted 05/01/06 10:05pm

ehuffnsd

avatar

Lammastide said:

ehuffnsd said:




after telling me that my great aunt who has a been a nun for 55 years doesn't know what she's talking about... i just wonder what he thinks about these people.

Ahh...I see. hmmm Do you really need to wonder, then?



doesn't hurt to ask questions don't want to assume because you know what they say
You CANNOT use the name of God, or religion, to justify acts of violence, to hurt, to hate, to discriminate- Madonna
authentic power is service- Pope Francis
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #12 posted 05/01/06 10:08pm

Lammastide

avatar

ehuffnsd said:

Lammastide said:


Ahh...I see. hmmm Do you really need to wonder, then?



doesn't hurt to ask questions don't want to assume because you know what they say

Well, you certainly got me on that one, mate. shrug
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.”
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
  New topic   Printable     (Log in to 'subscribe' to this topic)
« Previous topic  Next topic »
Forums > Politics & Religion > Fantastic editorial on Gays in Clergy