Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gay rabbi hits out at Bible-inspired homophobia

An Orthodox American rabbi spoke out against using the Bible to justify prejudice in a sermon yesterday.

Steven Greenberg, America's first openly gay rabbi, shared his belief that the Bible is open to interpretation and should not be used to condemn homosexuality.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr Greenberg said: "No one can say, 'It says in the Scripture,' to ground any policy. "All we can say is, 'My community says this.'"

Mr Greenberg is the author of a book, Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition, which challenges religious principles that forbid same-sex relationships.

He admits that most difficult to overcome is Leviticus 18:22 which states: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is detestable."

But according to Mr Greenberg, this passage refers to violent acts of humiliation rather than our present day understanding of what it means to lie with a man.

The talk was given as part of a lecture series at St Stephen's Episcopal Church on the campus of Ohio State University. Reverend George Glazier, pastor of St Stephen's, praised Greenberg's sermon.

Denise Williams, a member of the church said that she was surprised to hear Mr Greenberg say that the Bible is not "truth with a capital T". "But," she continued, "after he went on and described what he meant, I understood. It was given to us to decipher."

Mr Greenberg who was raised in Columbus, Ohio, was the first person to declare his homosexuality while claiming adherence to Orthodox Judaism.

Given Judaism's views on homosexuality, which sees same-sex relationships as an abomination, this has made Mr Greenberg a symbol for the growing Jewish gay movement.

with thanks to


Anonymous said...

The Scriptures are very clear both in the Old & New Testaments. The rabbi needs to repent and acknowlege his theological error.

Paul Patrick said...

Perhaps the last comment would like to answer these questions as they too are part of the Bible's injunctions.

Letter to Dr Carey when he was Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your sermons, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend-the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.
(a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

(b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

(c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

(d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

(e) I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

(f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

(g) Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

(h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

(i) I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

(j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread.
(cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev. 24:10-16).Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Steven Taylor.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Greenberg is not really
"America's first openly gay rabbi." Rather, his is "America's first openly gay Orthodox rabbi." There are other gay rabbis who came first, it's just that they were either Reform or Reconstructionist.

Anonymous said...

"Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is detestable."

"But according to Mr Greenberg, this passage refers to violent acts of humiliation rather than our present day understanding of what it means to lie with a man."

This would mean the Torah condones acts of violent humiliation against women. The rabbi may be satisfying homosexuals but how is this suppose to fly with feminists?

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Greenberg is not the first openly gay Rabbi by any means! He is the first openly gay ORTHODOX Rabbi!