Monday, September 16, 2013

Removing the toxicity

Cantor Mark Goldman
I blogged the other day on the welcome surprise of finding so many Christians, including born-again Christians, are coming to recognize that their anti-gay stance is out of line with their "bible-based" understanding of the Deity, as they experience him.

"What about the Jews?" somebody wrote me, in response to the blog.

"They're far less homophobic to start with," I wrote back.  "Some 75% of American Jews have declared themselves in favor of gay rights."

I was wrong.  I should have looked it up before I spoke.  The number is 79%.

In fact, Jewish leaders have been reported to be at the head of the line in support of same-sex marriage. 

Jews divide themselves into “Orthodox Jews,” who are highly conservative, “Conservative Jews” who are not so conservative, and “Reform Jews,” who are very conservative when it comes to seeking out what is “essentially Jewish,” less so when it comes to formal things.

I like to think of the three groups as taking this line on LGBT people:

“Don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know what you people do!” (Orthodox)
“If you really must, I guess I don’t mind.” (Conservative)
“God love you.  Glad to share the modern world with you.” (Reform)

It never hurts, of course, to let them speak for themselves.  Check out what some of their spokespeople have to say on the subject here.  

According to a Pew Research Center report on public attitudes toward homosexuality by religion,  American Jews, taken as a whole, are the most gay-friendly of all people with a religious affiliation, and tied, at 79% “approval,” with the religiously unaffiliated.   (Catholics, by the way, are the second highest group at 71%, demonstrating how few Catholics take the pronouncements of the hierarchy seriously anymore.)

Since even the most conservative Jewish view, the Orthodox view, is “You’re a Jew no matter what you do, and you’re always welcome at shul,” one might argue there are probably better places for gay activists to put their efforts to reach out and talk homophobes out of their hostility. 

I just thought Jews deserved some recognition in our discussion of religious organizations in America and their relationship to lesbians and gay people.

Among all these facts and figures I came across a lovely story, by the way, of a gay Jewish cantor.  If Bach makes me wish I were still a Lutheran, and Amazing Grace takes away any hostility I might feel toward evangelicals, it was the cantor at Harvey Milk’s funeral that brought me closer than I’ve ever felt to the Jewish religion.   This guy looks like a lovely man.  His name is Mark Goldman.  Read his story here. 

He is cantor at Temple Kol-Ami, now merged with Temple Emanu-el in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  His life partner is Aaron Taber.  Speaking of their association with the temple, he says of Aaron, “He is regarded certainly as my spouse in every way. He’s given honors in front of the congregation. It’s never, ever been an issue.”

So thanks again for coming around, you lovely Christian people.  We do appreciate it.

And thanks for getting there faster and sooner, you lovely Jewish people.

Together you give us hope we may someday remove the toxicity that plagues organized religion entirely.

(I won’t hold my breath – but it’s nice to have a little sunshine now and then, don’t you think?)

picture credit

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