liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
Recently two special interest groups I'm second degree connected to have been involved in scandals around religious attitudes to homosexuality.

The leader of a tiny UK political party, the Liberal Democrats, resigned because
To be a political leader - especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 - and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me.
And a tiny UK Jewish denomination, Orthodox-aligned Sephardim, are up in arms because R' Joseph Dweck taught something about homosexuality in Rabbinic sources and commented
I genuinely believe that the entire revolution of…homosexuality…I don’t think it is stable and well…but I think the revolution is a fantastic development for humanity.


This stuff is minor on the scale of things, but the media love the narrative of gay rights versus religious traditionalism. Anyway lots of my friends are religious Jews or Christians who are also gay or supportive of gay people and other gender and sexual minorities. So lots of my circle are exercised about one or both of the incidents.

It's easy for me to just point and laugh at people tying themselves in knots over whether it's religiously permissible to be fractionally less horrible to gay people. My approach to religion already doesn't accept any authority, whether God or scripture or religious leaders or institutions, telling me to be horrible to anyone. But I don't think that's really a worthy response; there are lots of ways in which a hierarchical, authoritarian approach to religion appeals to many people, including people from GSM and I want to do what I can as an outsider to help those people to exist as their whole authentic selves within all their communities.

I have a lot of admiration for both Farron and R' Dweck. Farron is that rare creature, a principled politician. He belongs to a Christian community whose mainstream teaching prohibits "homosexuality" (whatever they may understand by that), and he is a committed liberal who really works for equality for everybody in the political sphere. It's possible to read his resignation statement as saying he feels it's wrong for him to promote the welfare and rights of gay men when his religion prohibits their relationships. He's also very aware that being perceived as a homophobe is damaging to his Liberal party and is putting off voters, and it seems to me that the second is the bigger driver for him stepping down as leader. R' Dweck is likewise a compassionate and courageous leader, and one who really does accept Torah authority about prohibited homosexual behaviours. Note that the comment that's got him in hot water for not being sufficiently homophobic really looks quite homophobic from a mainstream liberal perspective: he doesn't think homosexuality is stable and well, and he upholds the Torah’s prohibition of male homosexual intercourse.

The reason why my response to these news stories is more than just Schadenfreude is that making a scapegoat of Farron and R' Dweck closes up the space in which gay people can live their lives. Yes, I want gay people and other GSM folk to be fully included and not have their rights curtailed, and that very much includes the right to be members of conservative religious communities. I think there is a lot to be said for the approach that religion is homophobic so people who care about the welfare and rights of GSM people should give up religion. But I also think that religion isn't inherently homophobic and that people, whether Queer or their allies, shouldn't be forced to reject all the good things it offers.

The thought I'm trying to shape is something like, this isn't in fact a conflict between "religion" and "homosexuality". It's a paradigm shift away from the late 19th to early 20th century Western nuclear family system, where the only permitted relationship was marriage between one man and one woman. And the woman was wholly responsible for raising a couple of future capitalist children, and the man had to work at least 40 hours a week in waged employment. I'm pretty confident that it's wrong to force that model on everybody, especially legally, but socially also. But the new permissive liberal paradigm that's replacing it is still somewhat in flux, and I don't assume that it's already the most perfect form of organizing human society. The consensus seems to be forming towards something that's quite individualized; there's no central moral authority, whether that's religion or tradition or the state or general social norms. And because it's individualized it tends to be quite identity-focused; people have a sexual orientation and a gender identity which is fundamental to who they are, and it's absolutely wrong to discriminate based on those. I don't know if it's possible for a system of moral authority to coexist with liberty and equality, and if I have to choose between them I choose liberty every time. For me, visionaries like R' Dweck and people like Farron who are both religiously conservative and politically liberal, are trying to hold on to both, and I want to at least admit the possibility of that. After all, the point of being liberal is to make as much space in society as possible for everybody, including up to a point some less liberal approaches.

Some religious institutions are (IMO mistakenly) investing religious authority in the really quite recent capitalist nuclear family paradigm. But it's not "religion versus gay rights", by a long chalk. Like recently with the development of legislation around same-sex marriage, a vocal conservative minority within the Church of England insisted on banning religious same-sex marriages. But that's not even the whole of the CoE, let alone all Christians, let alone all "religions"; plenty, including my own denomination of Reform Judaism, consider same sex marriage and other positive measures for LGBTQ+ inclusion to be very much part of our religious tradition. I know it's possible to survey historical Christianity and find evidence that Christian same-sex marriage and all kinds of different approaches to relationships and gender have always been part of the huge complex Christian civilization, and it's also possible to cherry pick texts to justify the view that anyone gender non-conforming in any way is deserving of exclusion and violence. And it's the same within Judaism; R' Dweck is by no means the only teacher who is working with extremely traditional methods of bringing about social change, adding to the tradition rather than rejecting it when it doesn't match ethical values. We in liberal traditions benefit quite a lot from this kind of work, because while we're much more willing to throw out prejudiced ideas, we also do want to be part of tradition and not just a society of people who are vaguely nice to eachother, and having access to these interpretations really helps with that.

Maybe it's ok that people trying to hold this balance have very few allies. I can understand that authoritarian homophobes see their authority threatened by leaders who try to introduce compassion and nuance into interpretations of anti-gay views. And I can very very much understand that GSM people and all of us who love them have little time for any attempt to work within a paradigm that classes loving same sex relationships and non-standard gender identities as a moral problem at all. I really want to support holding the balance, though, above all for my friends of any number of genders, orientations, relationship styles etc who belong to conservative religions.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-23 07:25 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Yeah, I don't know. You raise some good points, and some questions I struggle with. After listening to Rabbi Dweck's lecture, I, out of some futile gesture toward open-mindedness, listened to Rabbi Bassous's rebuttal, which was almost more than I could handle. I recognize that in Rabbi Bassous's position I see little that isn't hateful homophobia, and I don't see how there could possibly be Torah in that. But I'm still aware that for GSM friends of mine, the positions that Rabbi Dweck and I have staked out (which are not quite the same, though they share a lot), are also read as homophobic.

What struck me in Rabbi Dweck's shiur that I hadn't seen laid out quite that way before was his emphasis on, as you say, the idea that in modern Western society individualized sexuality is seen as a defining characteristic of personal identity, and banning someone's identity is a quite different proposition than banning some particular behavior. Rabbi Dweck in the latter parts of his shiur expands this idea far beyond just the question of male homosexuality, to all sorts of questions about how Torah sees the relationship between sexuality and love and identity, and I feel like there is yet room for much more expansion than he managed in the scant 90 minutes he had. So it felt like he'd managed to speak to the question of homosexuality and Torah not by lecturing heterosexual Jews on how to treat homosexual Jews, and not by lecturing homosexual Jews on how to live a Torah life, but by offering a challenging musar that applied to everyone.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-23 08:29 pm (UTC)
onyxlynx: Roses, yellow /tinge of rosiness (Roses)
From: [personal profile] onyxlynx
MMMMMMMMMMMMMM-mmm!

Preach it!

*ahem*

What you're saying so needs to be seen by a larger audience. I can understand not wanting a larger audience, though.

*fans self* (in an intellectually stimulated sweat)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-24 09:23 pm (UTC)
ayebydan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ayebydan
The leader of a tiny UK political party, the Liberal Democrats

This struck me from the start. I mean...really? A tiny UK political party would be some of the ones spoken about in jest. A tiny UK political party could be the Greens who sit with one MP and are considered a joke even though they have more votes than parties who gain more seats due to FPTP. The LDs were part of the government just a few years ago. They were also part of the Scottish government just a few years ago. They hold a decent number of seats even now. To call them tiny honestly feels like asking for some sort of sympathy or understanding.

The fact that Farron is religious is not the problem. The problem is his statements about religion and how he handled things. I feel your post passes the buck. He needs to take responsibility for his statements. As a politician in a state where in theory religion should be outside of politics you cannot go around saying 'we are all sinners'. His latter speeches and resignation were, I think, how he should have been from the start. 'Hey, I have my thoughts and beliefs but they are on Sunday and Monday is me being your MP'. Truly, I think he created his own circus.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-25 12:22 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
I think there is a lot to be said for the approach that religion is homophobic so people who care about the welfare and rights of GSM people should give up religion. But I also think that religion isn't inherently homophobic and that people, whether Queer or their allies, shouldn't be forced to reject all the good things it offers.

Oh, I'll bite. Offered in the spirit of batting ideas around, and not meaning to raise a banner and march for it:

One of the criticisms of religion sometimes raised in atheist circles is that religions, per se, draw their prescriptions (morals) from their descriptions (assertions about the existence of supernatural entities, i.e. gods), and because those descriptions are not falsifiable – either because they are inherently unfalsifiable propositions, or because of social rules which prohibit questioning them – religions necessarily have an intrinsic problem with being self-correcting. Because they insist they draw their moral precepts from unfalsifiable premises, when they come up with some awful moral position or contradiction – such as classing homosexual behavior a sin – there's no real way within the religion to revise the moral system.

What winds up happening in practice is that other religions and moral systems in the same society, if they are sufficiently socially powerful, exert pressure on the religion to change to fix their morality. Religions themselves are not self-sufficient to be self-correcting.

Worse, when they are pressured to change due to moral faults, there's usually a schism, while people who insist that "This is what our god told us to do! How can you compromise on the divine orders to conform to secular opinion?!" go one way, and everyone who is like, "Now that outsiders point it out, I have to admit this sort of sucks and we should change it" goes the other.

I think this is a reasonably good argument that religions – that subset of belief systems which we call religions – are, definitionally, inherently at very high risk of being morally awful with no internal mechanism to stop being morally awful. Homophobia is but one example of "morally awful".

ETA: Having now watched all of R' Dweck's shiur, I have to say, he seems like the perfect example of this. It makes me very sad. He clearly is a man of great character, compassion, and learning, and he clearly sees what a shonda the prohibition against same-sex sexual behavior is, and it sorrows him. He all but apologizes for it. But he cannot break with it, because God Said Don't and there is no help for it so long as he grants that that is true. He is a wise man forced to gulp out folly and a kind man forced to utter cruelty by his religion, and nothing can save him from it but apostasy.
Edited Date: 2017-06-25 03:36 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-25 07:43 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Thank you for writing about this. I've had the tab open for a day and a half, hoping to re-read it properly and respond at proper length and now I'm not sure when I'll have time to. This comment is therefore either a placeholder or a substitute.

Incidentally, I went to an LGBT iftar (Ramadan fast-breaking), hosted at an Anglican church, last night, which was attended by Muslims, Jews, Christians and none-of-the-above (and probably others as well; I only had conversations with those near me). It was lovely and there wasn't much talk about 'gay-vs-religious', but that in itself was refreshing.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-25 09:46 am (UTC)
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
From: [personal profile] lavendersparkle
At first I read GSM as Great Saint Mary, which was a bit confusing.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-26 05:18 am (UTC)
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait
What does GSM mean? Google isn't forthcoming on the subject.

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