L’Observatoire des religions

"Judaism’s Sexual Revolution : Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality."

dimanche 23 mars 2008 par Dennis Prager

When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. The Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex quite simply made the creation of Western civilization possible. Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism and later carried forward by Christianity.

This revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.

Author Dennis Prager (born August 2, 1948) is a Jewish American syndicated radio talk show host, columnist, author, ethicist, and public speaker. He is noted for his conservative political views and for his study of the consequences of secularism in the 20th Century.

Bible truth

The Hebrew Bible, in particular the Torah (The Five Books of Moses), has done more to civilize the world than any other book or idea in history. It is the Hebrew Bible that gave humanity such ideas as a universal, moral, loving God ; ethical obligations to this God ; the need for history to move forward to moral and spiritual redemption ; the belief that history has meaning ; and the notion that human freedom and social justice are the divinely desired states for all people. It gave the world the Ten Commandments, ethical monotheism, and the concept of holiness (the goal of raising human beings from the animal-like to the God-like). Therefore, when this Bible makes strong moral proclamations, I listen with great respect. And regarding male homosexuality — female homosexuality is not mentioned — this Bible speaks in such clear and direct language that one does not have to be a religious fundamentalist in order to be influenced by its views. All that is necessary is to consider oneself a serious Jew or Christian.

Jews or Christians who take the Bible’s views on homosexuality seriously are not obligated to prove that they are not fundamentalists or literalists, let alone bigots (though, of course, people have used the Bible to defend bigotry). Rather, those who claim homosexuality is compatible with Judaism or Christianity bear the burden of proof to reconcile this view with their Bible. Given the unambiguous nature of the biblical attitude toward homosexuality, however, such a reconciliation is not possible. All that is possible is to declare : "I am aware that the Bible condemns homosexuality, and I consider the Bible wrong." That would be an intellectually honest approach. But this approach leads to another problem. If one chooses which of the Bible’s moral injunctions to take seriously (and the Bible states its prohibition of homosexuality not only as a law, but as a value — "it is an abomination"), of what moral use is the Bible ?

Advocates of the religious acceptance of homosexuality respond that while the Bible is morally advanced in some areas, it is morally regressive in others. Its condemnation of homosexuality is one example, and the Torah’s permitting slavery is another. Far from being immoral, however, the Torah’s prohibition of homosexuality was a major part of its liberation (1) of the human being from the bonds of unrestrained sexuality and (2) of women from being peripheral to men’s lives. As for slavery, while the Bible declares homosexuality wrong, it never declares slavery good.

Those who advocate religious acceptance of homosexuality also argue that the Bible prescribes the death penalty for a multitude of sins, including such seemingly inconsequential acts as gathering wood on the Sabbath. Thus, the fact that the Torah declares homosexuality a capital offense may mean that homosexuality is no more grave an offense than some violation of the Sabbath. And since we no longer condemn people who violate the Sabbath, why continue to condemn people who engage in homosexual acts ?

The answer is that we do not derive our approach toward homosexuality from the fact that the Torah made it a capital offense. We learn it from the fact that the Bible makes a moral statement about homosexuality. It makes no statement about gathering wood on the Sabbath. The Torah uses its strongest term of censure — "abomination" — to describe homosexuality. It is the Bible’s moral evaluation of homosexuality that distinguishes homosexuality from other offenses, capital or otherwise.
As Professor Greenberg, who betrays no inclination toward religious belief writes, "When the word toevah ("abomination") does appear in the Hebrew Bible, it is sometimes applied to idolatry, cult prostitution, magic, or divination, and is sometimes used more generally. It always conveys great repugnance" (emphasis added). Moreover, the Bible lists homosexuality together with child sacrifice among the "abominations" practiced by the peoples living in the land about to be conquered by the Jews. The two are certainly not morally equatable, but they both characterized a morally primitive world that Judaism set out to destroy. They both characterized a way of life opposite to the one that God demanded of Jews (and even of non-Jew — homosexuality is among the sexual offenses that constitute one of the "seven laws of the children of Noah" that Judaism holds all people must observe). Finally, the Bible adds a unique threat to the Jews if they engage in homosexuality and the other offenses of the Canaanites : "You will be vomited out of the land" just as the non-Jews who practise these things were vomited out of the land. Again, as Greenberg notes, this threat "suggests that the offenses were considered serious indeed."

"Crisis" 11, no. 8 (September 1993).

Copyright © 1993 by Crisis Magazine

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