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Monday, April 21, 2014

But that's the Old Testament? Wait, JEWS STILL USE THAT.

Warnings for mentions of death, murder, sexual assault, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, religious bigotry (Talking about a Jewish way around the lines in the Old Testament that get used to justify homophobia.)

I've seen a decent number of progressive people point out that the prohibition on gay stuff in the bible is actually Old Testament and say that's why it doesn't matter. Here's the thing: Old Testament=Torah=that book that the Jews still use. So if that's the only argument you've got, you're kind of implying that Judaism is inherently homophobic. That's not awesome. [Pointing that out as being the way that Christians handle it while saying that Jewish folk would have a different reason, as opposed to just leaving it as "that's Old Testament" is probably OK. Because Christians actually don't follow all the same rules that Jews do, as evidenced by ham being a pretty traditional Christmas dinner and also being something Jews aren't supposed to eat. The problem is when you then imply that Jews would therefore be bigoted, as opposed to having our own reasoning fitting within our own beliefs.]

So, here's my personal take. For background, I was raised as a Conservative Jew, went to Hebrew school, and was Bat Mitzvahed. I can read Hebrew aloud, but generally have no clue what I'm reading. At the age when I was still going to Hebrew school, I didn't even know the Torah had stuff in it against homosexuality, because none of my teachers ever brought up an interpretation like that in order to be against gay people or bi people. It's not as if I was being somehow steeped in homophobia due to being raised in a religion that still uses the Old Testament/Torah.

One of the really big things I was taught was "to save a life." Basically, while there are a lot of rules (513 or 613 I don't remember, and most of them are inapplicable nowadays because the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and we therefore don't have animal sacrifices anymore, using blessings/prayers instead) you can break pretty much any of them to save a life. You still can't murder (which is a rather specific sort of killing) and you still can't sexually assault people, but short of that, I was taught that saving lives beats the other rules.

Now, in the modern world, it's pretty well established that homophobia does get people killed, biphobia does get people killed, transphobia does get people killed, especially Black trans women. Fighting against stuff that gets people killed seems like a pretty good place to apply "to save a life" because it's literally trying to save lives.

So I'm sure that there's a bunch of other ways to handle those passages without having to be anti-queer, but since I'm not actually religious and I don't know my Torah that well, hitting it with the "to save a life" rule I was taught in Hebrew school is the solution I'm going to come up with. And, you know, that rule is one I think more people should be thinking about, and it's one of the rules I actually use. [Yes, "don't sacrifice people to ideologies" comes from the same place as "to save a life."]

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to hear a Jew's take on that argument. It has always kind of bothered me.

    Also, I'd like to add that it's not just the Old Testament that says homophobic stuff. The apostle Paul says some anti-gay stuff too.


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