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With the hysteria surrounding the debate on gay marriage, it is time that facts, reason and logic be brought to a discussion that is being conducted increasingly by extremists. While I am opposed to gay marriage, I am equally opposed to the shrill homophobia which is sadly being expressed on the part of many religiously minded colleagues.
Here are the 10 most important religious and legal considerations that should guide us in our outlook on homosexuality and gay marriage.
1. Defenders of the family attack gay marriage as the single most serious threat to the heterosexual institution of marriage. This is a boldface lie. It would behoove straight men and women to accept personal responsibility in having nearly destroyed heterosexual marriage rather than passing the buck onto gays.
Straight men and women have killed off marriage by creating an acceptable culture of male womanizing, no-fault divorces, workaholism that puts professional success ahead of the marital intimacy, and by having developed a grossly misogynistic culture that trains exploits and degrades women, thereby impeding male respect. Gays and lesbians constitute, at most, 15 percent of the general population, while heterosexual divorce is at 50 percent. So, let’s stop the canard that gays are a threat to the institution of marriage.
2. The argument that homosexuality is ‘a crime against nature’ is belied by the fact that much heterosexuals do much between the sheets that is pretty darn unnatural as well. No one would seriously suggest that the mouth was made for kissing or that God made orifices to be used for oral sex. So it’s seems that objections to “unnatural” sex are only used when it comes to homosexuals.
In addition, Prof. David Greenberg shows in his book “The Construction of Homosexuality” that throughout history, and in virtually every culture, homosexuality was as common as heterosexuality, with the sole exception being Judeo-Christian civilizations where same-sex unions were banned by the Bible, thereby demonstrating that homosexuality is not “a crime against nature” but a biblical prohibition.
3. The further argument, favored by religious individuals, that homosexuality is singled out by the Bible for special condemnation is only partially true. The Bible does indeed refer to homosexuality as an “abomination,” but the word actually appears 121 times throughout the Bible, describing, among other things, eating non-kosher foodstuffs and shell-fish (Duet 14:3), a wife returning to her first husband after she has been married to another man (Deuteronomy 24:4), and bringing a sacrifice to God that contains a blemish (Deuteronomy 17:1). Indeed, Proverbs labels as an “abomination” even such things as envy and a false heart, pride, slander and “he that sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 3:32, 16:22).
4. Homosexuality is a religious rather than a moral sin. The Bible clearly distinguishes between sins against God (religious) and sins against man (moral), and neatly divides the Ten Commandments into two tablets reflecting the division. Sins like not worshipping idols are on the first tablet, while sins like refraining from theft and murder are on the second.
Adultery is both a religious and a moral sin because it involves breaking one’s marital covenant and deceiving one’s spouse. Homosexuality, by contrast, which involves consensual sex and no deception, is only a religious sin and not a moral one. No one is being lied to and no one is being stolen from. Therefore, those who label homosexuality as “immoral” would likewise have to argue that those who don’t go to Church are immoral, when in fact they are simply irreligious.
5. Yet, while society should be encouraging gay men and women to live in stable, exclusive, and faithful relationships, society dare not legalize gay marriages and elevate it to the same plane as heterosexual marriages. There is a good reason why God established heterosexual marriage as an unassailable standard.
From time immemorial philosophers have debated whether there is a single source from which all the diverse phenomena of the world stems, a unified field through which all existed could be orchestrated together. Heterosexual marriage refutes the idea of dualism, the ancient and wildly influential idea of the philosopher Zoroaster who argued that the world is made of contradictory opposites that will always be in conflict: light and darkness, body and spirit, good and evil.
God’s message to the world through heterosexual marriage is that opposites can be orchestrated together as one indivisible whole, thereby giving the lie to those who believe that war and discord between people on earth is inevitable. When organisms as different as male and female are drawn together, marry and create a single unified life, the unity rather than duality of creation is affirmed.
This is turn gives us hope that one day different peoples – Protestants and Catholics, Arabs and Jews – will one day live together in harmony. The union and compatibility of male and female in marriage is the ultimate confirmation that we all come from the same place. Hence, jivanmukta, the Hindu word for the union of opposites, has always been a universal goal.
6. Homosexual marriage, involving as it is does the predictable attraction of two people who are similar, while it can of course be genuinely loving and committed, sends the message that like only meets like and those who are very different have no real appeal or attraction to us.
7. Studies show that approximately 90 percent of gay men have had sex with a woman, demonstrating conclusively that many are capable of attraction and interest in women. Elevating gay marriage to the same level of heterosexual marriage would give no incentive to the many gay men and women, who harbor attraction to both sexes, to first try and live within a heterosexual relationship. (Indeed, gay men who are attracted to women usually make much better husbands and fathers since they are usually softer, gentler, more domesticated and more nurturing than their heterosexual counterparts).
If some men with attraction to both sexes are not encouraged to explore their heterosexual attraction, we are condemning millions of women to lives of loneliness without husbands since the higher proportion of gay men to lesbians creates a strong numerical imbalance between the sexes.
8. While gay marriage should not be legalized, we should be encouraging gay men and women, who profess no interest whatsoever in the opposite sex, to live together in legally recognized civil unions. This is good for the men and women in question, and good for society. At all levels, society should be encouraging fidelity, commitment and faithfulness in relationships, and this of course applies to gay couples as well.
9. Religious individuals who encourage gay men and women with no attraction to the opposite sex to live completely celibate lives are often unrealistic, cold and heartless. It even goes against the grain of the very first thing that God labels as “bad” in the Bible: “It is bad for man to be alone.” Likewise, the practice of encouraging gay men who harbor zero heterosexual attraction to marry women is immoral, deeply destructive to the marriage’s participants, as well as to the children who follow.
10. While banning gay marriage is indeed discriminatory, so are the bans against polygamy and polyandry, which seem equally unfair. After all, a man who is married and has a mistress whom he only meets for sex has done nothing illegal (and in some countries has even proven his virility.) But if he suddenly desires to take responsibility for the woman and commit to her in marriage, he is thrown into jail. This is, of course, absurd because by doing so we reward causal sex and punish commitment. Still, amid the absurdity of the logic, nearly all agree that polygamy must remain strictly illegal so as to protect the single, time-honored definition of marriage: one man to woman. Period.