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.

The Jewish sexual ideal

Judaism has a sexual ideal — marital sex. All other forms of sexual behavior, though not equally wrong, deviate from that ideal. The further they deviate, the stronger Judaism’s antipathy to that behavior. Thus, there are varying degrees of sexual wrongs. There is, one could say, a continuum of wrong which goes from premarital sex, to celibacy, to adultery, and on to homosexuality, incest, and bestiality.
We can better understand why Judaism rejects homosexuality if we first understand its attitudes toward these other unacceptable practices. For example, normative Judaism forcefully rejects the claim that never marrying is an equally valid lifestyle to marriage. Judaism states that a life without marrying is a less holy, less complete, and a less Jewish life. Thus, only a married man was allowed to be a high priest, and only a man who had children could sit as a judge on the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin.
To put it in modern terms, while an unmarried rabbi can be the spiritual leader of a congregation, he would be dismissed by almost any congregation if he publicly argued that remaining single were as Jewishly valid a way of life as marriage. Despite all this, no Jew could argue that single Jews must be ostracized from Jewish communal life. Single Jews are to be loved and included in Jewish family, social, and religious life.

These attitudes toward not marrying should help clarify Judaism’s attitude toward homosexuality. First, homosexuality contradicts the Jewish ideal. Second, it cannot be held to be equally valid. Third, those publicly committed to it may not serve as public Jewish role models. But fourth, homosexuals must be included in Jewish communal life and loved as fellow human beings and as Jews. Still, we cannot open the Jewish door to non-marital sex. For once one argues that any non-marital form of sexual behavior is the moral equal of marital sex, the door is opened to all other forms of sexual expression. If consensual homosexual activity is valid, why not consensual incest between adults ? Why is sex between an adult brother and sister more objectionable than sex between two adult men ? If a couple agrees, why not allow consensual adultery ? Once non-marital sex is validated, how can we draw any line ? Why shouldn’t gay liberation be followed by incest liberation ?

Accepting homosexuality as the social, moral, or religious equivalent of heterosexuality would constitute the first modern assault on the extremely hard won, millennia-old battle for a family-based, sexually monogamous society. While it is labeled as "progress," the acceptance of homosexuality would not be new at all.

Again, Judaism’s sexual ideals, especially its opposition to homosexuality, rendered Jews different from the earliest times to the present. As early as the second century B.C., Jewish writers were noting the vast differences between Jewish sexual and family life and that of their non-Jewish neighbors. In the Syballine Oracles, written by an Egyptian Jew probably between 163 and 45 B.C., the author compared Jews to the other nations : The Jews "are mindful of holy wedlock, and they do not engage in impious intercourse with male children, as do Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Romans, specious Greece and many nations of others, Persians and Galatians and all Asia." And in our times. sex historian Amo Karlen wrote that according to the sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, "Homosexuality was phenomenally rare among Orthodox Jews."

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

Copyright © 1993 by Crisis Magazine

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