Michaelson, Jay. “God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality”, Beacon Press, 2011.
Embracing Who We Are
I am often asked how I reconcile my faith (Jewish) with my sexuality (gay) and I simply answer that I do not need to reconcile anything. I am a gay Jew or I am a Jewish gay man and that is simply who I am. I feel no conflict and there are no questions to ask or to answer because I understand who I am. Others–many, many others are not so lucky and they spend much of their lives looking for answers to non-existent questions. We have allowed ourselves to be bullied into believing that as gay and lesbian people, there is no place for us religiously and the ideas that are cited and/or used are totally erroneous. Jay Michaelson says a great deal about this in his new book, “God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality” so if you are looking for answers, here is a good place to start
This is such an important book and it shows us that religion is a liberating force without regard to sexuality or religious belief. Michaelson examines Jewish and Christian teachings about homosexuality and he shows us that both traditions allow for the embrace of our LGBT brothers and sisters. Furthermore the book is a guide to understanding the debate in America about religion and homosexuality.
The idea that religion and homosexuality are opposites of each other is, according to Michaelson, a “pernicious myth” and that gay rights should be championed by religion instead of the opposite. Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament stress love, equality and compassion and if we begin our reading of the holy books with that in mind, we soon see that the reading we get is much different to what comes at us from pulpits in this country. Moral principles found in these texts (please note that I use the term Hebrew Bible instead of Old Testament in order that there be no confusion that one is older and one is newer) are aimed at acceptance of all people, specifically the LGBT community and the verses that are usually cited against homosexuality by conservatives are ambiguous at best. It is now time to end the discussion on God’s view of certain people when there is nothing written to that effect at all.
Both the Christian and Jewish Bibles place a great deal on the concepts of love, compassion and equality and there is no denying that these call for the inclusion of members of the LGBT community. Using this as a jumping off point the author looks at gay rights and states that the morality ideals presented in the holy books show that acceptance is necessary and that the verses that are espoused by fundamentalist Christians are taken out of context and misunderstood. It is time to get rid of the “God split”. Michaelson goes on to show the idea of God vs. gay has been misinterpreted and in actuality God and gay not only go together but they complement each other. It is time for religious alienation to end and we should move to spiritual wholeness and thereby move closer to God. The book shows us how to heal and move from rejection to inclusion. Michaelson says what many of us have always felt and once the words are out, we will see the differences they make. By looking within ourselves and our souls and our traditions we can see that religion can free us from the suffering that we have had pushed upon us.
Jay Michaelson is certainly in a position to make these statements. He is both a religious scholar and a gay activist and the founder of Nehirim which is an organization that provides programming for LGBT Jews. He has been listed by Forward newspaper as one of the fifty influential Jewish leaders in America. What he has to say is timely and very important and it provides a great deal to think about. The book is long overdue and I sincerely hope that with its publication others will begin to write on the topic as well. When we consider the amount of damage to our community brought about by religion, we should want to read this just to make sure that it will never happen again.