“Slouching towards Gaytheism: Christianity and Queer Survival in America” by W.C. Harris— Homophobia and Religion: A Theory

slouching toward gaytheism

Harris. W.C. “Slouching towards Gaytheism: Christianity and Queer Survival in America”, Suny Press, 2014.

Homophobia and Religion: A Theory

Amos Lassen

The basic premise of “Slouching towards Gaytheism is that “homophobia will not be eradicated in the United States until religion is ended. The books unites the new Atheism with queer theory and then goes beyond them to give us a new voice for both gay Americans and atheists. Author W.C. Harris examines “the continued vehemence of homophobia in cultural and political debate regarding queer equality, this unabashed polemic insists that the needs met by religion might be met—more safely and less toxically—by forms of community that do not harass and malign gay and lesbian Americans or impede collective social progress”.  He further argues that compromises with traditional religion, no matter how enlightened or well intentioned, will ultimately leave heteronormativity alive and well. He looks at recent movements like Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, reparative “ex-gay” therapy, culture of Christian purity, and attempts by liberal Christians to reconcile religion with homosexuality, and shows how these proposed solutions are either inadequate or positively dangerous. According to the author, the time has come for “gaytheism”: leaving religion behind in order to preserve queer dignity, rights, and lives. This is a fascinating read that will both teach us something and Keep us entertained as we read.

Here is the table of contents:

 “ Introduction: Where Gays Lie

 1. “The End of the Rainbow, My Pot of Gold”: The Queer Erotics of Purity Balls and Christian Abstinence Culture

 2. Breeding Fraternities: Ex-Gay Ministries, Barebacking, and Alternative Models of Relation

 3. Jesus Needs Gays, Yes He Does: Gay Religion, Queer Spirituality, and the Recalcitrance of Ideology

 4. Slouching toward Gaytheism: Gay Suicide, “It Gets Better,” and Religion’s Stranglehold on Queer Survival

 Conclusion: Before the Cock Crows

 Notes

Works Cited

“Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion” edited by Ryan Conrad— “When ‘Rights’ Go Wrong”

againstequality

Conrad, Ryan (editor). “Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion, AK Press, 2014.

 “When ‘Rights’ Go Wrong”

Amos Lassen

Ryan Conrad asks these difficult questions in “Against Equality”: “Does gay marriage support the right-wing goal of linking access to basic human rights like health care and economic security to an inherently conservative tradition?” “Will the ability of queers to fight in wars of imperialism help liberate and empower LGBT people around the world?” “Does hate-crime legislation affirm and strengthen historically anti-queer institutions like the police and prisons rather than dismantling them?”

Queer thinkers, writers, and artists who are committed to undermining a stunted conception of “equality” challenge mainstream gay and lesbian struggles for inclusion in elitist and inhumane institutions.  This is more than a critique, it seeks to reinvigorate the queer political imagination with fantastic possibility!

Contributors Include: Bill Andriette, Jack Aponte, Sébastien Barraud, Kate Bornstein, John D’Emilio, James D’Entremont, Kenyon Farrow, La Gai, Larry Goldsmith, Imani Keith Henry, Jamal Rashad Jones, MJ Kaufman, Cecilia Cissell Lucas, Jason Lydon, Erica Meiners, Liam Michaud, Katie Miles, Yasmin Nair, Tamara K. Nopper, Josh Pavan, Therese Quinn, Liliana Segura, Bridget Simpson, Dean Spade, Eric Stanley, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and Craig Willsen.

We live during a time when the LGBT movement seemingly “echoes” the mainstream and this book should be read by everyone who cares about equal rights. It is a call for “a social transformation” and goes beyond typical gay politics and the three main issues that seem to have preoccupied us for a long time— marriage, militarism, and prison. The voices here offer is a radical left “critique of neo-liberalism, capitalism, and state oppression”. In doing so it keeps our political imaginations alive and “challenges, educates and inspires”.

“Same-Sex Marriage in the United States The Road to the Supreme Court and Beyond” by Jason Pierceson— A Defining Social Issue

same sex marriage

Pierceson, Jason. “Same-Sex Marriage in the United States The Road to the Supreme Court and Beyond”, (Updated Edition), Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

A Defining Social Issue

Amos Lassen

Same-sex marriage has become one of the most defining social issues in the history of American politics. Those states that have found in favor of same-sex marriage are growing daily and as we watch this we are immediately aware that this is the story of “the legal and cultural shift, its backlash, and how it has evolved over the past 15 years.  This book examines the legal, political, and social developments surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage in the United States.

There have been many books on the subject but only a few of them have provided a clear and comprehensive account of the litigation for same-sex marriage, and its successes and failures, as this book does.

 “Updated through 2013, this edition details the watershed rulings in favor of same-sex marriage: the Supreme Court’s June 26th repeal of DOMA, and of Proposition 8 in California, as well as the many states (New Jersey, Illinois, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Nevada among others) where activists and public leaders have made recent strides to ensure that gay couples have an equal right to marry”.

Author Jason Pierceson has done excellent research on the topic.  He looks at the legal and cultural shift on same-sex marriage, its backlash, and how it has evolved over the past fifteen years and provides a comprehensive account of both the successes and failures of the movement from a legal, political, and social perspective.

 Same-sex marriage “brings into play major dimensions of US polity and political culture: federalism, the role of the courts, and the role of religion in politics and law. Background chapters on developments between 1950 and 1990 as well as same-sex marriage around the world provide context for the examination of litigation. Chapters on developments in the Midwest, East, and South are followed by one on same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court. The analysis, careful and well documented, is a work of advocacy scholarship. The movement toward same-sex marriage is described as “progressive” and attempts to stop or reverse these developments are described as a backlash to this progress. Natural law, on which opponents of same-sex marriage rely, is described as “’deeply sexist and heterosexist’.”

 Pierceson  reminds us that, while the debate over marriage equality has become a central issue in US politics in recent years, the history is quite a long one and that many have worked to see this happen. He gives us a “fascinating survey of developments in same-sex marriage across the states, offering an integrated law and politics approach. Pierceson’s focus on the Midwest is particularly welcome, demonstrating the complex interplay of progressive and conservative political forces in litigation, legislative and constitutional battles in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin”.

Below is a look at the Table of Contents:

Preface

 Introduction

 Gay Rights and Same-Sex Marriage: 1950-1990

 Same-Sex Marriage, Politics, and Law Around the World

 The First Phase of Litigation, Backlash, and Litigation’s Legacy: Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Alaska, Vermont, and Massachusetts

 Same-Sex Marriage in the Midwest

 Continued Progress and Backlash, 2004-2012: The East and South

 Continued Progress and Backlash, 2004-2012: The West

 Same-Sex Marriage and the Supreme Court

 Conclusion

 Epilogue

 Index

“In a New Century 
Essays on Queer History, Politics, and Community Life” by John D’Emilio— A Scholar Looks at How We Live

in a new century better

D’Emilio, John. “In a New Century 
Essays on Queer History, Politics, and Community Life”,
 University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

A Scholar Looks at How We Live

Amos Lassen

The LGBT community is very fortunate in the number of scholars and even more fortunate in the number of scholars who write about the world we live in. One of the men leading that group is a man I have been reading since I first came out—John D’Emilio who has written more than six books about being gay in America and innumerable articles. Just the other day I sat here wondering why we have not heard from him in a while.  His “Making Trouble: Essays on Gay History, Politics and the University (now available on Kindle) has always sat on the desk in my office wherever I taught.

This new collection of essays is profound and provocative and proves once again that he is a man who has both lived and knows our history. His knack for connecting with the past makes it come alive. All of us who came out during the twentieth century are aware of the tremendous strides and concessions we have won in the twenty-first century and we also know well that there is no turning back. When the CEO of a major company is forced to step from his position because he dared to make a large donation to Christian ant-marriage organization or when the President of the United States speaks about our community in his inaugural address then we are really aware of just how far we have come. But this did not come to us easily and it is men like John D’Emilio who refused to step back and is a reminder that we are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. D’Emilio was already a faculty member and identified himself as gay at a time in our history when others did not and it was generally understood that coming out on a university campus was akin to career suicide. This has all changed in the large thirty years and gay faculty members now can use their sexual orientation as an aid to finding a good position. Universities now see beyond “gay” and see these faculty members as people of great value. As a gay faculty member myself, I am astounded at our progress and very, very happy about it. It was  John D’Emilio (and others who made this possible).

Now he takes us into a new century and answers many important question and writes about the issues of the LGBT community. The twenty-first century brought significant changes into our lives. Thus far we have seen the end of sodomy laws, the elimination of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a move toward recognition of same-sex marriage, Gay-Straight Alliances in thousands of high schools, and an explosion of visibility in the media and popular culture. All of this would have been unimaginable to those living just a few decades ago. Yet, at the same time, the American political system has grown ever more conservative, and increasing economic inequality has been a defining feature of the new century.

The book is divided into four sections and it opens up with and all of the essays included come the time after Ellen Degeneres came out on national television and after 9/11 which ushered in a world that has become much more conservative that many of us cannot remember.

Part I, “Strategizing Change” provides lots of information and includes essays and contains wonderful information for out activists and gives great insight in social justice. Part II, “Doing History”, looks at research and writing history and I feel sure that is influenced many local LGBT communities to find a way to preserve their history. Part III, “Local Stories”, is all about Chicago and this is only narrow since this is where the author writes and teaches and Part IV, “History’s Lessons”, deals with what we have learned from the past.

As we read, we are asked provocative questions and we read seem analytical answers. I found myself asking if the reason we have gained so much is the reaction of the political conservatism that has tried to take over this country in the last years and then I realized that sometimes the question is more important than the answer.

“Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything” by Robert Reilly— More Garbage from the Christian Right

making better

Reilly, Robert. “Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything”, Ignatius Press, 2014.

 More Garbage from the Christian Right

Amos Lassen

“Making Gay Okay” deals with these questions: ”Why are Americans being forced to consider homosexual acts as morally acceptable? Why has the US Supreme Court accepted the validity of same-sex “marriage”, which, until a decade ago, was unheard of in the history of Western or any other civilization? Where has the “gay rights” movement come from, and how has it so easily conquered America?” The tone of the above should give you an idea of where this book is going. Robert Reilly tries to answer these by saying, “

The answers are in the dynamics of the rationalization of sexual misbehavior. The power of rationalization-the means by which one mentally transforms wrong into right-drives the gay rights movement, gives it its revolutionary character, and makes its advocates indefatigable. The homosexual cause moved naturally from a plea for tolerance to cultural conquest because the security of its rationalization requires universal acceptance. In other words, we all must say that the bad is good.

At stake in the rationalization of homosexual behavior is the notion that human beings are ordered to a purpose that is given by their Nature (sic). The understanding that things have an in-built purpose is being replaced by the idea that everything is subject to man’s will and power, which is considered to be without limits. This is what the debate over homosexuality is really about-the Nature (sic) of reality itself. The outcome of this dispute will have consequences that reach far beyond the issue at hand. Already America’s major institutions have been transformed-its courts, its schools, its military, its civic institutions, and even its diplomacy. The further institutionalization of homosexuality will mean the triumph of force over reason, thus undermining the very foundations of the American Republic”.

It is only natural to ask just who is this Robert Reilly and what qualifies him to make such judgment. Reilly was Senior Advisor for Information Strategy (2002-2006) for the US Secretary of Defense, after which he taught at National Defense University. He was the director of the Voice of America (2001-2002) and served in the White House as a Special Assistant to the President (1983-1985). A graduate of Georgetown University and the Claremont Graduate University, he writes widely on “war of ideas” issues, foreign policy, and classical music. His previous book is “The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis”. Reilly writes for MercatorNet, a right wing, conservative, pro-life, anti-marriage equality, anti-compassion (as demonstrated by the website’s stance on assisted suicide) nexus.

This book is based on articles that he wrote for MercatorNet in which he equates homosexual behavior with pedophilia, bestiality and incest. He has no concept of willing consent.

He voices opposition to homosexual behavior and marriage equality based on the idea that it is “unnatural.”  In order to do this, “he must ignore, rationalize away and condemn the homosexual behavior found among over 1000 animal species as ‘inherently immoral.’”
He tries to do so by showing that all such behavior as harmful and should be classified as evil. Furthermore, he ignores one simple fact: “every heterosexual couple can engage in every sexual act that a same-sex couple can, simply with a member of the opposite sex. Even if he is aware he is simply unconcerned about this and therefore he is cognitively dissonant. American sodomy laws which were repealed by the US Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas also made oral sex between heterosexual couples illegal, although this aspect of the laws were almost never enforced. Furthermore we see that unless a lesbian is raped, “same-sex couples are guaranteed NOT to have elective or “convenience” abortions. This is something everyone can support, and marriage equality will encourage monogamy, which will in turn reduce the spread of STDs. Given the title of the book, Reilly seems unconcerned with homosexuality itself, so long as the individual remains repressed, miserable and celibate. So much for compassionate conservatism”.

Looking at the definition of marriage, he forgets that in the Bible, his Bible there was polygamy, a woman and her rapist, a man and MANY women with concubines thrown in for good matter in the case of King Solomon.  So we are left to wonder whom Reilly really cares about (except himself, of course).

 

Reilly states that the purpose of marriage is to raise children but he forgets that a family is built on love and not on a man and a woman. Well, love makes a family, not a man and a woman. “No-fault divorce has been immensely beneficial from a harm-reduction perspective. Lesbian couples have proven themselves better parents than the average “traditional” couple, and Diane Downs proves that simply becoming a biological parent does not prevent one from committing mass child murder. Why Reilly would prevent loving same-sex couples (who must pass the same qualification tests and hurdles than heterosexual couples must) from adopting children and have them languish in orphanages or passed around the foster care system is beyond me. It would seem that he has not thought through the implications of his worldview”.

Reilly has his supporters: “If you read only one book on homosexuality, natural law theory, and the radical changes now being instituted within our culture, let it be this one! 

Reilly exposes the unscientific reasons why homosexuality was normalized in the [American Psychiatric Association] diagnostic manual. He offers us some intriguing new material. In a clear, systematic, and engaging style, Reilly show us the inherent futility of same-sex acts, and eloquently explains what marriage really is. This book should be required reading for anyone who writes our laws-in fact, for anyone with cultural decision-making power. We must not allow the surging political tides to obscure what you and I ‘can’t not know’ about the nature and purpose of sexuality.”
- Joseph Nicolosi, PhD, Co-Founder, National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

“Reilly has drawn on his extensive knowledge of classical political philosophy to explain the full scope of the dangers inherent in the modern homosexual rights movement. The movement threatens our very understanding of human nature, and hence of the American political regime that derives its understanding of rights and legitimate government from that nature. This book is a stark warning that should be read by every lover of liberty, and a call to action for those who would preserve it.”
- John C. Eastman, JD, PhD Chairman, National Organization for Marriage Founding Director, Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.

“This book is magnificent, a real achievement. For anyone interested in taking our country back from the sexual radicals, you must know how they did it, so rapidly, efficiently, even brutally. The gay rights movement slid through American institutions, both public and private, like a hot knife through butter. I suspect it has surprised even its proponents to see how fast we have capitulated. First philosophy fell, then psychology, the courts, education, the military and even the Boy Scouts followed. No one has told both the broad sweep and the specific details of this story better than Robert Reilly.”
- Austin Ruse, President, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. “In our society, homosexuality has become more than a ‘sexual orientation’. It has now grown into a far-reaching movement seeking to redefine not only morality, but ideas about biology, human nature, law, and politics-indeed, to declare opposing views as beyond the pale of civilization. Robert Reilly has the multiple talents necessary to address the full range of relevant issues, from the philosophical to the practical. A rare tour de force on a defining question of our time.” 
- Robert Royal, PhD President, Faith & Reason Institute.

And there are many others. The sad thing is that these people really believe this; they claim to be ardent churchgoers who have no concept of the laws they pretend to uphold. We have finally gotten rid of Fred Phelps but we also see that there are others willing to assume his place. It is amazing that something like this has found a publisher but then it is the Ignatius Press that interestingly enough was eager to supply me a review copy with which I would not even wrap my garbage in. I am always amazed at the ability of God-fearing to hate.

 

 

“MY FAIR LIDY”— “An Unlikely Cinderella Story”

my fair lidy

“My Fair Lidy”

“An Unlikely Cinderella Story”

Amos Lassen

Craig Liderman (Christopher Backus) is known as Lidy to his friends. He is a simple blue-collar worker who has had some bad luck. He coincidentally runs into Miss Sal (Leigh Shannon), a drag performer who tells him about a new career move for him and he becomes a Marlene Dietrich impersonator (talking about really getting int0, he starts at the top). He had always viewed the world through redneck eyes and this new phase of life challenges that and Lidy learns how to accept others. But it did not take long for the new life to collide with the old life and he is forced to learn for himself what the true value of acceptance is.

lidy1

When we first meet Craig is, what is commonly called, macho and we understand that if times had not been so bad, none of this would have happened. However, it is good that it did because it not only provides Lidy with an income; it also teaches him a valuable lesson about acceptance and change. I must say that here is a film based upon performances and everyone is excellent and caries his own.

lidy2

Miss Sal is, in effect, Lidy’s “fairy” (yes, I used that word) godmother who tells Lidy to follow his dreams and coaxes him into drag—the scene here is both funny and touching. Her is a film that will join our list of cult classics not only because of the message but because it is so fabulous. It looks at how drag performers are treated and it is both a comic and a sensitive look at a world that is part of our community.

“1000 Feelings for Which There Are No Names” by Mario Giordano and hand lettered by Ray Fenwick— Need Something to Say?

1000 feelings

Giordano, Mario. “1000 Feelings fOR Which There Are No Names”, Penguin Books, 2014.

Need Something to Say?

Amos Lassen

We have all had those moments when we are at a loss for words or that we just can’t find the best way to describe a situation. Here is a book that will give you what you need and when you need it. It is, and I quote from the book’s blurb, “perfect for cocktail parties, quiet reflection, daily inspiration, or travel entertainment, this delightful compendium is broken up into helpful sections that will fit your every mood, such as “Afternoon Feelings,” “Nerd Feelings,” “Heaven-help-me Feelings,” or the somewhat more nebulous “Tangerine Feelings.” Or try opening a page at random to help kiss writer’s block goodbye. Don’t forget to add your own feelings in the back of the book (before they get away!) and share with others. The book features hand-lettering that serves as illustrations by Ray Fenwick is wonderful and the book is a delight and perfect for keeping at your desk.

What we have here can both amaze us and hurt us, make us cry or make us laugh. Make us stay awake all night or make us hit the bed—there are feelings we all have and share and that have never found their ways into the English lexicon.

This is not a book that is easily reviewed—it has no plot, no characters and none of what usually looks for in a book but let me give you a couple of examples of what you will find here.

“The RELIEF that she likes a present”.

“The SHAME at your own schadenfreude”.

“The SHAME you feel about it.

“The sudden PANG at the smell of Frankincense”.

 “The WORRY that there might not be enough for everyone”.

Instead of a preface, author Giordano gives us some suggestions for use:

“For home and travel use.

Flip through. And find feelings.

(Don’t forget the index.)

Remember.

Combine feelings in new ways.

Pick a number between one

And one thousand.

Look things up.

Use as your daily oracle.

Draw up a Top Ten list of your

Favorite feelings.

Make some up yourself.

Write them down at once.

(Before they get away!)

Share feelings with others”. And here is one of my own—love this book.

“Letters to J. D. Salinger” edited by Chris Kubica— Writing to Salinger

letters to jd

Kubica, Chris., (editor). “Letters to J. D. Salinger”, University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

Writing to Salinger

Amos Lassen

J.D. Salinger, aside from being a favorite writer of many, was known as a man who guarded his silence. He wrote his only novel that he wrote some fifty years ago and since 1965, he was hardly seen or heard from. Holden Caulfield, Franny and Zoe and Seymour Glass still continue, however, to influence our thoughts and our action and each generation seems to find them and love them. In this new book about Salinger, editor Chris Kubica has collection 150 plus personal letters addressed to Salinger from well-known writers, editors, critics, journalists, and other luminaries, as well as from students, teachers, and readers around the world, some of whom have just discovered Salinger for the first time. The letters show us the lasting impression that his ideas have made on so many different people.

“Contributors include Marvin Bell, Frederick Busch, Stephen Collins, Nicholas Delbanco, Warren French, Herbert Gold, W. P. Kinsella, Molly McQuade, Stewart O’Nan, Robert O’Connor, Ellis Paul, Molly Peacock, Sanford Pinsker, George Plimpton, Gerald Rosen, Sid Salinger, David Shields, Joseph Skibell, Melanie Rae Thon, Alma Luz Villanueva, Katharine Weber, and many others”.

You may wonder what is the importance of collection letters to a man who never answered but there is something very sweet and poignant about them and the letters run the gamut from intellectual academics to youngsters writing how much they dislike “Catcher in the Rye”. There are also letters that express hope that Salinger will continue writing and some of these were written after his death.

Salinger did not agree to interviews and it has been noted that letters were sent to the circular file. The letters we have here come in all kinds of diverse content. Some are written poetically while others are stiff and formal or filled with questions but what they all share is a sense of being tenuous.

The book begins with a fascinating introduction by the editor and closes with a postscript by Will Hochman (Assistant Professor of English, Southern Connecticut State University). What we see more than anything else is the influence Salinger had on so many people and this is a fun read that while it does not solve the enigma of the man, it does make him seem more human.

“The Books of Jonathan: Four Men, One God” by Gary Levinson— The Bible as a Source of Erotica

the books of jonathan

Levinson, Gary. “The Books of Jonathan: Four Men, One God”, Gary Levinson, 2014.

The Bible as a Source of Erotica

Amos Lassen

I find it extremely interesting that I have spent a good bit of time lately studying King David and the “relationship” between David and Jonathan. Last summer I took a course on David and my mind was opened to look for new things. Then there was the publication of “The Love of David and Jonathan” by James Harding which was followed by Uzi Poznansky’s novel “Rise to Power” which provided another fictional view of the Biblical king. It seems to me with the continued liberation of the LGBT community, we have really gone back to our sources to find a way to reclaim those people and events that are part of history. Of course, no one knows if there really was something between David and Jonathan and many will automatically claim that  whatever there was could not have been anything more than a platonic relationship because scripture would never condone a sexual relationship between members of the same sex. But then again, who knows if there ever were men like Jonathan and David or even the two men themselves.

What Gary Levinson has done is to go back to the Hebrew Bible as a source, or if you prefer, a backdrop for his story. Levinson does not maintain that this is nonfiction even though it is based on stories that we have grown up learning.

Jonathan was the eldest son of King Saul, the first king of Israel (who ruled when the monarchies of Israel and Judah were united as one). He meets David after the slaying of Goliath. We are also not sure that this ever happened and if it did there are many explanations as to what really happened (and no, I am not blaspheming, just opining here but I do believe that it is very, very important to understand that any of this might never have happened).

In this version of the story, Jonathan is immediately smitten with David. At the same time Saul was losing his grasp on reality and headed for madness while David rose in power to the throne. (Another fact that we forget sometimes is that God had previously warmed about a royal class and did not feel that a king would be a unifying force, yes, Israel was forewarned about a monarchy but men love power and the kingship remained established). It had also been foretold that David would be king —somehow he had won the heart of God even though he had not always been faithful and in fact, acted the wishes of the supreme being. Jonathan realized that David’s sitting on the throne meant that Jonathan would face a struggle to reconcile his love for David with familial loyalty and his devotion to God. As Israel fought to become a nation, David and Jonathan deigned to love each other and that love carried the emotions of desire, rage and deception as well as the attempt to fully understand the nature of God and what God wanted in return.

 Of all that I have read about David and Jonathan, this book is by far the one that  has held my attention most. This could be because it is fiction or simply because I am so interested in the subject. I still did not get the answer as to why God continued to love David even though David had done everything to deserve the opposite.

It does not matter to me that this is not a true story because it is such a good story and written so well. I actually gave an entire afternoon and evening to reading (when I should have been preparing for Passover which starts in less than a week) but I reconcile that because I was learning about Biblical characters once we came into the land after the Exodus. No doubt, author Levinson had no idea that one of his reviewers was a person schooled in the Hebrew Bible and works with it daily and I am fairly sure he did not expect a review to go into such depth about the material. He had nothing to worry about—I love this book.

No doubt there will be purists who will disclaim this story but the same purists believe that every word in the Bible is true. These are the same people that do not observe the Sabbath as written in the scriptures and do not honor their parents as the commandments say. They will probably cry out in disgust at this version and I say, “So what”  and ask then if they stone their children when they are disobedient like the Bible tells them to do.

The story of David and Jonathan is one of the interwoven threads in the tale of the demise of Saul and the rise of his anointed successor, David, son of Jesse and it has been discussed and argued about in all times during history. There is no right or wrong here—there is only discussion. What has really stirred up Bible scholars and commentators is the question of whether or not the Hebrew text of Samuel 1 and 2 supports the view that David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers. We must ask ourselves why this has been discussed in academia that is many times dry and dusty. Is anything seriously at stake and what shapes the questions of those asking? What aspects of the Biblical narrative and what threads in its history have even made this debate possible?

Levinson’s book will not answer those questions but it will certainly make you think more about them.  There are other wonderful discussions about David and Jonathan that Levinson gives us in “Suggestions for Further Reading” but one very important book is missing and I suspect that is because it is too new. I mentioned it earlier, “The Love of David and Jonathan: Ideology, Text, Reception” by James E. Harding (Equinox Press, 2013). It does not have answers but it has many new questions.

Finally, do not read this without spending time reading Levinson’s note on page 417 and pay careful attention to the word “novel”. Levinson further tells us, “As respect for gay people has grown, there is more and more acceptance that David and Jonathan may indeed have had an intimate physical relationship… I have portrayed their love as passionate, erotic and explicitly sexual. As a gay man, I believe this is the best way to make sense of the profound power of their bond”. He has done an excellent job and what a wonderful addition this book is to the canon of gay literature. My only concern is what can Levinson do to top this?

“Sex, Love and Judaism”—- “I went to the Let’s Talk About Sex Shabbat”

“Sex, Love and Judaism”

” I went to the Let’s Talk About Sex Shabbat”

 Jessica McDonell· April 6, 2014, 4:59 pm   ·  ”The Daily Pennsylvanian

 

So, does anyone have any questions about sex and Judaism?” someone asked. “How do Jews feel about masturbation?” asked someone else. “What about gay sex?” someone added. “Or casual hookups?” added another.

I was at an apartment I’d never been to, full of people I’d never met, to attend my first Shabbat dinner. But, I’d been told that this was no ordinary Shabbat. Termed the “Let’s Talk About Sex Shabbat,” it was going to include a conversation about sex and Judaism.

“Our goal was to foster conversation on a hot topic between Jews who might not find their space at Hillel,” College sophomore and Shabbat host Molly Elson told me. “Shabbat dinner is a great weekly Jewish tradition that stretches back millennia, and reflects a lot of our experiences growing up in Jewish homes.”

It’s a great way to connect with other people with similar experiences on campus,” she added.

The dialogue was open, thought-provoking and occasionally snarky.

“The impression I’ve gotten is that relationships of any kind are about more than just sex or reproduction. Jews in general tend to be pretty chill when it comes to the physical side of a relationship as long as there is an emotional foundation,” someone offered.

When it came to actually answering the questions, sometimes someone cited a passage from the Torah or the words of a specific Rabbi, but more often than not, no one had a definite answer to any of the questions. This wasn’t about telling people how Judaism approaches sexuality, but rather, discussing the nature of sex from the perspective of modern, college-aged Jews.

“So the sex-through-a-sheet thing is definitely not true,” someone added,referring to an urban legend that Jews have sex through a sheet with a hole in it.

“Definitely not. The Jews are very supportive of nakedness in general. Both in the physical and metaphorical sense,” clarified someone else.

People shared their past experiences or talked about the approach of the synagogue they attended as a child, but it was clear that they had each created their own, personal definition of what it meant to be Jewish.

The Sex and Shabbat dinners were organized by the Jewish Renaissance Project to foster this type of approach to Judaism. Rabbi Joshua Bolton, head of JRP, said “the event [enables] hundreds of students from across campus to convene intimate, honest dinner/conversations about sex in the 21st century, and in particular on Penn’s campus.”

It was also very much a social event, as Shabbat dinners often are. After dinner, I went home and the rest of the group headed off to Copabanana for an open bar night they were calling “The Matzah Ball.”