Then this last election cycle there was Prop. 8, and marriage equality advocates were so bummed, but 2009 has turned into such a year that during Prayers of the People at CWM one time, someone actually said that there was so much marriage equality stuff to celebrate that we couldn't even keep up -- e.g., Iowa; Maine; Washington, DC.
When I was reading through some old emails recently, I found an excerpt from James Nelson's Body Theology: "According to the weight of both Christian and Jewish traditions, marriage is not constituted by the combination of legal permission (a license) and a wedding ceremony. Rather, a marriage is created by a faithful, enduring covenant between the partners. Important though laws and ceremonies may be, they do not create marriages, but rather they recognize and celebrate covenants that are essentially constituted by love and not by law. [...] what is centrally at stake is the security, stability, and strength of the partners' covenant---that is the core stuff of marriage [...]."
Ways to redeem one problematic line (Radical Torah repost)I've heard people joke before that of course a man can't lie with another man as he would with a woman since the mechanics are totally different, but this is the first time I've seen a really thoughtful articulation of that idea. (VR also touched on this in the poem she posted on that parsha.)
Here's the d'var Torah I wrote for this week's portion back in 2006, originally published at Radical Torah.
These are proclamations meant to distinguish the Israelite nation from the other peoples of their time. Which leads to one of the frequent explanations liberal commentators offer for this verse: that it refers to same-sex temple rituals, to imitating other nations in a way that was ritually impure, and not to the contemporary identity we know as "queerness" today.
That's one way of reading this text that may make it more palatable to the liberal sensibility. Another is focusing on the way the verse privileges differentiation. "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman" implies the fundamental wrongness of mis-taking one partner for another or ignoring the reality of who he is. That's the perspective taken by Arielle Kristan in Two cents on Leviticus 18:22:Jewish law and tradition is big on separation. In fact, separating, differentiating, is a holy act. Creation was one big act of separation -- night from dark, sky from earth, land from sea... So, what I've always taken from Leviticus 18:22 is simply the importance of differentiation.
...In my mind, it would be an abomination for a man to sleep with a man in the same way that he slept with a woman. It would be an affront to any sexual partner to not recognize him or her as unique and differentiated. Since sex is the most intimate and vulnerable of all acts, mistaking your partner for someone else is callous and cruel. It would evidence a complete disregard for that person's holiness and spirit.
The post is worth reading in full.
This kind of interaction with the text -- turning it in different directions like a prism to see how it refracts the light of holiness -- is a, maybe the, quintessential Jewish act. One of my favorite teachings on that subject comes from the former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Ismar Schorsch, who writes:After the Day of Dialogue yesterday, Marla was expressing frustration at the universalizing -- couldn't God have said something to Adam and Eve and be saying something else to different people at a different time who are reading those same words? She mentioned that someone recently was telling her about someone in like the 2nd century (Clement?) who was saying, Okay, we've fulfilled the "be fruitful and multiply" commandment, we can stop doing that.[I]n Judaism precisely because the Torah is revered as divine, it becomes susceptible to unending interpretation. It would be a denigration of God's word to saddle it with just a single meaning. In contrast to human speech, which carries a finite range of meanings, the language of God was deemed to be endowed with an infinity of meanings.Within the infinity of meanings compressed into this one line of Torah, there are many which celebrate the full personhood of all, regardless of gender or orientation. We owe it to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to God to wrestle with the text until it yields these blessings.
At the Dialogue yesterday, one woman pointed out that we all make choices about how we enact our sexuality.
In the car ride home, Marla said she can't fathom a God who gives a shit who we fuck -- don't abuse your partner, sure, but...
Marla asked me if I knew what the conservatives were so afraid of, because she is just baffled. I said I didn't know, and that I didn't see it as fear necessarily, but that my sense is that the Genesis 2 story of Creation (which someone invoked during the Dialogue) is so foundational to their understanding of this world that God has made that it's just gut-level non-negotiable. Of course this got us talking about how we don't tell infertile couples, "God clearly didn't intend for you to have children," and so on.
This morning I had breakfast with Pastor Vic from SCBC, which was not exactly what I was expecting. I haven't really done this argument in a while, so I'm out of practice, and I'm particularly not used to his stance which weirdly evades a lot of the arguments I would expect and makes me feel BAD about coming off as combative (though that's partly my own confrontation-avoidant nature), so I ended up not really getting as deep into the discussion as I would have liked, which I regret. I think I'm also feeling less invested in sort of the logical rational textual arguments and am rethinking some of my personal sexual ethics and am still processing some of the stuff Marla said yesterday and yeah.
In a post some time back, Willow wrote:
I mean can you imagine how ridiculous those people would sound if they tried saying:
"I believe marriage should be only between a Femme and a Butch"
Think of all the people they'd leave out. Think of all the people they'd include.And I'm sure there are some Femme Butches and some Butch Femmes who'd be just as pissed off as all the rest of the excluded. It'd also more obviously be trying to legislate gender expression by trying to tie legal protections of family and estate to particular expressions of gender, legitimizing them while creating a very mixed set of second class citizens.
The personal is the political.