From my travel journal.
We left Walden and headed to Gann Academy, our sister school in Boston. The purpose was not to meet with fellow Jewish high school students, but to talk about gay marriage with Kim Crawford Harvie, the senior minister at Arlington Street Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation. She showed us a clip of her performing the first legal gay marriage in Boston (click to view a photo album of the wedding). It was really inspiring. The students asked very thoughtful questions. My students are so much more open-minded than students I have taught in the past. I really get the impression they were being sincere with Kim when they said they didn’t understand why people were so opposed to gay marriage. It occurred to me that so much of the hatred directed at homosexuals — limitations on their freedoms, verbal abuse, so-called protection of marriage amendments — mirrors the civil rights struggles of other groups — women working for suffrage and African-Americans. On the one hand, that gives me hope that we can one day overcome the roadblocks to equal rights for gays, but at the same time, it makes me sad that others don’t see it. Instead, they point to the Bible — the Bible also advocated slavery, and we don’t think that is right. I mean, the Bible has been used in defense of slavery and of denying the rights of blacks. Kim and the kids discussed the passage in Leviticus that most, well, I have to say it’s mostly conservative Christians who mention it: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination (18:22).”
Kim mentioned that there are a lot of things in Leviticus we no longer hold ourselves to, and it is interesting that this is chosen from among all those other things. She also mentioned the context in which this was occurring was related to abuse of boys in pagan religious ceremonies, and the early Jews were trying to stamp out worship of these false idols. Actually, interestingly enough, I was listening to the Judaics department having a discussion with our Pardes interns a few weeks ago, and there is a case for interpreting the Bible in such a way that the Judeo-Christian God as only one of many gods — however, He is a god that demanded monogamy — “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” From what I was able to understand, there is a long rabbinic tradition connected to debating the meaning of this particular commandment.
I mentioned a passage by Paul in the New Testament that many point to as well (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) that refers to to the “effeminate.” I admit I find that translation unclear. Some versions of the Bible use homosexual, but that isn’t the same as effeminate, so why was it translated that way? Whatever the case, Kim was right about one thing: Jesus never had one word to say about homosexuality. He spoke about adultery, for example, but never homosexuality. In all, I have to say it was very interesting to hear her speak.