Monday, January 12, 2009

Let God Worry 'Bout The Things They Do

This GQ Profile of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire and Barack Obama's answer to Rick Warren, is quite good (Via Ezra Klein). It starts off very over-written, but really catches itself nicely as it proceeds down the life of Robinson, who comes off as a truly remarkable man.

As many people know, the elevation of Robinson -- the first openly gay bishop in a major Christian denomination -- to his position caused some serious problems in the worldwide Anglican communion. Extremist dioceses in South America and particularly Africa have taken to calling Robinson "the devil" and are threatening to breakaway entirely unless Robinson is stripped of his position. Some more conservative American churches are affiliating themselves with these foreign dioceses, despite the fact that they take positions on homosexuality that can only be described as inhuman. Thus far, the leadership of the Anglican Communion has taken an accommodating stance towards the conservatives -- disapproving of Robinson's elevation and not inviting him to the international conference of Bishops, while refusing to outright strip him of his title or remove him from the communion.

Robinson says that the originating point for anti-gay oppression in America comes from the church -- a fact which makes it different from, say racism or sexism (which the church certainly had its role in, but did not in an important sense "create"). Consequently, the battle for gay liberation is going to require church men and women if it is to get anywhere.

One thing I've observed, coming from a relatively liberal Jewish denomination (Conservative Judaism -- all Jewish denominations outside of the Orthodox are actually pretty theologically liberal, and even within Orthodox Judaism there is a lot of theological, well, heterodoxy) is that we tend to have a bit of an inferiority complex about ourselves. We don't think we can make religious demands of our more traditionally-minded brethren. This was a sentiment I tried to step away from when I called the ultra-orthodox Jewish settlers in the West Bank and (formerly) Gaza "apostates". The point being, if being a Conservative or Reconstructionist or Reform Jew is to mean anything aside from "I'm too lazy to do more than this", then it has to believe that it is not just socially but religiously superior to its alternatives. When I advocate for my conceptions of Jewish duty and obligation, I'm not saying "my political commitments mean I can't take my Judaism as far as you do". I'm saying "my Judaism requires me to believe in certain things, among them that gay people are equal and deserve equal rights, and to the extent you disagree I think I have a qualitatively superior conception of Judaism compared to yours." I don't mean to say we should shut off dialogue, but I do think we should be secure in our positions as theological, not just political stances.

If we're going to make gay people equal in America, then equality minded Jews need to start saying that our position is not just the liberal one but the Jewish one, and that opponents are wrong as Jews. Ditto with Christians -- they need to start fighting fire with fire with regards to the hyper-conservative dioceses here and abroad, and say that the position they are taking is flat out unchristian. It's a theological failing as well as a moral one.

1 comment:

Patton said...

May I say: Amen, brother.