Puttin’ On Shabbat – Shalom Rav / Blue Skies
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
The roots of violence against the LGBT community can be found in common places. An unfit leader in the community, an outspoken politician on the stump, a brash preacher in the pulpit, or an unaware parent at home is all it takes to transform God’s hope for humanity into our basest human instincts.
It can even begin when the religious-right defines “pro-life” as virulently anti-abortion and then fails to keep its promise to all the children they save. Life, they insist, begins at conception. Pro-lifers insist that every fetus should be brought to term and delivered into this world. Especially when children emerge with physical, mental or emotional challenges, such pro-lifers provide them with care and compassion. I laud them for their unconditional love. But, when children grow and then express LGBT tendencies or traits, some pro-lifers condemn them in the harshest of terms. They expel even their own LGBT children like they were lepers and deny them God’s love and compassion they retain for themselves. They pervert religion’s beauty at its Source, where God’s love lifts up and never puts down a single human life. What I want to know is when does God’s act of creation, which they believe begins at conception, become a spectacle for human judgment?
Judaism sanctifies life but it hasn’t adopted the term “pro-life.” It has to be “pro-choice” because after careful consideration often with the help of a rabbi, Judaism permits abortion under specific conditions. For example, a fetus identified with a genetic disorder (Tay-Sachs, Canavan or Gaucher disease, Muscular Dystrophy, etc.), which can leave a child with a painful or very poor quality of life, might be aborted early in the pregnancy. My wife’s brother died of Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 17. When we began our own family we did genetic testing. We decided that any fetus with the genetic mutation for MD would be aborted. Though her family surrounded her brother with love, she and I agreed that we wouldn’t bring a child to term if we knew he would be bound for premature death due to a terminal illness. Without being arbitrary, Judaism provides pathways for choosing what the parents are able to provide and what we can know through science is possible for the child. Pro-choice isn’t supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to incline human beings to respect faithfully the potential in every life and to safeguard it for a life of blessing rather than death.
So, let’s consider that if genetic testing could tell potential parents that their child would grow to be LGBT, would pro-lifers still accept the child as God’s creation? Or would they condemn the child in utero, long before God’s creative acts were expressed not just in sexuality but in art, science, love and family? One day, genetic testing will be able to tell us if a child will grow to be LGBT; but if pro-lifers are truly faithful, then the answer to the question should be unremarkable to them. Any child whose life begins at conception under the watchful eye of God would necessarily have to be a blessing and worthy of human love, compassion and dignity. No pro-lifer could condemn the child as if God had erred. What would be left then of God?
A gay member of my congregation feeling scared about the future wrote to me, “In reality, it’s not any different than terror attacks in Tel Aviv, Paris, or Baghdad, but like 9/11 and San Bernardino, we as Americans don’t expect it on our doorstep. Hate is hate; terror is terror. If we succumb, they win.” I replied, “Of one thing I feel fairly certain: Americans will not succumb to terrorists. Though these days are difficult, they will not define us.” The roots of violence against the LGBT community are easy to locate. We must work together to advocate for a change of heart and mind wherever bigotry, homophobia, and hate are planted.
My faith acknowledges that we are all created in God’s image. It enables me to see in the variety of God’s creations something that remains, at times, beyond my comprehension, as it should be, and leaves me in awe. The challenge of human beings is to strive to find within oneself and others something that is inherently God-given and therefore very good. May we never squander what God has granted us to know nor forsake the responsibility of faith to discover what God created us to be.
On Friday, June 17th, at 6:30pm, in the Gordon Chapel at Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, we will include special blessings and songs to sanctify life, diversity, and dignity for the LGBT community and all who stand with them (www.beth-israel.org). All are Welcome.