Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Beth Greenapple
West Bloomfield- Jay Michaelson, an author whose new book will be featured at the Jewish Community Center’s Jewish Book Fair Nov. 6, is a Biblical scholar and a gay activist. Michaelson’s appearance is sponsored by the Jewish Gay Network of Michigan. JGN’s Executive Director Judy Lewis met Michaelson in 2009 in San Francisco and describes him as “intelligent, warm and engaging.” “JGN’s board and advisory committee will be honored with an opportunity to meet more intimately with Michaelson,” who will attend their meeting after the Book Fair event said Lewis.
Michaelson is the author of three books and numerous articles about the intersections of religion, sexuality and law. A leading activist on behalf of LGBT people in faith communities, Michaelson and his work have been featured in the New York Times, on NPR and CNN. He is the founder of Nehirim, the leading national provider of community programming for LGBT Jews and their allies.
Michaelson grew up in a Conservative Jewish household. He struggled with his sexuality for ten years with denial, self-deceit and self-hatred. Reminiscent of Rabbi Steven Greenberg’s “Wrestling With God and Men,” an examination of the Jewish Bible’s take on homosexuality from an Orthodox Jewish scholar’s point of view, Michaelson interweaves close readings of Scripture with stories from his own life, concluding that a loving God would never ask human beings to repress their emotional selves and live their lives alone or under what he calls “the tyranny of the closet.”
In “God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality,” Michaelson re-examines scriptures from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and argues that homosexuality is not only natural, but that, “put in stark religious terms, sexual diversity is part of God’s plan.”
Many people of faith are familiar with the verses in scripture often claimed to condemn homosexuality. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 behaviors that sound like (male) homosexuality are described in various translations as “detestable” or “abomination.” In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, homosexuals are listed among sinners who will not “inherit the Kingdom of God.” And in Romans 1:26-31, Paul refers to people engaging in what sounds like homosexual behavior as “filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice…senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.” People of faith have used these verses for centuries to justify all kinds of hatred, rejection, discrimination and violence toward homosexuals.
Michaelson interprets the behaviors referred to in all three of these passages to be about idolatry and national boundaries, not sexual behavior, and certainly not loving same-sex relationships. He then counters with dozens of other verses (only seven out of 31,000 in the entire Bible appear to speak against homosexuality), such as Leviticus 19:34, “The stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself….”
Michaelson believes that the Bible teaches us to treat minorities with a love that respects each person’s unique individuality and human dignity.
Writing on gay marriage, the author emphasizes that numerous studies indicate the sexual orientation of parents does not affect the psychological health of children. He points out the irony of the much bandied-about notion that Biblically based ‘family values’ are being undermined by the mere existence of homosexual relationships. Michaelson writes, “The Bible’s ‘family values’ include arranged marriages, sex with twelve-year old girls, concubines, polygamy, and prostitution…Is this what we want for ourselves today?” Indeed, Michaelson shows that making the sanctification of marriage available to couples in same-sex relationships actually strengthens, rather than weakens, religious values of family, love and human dignity.