Rabbi Shmuley: Is Arizona Pious or Homophobic?

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. (Getty Images)

Is everyone in Arizona on weed? Or are their brains just overheated from baking in the sun?

They’re not seriously considering passing a law that would give business owners the right to discriminate against gay people based on their ‘deeply held’ religious convictions, are they? Surely this is just an early April Fool’s gag. 

Homophobia is destroying religion in America and making people of faith come across as intolerant wackos.

There are 613 commandments in the Hebrew Bible. Why do we single out homosexuality as the great American sinful obsession? Desecrating the Sabbath is punished by death through stoning. That’s pretty serious. But there is no suggestion in Arizona to deny a hotel room to the guy who turns up in his BMW on Sunday. (Incidentally, we Jews continue to be puzzled as to how the Sabbath can be on Sunday when the Bible is clear that it’s on Saturday, the day God rested from work, as opposed to Sunday when he was awfully preoccupied creating heaven and earth).

Moses delivered the Ten Commandments on two tablets in order to classify two different kinds of transgression: religious and moral. The first tablet discussed religious transgressions between God and man, such as the sins of idolatry, blasphemy, and desecration of the Sabbath. The second tablet contained moral sins between man and his fellow human, like adultery, theft, and murder. 

The essence of an ethical violation, as opposed to a religious infraction, is injury to an innocent party. And although it seems that homosexuality is afforded a special condemnation in the Bible by being referred to as ‘an abomination’, that’s only superficially true. Abomination appears in the Bible 122 times, describing among other things eating non-kosher food and shell fish (Deuteronomy 14:3), and a wife returning to her first husband after she has been married to another man (Deuteronomy 24:4). Proverbs labels as an “abomination” even include such things as envy and a false heart, pride, slander and “he that sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 3:32; 16:22).

I once debated a Christian theologian on CNN about homosexuality. He asked me how I could defend gays when the Bible called them an abomination. I responded by asking him if he was aware that the Bible also referred to the arrogant as an abomination: “Every one who is arrogant is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

What law will Arizona pass next? That 7-11 can refuse Slurpees to people who deny the divinity of Christ? According to the New Testament, that sends you to the eternal BBQ?

Will we see car dealerships refusing to sell sedans to couples living together in sin?

And God help Miley Cyrus. There is no way she’s going to be allowed to shop in Bed, Bath, and Beyond in Scottsdale given her immoral antics on TV.

Look, I want an ethical, moral, religious society as much as my Christian brothers and sisters. I’ve worked my entire life to make the culture more wholesome through publishing books like “Kosher Sex” and hosting TV shows like “Shalom in the Home.” I’ve tried to get men to show greater respect to women. I’ve shown how boring porn can be compared to a real erotic bond between husband and wife (read my upcoming book “Kosher Lust”!). I’ve launched national campaigns like www.fridayisfamily.com to get parents to give their children regular family dinners.

But what I don’t want to do is live in Iran. I don’t need a crazed government passing legislation to make sure I’m righteous. I’m against religious coercion of every shade because it breeds fake faith and religious charlatans. Legislating faith nearly always backfires. Just look at how secular Europe has become as proof. This was a continent that shoved religion down its citizens throats for centuries, burning them at the stake, torturing them with Spanish boots, to go to Church and live righteously. Today, you can use many of the giant Cathedrals in Italy and Spain as storage houses for aircraft carriers because they’re so empty. By contrast, America, which traded in freedom of religion and never coerced religion is easily the most religious country in the Western world and the most righteous. And the religious feelings are authentic.

We are a nation where about 90% of people believe in God. The name of the deity is on our currency. We speak constantly about God blessing America and our political leaders know that if they don’t invoke God’s wisdom and guidance they will lose public support.

But the thing that confuses me to no end is how much American religion expresses itself in an obsession about sexual sin. We hear next to nothing about divorce. We even hear almost nothing about adultery, even though it destroys marriages and severely injures an innocent and loyal spouse. But what we never stop hearing about is abortion, contraception, and especially gay marriage.

Why are religious people in America fixated on gays? Why not guys who consume vast quantities of porn? Why not womanizers who bed a different female every night, misleading them about loving them for the purpose of using their bodies? Why not the commitment-phobe boyfriend who lives with his girlfriend for half a millennium and refuses to marry her? Why is he not on our radar screen?

In fact, the only men who still seem interested in marrying America are all gay. While the gay guys petition the United States Supreme Court for the right to marry, the straight guys are looking at them like they’re crazy. “There’s a party out there, guys. Women will sleep with us without any commitment. Why are you trying to ruin it with all this talk about marriage?”

The Bible says that gay sex is a sin. But why, out of the hundreds of other sins listed in the Bible, this one has become the all-American sin is something that just might be motivated by feelings others than faith.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the only Rabbi to have won the London Times Preacher of the Year competition. In May he will publish Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer. His website is www.shmuley.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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