What the rabbi doesn’t get

By Michael L. Brown Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is not only “America’s most famous rabbi” and my frequent opponent in public … Continued

By Michael L. Brown

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is not only “America’s most famous rabbi” and my frequent opponent in public debates. He is also a dear personal friend, which is why I was more than a little mystified to see his editorial, published one day after our November 1 debate.

The title of that debate, as proposed by Shmuley but not to my liking, was, “Is Homosexuality America’s Greatest Moral Crisis?” In my opening comments, I answered this question in the negative, stating that America’s greatest moral crisis was certainly not homosexuality but rather the lack of the knowledge and consciousness of God, because of which every area of society suffered.

I also explained that what two gay men did in private was between them and God and was certainly not our greatest moral crisis, and I stated emphatically that rampant heterosexual divorce had done more to destroy marriage and family than all the gay activists combined. I then addressed the church’s sins against the LGBT community, for which I have publicly apologized a number of times. (Those reading Shmuley’s report on the debate would not have a clue that I made any of these statements.)

It was only after this considerable introduction that I explained that my issue was with gay activism, which was something I did not go looking for but rather something that came knocking at my door and at the door of my community. I argued that it posed a serious threat to our moral foundations and our religious freedoms, which I documented in terms of the gay agenda in our educational system, the attack on the male-female gender binary, the implications of queer theology, the pervasive influence of the media in promoting gay-slanted values, and specific examples of the loss of religious freedoms as a result of gay activism.

My appeal to Shmuley was simple: Let’s stand together and address the sins of the predominant, heterosexual community, from pornography to materialism, as well as the negative effects of gay activism. Shockingly, rather than focus on these substantive issues, Shmuley pressed the question of whether I believed homosexual practice was on a par with incest or pedophilia. How in the world did this become the subject of the debate? (For the record, I stated that sin is sin, and that my own past sins were as bad as – or worse – than those of a homosexual.)

As to the alleged evangelical obsession with homosexuality (an accusation raised through the debate by Shmuley), I asked the almost entirely evangelical audience to respond to four questions: How many of them heard a sermon in the last year on the importance of marriage? Virtually every hand went up. The importance of devoting time and energy to the raising of their children? Same response. The dangers of sexual sin (and/or pornography)? The same response again. A sermon about gay activism? Not a single hand!

The truth be told, there is no “gay obsession” in evangelical churches, and, where pastors and leaders are concerned about the effects of gay activism, they are hesitant to speak up, lest they be branded intolerant bigots, homophobes, Hitlers, or jihadists, not to mention accused of inciting violence against gays.

Rabbi Shmuley wrote, “I argued passionately that evangelicals had become obsessed with homosexuality,” yet despite his best efforts to persuade and despite his considerable rhetorical skills, the audience was unaffected. “I could not move them,” he wrote. “Try as I might, my audience would not budge.”

Why was he so ineffective? It was simply because evangelicals have not become obsessed with homosexuality and, more broadly, because he was missing the whole point, which was not whether consensual homosexual acts were better or worse than consensual, adult incestuous acts (both are clearly proscribed in the Bible), nor was it whether we should ignore issues such as divorce, promiscuity, or materialism. Rather, the issue was this: Gay activism presents a serious moral threat to America in that it seeks to undermine the traditional family (which is already tottering through heterosexual failings), and by fighting for special LGBT rights and freedoms, the rights and freedoms of others are threatened.

Those who were present at the debate are well aware that my esteemed colleague completely skirted the issue of gay activism and refused to answer numerous direct and telling questions. Instead, almost by sleight of hand, he manufactured a misleading distraction from the real debate (“You believe that homosexuals are just like pedophiles!”) and turned a deaf ear to my appeal to join with the evangelical community in standing for comprehensive morality, upholding biblical values regardless of whether they are deemed
politically correct. Worse still, he argued that homosexual acts were not moral transgressions and that a committed gay couple could have a fine, Jewish home, thereby marginalizing himself from both the evangelical community and the Orthodox Jewish world.

Michael L. Brown holds a Ph.D. from New York University and is the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Line of Fire, as well as the director of the Charlotte-based Coalition of Conscience. He is a published Old Testament and Semitic scholar and the author of 20 books, including A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been (2011).

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  • Secular

    Mr. Brow, yes you do not obsess about homosexuality, only their activism. But have you ever asked why is there so much activism on part of homosexuals? Of course folks like you did not have any obsession about blacks decades earlier, it was the black activism that you all, or your ilk had a problem with. If only the blacks had kept quite about the jim Crow, or before that your ilk did not have any problem with the abolitionists either. Your ilk had problem with their activism only. Did anyone back then ask why is there so much activism on part of abolitionists. Perhaps if there was no slavery then there would have been no abolitionists at all, leave alone the activism. Likewise if there was no Jim Crow, perhaps there wouldn’t have been any black activism either. So if there weren’t so many anti-homosexual laws on the books perhaps there wouldn’t be any homosexual activism today either. So the bigots like you would do yourselves a lot of good if you were to just shut up. It is the bigots like you that when you find one of your nephews or nieces turns out to be a homosexual then they suddenly see the light. Like that paragon of conservatives Mr. Goldwater, hated the homosexuals till is nephew turned out to be a homosexuals.

  • CanadianMom

    After reading your post i must say I find it eye opening. We as people have a tendency to focus on one thing we dont like and as a result fail to see anything else that could possibly be in need of attention. God bless you Dr. Brown. Thank you for speaking truth in this matter.

  • lifeofgrace

    Most non-evangelical Christians have already lumped Dr. Brown and any other evangelicals into a “hating” bin; hence comments about “your ilk” (see above) that always group evangelicals on the “wrong” side of human rights issues.If this is the case in those peoples’ minds, they are exhibiting the same prejudice and closedmindedness they attribute to evangelicals.Being opposed to the homosexual activist social agenda is not akin to slavery, racial discrimination, Jim Crow, anti-semitism, or other hate-based issues. In fact, evangelical Christians have been on the RIGHTEOUS side of those other issues.The Abolition movement(in both England and the USA) was led by evangelical ministers; Dr. Martin Luther King was–first and always–a Baptist (evangelical) minister; the greatest supporters of Israel outside of Jews in the USA are evangelical Christians.So why is the homosexual activist agenda something evangelical Christians oppose versus those other issues where they are squarely on the side of the oppressed?No genuine follower of Christ, no genuine evangelical Christian, would stand against human rights for homosexuals. But as the Bible says “we must obey God, not man”. The homosexual activist agenda is not about individuals and their choice to do as they please. It’s about society and whose rights “trump” others’ rights.If there is no situation where a Bible-believing Christian can espouse a view of Godly marriage without being accused of hatred, and silenced in order that homosexuals feel accepted in society, then one group is simply exchanging their “rights” in society for another’s persecution.Christians have the same right to believe and speak, with love, not hatred, what they believe as anyone else. The homosexual activist agenda does not hold to that view–and THAT is why it is opposed.That is also why it is damaging to our society–whenever one group is elevated to special status at the expense of another’s equal right to worship, speak or believe, it weakens everyone’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness given by God and safeguarded by the US Constitution.

  • ImNotAshamed

    After watching the debate between Dr Brown and Rabbi Shmuley it seems very clear to me that the issue is black and white. Both in the Jewish and Christian Bible homosexuality is condemned expressly, as are many other sins. Rabbi Shmuley did not deny this fact, as his argument was basically, to paraphrase: “Homosexuality is a sin but it harms nobody, so Christians please shut up!” But EVERYBODY wants the Christians to shut up, to preferably not have controversial opinions at all – but if they do – to keep those opinions to themselves so they dont impact on society in any way. This runs contrary to the whole spirit of Christianity, as we are commnanded not to be silent, but to be as a light to the world, as a city set on a hill. The question is essentially: Can a society which tolerates a confident vocal homosexuality also tolerate a vibrant unfettered vocal Christianity? All the evidence is indicating, not only that it cannot, but that these two viewpoints are mutually incompatible. Dr Brown is right to highlight the challenge which is now facing evangelical bible believing Christians and also society.

  • aebrain

    ->Well, there must be an awful lot of non-genuine ones.Look at the case of Bowling Green, Ohio today. 2 bills were voted on – one that would prevent the summary firing of GLBTs for being what they are, the other that would prevent them being refused admission in cinemas, restaurants etc just for being GLBT.Human Rights laws. The same laws, the same wording, that protects Christians from being discriminated against in the same way for being Christian.And the opposition to those bills has been entirely from “christians” who say that it’s “homosexual activism” that “infringes on their religious freedom” to persecute others with impunity.This is typical. And currently, the votes are tied, with absentee ballots expected to decide an issue of plain, ordinary Human Rights.There’s more.Trans and Intersexed people are caught in the crossfire. As Jane Heenan, a Trans advocate recently given an award from a group that advocates “Equality” (for Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals – not Trans people) said: “I am an activist by nature of existing.”Intersexed people – those born with bodies neither wholly male nor wholly female – whose existence contradicts biblical scriptures just as much as a round Earth does, are all “Activists”. Their existence is an affront to certain religious beliefs, and so many think they must be suppressed. “God created male and female” and anything or anyone who blurs that distinction – they’re anathema. Even Dr Brown said that in the debate, though I doubt the thought of Intersexed people crossed his mind when he did it.->If this is the case in those peoples’ minds, they are exhibiting the same prejudice and closedmindedness they attribute to evangelicals.”True. And it’s wrong. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. Just plain wrong, unjust, unfair. Those like Dr Brown should not have to constantly tread on eggshells, constantly produce they’re “I’m not a bigot” credentials. It’s unfair and unjust. It must be infuriating and saddening for them that they feel they have to do this, and for good reason.It’s because 99% of Evangelicals give the rest a bad name. As we’re seeing in Bowling Green, and before then, in Hamtramck, and Kalamazoo, and Gainesville, and hundreds of other similar fights. Fights I cannot avoid, for my existence is what they object to.

  • DABlair

    I would simply echo what Dr. Brown has already stated. The issue is not this sin or that sin. The issue is God.Although Ministers have to tell us what God thinks about sin, their main goal is to connect people with the living God. Everything else falls into place. For example, when I was recently in school, some other students would use some bad language and then look at me and say, “Oh I am sorry.” I would reply, “Why? I am not the God Police!” We are not here to gauge the behaviors of those who do not believe. We are here to introduce Jesus- the only One who can help us no matter WHICH variety of behaviors we have chosen to indulge….We LOVE everybody.

  • sbeauchamp1

    I personally listened to the debate, and I was absolutely shocked at how a person who holds the title “Rabbi” could be so disconnected from the subject matter and structure of a debate. I’m no debate expert, but I do know there are obvious guidelines and formats in order for both parties to express themselves in a professional and respectful manner with clarity. I found that Dr. Michael Brown gave a much more sophisticated, scholarly delivery. The Rabbi however, was unhinged in his delivery, focusing on personal discreditment, rather than the clearly stated topic of debate in which HE HIMSELF initiated. Through it’s entirety Rabbi Shmuley seemed to be so enamored with His attack of the so-called marginalization of evangelicals, that he turned a deaf ear to every rebuttal of truth given by Dr. Michael Brown. I honestly feel that Shmuley had a preconceived agenda to categorize Dr. Brown as an obsessed evangelical, and he would not be turned away from that agenda regardless of the facts. What struck me the most was the expediency in which the Rabbi scolded Dr. Brown for not consistently observing the Sabbath, and yet so passively winks at the behavoir of Homosexuality. It truly revealed the hypocrisy on display by the Rabbi. Please consider this. How does a man invite someone to debate a topic, and then accuse that man of being obbsessed about that topic, without having an alterior motive and agenda. Seems like a set up to me? In my opinion, Dr. Michael Brown exemplified the candor and maturity of a true gentleman and Scholar. While,

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    The problem is not with gay people; it is with with gay activism.But what is gay activism? It is coming out of the closet, and speaking with a normal voice.As long as gay people stay in the closet, and keep quiet, then there will be no problem.But that era is gone, and it never coming back. Christians can just get used to the fact that from now on, they are going to be forced to share this earth with gay people, PERIOD!

  • lepidopteryx

    Christian evangelicals aren’t obsessed with homosexuality? Really?

  • ImNotAshamed

    In Roman times, when Christianity started, homosexuality was widespread and accepted socially. Indeed, St Paul talking to the Corinthian Church says “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of G-d? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind..shall inherit the kindgom of G-d. AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU..but ye are washed..ye are sanctified..ye are justified in the name of the L-rd Jesus” So St Paul was writing to Christians who HAD BEEN practising homosexuals. As Christians we are commanded NOT to class ourselves as any better in ourselves than practising homosexuals or others, because we are sinners too,(St Paul himself said he was the “chief of sinners”) but to preach the Gospel, to tell ALL men that Jesus saves from sin by repentance and faith in his blood sacrifice. As St Paul says”Knowing therefore the terror of the L-rd we persuade men”. Incidentally it was the Roman Catholic Church (who also tried to silence Bible believing Christians) who said the earth was flat. There is much poetic language in the Bible but Isaiah 40.42, talking about G-d says ” It is he that sits on the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers” And that was quite a time before Galileo! As Christians we DO believe the Bible is just as relevant as it was when this verse was written, now thousands of years ago. And the message of the Bible has not only resulted in giving men social and political freedoms – it is no co-incidence that it is generally in what were formerly the most Christian of societies and Israel where homosexuals have the most freedom – it also gives men freedom from sin, happiness in this life and eternal life in the next. Dr Brown is simply saying that as Christians we should not change the message of the Gospel, nor be silent in the face of social pressure to be silent, but call ALL men (including practising homosexuals) to repentance – and to be reconciled to G-d.