Monday, October 25, 2010

611 out of 613 isn't good enough

The October 15th edition of the Wall Street Journal carried an opinion piece by Rabbi Boteach, founder of a national organization that promotes Jewish values.  The article was titled "My Jewish Perspective on Homosexuality", which is a fitting title as the rabbi has essentially abandoned his Jewish values when it comes to same-sex relationships.  He writes:
As an orthodox Rabbi, I do not deny the biblical prohibition on male same-sex relationships. I simply place it in context. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. One is to refrain from gay sex. Another is for men and women to marry and have children. So when Jewish gay couples tell me they have never been attracted to members of the opposite sex and are desperately alone, I tell them, 'You have 611 commandments left. That you keep you busy. Now, go create a kosher home. Turn off your TV on the sabbath and share your meals with many guests. Pray to God three times a day for you are his beloved children. He desires you and seeks you out."
While I would agree that homosexuality is no worse a sin than many other sins, I find it hard to imagine how a student of the Old Testament could possible argue keeping a kosher home (a command found nowhere in Scripture) is more important than the command to abstain from homosexuality. Yet the most serious problem with this comment is the rabbi's view of the Torah.  Only the most blatant moralistic system could possible claim that obeying most of what God has commanded is good enough.  He is telling us that the intentional and purposeful rebellion against God is OK just as long as we are doing most of what God has commanded.  James tells us in the New Testament "that whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (2:10)Perhaps this rabbi would not accept New Testament teachings.  In that case, I would suggest he consider Deuteronomy (one of two places where the Ten Commandments are found): "Cursed be anyone who does not conform to the words of this law by doing them" (27:26).  Homosexuals are not cursed more than any other person refusing to obey God.  But here is the main point: but neither are they cursed less. If obeying 613 laws is the only way of earning God's favor, obeying 611 isn't good enough. 

Boteach offers a bizarre understanding of the Ten Commandents when he writes,
The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets to connote two different kinds of transgressions: religious and moral. The first tablet discussed religious transgressions between God and man, such as the prohibition of idolatry, blasphemy and desecration of the Sabbath. The second tablet contained moral sins between man and his fellow man, like adultery, theft and murder.  Homosexuality is a religious, not a moral sin. A moral sin involves injury to an innocent party. Who is harmed when two unattached, consenting adults are in a relationship.
Part of his explanation is true.  The first tablet highlights our sins against God, whereas the second highlights our sins against each other. Yet if anything, this means that the first tablet is more important than the second (though Scripture gives them equal importance, for sins against other humans are counted as sins against God). Also, not all moral sins injure an innocent party.  The 10th commandment forbids coveting your neighbors possessions.  Our neighbors are not harmed when we do this (they are not even aware of it). Boteach is trying to claim that what makes something sin is whether or not it hurts someone.  This is not a biblical definition of sin.  Sin is violating God's standards of righteousness.
Homosexuality is akin to the prohibition against lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during passover; there is nothing immoral about it, but it violates divine will.
At this point anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the Old Testament should say "huh?" Violation of divine will is the definition of immorality. The Hebrew word for immoral carries the idea 'wicked, obscene, lewd' and is used to describe shocking sexual practices which degrade the people of God. The issue isn't that homosexuality doesn't hurt anyone, the issue is that it degrades the people who involve themselves in it. 

I have no hatred for homosexuals.  They are spiritually lost, as are billions of unsaved heterosexual persons.  When witnessing to a homosexual person the last thing I would bring up is their homosexuality.  Some conservative Christians act as if this sin is worse than all others.  On the other hand Rabbi Boteach wishes us to believe this one sin is not at all that serious.  Both positions distort the nature of sin (and the nature of God). All sin equally condemns us before Him.  Because of this, following 611 commandments can never save us as we would still fall short of God's righteous standard.  Our only hope is Christ, who alone can change, redeem, and renew.  I praise God for those former homosexuals who have been set free in Christ. 

Sadly, rabbi Boteach offers a way for homosexuals to stay in their condemnation.  He offers not freedom and joy, but eternal slavery and misery. .

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