Friday, 6 July 2012

consider yourself bound

Norm reproduces the text of a letter to the Jewish Chronicle, to which he is one of the signatories, as follows:


It is a matter of great regret that Lord Sacks has chosen to make a statement in his official capacity opposing the right of gay and lesbian men and women to marry. Even if same-sex marriage is contrary to Jewish law, it does not compromise the position of Orthodox Jews to let others marry as they wish. Lord Sacks has sought to influence how the generality of the population leads its life.
Further, and contrary to the submissions of the Beth Din, the change in the law will not force religious officers to officiate same-sex marriages against their wish. The law will apply only to secular ceremonies of marriage over which, by necessary definition, religious officers do not preside.
Jewish law may prohibit same-sex relations and among those Jews who consider themselves bound by Jewish law it operates as a restraint on how they may otherwise live their lives. But Jewish law can play no part in a modern secular society in restricting the lives of non-Jews - and Jews - who do not accept its restraints. The proper response to the consultation should have been: it is not our proper business to comment. Speaking when silence is required is no virtue.
The letters signatories are: Simone Abel, Lisa Appignanesi, Jeremy Brier, Professor Josh Cohen, Daniel Finkelstein, Stephen Fry, Eve Garrard, Jonny Geller, Professor Norman Geras, Caren Gestetner, Professor Simon Goldhill, Richard Hermer QC, Dr David Hirsh, Julia Hobsbawm, Anthony Julius, James Libson, Karen Mattison, Lord Parry Mitchell, The René Cassin Organisation, Dr Felix Posen, Dinah Rose QC, Clive Sheldon QC, Dina Shiloh, Katy Showman, David Toube, Paul Usiskin.
Seems spot on to me.  If you operate within a theology that binds some of the choices in how you live your life, as Orthodox (and many other) Jews do, then that is your choice,  Of course, if you live in a society in which you are not allowed to choose (Iran and many others) that is a whole different matter.  But no canon law of any faith can or should attempt to regulate the lives of those who are not of that faith, still less the activities of secular state bodies.  If you practise a faith then you accept the restraints it may place upon your activity and behaviour.  My nephew is a member of a Catholic lay order which requires celibacy.  That is one kind of restraint, which he has chosen.  In email conversation with a noted Catholic theologian of my acquaintance (OK, it was my brother) he described himself as "taking very seriously" the disciplines and dictates of the Catholic Church over the centuries.  Nobody made him do that.  Unless, you may say, God made him do it.

My point here is not a theological one.  I am not qualified, nor would I wish, to debate theology.  My point is that the dictates of faith rub up against secular laws quite often in the "free" Western societies, and there is no need for them to.  Faith groups should just leave it alone.  Where there is an established church it gets a bit more problematic, as in England.  But I am against the established church.  And I am, these days, a practising Anglican, and I wish, wish, wish the Anglican Communion would leave it alone too.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well - they are not going to. I think that the reason for this (speaking as an atheist) is that for many ( but not all) people who profess to be 'believers' in whatever - this is, sadly, NOT because of their deep and wholly heartfelt and HELD religious convictions - it is because belonging to a religious grouping ( rather like a local Hunt) fits in with their societal beliefs/practices/codes etc. Or they think it does. SO -- Christianity for some - if not all is - no sex please we're British - ok, hetrosexaul sex - and OK people now live together all the time without marriage ( one of the big taboos in the 1960s./70s etc and the sign of a 'fast' girl) so you can't attack that in the way that you would have done as a matter of course in say, 1950s. Same goes for unmarried mums. ANd divorcees. And anyone nowadays saying that hetrosexual sex outside marriage was wrong would be locked up! Mary Whitehouse now NOT 'in'.

AND - it is now not socially acceptable to SAY that hmosexuality and lesbianism is corrupt/wicked etc ( although what people REALLY think about it can be seen from the monikers of contempt: brown-noser; muff-diver;poof/pansy/lemon - not in MY backyard, matey!!) anyone or any grouping affirming this openly would be locked up -- so what is left --- aha! gay MARRIAGE!! So they can get out their hatred about both sex itself AND gays by attacking this and pretending that it is becaue of the religious sacrament etc etc.

Such attitudes of repression, dressed up as 'religion' can also be found in relation to clothes/drinking -- even smoking before it was ( rightly) regarded as 'bad' because of the health risks. And staying out late at night and wearing the wrong sort (ie sexy) of clothes) and reading/watching material not 100% lashings of ginger beer.

And the worst of it is that these people, who give all religions a bad name, are, by and large, what we SEE of 'religion' and what we understand of it. A set of people who love dictating to, controlling and looking down on others because it makes them feel better about themselves..

And if it isn't gay marriage, then they will find SOMETHING ELSE when that, like other former hater targets, becomes santiised.

It is why I have no time for organised or unorgansied, come to that, religion - and why I avoid most 'religious' people like the plague. Just means I can live my life. It is easier. And one might well ask 'What has Jesus got to do with all the attitudes described above?' and the answer would be - not a lot, as recorded in the bible. ( which is all we have to go on)

But YAWEH - Lord God of Hosts would be right in there!!

Venegance is mine, I shall repay saith the lord. Yeah....

Anonymous said...

Stephen Fry is the only one I've ever heard of.
L9

Jane Griffiths said...

what, Stephen Fry is the Lord of Hosts?

Charlie said...

It is a seductive argument to say that those of a particular religion should not attempt to impose their views on others. However this immediately starts to break down when what is actually being said is "Other people's morals are relative, mine are absolute" Jane you have often argued in this blog that we should not tolerate the sort of misogynistic practices carried out by some religions, simply because it is their religion/culture. Presumably this means that you believe your western, liberal views to be absolute. Why are you allowed this privilege when members of religions are not?

Anonymous said...

He is not the Lord of Hosts - an neither is he YAWEH.

Back to the bible, folks.

PS: William Barclay remains probably the most accessible commentator on the New Testament...

Jane Griffiths said...

"presumably this means that you believe" are among the most depressing combinations of words in English, Charlie. I believe what I believe, and may share it from time to time. I didn't refer to "views", and I suspect that calling my "western, liberal" (I doubt they are that) views "absolute" is meaningless. It's certainly not something I have said. The point of my post, which you have missed, Charlie, deliberately or not, is that I believe that adherence to a faith carries with it certain modifications of behaviour, which are chosen and accepted by the adherents of that faith, by and large, and that it does not follow that the state, or any secular authority, should have to abide by any of these when it takes its decisions. Hence, if some or all Jews (I wouldn't know,but suspect it is unlikely) think that gay people should not marry each other, fine, but it does not follow that the state should not permit such marriages. That's it.

Anonymous said...

And that is correct.

Sadly, too many people of all faiths ( but I only have an intensive knowledge of Christianity, so my comments are limited to that) take a prescriptive rather than an enabling position.

Neither Jesus nor Paul ( although it has been wrongly asserted that Paul DID) made any comments whasoever on homosexuality. But we can see many paralleles between the outpourings of the prescriptive Sadducees and Pharisees as Jesus encountered them - that would fit well with some of today's prescriptive attitudes towards a whole number of things. And they are very far away from even the Old Testament. It was never even the God fo Abraham's intention to say that a person was damned because he/she did not pour milk from a certain type of container etc -- but that is what the S&Ps said. it was called The Law. And much more nonsense in the same vein.

What did Jesus do about such things? He actually, (f we are talking about the difference between state and church said 'Give to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's'. He also chose not to humiliate MAry Magdalene when she upset Judas by using an expensive cream on Jesus' feet.Judas said that the cream could have been sold to 'clothe and feed' the poor. Jesus said 'The poor you will have always with you. Me not' ( or words to that effect).

He ate and drank with publicans and lepers; he told those who had not sinned to cast the first stone -- he turned over the tables rather thna having his Father's house turned into a place of trade and barter ( the temple). Such a person would not have made such a song and a dance about gay church marriage. He just wouldn't. Christianity does - or a lot of it. And that is the difference. I would have rather liked Jesus, I think. Nto too many perpetrators of organised religion, however. I remember my ex brother in law turning round to do that kissing thing in a 'low' style church service once. He and his wife were pernicious and sanctimonious Pharisees. Yet did they EVER miss a service? NO and did they not go home immediately from that servcie and continue their habit of being foul to everybody? YES.
And what about David and Jonathan? And 'the disciple who Jesus loved'?
Here endeth the lesson.
Praise be to human kindness - where it exists.

Anonymous said...

I know some of the signatories to the letter. They are decent people. They would normally be the first to say that Rabbis should speak out on ethical matters. Their Reform and Liberal Rabbus have already spoken out on the matter, so why should they deny the Chief Rabbi, whom they do not support, the right to speak on the matter?

This is not about imposing a faith view on those of other faiths are none. It is about saying what one believes.

Judaism treats everyone with respect, but its adherents choose to follow the many ethical laws on food, clothing, sex, business activities etc. Yhe Biblical reading on forbidden sexual activities, mainly incest, is a highlight of the Day of Atonement services, which is a day devoted to improving behaviour between people.

The Government consultation is pure gesture politics. Homosexuals who undergo civil partnerships often regard that as marriage anyway. So why antagonise people with an extra layer of bureaucracy?

Jane Griffiths said...

yes and the Chief Rabbi has said what he thinks, and a bunch of other people have disagreed. I have then said what I think. That's called free speech. It's the opposite of "denying the right to speak", which is the bizarre and fanciful accusation you make, Anonymous 0430. You are a liar. But I don't deny you the right to create your bad smells here.

Anonymous said...

As I said before, 430 - and I happen to KNOW the bible -- Jesus did not supprot the ridiculous body of 'law' about food rituals and clothing etc etc etc. He made the Pharisees and Sadducees look like the idiots they were. That is why they killed him..

'The Law' - so much ritualistic rubbish.You could just see how it was goign to go when all that ridiculous worshipping of the golden calf went on in the Old Testament. Read the OT and TRY to understand it sometime.Especially the teaching about worshipping graven images....