Quick thoughts on the Michael Brown, Shmuley Boteach debate

Dr. Michael Brown, Charlotte’s leading anti-gay activist, debated Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Monday, Nov. 1, at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., south of Charlotte.

I attended, of course, and knew after watching a few videos of Brown and Boteach debate previously that this was going to be one hell of an interesting ride.

Neither man disappointed.

I don’t have time tonight to delve into the details or offer any extended thoughts. It’s late, I’m tired and hungry, and need to eat and go to bed. But, I will say that I was absolutely astonished and blown away by Rabbi Shmuley’s “calling out” of not only Dr. Brown but the entire Evangelical Christian movement on the debate topic: Is homosexuality America’s greatest moral crisis.

He said evangelicals are “obsessed” with homosexuality, and that their predisposition to focus on this issue and this issue alone was marginalizing them in the eyes of mainstream society; that evangelicals could have a real impact on the health and future of America and its families but would fail if they continue to make all religious people look crazy. Shmuley also asserted that Evangelicals are scapegoating American families’ ills on a gay “boogey man,” and are being hypocritical in their stand for “family values” in light of their seeming lack of care or concern for issues such as divorce, pornography, misogyny, promiscuity, teen sex and pregnancy and a host of other issues. By far, he said, heterosexuals have done more damage to the “traditional family” than anything gays could have done. Why aren’t evangelicals focusing on real issues? Why are they “fiddling while Rome burns,” he asked. Why are they ignoring their own problems and seeking only on one, small, insignificant issue?

His point was driven home when I got the opportunity to ask a question at the end of the debate. I didn’t have a question, actually. It was more of a favor. I asked Rabbi Shmuley (Dr. Brown eventually did the asking, only after being prompted to) if he’d ask the crowd of (I’m guessing) a couple hundred two questions.

1. By a show of hands, how many people in the room had contacted either their federal congressman or state representatives concerning a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage?
2. By another show of hands, how many people had also contacted either their federal congressmen or state representatives concerning divorce or other marital issues?

Can you guess the crowd’s answers? It shouldn’t be difficult.

To the first question, nearly half the room raised their hands. (A small minority that is not, Dr. Brown.) And, to the second question only a dozen or so people raised their hands.

Those results didn’t shock me, and served only to prove two of Rabbi Shmuley’s main points: Anti-gay Evangelical Christians are obsessed with scapegoating gays for their problems and hypocritical on the issues that matter most.

As I said, these are only the quickest of thoughts. I want some time to review my notes, listen to relevant portions of my audio and think through the debate. I promise I’ll be back with a more detailed commentary.

Until then, if you are a self-identified Evangelical Christian or one who views homosexuality as a sin, I challenge you to ask yourself the same two questions posed to Monday night’s crowd. If you aren’t an Evangelical Christian or view homosexuality as a sin, I challenge you to ask those same two questions of your friends who might be. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on saying the results you get, whether of yourself or others, are the same results from Monday’s debate.

Hypocrisy. That’s a doozy. Jesus wasn’t a fan of hypocrisy, ya know.

8 Responses to “Quick thoughts on the Michael Brown, Shmuley Boteach debate”
  1. Dan Davis says:

    While I do not believe homosexuality is America’s moral crises, I am shocked that an Orthodox Rabbi would disagree with Levitical laws that pertain to sexual sin. Homosexuality is an abomiation to God. Leviticus 18:22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable to God.”

  2. Matt Comer says:

    Dan, Thanks for your comment. As I said, these were my quickest of quickest thoughts. Rabbi Shmuley doesn’t reject the Torah’s prohibitions against homosexuality. He went into detail explaining his point of view, as did Dr. Brown. My quick thoughts here, immediately following the debate, do neither of them justice.

  3. Michelle Colletti says:

    Thank you Rabbi Shmuley for being a voice to so many who share the same thoughts as yourself. I am a Christian and I believe whole heartedly in the message you sent last night.

  4. Richard W. Fitch says:

    Matt – what were the details of the rabbi’s comments on homosexuality as pertains to Leviticus? My first hunch is that, as a trained rabbi, knowledgeable in Hebrew and the Purity/Holiness Code, he had some things to say about the actual words used in these texts. From my own study of these passages, and scholarly resources discussing them, the original makes a distinct differentiation between “sin” and “abomination” – the Hebrew uses two completely separate words. The concept of abomination had to do primarily with acts which might dilute the purity of the Hebrew people or which prevented the proliferation of their tribes, e.g., Onanism, intercourse during the menstrual flow or masturbation. Also included was bearing children with foreigners outside the Hebrew tribes. By these standards contraceptives and inter-racial marriage should be equally condemned along with any same-sex relationships

  5. Matt Comer says:

    @Richard… I’ll go into more detail on that in my follow-up, due tomorrow or Thursday. In short, however, Rabbi Shmuley related his philosophy as follows (warning: I’m paraphrasing, and this is second hand, so if you want the rabbi’s real thoughts, visit his website or read one of his many books): Religious law is broken into two parts. One is religious; a violation of religious law violates the divine will and damages the relationship between an individual and God. The second is moral law; a violation of moral law occurs when innocent parties are harmed among humans (i.e. theft, murder, adultery, pedophilia, etc.). The rabbi says the Torah’s prohibition against homosexuality is a violation of religious law, that it does not violate moral law as consensual sex between two adults of the same-sex harms no one.

    Further, in Rabbi Shmuley’s own words:

    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 should keep you busy. Now, go create a kosher home. Turn off the 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.“

    And, again from the rabbi:

    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? 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 the divine will.

    I am in favor of gay civil unions rather than marriage because I am against redefining marriage. But gay marriage doesn’t represent the end of Western civilization. The real killer is the tsunami of divorce and the untold disruption to children who become yo-yos going from house to house on weekends.

    Read the rest of this particular column by Rabbi Shmuley:

  6. Roger says:

    Matt, a BIG Thank You for attending the Debate and quickly posting about it. The Debate Video is posted on Dr. Brown’s website, http://askdrbrown.org/
    Rabbi Shmuley is an enlightning person with excellent observations of religion. His opinions have been published on Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

  7. feetxxxl says:

    i still dont get it. lev also says “take slaves from the surrounding country for life and pass them on to your children as inheritance” even under under todays jewish standards slavery would violate the jewish understanding of…….Leviticus 19:18
    “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

    christ said in matt23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.

    does micah say any different, 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the LORD require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

    where is there justice in condemning homosexual bonding when homosexuals bond in the same way as heterosexuals, out of mutual love, affection, devotion, respect, trust for a shared committed life together.

    homosexuals have never been found wanting in any sector of society compared to heterosexuals. they are not less a father, friend, administrator, teacher, doctor , therapist, counselor, pastor, soldier, brother, neighbor, etc.

    does being religious incapacitate ones ability to reason justice?

    given the number of heterosexual couples compared to homosexual couples and given the number heterosexual couples that practice some form of anal stimulation including penetration, there are probably more heterosexuals practicing anal sex than homosexuals. and they do it without any recrimination whatsoever? isnt it time that so called religious people stop perpetuating this hypocrisy?

    and why are those with vaginas and penises indulging in anal sex?

    because the anus IS an erogenous zone and anal orgasms are possible.
    does that mean god made a mistake?

    there is no issue involving anal sex that cannot be dealt with through safe sex practices.

  8. Richard W. Fitch says:

    feetxxxl: Hear! Hear!

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.