Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is “Being Orthodox” the same thing as “Being Gay”?

Guest Post by Adam
In the age old debate of nature vs. nurture, no facet of this argument is more heated than when it comes to homosexuals.  Is their attraction inborn, or is it an acquired orientation?  It is a choice?  What about finding ones way to halachic observance?  Nature or nurture?  Inborn or chosen?  I started to think about this after an Internet chat I had with a friend.  This friend describes himself as a Radical Reform Jew. 
We got into a discussion on the idea that one may receive more than one gives, when giving tzedakah.  The following is the transcript, edited for clarity, grammar, and anonymity (RF stands for Reform Friend).  
me: I've seen it many many times, my expenses are somehow lower when I give more tzedakah.
RF: ok
me: there is a cap, 20%, and I don't get anywhere near that yet
RF: mine tend to be much more because I have to pay the donation too
me: just saying, this is the one place where we're told in the Torah to test it out.  So next time you give money, look around your life and see if you either received an unexpected cash increase and/or lower expenses soon after
RF: i will; and then if i do, i will believe
me: lol no you won't :)
RF: ok you are right!
me: even when I had my "wow" moment 12 years ago at the kotel, it still took me another 2 years until I really started keeping Shabbat.  I never expect or even want a Jew to totally flip around based on one good vibe
RF: well i am pretty secure in my belief.  I don't think a single moment at a place that doesn't accept my religious practices is going to change anything.
me: it didn't bother me back then
RF: what didn't bother you?  
me: standing there, as an actively Reform Jew, at the Kotel.  It didn't bother me that men and women had to pray separately
RF: you were never a Reform Jew
me: I wasn't?
RF: you were on your path to where you are.  Perhaps you were practicing as a RJ but you weren't part of the movement like say you are part of the MO movement.
me: I wasn't a twice-a-year RJ, I went to all of the Hebrew school, Sunday schools, Reform and nom-denom youth groups and summer camps
RF: but "something was missing", right?
me: not until high school, but yeah
RF: so once you could start thinking for yourself, when you could actually become a Reform Jews, you did not - that is what i am getting at.
It was the “something was missing” line that really got me thinking.  Something WAS missing in my life.  I really didn’t feel fulfilled there.  It was a relief to find out that there were others like me.  These are all statements that the gay kid makes on the after school special after coming out of the closet.
Which gets back to my opening question:   Is “Being Orthodox” like “Being Gay”?  
What do you say?


  1. I say yes! Let's marginalize and ostracize teh Orthodox!

  2. There is probably a genetic component of being attracted to religion in general and fundamentalist ones in particular, but obviously not Orthodox Judaism specifically.

    That "something was missing" line is used by missionaries of all faiths, by the way. I've heard Christians use it to try to convert Jews. It's a standard way to exploit people who feel there's something missing in their lives.

  3. Why "obviously" not Orthodox Judaism specifically? I've met lots of converts that had no familial connection to Judaism at all. Why did they become Jewish and not Catholic, Muslim, or Zoroastrian?

  4. "Orthodox Judaism" is just too complex a thing for there to be a gene or collection of genes for it, at least as far as anybody currently understands genetics.

    Do you think there's a Catholic gene and a Zoroastrian gene, etc.?

  5. I think that there are truth seekers, comfort seekers, and non-seekers.

    Non-seekers stay in whatever ethnic and/or religious culture they were born into, and never think about it in their adult lives.

    Comfort seekers will eschew any claim of validity for what is easy or comfortable.

    Truth seekers will explore the claims of many groups that claim to know the Truth.

    Indeed, I have more respect for a Jew that searches and becomes Mormon, Amish, or Hindu, than a Jew who stays Reform because he doesn't care or because it's easier.

    The question is, is that quality of truth seeking inborn or acquired?

  6. I suspect that like many things, faith and the particular religious practice or lack thereof that one is attracted to when given the choice (for many, social/cultural/legal restrictions and lack of exposure to other ideas means there is no choice) is a combination of hard-wiring and environment. For example, some people may be born more likely to be skeptical and less able to engage in a willing suspension of disbelief than others.

  7. Ah, but do you have more respect for a Jew who goes OTD because of truth-seeking or one who stays frum because of comfort-seeking. That's the real test. :-)

  8. going "off the derech" is not a claim of having found Truth. it is a claim that "there is no Truth".

    Anyone who claims that "there is no Truth" or says it in the more convoluted way, "there are multiple truths" - and then continues to live by any sort of moral code, is a hypocrite.

    It makes sense to follow secular laws because you don't want to end up in prison. Other than that, living by any kind of "morals" or "ethnics" can't be the "right" thing to do, because if you think there is no Truth, there can't be a "right" or "wrong" either.

    You can now gauge my respect level for moral atheists.

  9. Adam: that's ridiculous! One doesn't need to be in position of the Truth in order to live a moral life! How else do you explain non-believer's like Warren Buffett who have donated billions to charity? It was to keep him out of jail?!!!

    I think we agree that someone who doesn't believe in the "Truth" yet lives a moral life is better off than someone who doesn't live a moral life but believes all the right things... It's not about what you say. It's about what you do!

  10. >Why did they become Jewish and not Catholic, Zoroastrian etc?

    I'm sure many did. I'm guessing they didn't go to the same yeshiva as you

  11. OTD - What makes one action "moral" and another action "immoral" ?

  12. The Torah is the basis of anything that is called "morals" or "ethics" in the Western World.

    If one chooses not to admit the Truth of the Torah, that's his choice.

    If that's the case, however, then it would be hypocritical to follow Western morality.

    So you make judgments like "better off" if someone lives a "moral life" - what does "better" mean and what does "moral" mean, if the Torah isn't True?

  13. Just a second. 99% of humanity don't believe in the Torah. Are they moral?

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