Sunday, November 2, 2008

"The Straight Path Home" is a great website that normally publishes informative, well-researched articles on Judaism. However, in two recent articles, Aish presents a twisted, biased view of homosexuality, insisting that homosexuality is a "dysfunction" that can be "cured" with proper treatment.

The two articles can be found here:

While there are many factual inaccuracies and flawed arguments in these articles, I would like to focus in on the most egregious:

1. David claims that the homosexual lifestyle is one of "compulsive promiscuity." When this assertion was challenged, David points to statistics of homosexual promiscuity in San Francisco (statistics that probably do not generalize to the rest of the country) and declares that most homosexuals live such a lifestyle.

Since when do we as Jews do what "most" people do. Most people in America eat pork. Most Jews do not. Most heterosexuals in America have premarital sex. Many heterosexual Jews do not. Why then should we generalize from the overall population to Jews on the issue of homosexuality?

I'm fine with being in the minority, both in terms of not eating pork and in terms of not being "compulsively promiscuous." The stastitics David cites mean nothing to me. I plan to live a monogomous, Jewish life with another Jewish man.

(I do not mean to imply that non-Jews are inherently promiscuous; they're not, and many non-Jewish gay men also lead monogomous lives. I am merely highlighting the fact that Jews often behave differently than the general population.)

2. In both articles, David states that homosexuality is caused by a dysfunctional childhood environment.

"Yes, there are many causes of homosexuality. My path is one that is common -- the triadic family and detachment from father, the missed opportunity to bond with other men. Other formative experiences common to those with same-sex attractions include physical or sexual abuse, and peer rejection. Others are responding to what they perceived as threatening relationships with mother or other women."

Thank G-d, I have not experienced any of these dysfunctions. Yet I am still gay. Clearly David's theoretical basis is lacking. Indeed, he cites the primitive theories of Sigmund Freud to support his argument that "homes like [his] are common among men with homosexual urges." He neglects to mention that the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry has repudiated Freud's theory. "As the origins of homosexuality are attributed to factors beyond the patient's conscious or unconscious control, they are no longer considered a subject of analytic inquiry" (J. Drescher, "A history of homosexuality and organized psychoanalysis," 2008).

David cites a 2003 study by Robert Spitzer, in which the majority of the participants successfully "became" straight. David neglects to mention that only 40% of the viewed themselves as exclusively gay before they attempted to change. David also fails to inform his readers that Spitzer himself said that the number of homosexuals who could successfully become heterosexual was likely to be "pretty low."

3. David's articles are laden with numerous weak arguments. What do they all have in common? They all mask David's true intent: to use the Torah's commandments as scientific proofs. The Torah prohibits sex between two men and commands man to reproduce. It is very difficult to theologically accept that the same G-d who gave such commandments also created people who can only achieve sexual and emotional fulfillment through a same-sex relationship. Therefore, many people argue that the existence of these two commandments proves that homosexuality is a dysfunction and is "curable." However, G-d never tells us that gay people can become straight; such a thought is a human invention. G-d does not mention sexual orientation in the Torah at all, but merely speaks about a specific sexual act. Thus, in light of the Torah's silence on the issue and the overwhelming scientific evidence that sexual orientation is NOT changeable, we should abandon all attempts at reparative therapy and instead have an open dialogue in the Orthodox community on the theological quandary that is so difficult to understand.


Anonymous said...

i want to comment about the last point you made in this post. i agree that there is some sort of quandary for orthodox gay jews who want to understand and be comfortable with their religion as well as themselves. for you, i guess, you see this question and you are still able to lead an orthodox life regardless of it. and i am very impressed that you can. for me, however, i find this quandary more troubling i think, and because of it (at least partially) i feel less connected to or enthusiastic about the religion in general. i am still orthodox and i perform what i consider to be the basic mitzvot, but i do them with hardly any feeling. i feel better with religion in my life instead of nothing, but i still can't figure out how to care more about judaism.

and the other thing i really wonder about is orthodox jews who are straight. why is it that none of them find problems with our religion in terms of how it treats homosexuality? the issues i have with judaism are not exclusive to me and other people who are attracted to people of the same gender. even straight people should realize the quandary that you brought up and find that it is seriously problematic and in need of attention. and it bothers me so much that they don't.

Michael 8-) said...

You raise good objections to the article, but I'm not sure you should be all that surprised.

In my experience studying with Aish in Jerusalem, I felt like this was typical M.O. for them.

While spending time with them was valuable for my Jewish studies, I left the experience in all honesty feeling like Aish is nothing but a cult.

There is a good reason why many of their supporters are folks who did not have strong Jewish identities prior to encountering Aish. When you have never learned anything different, or lacked a strong Jewish family environment growing up, it is very easy to find joy and love within the Aish community and very easy to accept the interpretations that Aish teaches.

I, on the other hand, grew up in a strong Jewish family, learned much as an active youth member of the Conservative movement, and was quite comfortable with being gay when I came into their circle.

The only sad thing for me was how I had drifted away from my Judaism precisely because of many people's attitudes towards homosexuality.

I'm glad to have found a happy balance in my life, and a welcoming and supportive Jewish community to be a part of with a husband who was attracted to my religious values and who actually converted to Judaism because of the positive things he finds in studying our religion and culture.

It's too bad that Aish and far too many other Jews cannot find it in themselves to see the error of their interpretations of Law and the damage that they are inflicting upon people. said...

i've left a few comments on that article (under the name 'shimon'). as a frum gay man, trying to make a go of the whole package (being out, finding a male parter, living in an Orthodox community) I find many of the comments more heartbreaking than the article itself.

we're in for a long and windy road, my friend.

Eli Jeremiah said...

Those articles are full of pseudo-scientific ideas that were long ago dismissed.

In my opinion, the content on Aish is simple-minded and lacking in substance.

Jaclyn said...

Well argued.

I think it's great that you're thinking deeply about these issues and it's brave of you to speak out!

Anonymous said...

well Anonymous i grew up in the ultra-orthodox community,and the reason that straight jews dont have a problem with that is because 1. some of them dont believe gays exist in the orthodox com.(believe it or not)and those that do think you either have a choice or your theres something wrong with you and of course therapy will "fix" that.i think they are prejudice because they are just uninformed too.