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A Response to Rabbi Shmuley on Duck Dynasty10 min read

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duck-dynasty-season-31Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has written what some consider a balanced, conciliatory, if not condemnatory piece in the New York Observer on the whole Duck Dynasty brouhaha.

As an admittedly less influential pastor, I would like to respond to the good Rabbi’s assertions.  The headings below are the Rabbi’s comments.

Table of Contents

1. And judging from the constant religious attacks against gays, you would think it’s the only sin in the entire Bible.

Um, attacks? American conservatives are RESPONDING to over-reaches like redefining marriage with no concern for conscientious objections or impact on children.

2. [The New Testament] seems to be implying that love of money is an abomination, which might give some of the televangelists flying in G5s pause before going after gays.

a. Some televangelists’ opulent lifestyles are condemned by many Evangelicals, even though some in the community are obviously caught in the love of money

b. This topic is not so clear cut because it is NOT a sin to have money or enjoy it. Homosexuality, biblically speaking, is clear cut, there is no nuanced position on it in scripture (though some liberals argue so).

3. The essence of an ethical violation, as opposed to a religious infraction, is injury to an innocent party. This is not the case with two unattached adults entering a consensual relationship that is not based on deception or lies.

Granted, there is no unwilling victim in hx relations, and so by that one ethical standard, it could be considered different from the short list in the Ten Commandments.

However, this does not mean that other sexual sins, including promiscuity, prostitution, bestiality, or open marriages are OK. These latter all lead to human suffering (the Bible, for instance, says that a man who goes with a prostitute is sinning against God and his own body, not the prostitute – she may be entirely willing, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:16-18).

4. it is not a moral sin but rather akin to the prohibition of lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread on Passover. It may violate the divine will, but there is nothing immoral about it.

The point is, there is more than one rule (do no harm to others) for determining morality or ethics – doing harm to one’s self, while it should not be criminalized (you have that right), should not be approved or normed for society. So you are right – sexual sins like hx could be compared to drunkenness, consumerism, or any other self-destructive behaviors. That does not make them amoral acts.

The question then becomes, is hx harmful to the individual? The higher rates of morbidity and mortality, as well as domestic violence and depression associated with homosexuality may indicate that it is harmful and, as will be argued later, against nature. While some argue that these heightened detrimental affects are the result of social rejection, studies in countries where such negative social factors are absent show the same elevated risks, so such rejection does not fully account for such effects.

5. So if religious people were serious about their faith, they would treat those who smoke on the Sabbath with the same opprobrium they reserve for gays.

Now who’s blowing smoke? As I attempted to argue above and in the next point, such prohibitions on hx are not merely a religious violation, but a much graver violation of nature.

6. But all this other stuff—it is immoral, doesn’t lead to procreation, is part of a promiscuous lifestyle—seems more relevant to the revolting and growing culture of drunken hookups, particularly on the American campus, where women are treated by men as little more than fleshy masturbatory material. Yet we almost never hear religious leaders decrying the promiscuity of the heterosexual club culture with anything near the intensity with which they attack gays.

Your attempt to pass over one of the main arguments is noted. In addition to heightened morbidity and mortality, the fact that homosexuals can not reproduce is a pretty clear sign that they are violating nature.

And to head off the canard of “does that mean that sterile hetero couples should not be able to marry?”, let me give two reasons why that retort fails:

a. When a couple is sterile, we consider that a DEFECT, not a norm. So if you want to compare hx to this case, then at best, you are arguing that it too is a DEFECT. And I’d agree.

b. You can’t determine a rule or a norm from an exception. The norm for hetero couples is that they can bear children, if otherwise healthy. The rule for gays is that they can NEVER produce children in a natural fashion (extreme use of technology certainly does not count, but we can have that discussion if you are brazen enough to think it’s a good argument).

Regarding violating nature, the New Testament (come on Rabbi, Jesus is the messiah, how could you miss it, being as educated as you are?) uses this as one of the main, damning arguments against hx.

That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. ~ Romans 1:26-27

I am familiar with the larger scope of Romans 1, and that it is not just singling out homosexuals, but is rather using them as an example of the epitomy of debasement, among many other sins, that comes with worhshipping nature and rejecting nature’s God.

Regarding hookup culture, you think Evangelicals pass over that? You are out of touch with modern Evangelicalism if you’ve missed the years of promise ring and purity events, among others. There is merely a lack of social pushback from liberals trying to norm the behavior, so you don’t see any heat in the public eye.

Christians are also on the front line fighting the pornography industry and its victimization of not only participants, but young men who are addicted and now unable to have normal sexual relations with women. But again, liberals give silent assent or apathy to such things, rather than pushing for public approval, so it’s less in the news.

7. Indeed, the strangest thing about traditional people attacking gay marriage is that the only men left in America who seem eager to marry are gay.

Again, your pretended naivete is frustrating. Yes, heteros in liberal cultures (of which the US is increasingly following Europe) are failing to marry, and suffering the consequences (just look at African Americans whose out of wedlock child bearing is now at 70% – no wonder they remain poor). But this deterioration of marriage is not shored up by gay marriage, it is further deconstructed, opening the door to the total dilution of any meaning as we subsequently include all ‘loving relationships’ – this change is already following fast on the heels of acceptance of gay marriage, which anyone reading the news and understanding the arguments knows.

Gays want to marry, not because they are more committed or faithful than sinful heteros (studies show they will actually be much LESS faithful), but because they merely want social approbation. I doubt gays value marriage more than heteros, or if they do, it’s for this reason, not because they are somehow conservative (though I’ve got some conservative gay friends who are against gay marriage, though not sure how or why).

8. I feel the best solution to the same-sex marriage debate is simple: marriage for none, civil unions for all. Let our government withdraw fully from the marriage business, opting instead to grant civil unions to the couples who seek them, be they straight or gay. This is simply a question of equal rights for government matters like tax and inheritance benefits and end-of-life decisions.

While I am all for gays having those rights in civil unions, there is one reason why the government SHOULD have an interest in marriage – the protection of children. This has always been the main civil interest in public marriage. For more on that, read here:

We as a society should not be comfortable with fostering circumstances where children are intentionally deprived of either a mother or a father. This is not a matter of whom to include in marriage; it is a matter of what marriage actually is. Redefining marriage is nothing short of creating a square circle.

9. By ending the gay marriage debate once and for all, we might even address the real values corrosion in America, such as the 50 percent divorce rate, the lack of a national year of service and the death of family dinners.

Just because you underestimate the damage of redefining marriage, or miss the fact that it is gays and liberals who keep this issue the hot button it is by over-reaching, does not mean that those who oppose it are skewing our efforts to fix things.

The debate can only end in one of two ways. Either gays acknowledge that gay marriage can not be viewed as on the same tier as natural marriage, and accept a lesser civil union, or we go the way of the wicked nations and bring destruction on ourselves by calling it moral. In the end, the latter may already be our fate, especially if spiritual leaders like yourself are capitulating.