Prager, Dennis. Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization. Special Issue of Ultimate Issues 6.2 (1990).
I’m starting out these resource recommendations based on the resources that helped me back in the time when I was finding out about my husband. There are more recent works, obviously, but I’ve not read them yet – and, frankly, since all this is emotionally and spiritually taxing, I’m not going to be burning up records, buying and reading the newer sources. Bit by bit, brick by brick, right?
Dennis Prager’s Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization was probably the first thing I read on the topic, when I was starting to realize what was going on with my ex-husband. I’m pretty sure it was the first time I had heard of the collapse of the 1973 APA (American Psychiatric Association) Convention, when it was decided to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders).
Prager discusses that event and its ramifications clearly and rationally, which is useful. What I, as a then-evangelical Christian, found most useful – and continue to do as a Catholic – is that Prager looks at homosexuality from the perspective of a practicing Jew; he takes a theological and sociological analysis of homosexuality throughout history and its effects on civilization, particularly how the Judeo-Christian paradigm stands unique in history as requiring a heterosexual, monogamous sexual expression.
But he doesn’t limit himself. Prager looks at the behaviors of those other cultures, the ubiquity of homosexuality, relying on a scholarly work by a writer who is actually rather sympathetic to what was called, back then, gay liberation.
Then he addresses the biblical opposition to homosexuality (and here he is always addressing behaviors, not attractions or “orientations”). This is the work which also introduced me to the recognition that homosexuality is, ontologically, misogynist. “…it was Judaism, very much through its insistence on marriage and family and its rejection of infidelity and homosexuality, that initiated the process of elevating the status of women. While other cultures were writing homoerotic poetry, the Jews wrote the Song of Songs, one of the most beautiful poems depicting male-female sensual love ever written.”
The final section of the work addresses the social issues surrounding the homosexual controversy. At this point it should be noted that Prager’s a bit out-of-date: the Episcopal Church, the United Methodists, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., and others have long since approved the ordination of openly practicing homosexuals. Prager’s discussion of why it would be wrong to ordain homosexuals is still very much applicable to why it was wrong for those denominations to change their historical position calling homosexuality sinful.
Some pithy quotes:
“Historically, it was Judaism’s sexual values, not homosexual relations, that have been deviant.”
“It is not overstated to say that the Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex made the creation of Western civilization possible.”
“According to Genesis, man’s solitude was not a function of his not being with other people; it was a function of his being without a woman.”
“Women have suffered in societies that have been particularly tolerant of homosexuality. The emancipation of women has been a function of Western civilization, the civilization least tolerant of homosexuality.”
“Wherever homosexuality has been encouraged, far more people have engaged in it.”
“Societies, far more than individuals, choose whether homosexuality will be widely practiced.”
“If Judaism were more concerned with compassion, it never would have banned homosexuality in the first place. The whole world was celebrating it, yet the poor Jews got stuck with heterosexual marital fidelity.”
Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization is available for $5 for a PDF download, or $12 for an MP3 download, or $15 for a disk through Dennis Prager’s web site.