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God vs. Gay? - The Religious Case For Equality

by Kevin Scott Hall
Contributor
Friday Oct 21, 2011
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Coming at a point when the gay rights movement in the United States may have reached a tipping point (after New York’s legislative victory for Marriage Equality in June, which was followed by rather small and tepid protests), Jay Michaelson’s "God vs. Gay: The Religious Case for Equality" perhaps finally closes the door on those quaint and already outdated arguments against equality for gays and lesbians.

From the start, Michaelson declares that his is a religious book. This argument is worth reading, because so many Americans use religion as the basis of their beliefs on homosexuality and, subsequently, toward shaping policy. Michaelson points out that Martin Luther King, Jr. in a sense co-opted God in his own argument for civil rights, serving both the country’s best interests and "saving religion from itself" in the process.

Michaelson knows that to change the thinking, he needs to change hearts, not just minds through legal argument.

That being said, Michaelson uses a mother lode of reasons to make his case. First, he tells his own coming out story, in which he confides that accepting his sexuality was the beginning of his religious life, not the end of it-honesty with oneself equals honesty with God and "sleaze comes from repression."

Second, he presents a careful study of the controversial verses (seven out of over 30,000 in the Bible) that conservatives have long used as a sledgehammer to beat down gays-Michaelson shows that later translations of words like "abomination" and "sodomy" were not true to the original Hebrew intent.

A pleasurable and intelligent read, this is a book for our times and a book for the ages.

Third, Jesus himself never uttered a word about homosexuality despite living in a time when such relationships were common. (Michaelson argues that the story of the centurion and his servant has a gay subtext that Jesus would have known about, and yet he completely accepted the relationship without comment.)

Fourth, he demonstrates that gays are not a modern phenomenon, but that they have always been part of history, but often silenced. He gives ample examples of famous gays and lesbians who contributed so much to the history of the world from ancient to modern times.

Finally, Michaelson argues, simply, that the religious values of love, compassion and equality trump any of those obscure verses anyway. Michaelson not only encourages people to accept gay couples and families, but to welcome them into their houses of worship: "religion lives when it grows," he says.

Throughout, Michaelson projects the tone of a good friend persistently and progressively asking the reader to take another look. This is a welcome breeze in the current world of heated rhetoric and ideological pronouncements from those claiming to know exactly what God wants.

"God vs. Gay" is a game-changer and highly recommended in the debate. For gays who still harbor self-hatred, this book may have you throwing off the heavy cross you’ve been bearing; for conflicted parents of gays, you will be encouraged by the argument in favor of your child’s giftedness, which comes from God; for the conservatives, you may find yourself challenged and unable to defend against the essential dignity of allowing people to love, start families and be productive members of society.

With a very thorough bibliography and recommended reading for further study, Michaelson has packed so much into his slim volume. A pleasurable and intelligent read, this is a book for our times and a book for the ages.

by Jay Michaelson

Kevin Scott Hall was a performer and recording artist for many years. He now teaches at CUNY, writes freelance and is the author of the novel "Off the Charts!"

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