Fiddling For Open Access Bathrooms?
The tune that Nero fiddled while Rome burned was a sprightly, engaging one, I always imagined. Something upbeat and distracting, that took little effort to offer pleasure. Like many others, I have a harder time understanding what people in this country are doing as our own society daily displays wider cracks in its foundations. With everything else going on, why does access to bathrooms for a miniscule segment of the population so fascinate people, becoming the single most important cause célèbre of our day?
Pondering this, as well as the break-neck speed with which our fellow citizens changed their minds about same-sex marriage, I kept coming back to a clash of values that has been with human civilization for quite some time. According to one view of Mankind, there are no givens, because the human mind, left to explore without impediment, will constantly break barriers and make the previously impossible possible. A different view finds this risible, and notes that we are by nature limited. Our nature, our history, and the story of human association all make it wiser to discover our constraints, to work within them, and to embrace parts of the past that work. At different times of history, these views expressed themselves as the struggle between Hellenism and Judaism; between reason and religion; between liberals and conservatives.
The US, after a long period of honoring both viewpoints, seems to have decided to plunge headlong towards a Nirvana-without-rules. What is fascinating about the transgender issue is not the people, but the notion that we can rewrite even the rules we believed to be biologically imprinted. (We can’t, of course, but they don’t realize that yet.) The possibilities for human freedom and pleasure are endless. (Actually, they aren’t, but they don’t realize that either.)
Whether or not all of this is hogwash, I now have you focused on societal trends and differences. So you will likely appreciate some very strong commentary by R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, written in a bygone era when people’s chief concern about public bathrooms was whether they were clean. (The emphasis is mine, although I would imagine the author today both underlining and bolding some lines.)
The motto of orgiastic society was formulated long ago by the Generation of the Flood: “And the sons of the mighty saw the daughters of man that they are fair, and they took them wives whomsoever they chose” (Gen. 6:2). What the Torah underlines is the phrase, “whomsoever they chose.” Orgiastic man seeks freedom from any normative system interfering with human hedone. No authority, this-worldly or transcendental, may legislate how man should enjoy life as long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others. Orgiastic man not only responds to inevitable biological urges whose fulfillment yields pleasure, but experiments with precipitating new pressures and unheard-of, newly contrived, artificial situations, which challenge the body to respond by engaging in gratifying action. In short, our Western society is a typical representative of the aesthetic society.
The Torah hated orgiastic man, whose abominable way of life was censured by the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet” (Ex. 20:14), meaning, Do not desire something which is beyond your reach. One must not stretch out his hand toward infinity, toward carnal boundlessness, toward the vastness that the flesh demands of man. The Torah did condone pleasant, happy, and gracious living, if enjoyment is bounded and the call of the blood is mod-erate. One may pursue pleasure if he knows how to retreat at the proper moment….
When I speak of orgiastic man or hedonic society, I am not referring exclusively to carnal hedone, to laxity of sexual morals, what is known in medieval scholastics as concupiscence or lust. As a matter of fact, the Western world is addicted to this kind of hedone…. However, I classify human questing under hedone if the element of boundlessness is present….Whether orgiastic man is a great industrialist, a brilliant financier, a Casanova, or a Napoleon, they all are members of the same society. Their imagination is surrounded with goods of sense and the halo of self-fulfillment. Their society is orgiastic, aesthetic, non-rational. 
 Days of Deliverance, pgs. 34-35
I wish to invoke here the name of Rabbi Daniel Lapin, whose ideas I am about to attempt to express. To the extent that I get it wrong, I apologize ahead of time. My understanding of what he said that I think is relevant to the above, is the following. Suppose Person A physically bumps into Person B. If that happens once or twice, Person B probably has no particular reason to assume that Person A’s action was intentional. Maybe there was a large crowd, maybe the walkway they were both in was very narrow, and so on. However, if Person A bumps into Person B dozens of times, and in all kinds of situations, then Person B has every right to assume that Person A’s actions were most definitely intentional. That, says Rabbi Lapin, is the story of the Political Left in modern times. See, if their stances on issues occasionally conflicted with Torah values, one can write that off as a mere coincidence. However, if that happens with extreme regularity, then it is safe to assume that it is deliberate. While it can be argued that the Left is at war with Western Civilization as a whole, really it is its Jewish aspect of it that it wishes to defeat. In a word, the Left is at war with G-d. Obviously the Left is utterly foolish if they think that they can ever successfully build their Tower of Babel, and yet meanwhile, so many people and even entire civilizations, are suffering in consequence. America if it falls will probably fall from within, from abandoning the Torah values upon which it was built, and meanwhile the world has made Israel the world’s scapegoat when it could have celebrated it as the most incredible State on our planet. It boggles my mind how the world expresses total outrage at some nice Jewish families building an extra room or two in their homes in the Biblical heartland of Israel, yet remain silent, or even claim victimhood, in favor of the islamoNazi terrorists. The solution to all this is, of course, to convince the world to have a more favorable view of our G-d, but as to how to go about doing that, I am at a loss for words, except to say that it shows what an extra responsibility that we Jews have to earn our title as G-d’s Chosen People.
One could certainly view this as you do and, as an “orthodox” person, wouldn’t be blamed for doing so. However, one could also see these phenomena as an excess of an otherwise praiseworthy trend. That is the trend of humanity becoming more sensitive to the people and the world around it. Rather than seeing it as orgiastic selfishness, one could see it as excessive altruism. Modern society has become aware and concerned about the ill treatment of people, animals and the environment. All intrinsic to the practice of Torah Judaism. You could say that society is becoming hedonistic by allowing gay marriage. Or, you could say that society, which is overwhelmingly heterosexual, is outgrowing the need to discriminate against and abuse a small subset of itself who’ve been biologically, or otherwise, “imprinted” with desires different than their own. You say hedonism, I say altruism. And this is without mentioning great strides in areas such as the treatment of women and minorities, bullying, dealing with the mentally and physically handicapped and so much more. If anything, the dark side to this is not endless freedom and pleasure, but the opposite, as an excess of political correctness is in the process of curtailing both. As always the pendulum will swing back, but even when it does, as I see it, we’ll still have a far better world than the “bygone” one in which the Rav penned those words.
I will push back only a little. The key word you used was “excessive.” I agree that the trend to greater tolerance is laudatory. The embrace of the transgender cause is suspect for two reasons: 1) it affects such a miniscule part of the population; those affected were called sufferers of gender dysphoria just a few years ago, and the evidence so far is that the transition and/or surgery does not make them happier of less suicidal. So taking the front and center position from among so many competitors for our heartstrings is puzzling. Unless what is really going on includes fascination with our seeming ability to break yet another unbreakable rule of Nature 2) Compassion has its limits. The concern, anguish, pain caused to a much larger population is simply not addressed. (The US military recently sent a new protocol to female soldiers. Gender is to be regarded as whatever a soldier declares in his file. Nothing else. Females who asked about anatomical males showering together with them were told to toughen up.) When there is no balance, one has to suspect an agenda. My guess is that the agenda is antinomianism is a bigger sense than ever before. In a few years, we will see crowds on campus protesting against the laws of gravity.
I think that R Adlerstein is correct, especially given the state of American universities and social media today. The November 2016 election returns were if anything a rejection to massive social change by judicial and administrative fiat.
If you think back to almost any other society in history there cannot have been enough bathrooms to segregate genders entirely. Gender solidarity could be had in other places, to be sure. Only when you get multiple stall bathrooms–in theatres and temples and other larger establishments, mostly in cities–is gender separation required, due to the shared space. Long before transsexuals and homosexuals became the issue, such spaces brought up questions, because you are essentially making quasi-public a private act. the large bathroom becomes a space for solidarity (gender, religion, race, class, etc.), whereas in less grand establishments and earlier eras such solidarity was had elsewhere–or else on the way with one’s chosen companions to whatever pit was designated for this.
so the question is less one of pure morality than one of how to govern a particular niche of public space, given the diversity of society (which undeniably includes homosexuals etc) and people’s reasonable rights to privacy.
These are interesting issues, and much like the tumtum and androgynus of talmudic fame the transsexual (and homosexual) liminal cases really bring these questions to the fore. But i don’t understand why one would want to go the route of orgiasticizing the discussion. It just seems to paper over the more interesting discussion with boring moral high-horsing.
The sugyos of tumtum and androgynous revolve around persons with bodily organs of a male and female as opposed to the paychobabble based claims of gender dysphoria voiced today.
I am going to have to respectfully disagree with what Menachem Lipkin said above here. This whole movement toward accepting such sexual deviances as homosexuality, transsexuality, and the general blurring of the lines between the sexes, really does no good for anybody. If a person who is obviously a man can declare himself a woman as he enters women’s locker rooms, that basically spells the end of women participating in any sports, and renders her unable to use any public restrooms at all. I recently heard of a case in which an Orthodox Jewish elementary school for girls over in England, may have to close down for refusing to teach its students any kind of pro-homosexual propaganda. Think of the gay parades taking place both here and in our Holy Land of Israel, and how the unmentionable behavior that take place in such parades, block traffic and defile our Jewish land. Think of that Christian couple over in Oregon running a family bakery who was forced into bankruptcy because they refused to honor a gay marriage, as it went against Biblical principles. All that is external to the actual sexually deviant individuals themselves, and yet it can be argued that celebrating, accepting, or otherwise encouraging such behavior, hurts the sexually deviant individuals most of all. Those who successfully undergo sex change operations, for example, are 40 times more likely than the normal population, to commit suicide. Even to this day, AIDS is far more rampant among homosexuals than heterosexuals. Really encouraging any kind of lifestyle that does not promote the traditional family, is about as helpful as encouraging any other kind of destructive behavior, such as alcoholism and drug use. There is nothing wrong with being compassionate, but perhaps such heartfelt feelings should be reserved for people who try to live a good and morally decent human life, but somehow meet with bad fortune.
These are thoughtful replies, but I’m going to stick with my moral arc position. In general, humanity is in a better place than a few generations ago. A lot of the anguish regular folks are feeling is virtual. Day to day very few people deal these issues, but as a function of our hyper-connected world and the echo chambers we build for ourselves things that “offend” us quickly get elevated and shoved in our faces. (I’m as guilty of this as anyone as Rabbi A. knows from some of my emails.) I’m not saying we’ve reached any sort of Utopia and there are very real problems that have been newly minted, but on balance it’s progress and it’s less nefarious than people want to believe.
I liked the spirit of your comment. However, it falls apart when faced with reality. It’s all very nice and well to say “oh, let’s have compassion for others”, but not when that compassion comes at the expense of others, in this case our national morality. That cost-benefit analysis is obviously the crux of the issue. If you can’t or won’t recognize how low we have sunk as a nation [and perhaps, if I recall correctly, you live in Israel and therefore cant see it]; or if you cant or wont acknowledge how the homosexual agenda has advanced that decline, then there really is nothing to talk about. Our premises are too far apart for further discussion.
To David Ohsie (saving myself another post) – Obviously there is SOME support for homosexual marriage, no one says otherwise. But if the best one can do is cite referendums from Washington and Maryland – two states that haven’t voted Republican in more than 30 years each – that you’ve done more to prove my point than attack it. Especially when the margin of victory in each of these deep blue states was extremely narrow. As for citing opinion polls to tell me I’m wrong, please re-read my original comment.
“I liked the spirit of your comment. However, it falls apart when faced with reality. It’s all very nice and well to say “oh, let’s have compassion for others”, but not when that compassion comes at the expense of others, in this case our national morality. That cost-benefit analysis is obviously the crux of the issue. If you can’t or won’t recognize how low we have sunk as a nation [and perhaps, if I recall correctly, you live in Israel and therefore cant see it]; or if you cant or wont acknowledge how the homosexual agenda has advanced that decline, then there really is nothing to talk about. Our premises are too far apart for further discussion.”
This a completely vacuous response. National morality seems to be a stand-in for “the opinion of myself and like-minded people”. The rest of it is “I’m obviously right and if you don’t see it, then there is nothing to discuss”. Especially as you’ve already admitted to a consensus that the treatment of homosexuals in the past was quite immoral. You could equally apply the reasoning in the paragraph above to literally any political or moral issue. And I mean literally literally, not figuratively literally. Just plug in any other “agenda” for “homosexual agenda”.
“To David Ohsie (saving myself another post) – Obviously there is SOME support for homosexual marriage, no one says otherwise. But if the best one can do is cite referendums from Washington and Maryland”
You were the one who claimed that the public opinion polls on gay marriage are completely unreliable based on 1) the fact that there was a 1.5% polling error in the last presidential election 2) some people who came to your practice for representation were against gay marriage 3) “The ballot box – the only accurate measure of public opinion – says no.” The ballot box was actually mixed (you know that about half the country is Democratic so you can’t exclude them, right?) and legislative votes count too; indirect democracy is, thank God, how almost all political decision making is made in the US. Moreover, both the public opinion polls and exit polls showed a pronounced skew towards younger people being more pro-gay marriage. Since Oberkfell, there have been no more votes on this, but the trend means that the referenda of the past become a less and less reliable measure of current opinion.
If your point was that a majority of conservatives are against gay marriage, then the polls support your contention, but if the trend holds, then it won’t be true for long.
I will agree that there is a good argument that the SCOTUS should have let the democratic process play out.
We may be technologically advanced and more PC but we are a clearly more decadent society as the excesses of the 1960s have impacted on the conventional family
You say people have changed their minds about homosexual marriage, and they are fascinated with same-gender bathroom issues. I ask: How do you know?
The lessons of the last federal election cannot be overestimated. And the chief takeaway – which many of us already knew for years – is that so-called “public opinion” polls are at best usually skewed, and at worst, outright fraudulent. [Indeed, in retrospect, one wonders how on Earth anyone ever trusted such acutely political claims in the first place.] In the great majority of cases, same-sex marriage propositions have lost at the ballot, only becoming legal by judges and politicians under the mistaken belief that this is what the public wants. If people are so in favor of it, then why does it keep losing at the polls?
By now, the whole country has become aware of left wing media bias, and knows how polls can be manipulated. Yet such is the power of inertia and entrenchment, that people still cannot believe that everything they’ve told has been a lie. The years ahead will be interesting, as the influence of the media continues to die; as a new generation of leaders who were never under a false influence takes their place; and as the old “partisan press” model continues its rebirth. We shall see how popular homosexual marriage really is.
I am not willing to dismiss the many, many polls done over the years by the best of the pollsters. Neither do the strongest voices against gay marriage in the public forum – people like Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis. There has been a shift in attitude. It is not to a position of simple preference, but of contempt for anyone who would defend traditional marriage.
I think the best long-term way to combat these societal shifts is passing school choice legislation in as many states as possible. Rav Soloveitchik’s point is understood to be obvious to the point of being self-evident among the religiou, but is heretical to the secular worldview. The problem is that with the spread of free, government-run education which by necessity has to be secular, people are no longer raised with the Biblical understanding of human nature that used to be taken for granted. Sen. Marco Rubio was just attacked by Politico for tweeting quotes from Proverbs, aka “the most Republican part of the Bible.”
Religious parents tell their kids to take school seriously; the teachers tell them that their parents and clergy are benighted bigots. We need to make it easier for parents to send their kids to schools where religion is taken seriously and given the respect it deserves.
And yet I am a labor attorney, who has often been called upon for legal advice in cases involving homosexuality (eg, teachers hired and subsequently learned to be homosexual) and (twice) in same gender bathroom cases, and I am here to tell you that it just aint so. When you actually talk to people in private, and hear their frustrations, you learn that so many of them have exactly the same attitude as probably you and I and the readers of this website.
You’re right that there has been some degree in shift. In the 1980s, homosexual activity (sodomy, in other words – not marriage) was still a crime in most states, and we studied Supreme Court law on it in law school. Only a small minority of people today would say such activity, conducted privately between adults, should be criminalized. But do people “accept” homosexuality flaunted in public, or the concept of homosexual marriage? Loud voices say, yes, yes. The ballot box – the only accurate measure of public opinion – says no. People like the names you mentioned need not convince people to change their minds, they need only to get people to stands up for themselves.
Your experience is anecdote which is not in opposition to the polls. If the polls are right (see below) and 35% of the American population is against gay marriage, then that is over 100 million people believing against gay marriage. There will be literally 100’s of millions of anecdotes in support of the the gay marriage position if the polls are correct. In addition, your sample is likely to be very skewed. I presume that the person who had a question about employing homosexuals were not looking for a way to hire more of them.
“The lessons of the last federal election cannot be overestimated. And the chief takeaway – which many of us already knew for years – is that so-called “public opinion” polls are at best usually skewed, and at worst, outright fraudulent.”
The national polls had Hillary up by about 3.6% and she won the popular vote by about 2.1%. This is well within the historical polling error (which have gone in both directions). An objective model based on those polls at a “left-leaning” site had Trumps chances at about 30%, no the 0% that the various pundit guessers had it. The polls are much more accurate than the pundits. see http://cookpolitical.com/story/10174 and https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/.
“But do people “accept” homosexuality flaunted in public, or the concept of homosexual marriage? Loud voices say, yes, yes. The ballot box – the only accurate measure of public opinion – says no. People like the names you mentioned need not convince people to change their minds, they need only to get people to stands up for themselves.”
Maryland’s gay marriage measure passed both the legislature and a referendum. Same for Washington state. Morever, the attitudes have gradually shifted over time as you can see by the polls linked below. The votes would shift with the attitudes, as well as with the change in the population as young people are more favorable to gay marriage than older folk. If you are right and the polls are fake news, then it is hard to explain why they weren’t doing a better job of making them up 10 years ago.
You might also consider that outcome of your theory conveniently comports with your own preference.
“There will be literally 100’s of millions of anecdotes in support of the the gay marriage position if the polls are correct.”
Just to make an obvious correction, I meant to write that there would be 100’s of millions of anecdotes against gay marriage (as well as pro).
Well said – ultimately, the secular west is at war with the values introduced by the Jewish people (otherwise known as Judeo-christian values). Whether or not the majority of Jews today adhere to those moral values, any moral conscience which has ever existed is the result of what was transmitted to us at Sinai, and through us, to the world. Hence, we have “queers against Israeli apartheid”. How otherwise to understand such a protest against the one country in the whole region openly sympathetic to their cause? It is not Tel Aviv which disturbs them so much – it is Yerushalayim and B’nei Brak.
Heshy Bulman (any relation to Rabbi Bulman?), I agree with you. It reminds me of how the whole civilized world seems to be horrified when cities like Paris and London are victims of islamoNazi terrorism, yet when the same terrorism happens to us Jews, somehow the world finds excuses for the terrorism, as if we Jews somehow deserve it. And think of how Israel is the only country on Earth, whose existence continues to be questioned, despite its 3,000-year-old history. It is sad that even the murdering of six million Jews has not proven to be enough dead Jews to satisfy the antisemites of this world. I suppose, though, that things may never change in this regard, not as long as the world continues to resent us for bringing a moral G-d into our universe.
Not sure I agree with this. While it is true that the Left (and really all of western thought) is motivated greatly by a desire for freedom from authority – initially the philosophers of Western Europe were motivated primarily by the corruption of the Catholic Church – I don’t know that this is the prime motivation behind the Left’s support for same sex marriage and transgender bathrooms. Rather, I would suggest that such support is motivated by a certain disease that the Left has that I categorize as “MIght Makes Wrong”, i.e., whichever side has more power is evil, and whichever side has less power is good. Such “power” can take many forms – military, economic, racial, social privilege, or simply being the majority. So, for example, not all religion is evil to the Left, only the religions of the white and/or the wealthy. The same “horrors” the Left finds in Christianity and Judaism are ignored by the Left when it comes to Islam, because the need to protect the poor Third World Muslims overrides anything else. I think the Left’s need to champion the cause of LGBTQ issues is not motivated by the desire to fight religion as much as it is to protect those they see as powerless from those they see as powerful. While it is true that in many (most?) areas, the Left takes positions that are antagonistic to Torah values, the Right is not blameless in this area. For example, in economic issues, the Right’s value system seems to be identical to what at least one opinion in Pirkei Avos would call “Middas Sodom”. I think the alignment of most frum Jews with the Right today has more to do with the Right’s support of Israel than the Torah-true nature of the right side of the political aisle. We should be careful not to fool ourselves in this regard.
In that nirvana-world without rules, members of the ruling class still fear that someone out there might still hold to traditional values, so they concoct and enforce rules to prevent this.
I hear what you’re saying. I think, however, that we’ve gone past the point of excessive to “ipcha mistabra”. Everything these days is the opposite of what you’d think. I deal primarily with Reform and Conservative Jews and have the pleasure of learning with many, and here’s some winners.
“Animals are just as important as human beings.”
“I would take a bullet for my dog, and would give up my life to save it even if it cost me my mine. If my dog and kid were both drowning, not sure who I’d save.”
“I can’t eat chicken anymore. How can you eat something so cuddly?” Me-“Would you pull he plug on the elderly?” Him “Yes.” So death to the humans, let’s save some chickens.
President of a local temple “Sure I would host a member of the Nazi party to speak in 1938. Dialogue is very important.”
And the list goes on and on. Working in kiruv, I see such a HUGE gap between the Torah’s values and liberal Jewish (left) values, that it’s hard to imagine how we can bridge it.
Sanctity of marriage? Nah. Purity, chastity, modesty, abstinence? Nah. Abortion? Of course; everyone is on the board of Planned Parenthood.
Sanctity of life? Many have already pulled the plug on their parents. Daven for their dog? For sure.
And I love them dearly, but it frightens me. How distant are we? Is this just excess? Me thinks not. It’s definitely a stat- the more successful, more liberal and “enlightened”, he more supportive you are of deviant values. The support of BDS, JStreet- all these undercover videos showing college students favoring ISIS over Israel- this doesn’t seem like excess.
What I’ll grant you is that this may have started from a good place, but at this point it seems that being liberal and enlightened means being, for lack of a better word, “Krum.”
(See Richard Dawkins, Paul Singer on end of life, Stephen Hawking on G-d and morality. Sorry for being so stereotypically “kiruvy” about this but it’s hard to see it in in the optimistic way that you do.)
Some of the most savage movements of all time, that have damaged everything they’ve touched, have used appealing slogans. If many of us can’t see the truth for what it is, now after the fall of nazism (National Socialism) and communism (Socialism), and after the more recent atrocities of militant Islam, we have a major problem. All is not groovy.
I don’t think and I am not sure that debating values works as a kiruv tool. I do think that showing the depth profundity and sweep of Torah to every aspect of life via families at a Shabbos table the study and observance of Torah and chesed on an individual and communal level remain our post powerful means of presenting Torah values to the vast numbers of unaffiliated Jews in America who increasingly have not had Bris milah a bar or bat mitzvah or seen Shaabos candles a Pesach Seder or even fasted on YK.
“Orgiastic man not only responds to inevitable biological urges whose fulfillment yields pleasure, but experiments with precipitating new pressures and unheard-of, newly contrived, artificial situations, which challenge the body to respond by engaging in gratifying action. ”
This applies quite nicely to the loosened bounds on public dress, behavior and language in modern times, most of which is practiced by heterosexuals. It applies not at all to gay marriage nor transsexual rights. What has marrying a man (who has the same sexual attraction to men that most men have towards women) marrying another man got to do with hedonism? Marriage is the great constraint on hedonism! Or acting as a woman if you have the same internal identity as a woman that most men have as men.
“(The US military recently sent a new protocol to female soldiers. Gender is to be regarded as whatever a soldier declares in his file. Nothing else. Females who asked about anatomical males showering together with them were told to toughen up.)”
Without agreeing to the the policy that is given, the description above is not accurate. The policy is not that gender is on “whatever a soldier declares in his file”. The policy is that gender transition is “an administrative status indicating that a Soldier has completed the medical care necessary to achieve stability in the preferred gender. The medical care is the medical process identified or approved by a military medical provider in a documented medical treatment plan. […] the individual commences living socially in the gender role consistent with their preferred gender. This will generally occur in an off-duty status and away from the Soldier’s place of duty prior to the change of the gender marker.” You can’t just choose your gender in these regulations. You have to be living as a different gender for some time outside the military.
What should the right policy for these people be? I don’t know, but the question is a valid one; we’re not talking about somebody just marking a box on a form.
Overall, Menachem Lipkin is correct. In modern times, we are have both the technology and riches to meet the needs of more and more individuals who have differences with the vast majority in a whole variety of fields. We have cancer treatments targeted to specific cell mutations, educational environments tailored to both extremes of the intellectual/academic spectrum, lots of support and consideration for those with various disabilities. Way back in 2004, Reason magazine put out an issue where the cover was a picture including the subscribers home (and now we are bombarded with targeted ads every time we open our browsers).
If the only argument is “well in the old days, we didn’t worry about that,” then that’s pretty weak argument. We didn’t worry about seat belts and helmets either. As our lives have gotten better, we can afford to be worried about more things, including people very “different” in some way than us.
1) If you missed my point, I could not have been clear enough! I am not saying that Americans have become more “orgiastic” because they want to experiment with gay sex or trying out life as the other gender for a while. I am saying that many people still suffer, nebach, from residual conscience. While taking as much freedom as they like, they still wrestle with issues of propriety, even though they will swear up and down and those restrictions or compunctions are irrelevant. (What do sexually active high school girls call others who go a bit beyond what they are in to? Sluts!) These people would love reassurance that there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster, and if there is, she couldn’t care less about what we do, as long as it is fun. The shift on gay marriage, I believe, was powered in part by the desire to further remove the Bible (as they understand it) from the role of active guide of human conduct.
2) Gender declaration in the military: Here is how The Federalist reported it:
The policy allows transgender soldiers to switch their “gender marker” in the Army’s personnel database without undergoing sex reassignment surgery or any other physical changes.
For a soldier to officially change gender requires only some paperwork. A military doctor or civilian medical professional must certify that the transgender person has achieved “stability in the preferred gender” and the soldier must change the gender designation on the soldier’s passport or birth certificate. From that point on, the transgender soldier is “expected to adhere to all military standards associated with their gender,” and “use the billeting, bathroom and shower facilities” of their new gender.
If I catch the meaning here, it’s that we are now better equipped to cater to the Yetzer Hara on a large scale, which obligates us to do so, irrespective of traditional moral constraints. Already, pre-Mabul behavior is obvious around us, but science and technology can now be enlisted to spread it more quickly. This line of reasoning is an unfunny joke.
1) Perhaps I was not clear myself :). I agree that the loosened limits on dress and sexual conduct (orgiastic) in public is a net negative. What I said was that marriage for homosexuals and greater tolerance for transexuals has nothing to do with “orgiastic man” and that in fact marriage a social institution is a limiter on the “orgiastic” whether applied to straight or gay. So you need a different argument. But I think that you identify the true disagreement in your reference to “experiment[s] with gay sex”. There really are homosexual men (women) out there who have the same feeling for other men (women) that we have for women. They get married for the same reason that straights do, including for religious reasons. It is not an “experiment”. Once one wraps their brain around that fact, the issue is recognized to have nothing to do with a loosing of the bounds of the conscience or anything like that. The same logic applies to people who look like men (women) but have the inner psychology of women (men).
2) On the gender change, I was quoting from the government documents that were the backing for the Federalist article (the links were provided in the article). To the degree that the article differs from the quotations gave, the article is wrong. Either way, it is not just what a soldier “declares” in a file.
Bob Miller: Pre-Mabul behavior is all around us? Tolerance of violence and robbery? I don’t see that at all. I get that there is an issue here: how to consider the Divine injunctions of the Torah with when it doesn’t match what seems to be moral. For example, what to do with all the statements against the idolators, when the idolators seem to be moral people. Sometimes our authorities reinterpret: that was only their idolators, but ours are different. Or this idolatry is not technically idolatry. However things are resolved (or remain unresolved), I would only say that this the approach taken in modern times generally by Halachah is that we no longer force people to adhere our religious values; we appeal to them, but they have their choice, and God will be left to decide.
If you think that modern times are the most generally immoral, then make the argument directly. I don’t see anyone really thinking that this is true in general, whatever problems they have with particular aspects of modernity.
I am mystified how you, a learned person, thinks that giluy arayot (sexual immorality) is somehow not so bad, as compared to robbery and murder. I think the Torah is saying they are all bad and all destructive of society. I think the Torah makes it clear that homosexual “marriage” is orgiastic, regardless of whether those involved are faithful to one another. A simply pshat reading of the Torah says that giluay arayot is very bad and it is put in context with idol worship and dishonest business practices, which are also destructive not only of the individuals involved but of society as a whole.
Like everyone else today, I am not saying that it is society’s job to root out those involved in this, to beat them up in the streets, that is now politically incorrect, unlike just a few decades ago, but to go from there and to say that society should recognize them as “alternate lifestyles” is not called for.
Today, in the US it seems the ONLY real freedom recognized is for giluy arayot, All other freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom to smoke (away from others), freedom to eat meat, freedom to drink soda pop are being rapidly whittled away. The motto today is that freedom means doing whatever you want , as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. Here in Israel, the gov’t is being criticized for discouraging adoption of children by homosexuals. Well, maybe THAT is doing harm to the child, but one is not allowed to say that. So we see harm is NOT the real criterion, but pushing the homosexual agenda is, regardless of possible harm to the child who has no say at all in the matter. (BTW-who says homosexuals or anyone else has a RIGHT to adopt children? The ONLY thing that matters is the welfare of the child.
“I am mystified how you, a learned person, thinks that giluy arayot (sexual immorality) is somehow not so bad, as compared to robbery and murder. ”
Thank you for the undeserved complement. I didn’t make any comparison as to which was worse, but there is a trope that we have descended to the generation of the Mabul because of gay marriage. My point is simple: even if gay marriage matches the description of the Midrash as the last straw before the Mabul, our society doesn’t condone all the other things that the Torah explicitly mentions as routine before the Mabul in the world Chamas: violence/robbery/rape. In fact, with respect to sexual assault, vast improvements have been made, although we need more, especially on the child sexual abuse front.
“I think the Torah makes it clear that homosexual “marriage” is orgiastic, regardless of whether those involved are faithful to one another.”
The Torah undoubtedly treated this as prohibited, but the term “orgiastic” is the justification given by the Rav for this prohibition; you don’t find that in the Torah. My argument, is that this only makes sense if you deny the existence of homosexuals. If you don’t make such a denial, then homosexuals are acting on the same desires and motivations of heterosexuals and marriage is no more orgiastic than it would be for you and me. I’ve not heard a coherent counter-argument.
To quote myself 🙂 “I agree that the loosened limits on dress and sexual conduct (orgiastic) in public is a net negative.” But this has really nothing to do with basic gay rights which overall you, like others, seem to admit is a good thing. Since I don’t think that that the US government should be involved in enforcing the Bible, if only because they might thereby curtail our religious freedom, and I don’t see a coherent non-chok justification for opposition to gay marriage, I think that the current policy is sensible. What should worry us is the the decline in marriage rates, increase in single parenthood especially with multiple partners. These, as a general rule, are bad for kids (with the understanding that there are plenty of single parents who raise their children better than I raise mine).
I don’t see our other freedoms being whittled away, although there are still big problem areas like the drug war and civil forfeiture. And gay marriage is a freedom religion issue for those who feel that marriage is an important religious imperative.
“Here in Israel, the gov’t is being criticized for discouraging adoption of children by homosexuals. Well, maybe THAT is doing harm to the child, but one is not allowed to say that. So we see harm is NOT the real criterion, but pushing the homosexual agenda is, regardless of possible harm to the child who has no say at all in the matter. (BTW-who says homosexuals or anyone else has a RIGHT to adopt children? The ONLY thing that matters is the welfare of the child.”
I don’t believe that there is evidence, however, that adoption of children by homosexual couples is at all harmful to the children. Rabbi Adlerstein in a prior post said that he also thought it would be the case that this is harmful. The evidence that comes out of this will be a good empirical test of these theories.
There is no room for obfuscation about what HaShem wants of us. That includes controlling our anarchic and evil urges.
I’d like to throw out another possibility- somewhat closer to the sentiments of Menachem Lipkin. ( I preface this by saying that this is coming from someone who probably is at the younger end of the spectrum of this readership.)
I can’t cite a specific source offhand, but I recall coming across an idea in sociology that one’s identity is formed by two distinct forces. One is imposed by a person’s surrounding culture and the other is cultivated by oneself. Generally speaking, more conservative cultures tend to give more credence to the former, while liberal cultures the latter. I think what we’re seeing in the fascination with “bathroom choice” and broadening support for Gay marriage is the idea of personally created identity gone off the rails.
To explain further, I think there’s a shift in thinking now that sees any aspect of identity that does not stem from one’s self as inherently oppressive. If a biological male wants to identify as a female- what gives anybody else the right to tell him (or “her”) otherwise? After all, gender is simply a social construct that is at odds with their “real” self.
Similarly, I think the shift in support for Gay marriage is not about recognizing the marriage itself- it’s about accepting the idea of a “gay” identity (sanctioning a marriage is simply what morally follows). In the past, a person might have had biological tendencies where he was inclined to perform homosexual acts. Now, seeing himself as “gay” is a core piece his identity. Any policy that limits the expression of one’s “self” is inherently cruel and oppressive.
If one reads the writings of the hard-core ideologues who have pushed homosexual “marriage” and “gender fluidity” for years, (people such as Angela Davis and Judith Butler) you will see that it is NOT “concern for the weak” or anti-discrimination feelings that motivated them. It must be remembered that those who have pushed for homosexual “marriage” the most are also the ones who say that “a marriage certificate is merely a scrap of paper” or that “marriage is nothing more than a contract that gives the husband the right to unlimited rape”. This is the same line that says all sexual relations are fine as long as they are “consensual”, regardless of any formal framework such as marriage. So what is it then that is motivating the ideologues? The goal is to break down the entire traditional framework of the family which they view as patriarchal and which has enabled the great evils of capitalism and militarism to flourish. These are considered consequences of male domination. Promoting of homosexuality as being not just a valid lifestyle, but actually preferable would bring a complete separation of the genders and get women out of their bondage to men. Now, you will note that there is something of a contradiction here because this is the opposite of gender fluidity which says there is no meaning at all to gender, whereas the previous view is that gender is everything and they must be completely separated. This has caused tension between the homosexual activists and the transgenders.
We can see another manifestation of the war against traditional family structure in the demand that women serve in combat units of the military. Although it is presented as “women’s rights” (is it doing women a favor by placing them in a situation where they may, G-d forbid, be incinerated in a tank?) the actual goal is to destroy the army. This is by having male soldiers be exposed to more “feminine” traits which are inherently supposedly opposed to militarism and to make the men less aggressive. One can ask how turning women into killers, which is the job of military training is supposed to do this, but all I can say is that these ideologies contain many contradictions, but the ideas are all out there. No doubt, many of the rank-and-file of the population who end up supporting homosexual “marriage” or rights of transgenders do so on the basis of supposedly helping the “weak and downtrodden”, but the larger agenda is out there and is not hidden.
“So what is it then that is motivating the ideologues? The goal is to break down the entire traditional framework of the family … Promoting of homosexuality as being not just a valid lifestyle, but actually preferable would bring a complete separation of the genders and get women out of their bondage to men.”
I’m sorry. “In 2014 there were 183,280 same-sex marriages in America, roughly a third of 1 percent of all marriages.”  The reason for changing the law was to enable those 363,560 people to get married. Apparently, the other 99.7 of married people didn’t get the secret message from the cabal of ideologues and are thwarting their plans.
Just be honest and say: My religion says that God said it is prohibited and the law should follow my religion. The traditional Jewish position has been that it is a bad thing for us when governments try to enforce their view of the Bible.
“Although it is presented as “women’s rights” (is it doing women a favor by placing them in a situation where they may, G-d forbid, be incinerated in a tank?”
Do you think that it is only men that want to volunteer to risk their lives to serve their country? There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Are you more concerned about the success of the army’s mission or about diversity regardless of its impact on success?