February 13, 2013

Author Questions God vs. Gay

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, the Clarke Forum, the Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life and the Office of LGBTQ Services co-sponsored the event “God vs. Gay? Common Ground in the Culture Wars.” The lecture, which featured award-winning author Jay Michaelson, was held in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium at 7 p.m.

Michaelson received his J.D. from Yale Law School and recently received his Ph.D. in Jewish thought at Hebrew University, where he also received an M.A. in religion. Michaelson’s publications focus on religion, sexuality, ethics and contemplative practice. In 2009, Michaelson was included on the Forward 50’s list of the fifty most influential American Jews. A year later he won the New York Society of Professional Journalists’ award for opinion writing.

Michaelson began the lecture with the premise of his book, “God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Inequality,” which provides alternate ways of interpreting biblical texts that have been used by the anti-gay movement as evidence that homosexuality is “sinful.” He shared his own coming out experience, which he expected it to be the end of his religious life. In fact, his religious life began when he decided that God did not hate him because he was gay. Michaelson did not insist that his interpretation of biblical texts was the right one, but rather acknowledged that there are many different interpretations and there is no way of knowing which one is “correct.” The question is not the interpretation one chooses, but the reasoning behind the chosen interpretation. In a general theme, Michaelson expressed the hope that society and religious communities become more accepting and tolerant of those in the LGBTQ community, as they are not “incompatible” with religion.

Although some attendees were opposed to this view, it left many others thought provoked and challenging their original assumptions about homosexuality and religion.