The first chapter of Genesis is both one of my favorite parts of the Torah and also one one my least favorites. The Sacred as conceptualized by Priestly theology, creates social structures in nature. G*d justifies the human ordering of creation. As the Sacred created us in its image, so should we create social structures. My frustration are in these underlying principles. My frustration lies in them because the social structures of society justify sinful behavior. Our social structures and institutions justify the oppression of blacks, women, queer people, and the poor. Specifically, I dwell on the fact that in the past couple of months, six people have committed suicide because of bullying due to homophobia. I’ve been angry all day. It’s similar to the anger that Martin Luther King, Jr. felt. It’s not quite that I hate homophobic people but I am definitely angered by their actions. Perhaps it is because the suicide of these six are representative of the fact that homophobic bullying often occurs with our community’s youth. I definitely have this strong maternal instinct when it comes to youth. I think I am angered because my parts of my religious tradition can sanction this kind of behavior. How can we live a life committed to the narrative that the Sacred ordered the world and considered it good to be able to dwell in it, and to create the whole of humanity in the image of G*d when suicides are the direct result of homophobic bullying?
Human beings tend to look at social structures and equate social order with peace. Law and order can create peace. However, without justice, love, and truth, law and order mean little. An appeal to law and order justified overt forms of racism, sexism, and homophobia. They still do. A G*d who calls the physical universe good is a G*d who loves life, in all its forms. The human being stands as an important (but not center) part of G*d’s creation. Humans are made in the image of G*d. I think this means that the human life is of infinite value. Any system that seeks to disregard human life needs to be challenged because it reduces the infinite nature of human beings. The end of the Torah tells us to choose between life and death and at this point in human history, it is imperative that we choose life. Choosing life is imperative to understanding the narrative of creation. G*d does not create the universe to rule over it to serve him. G*d creates the universe so that G*d can dwell in it. G*d is a G*d who loves, and who needs human beings and creation.
Affirming G*d’s gift of life must have consequences and entail discourse and practices of social change. The only way to emphasize the import of human life is to recognize that all humans are created to be G*d’s image. If all humans are created to be G*d’s image, then we must recognize that all humans stand equally before G*d. As such, we must focus on the quest of human freedom and equality. Homophobia is a direct affront to justice, equality, and freedom.
The question then turns to an internal dialogue: how do we emphasize dignity, grace, and courage within our community? How do we concretize notions of “somebodiness” within the queer community? Those of us who wish to have leadership in the queer community need to emphasize that all people within our have human dignity, no matter the homophobia experienced by our culture. Not just through words but through actions. Not just through sweet nothings but through comforting embrace. Those of us who are out and open need to have the courage to confront threats to our community. We need to be the mothers of our family, who protect the future generation of the queer community. We need to be attending to the least within our community, which I think is a moral failure of many Queer leaders.
I think I am beginning to feel the formations of my own religious thought and how this interacts with my political and social leanings. I feel compelled to speak out more. In all actuality, the more I experience G*d’s presence in my own life, the queerer I lean. Perhaps it is because idolatry is the mother of all sins according to Jewish tradition, that I am first to critique social structures and institutions which are often venerated, at least unconsciously. Queer theory can render problematic many social structures that many within our society venerate.
My work within the queer community is a testimony to what G*d has done in my life, and hopefully I can work more within my community. Some day G*d will help us to overcome homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and other forms of oppression that are justified by the social structures of our society. Someday, the world will be good enough for G*d to dwell in it without weeping.
I am sure the issue of homophobic bullying will burn hot in my mind during the coming weeks.