Today marks the annual Jerusalem gay pride parade. Inevitably, the event will be accompanied by ugly criticism of gay people, of the parade, and of the community in general. It hurts me that some of the most obscene and insensitive attacks come from religious Jews who see the parade as a slight on Judaism, and think it gives them carte blanche to take potshots and call people all manner of names.
As a straight religious Jew, I resent my religion being hijacked and being used to attack other people. So, before that happens this year, if you feel the need to lecture or admonish people in the name of Judaism for having the temerity to attend such a parade, if you feel that the parade aims to deliberately taunt those who observe the Torah’s rules and to flaunt an anti-religious message, I have a message for you:
Guess what? You’re wrong.
Know that many of these people are not anti-religious. They are simply not religious. They don’t care about God or the Torah, they don’t believe in religion, and that’s their right. If you find that sad, how about making religion something appealing and friendly, instead of interpreting things like this as an attack? No matter what religion says is right or wrong, gay people exist. They suffer intimidation, social exclusion and very real dangers.
The style of the parade is not my cup of tea (I don’t like overt sexuality in public, no matter who it comes from), but let’s be honest: It’s not an assault against religion. It’s coming from a place of pain and a desire to be accepted. That’s why there are parades like this in Tel Aviv, London, New York, Paris and Jerusalem. It’s not got anything to do with slighting religion.
If you must know, there will be many religious Jews attending today, Yes, religious gay people. They exist. Some of them are comfortable with who they are; others suffer terribly trying to reconcile the fact that they believe in a religion which says they must marry someone they are just not attracted to. Can you imagine their pain?
If you have no space in your heart to recognise that they suffer and need support and today is all about being accepted, then I advise you to keep shtum. If all you have to offer is hate and bile, then maybe it’s you who’s the problem, not them. And if all these people see of religion is a mass outpouring of vitriol, can you really blame them for thinking religion is outmoded and irrelevant?
Put yourself in their place for a second and try to understand what they’re going through. Even if you don’t like the parade, there’s no need to be so nasty about it. There are other mitzvot out there which are described as a to’evah, an abomination. Do you get as upset over tattoos? What about eating insects? I do hope that you demonstrate outside non-kosher restaurants and scream at the staff to wash the lettuce properly!
I understand you’re big on mitzvot so try this one, a favourite of Rabbi Akiva’s: Ve’ahavta l’re’acha kamocha.