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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended
Religion permeates our society. Religion informs much of the discussion in the political arena. As I am writing this, conservatives and liberals are arguing over whether health care plans should be obliged to offer contraceptive coverage; the argument arises because the Roman Catholic hierarchy believes that contraception is morally wrong. As gay people, we have a...
Published on March 14, 2012 by Michael E. Gilbertson

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not convincing
A friend who is supportive of LGBTQ inclusiveness in the Church recommended Dr. Michaelson's book to me. My general theology is that while the Bible may not condemn what we think of as "sexually oriented" gay men and women as we understand them today, it doesn't presuppose them, either. That is, the Bible presents no model for equating "loving, monogamous, same-sex...
Published 2 months ago by James Pyles


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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, March 14, 2012
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This review is from: God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas) (Hardcover)
Religion permeates our society. Religion informs much of the discussion in the political arena. As I am writing this, conservatives and liberals are arguing over whether health care plans should be obliged to offer contraceptive coverage; the argument arises because the Roman Catholic hierarchy believes that contraception is morally wrong. As gay people, we have a stake in religious arguments in which values around sex are emphasized, because they affect the political arguments. Jay Michaelson's useful book Gay vs. God can inform the understanding of queers and their allies about why religion should value sexual diversity.
The book is divided into three parts. In the first Michaelson points out that the core message of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures are about love, integrity, dignity, justice, and partnership. In the second part Michaelson examines the scriptures used to condemn sexual minorities, and in the third part he argues that inclusion of sexual minorities is good, not bad, for religious values.
Early on, Michaelson points out that "there are those who feel called to celibacy. . . . But to be compelled to such abstinence--or worse (and more likely) a life of furtive encounters, deceptions, tawdry alliances, lies, and endless self-recriminations--is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of a loving God" (p. 18). Further, "if God loves us, he would never want the closet. . . . There is no reconciling a loving God with the closet" (p. 17). For that reason alone, "coming out is the beginning of an authentic spiritual life, not the end of it" (p. 21-22).
No verse exists in a vacuum. As Luther pointed out, we must examine a scripture in the context of The Scripture. Part I of Michaelson's book sets the context for studying the terror texts.
In Genesis 2:18 God declares that it is not good to be alone. After creating animals, God creates Eve as a human companion for Adam. Nothing in Genesis points to Eve being created solely, or even primarily, as a means to produce children. She is there as a companion to Adam. Yes, Steve could be Adam's companion, just as well as Eve. Sexuality, whether homo or hetero, is an expression of what makes us most human.
Scripture calls on us to love our neighbors. Love does not dishonor others; it trusts, hopes and perseveres (I Corinthians 13:4-8). Love does no harm to its neighbor (Romans 13:10). From these verses and others, it should be apparent that "Leviticus does not shape the boundaries of compassion; compassion shapes the boundaries of Leviticus" (p. 28).
Michaelson points out that sexual diversity is natural and part of God's creation. Literally hundreds of species exhibit homosexual behavior. We can ask legitimately why homosexuals exist, but the answer to whether they exist is clearly "yes." The book is, as the author declares near the end, "not an inquiry into why God has made people gay. Only the most naïve believer would pretend to know the purpose of every quirk of creation--or perhaps the most arrogant" (p. 154). As a famous button went, "if God didn't make homosexuals, there wouldn't be any." Homosexuality, Michaelson correctly says, is neither a choice nor a changeable pathological condition. So, as the old chant goes, "We're here, we're queer, get used to it."
So, wouldn't society and homosexuals be better off if queers weren't so visible? If we suddenly somehow walked back into our closets, we would be sinners, because we would be bearing false witness against ourselves, disobeying the eighth of the ten commandments. "Homosexuality," Michaelson writes, "is not a lifestyle, but the closet is a death-style" (p. 42). If gay people are called to any religious rite, it is coming out. Coming out is a rite of vulnerability, a time when we declare our sacred worth.
Part II examines the terror texts. Michaelson does not pretend that his reading of the texts are the only possible ones. Leviticus 18:22 can be read as forbidding all same-sex behavior on the part of men and women, as forbidding idolatrous sex, or anywhere in between. But if we put it in the context of "the hundreds of verses and insights of conscience about the holiness of love, or human dignity, or honesty, or justice" (p. 56), we must choose the narrowest reading.
Michaelson carefully examines each of the texts, and delineates narrow readings that cannot be taken to forbid homosexuality. For example, the Hebrew word toevah, which is used 108 times in the Hebrew Bible, is translated as "abomination" in Leviticus 18:22. But it doesn't mean that at all. The word as used in the holiness code of Leviticus consistently refers to idolatry. It is, in fact, about ritual purity. The Canaanites had qedeshim, male and female sacred prostitutes who enacted the role of god or goddess in a sexual ritual. Hebrews were forbidden to participate in such rituals. Michaelson in turn examines the story of Sodom and texts from Romans and Timothy to show how they can, but do not have, to be read to condemn homosexuality.
Part 3 examines why inclusion of homosexuals is good, not bad, for religious values. The subheadings for the chapters pretty well summarize the purpose of this section:
* Equality for LGBT people is good for families, marriage, and sexual ethics.
* The growth of religious values is good for individuals and religious communities.
* Sexual diversity, like other forms of diversity, enriches religious lives and communities.
The book includes helpful notes and an excellent bibliography.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to be prepared to discuss religion and homosexuality.
God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality by Jay Michaelson (Beacon Press, Boston, 2011 ISBN 978-0-8070-0159-2)
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for those who disagree with the premise, but a way out of homophobia for the religious, January 23, 2012
This review is from: God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas) (Hardcover)
Obviously, there are some readers who will approach this book with their minds made up that, no matter what the author says, his premise is wrong. But there are many people--Jewish and Christian--who want to understand the Bible in a way that is more inclusive of sexuality. This isn't a radical idea: our culture has reassessed and reinterpreted the scriptures numerous times in our history to accommodate more enlightened ideas about slavery, racial equality, and gender equity. But, for many in our cultural moment, the ability to do this as regards sexuality is simply a bridge too far. If you are one of those people, just walk away from this book. Don't grind your axe in the review section.

On the other hand, if your mind is open to a nuanced, careful, and more expansive reading of the Bible, this is a carefully written and enlightening book. Jay Michaelson is an astute scholar who approaches the Bible with not only the meticulousness of a Torah scholar and a law student, but also with the personal perspective of someone who is deeply religious and who left behind his own self-loathing and found a way to be whole in spirit. If you are seeking a way to embrace Scripture in a more inclusive and loving way, this book is for you.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, November 18, 2011
By 
Rashid Dunlap (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas) (Hardcover)
Fantastic read even for those who aren't biblical scholars. Fantastic book for family or friends who are Christians and hold more traditional or "common" view about homosexuality. Very well written.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Awesome Religious/Gay Text I HAVE EVER READ!!!, April 1, 2012
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I love Jay Michaelson's approch to the controversial ideological debate of Gay Marriage and God. Love that he breaks down very complex text to be very detailed. You can not get this confused after you have read it. I have spent many nights just reflecting on his words that I read. This is one awesome book!!!
God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Religion lives when it grows: A provocative religious case for marriage equality, November 3, 2012
By 
Paul Froehlich (Schaumburg, Illinois, USA) - See all my reviews
In the debate over gay rights, one side invokes Scripture while the other side typically dismisses it. In GOD vs. GAY, Jay Michaelson is unusual because he's a proponent of gay rights who also takes the Bible seriously.

Unlike his counterparts on the Religious Right, however, Michaelson concludes that the Hebrew and Christian scriptures do not condemn same-sex love and intimacy, but actually command an acceptance of them. This is a difficult thesis for most evangelicals to swallow, yet any who read this book will be led to reconsider their premises thanks to the author`s persuasive analysis, his felicitous writing style, and his deep respect for faith.

Unlike Martin Luther King, Jr, the LGBT civil rights movement has not responded with the language of Scripture, even though they face Scriptural arguments. The lesson from Dr. King is to engage with religious values, because political questions are ultimately religious ones as well. In making the religious case for equal rights, this book examines the fundamental values of Christians and Jews and it interprets the handful of verses about same-sex relations in light of those values.

Those fundamental Biblical values that support equality are these:

* "It is not good for a person to be alone." Loneliness is the first problem of creation, and love comes to solve it.

* "Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8) "If God loves us," Michaelson writes, "then God could never want the closet. God could not wish for human beings to lie, to repress their emotional selves, and to distort that aspect of the soul which leads to the highest of human satisfactions into a dark force of evil."

* "The whole of the Law is summarized in a single commandment: love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal. 5:14 ) "As yourself" means how you yourself would like to be loved if you were your neighbor. Thus we are told to be empathetic, to overcome our impulse toward focus on self, to imagine what I would want if I were standing in this person's shoes.

Love demands that we read the seven verses about homosexuality narrowly, just as we read verses prescribing the death penalty for rebellious children. Jesus often chose compassion over the law, by healing on the Sabbath, by eating with the unwashed, by not stoning the adulteress. "Leviticus does not shape the boundaries of compassion; compassion shapes the boundaries of Leviticus...The Golden Rule demands reciprocity and compassion and basic equality."

We have science today about sexual diversity that our forbears didn't, so we can and should reinterpret old positions in light of the new information, Michaelson argues, just as happened (eventually) when science proved the earth was a sphere instead of a pancake. We understand today that sexual diversity is part of the fabric of nature. Same-sex behaviors are found in over 100 species from apes to elephants, guppies to macaques. "Nature loves diversity, including sexual diversity," while conformity is a human invention.

"Hate the sin, love the sinner" doesn't work when they are one in the same - homosexuality -- which is both an identity and an activity. Sexuality is not just sex; sexuality is at the essence of who we are as human beings. "To hate an essential part of the person is to hate the person."

"Religious life has never meant sticking your head in the ground or pretending that the world is still flat...Religion lives when it grows, when it is able to maintain its core values while adapting to new facts and understandings."

As the reader can tell by now, this book is full of compelling insights. Michaelson examines the handful of verses about homosexuality and demonstrates that they are not quite so black-and-white as religious conservatives assume. His exigesis reminds me of Father Daniel Helminiak's in WHAT THE BIBLE REALLY SAYS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY
(Alamo Square Press, 1994). Suffice it to say that Christians who believe Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because its men were gay do not have an accurate understanding of Scripture.

For those who think Scripture implacably condemns same-sex love, consider the Biblical love story between David and Jonathan. It's non-debatable that the two men had an intense emotional love that transcended friendship and had erotic overtones, whether or not it blossomed into sexual activity. Their love proved essential for David's survival and for his eventual ascension to the throne.

Opponents of marriage equality are genuinely concerned about undermining marriage. Like Britain's Conservative Party, which supports gay marriage, Michaelson contends that same-sex marriage encourages conservative family values. The record shows that where same-sex marriage has been legalized, there has been a decrease in promiscuity among gays, and there has been no upsurge in divorce. It's fair to say that gays are not the source of instability in modern marriage, nor are they responsible for heterosexual rates of cohabitation, divorce and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Less than a century ago, Michaelson reminds us, religious conservatives opposed women's suffrage. Half a century ago, they resisted civil rights for African-Americans. Today they resist civil rights for gays. Some day, they will support gay rights, just as they now support equality for blacks and women. ###
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXTRAORDINARY BOOK!, February 26, 2012
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This review is from: God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas) (Hardcover)
I'm not a man of much words. I will summarize it with this ones: It changed my life... not saying that after reading it things are going extraordinary, BUT it did helped me find who I really am, it helped me realize how amazing is God's love. It's profound, since the author is a scholar, he does know what he is talking about, and so refreshing to read.

If you are having any problems with your faith and your sexuality, I HIGHLY recommend you to read this book.-I ask for forgiveness to the author, because this words aren't definitively enough to express this book's accomplishment-

Best whishes! Hope it comes in handy as it did to me.

God bless you!

JS
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, October 27, 2012
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Religion and sexual identity has always been an issue of mine and have wanted a book that explained this in more detail. This book has given me that avenue and am thoroughly pleased with it. I would suggest everyone with issues of this topic read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not convincing, November 4, 2014
This review is from: God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas) (Hardcover)
A friend who is supportive of LGBTQ inclusiveness in the Church recommended Dr. Michaelson's book to me. My general theology is that while the Bible may not condemn what we think of as "sexually oriented" gay men and women as we understand them today, it doesn't presuppose them, either. That is, the Bible presents no model for equating "loving, monogamous, same-sex partners" with opposite-sex partners/marriages.

That said, I know that the early Gentile Christian schism from the Jewish disciples and apostles of Jesus resulted in the "Church fathers" committing tremendous violence to the Biblical text in order to remove its obvious Jewish origins and support of Jesus-worship as a fully realized branch of Judaism. If Gentile disciples of Jesus can refactor the Bible in order to create a new religion called "Christianity," I believe it's possible they made other changes too in the interpretation of scripture, thus, I was hoping Michaelson would point out the specifics of those errors where other pro-religious gay activists (I'm thinking of Matthew Vines) have failed.

Michaelson made his attempt in three parts.

Part One was an emotional appeal to admit gays into mainstream Christianity and religious Judaism based on (in my opinion) overly broad interpretations of general qualities of God such as love, compassion, and justice. However, this was an emotional appeal with little scholarship behind it. Love and compassion doesn't mean permissiveness nor does it mean God didn't construct boundaries about sexuality and romantic love in order to contain them within His will for human beings made in His image. The other side of Michaelson's appeal is the occurrence of homosexual contact in multiple animal species. However, that something is "natural" for animals does not mean it is desirable for people, nor that God desires it for people. From a spiritual point of view, if we concede that the nature of creation became "broken" after the Fall in Genesis, then just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it's automatically holy and righteous behavior for human beings.

Part Two was Michaelson "digging into the Biblical text." He, for the most part, recycled arguments I've heard before and at best, he created doubt as to whether any of the Biblical prohibitions against homosexual behavior were ever intended to address "loving, monogamous same-sex couples" as we understand the concept in the modern world. The flip side to this argument is that we have no real evidence that anything like "sexual orientation" was understood in the ancient world. We have a lot of records of homosexual activity, but from what is known of this behavior "back in the day," it was either associated with pagan worship (Temple prostitutes were both male and female) or what one might think of as "excessive" sensual activity; people having sex with other people for the sake of the experience. We don't have a "smoking gun" pointed at normative homosexual, monogamous marriages in the ancient world.

Michaelson presented his evidence which, as I said, was what I expected, but while I have heard tales of a possible "homosexual" relationship between David and Jonathan, I was unprepared for Michaelson's assertion that Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth may have had a romantic and/or sexual relationship. Michaelson based his opinion on their apparent attachment to each other but he seems to not have the ability to separate out attachment and devotion from romance and sex. I know my wife loves my aging parents dearly, but within the context of being a daughter-in-law. This doesn't seem to be a reality that Michaelson grasps.

Part Three is Michaelson attempting to establish not only how gays can and should be incorporated in the Church and Synagogue as equal co-participants, but that they have a unique and beneficial role to play in the religious community. He then shows more of his activist side and not only mentions, but supports and promotes "Queer Theology" (Google the term to find out the specifics). According to Wikipedia, Queer Theology has its origins in the 1990s and is based on "pro-feminist gay theology." Further, "Queer theology begins with an assumption that gender non-conformity and gay and lesbian desire have always been present in human history, and were present in the Bible. It is a way of unraveling structures and stories that have been oppressive. It is also a way of understanding the Bible as a source of stories about radical love."

Such a theology requires a radical restructuring of the religious community as well as a highly speculative refactoring of the scriptures in the manner that Michaelson attempted in Part One. It also seems to require the religious community become more "eroticized" to not just acknowledge but celebrate sexuality.

I commend Michaelson as a gifted writer and he certainly is persuasive in his arguments, but when looking at how he has constructed his book and his opinions, the ultimate foundations aren't reasonable Biblical exegesis or even based on the character of God, but an expression of the desire to infuse modern alternative theologies into the Christian and Jewish religious structures redefining them to accommodate modern societal and "progressive" imperatives.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! Very much recommend and hope you have a chance to meet him one day!, January 6, 2013
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This review is from: God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas) (Hardcover)
I have heard Jay speak many times. He is always so passionate and real. His book reflects his passion and puts a perspective out there that we don't always see. He goes to Universities, conferences, temples and more to speak and promote his book. He is very dynamic and always a delight to hear. He also writes for many publications and does not only focus on his book title, rather uses a more holistic approach to his writings and interviews. Sometimes I wonder how so much knowledge can be stored in one mind. I highly recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Soul-searching and Truthful, July 3, 2013
Along the lines of "Bible Bullies: How Fundamentalists Got The Good Book So Wrong," the author points out that the Bible is not fundamentally against homosexuals, and that extremely rare passages are quoted by homophobes in a campaign of hatred against gays, while they ignore the overall historical movement from a God of Condemnation to a God of Love. After all, Jesus said nothing about homosexuals, and neither did any of his 12 disciples (only the 13th, self-appointed "apostle," Paul, who never met Jesus). The author writes from the heart, sharing his own experiences as an Orthodox Jew having to work his way through the religious condemnation of his sexuality. Through his book, the reader discovers that coming into contact with one's spirituality, regardless of one's sexuality, is the key to worshiping the Creator. In fact, he points out that it was only after he accepted the way that God had created him that he could truly experience his spiritual side. This is a powerful insight, and one that is missed by pseudo-Christians who would use religion to suppress equal rights for gays, including state-level resistance to gay marriage. Masterfully written, heartwarming and well thought out.
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God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas)
God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality (Queer Action/Queer Ideas) by Jay Michaelson (Hardcover - October 25, 2011)
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