Sexuality and Gender Within the Religions of Judaism and Christianity
In my term paper, I will be writing about sexuality and gender within the religions of Judaism and Christianity. I chose this topic because in recent years, it has become a topic of controversy. Christianity is largest religion; therefore, many people believe they know what Christians advocate on such topics. As for Judaism, I never really had knowledge of gender/sexuality in this religion because of ignorance. There was never really an interest for other religions on my part, but after discussing Judaism in class, I wanted to know more about the religion.
We are currently in 2019, where gender roles and sexuality are an everyday topic of discussion. Often times, religion is tied into these topics to either defend them or attack them. One could believe that these two religions share similar views because they both believe in God, but is that really the case? Christianity can be thought of as a much more conservative type of religion, and it’s possible to think that their beliefs are very traditional. Judaism has different types of denominations: zionism, orthodox, conservative, and reform. Some of these branches may be more accepting of such topics like gender and sexuality.
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When I think about Christianity, I think about many discussions I have seen on Twitter. Many users use their religion as an excuse to attack people that have different sexual orientations, but are they fully backed up by the Bible? The most quoted part of the Old Testament when speaking against homosexuality is “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” [footnoteRef:1] This verse talks about how there should not be any intercourse between two males. According to this verse, homosexuality is seen as a sin that goes completely against Christian morals. This view is much more conservative and “traditional.” In the New Testament, there are a few verses that can possibly be dedicated to homosexuality and what will happen to those who practice it. “That’s why God abandoned them to degrading lust. Their females traded natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations. Also, in the same way, the males traded natural sexual relations with females, and burned for lust for each other. Males performed shameful actions with males, and they were paid back with the penalty they deserved for their mistake in their own bodies.” [footnoteRef:2] This passage can be interpreted as men lusting passionately for each other and committing homosexual acts. In the first part of the passage, I believe it talks about homosexuality with women as well. “Natural relations” in a conservative way mean a man and a woman, which lead to traditional families. Much more liberal Christians do not fully believe these “traditional” virtues. [1: Leviticus 18:22] [2: Romans 1:26-27]
Gender roles in Christianity are also explained in bible verses. As with homosexuality, it can be thought that Christians believe women should be held to certain conservative expectations. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” [footnoteRef:3] I interpret this passage as a woman being obligated to follow and obey her husband due to the simple fact that man was created first. A woman must be in complete submission to her husband and must be a good wife/mother. Eve was the first to sin, making women the first sinners, therefore they cannot show any power over the male. They must not speak over their husband’s and must agree with everything they say.
They must follow the man because he is able to teach them how to live a full holy life. [footnoteRef:4] Also, in the new testament, it is said, “Man didn’t have his origin from woman, but woman from man; and a man wasn’t created for the sake of the woman, but the woman for the sake of the man.” [footnoteRef:5] From this I can understand, that a man does not owe anything to the woman, and the woman owes everything to the man. She is made for him and only him, which is very sexist in my opinion. However, there is a sense of equality in a specific verse, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” [footnoteRef:6] This gives the sense that everyone is equal as they are all descendants of Abraham in one within Jesus Christ. [3: Timothy 2:11-14] [4: Patheos – Christianity] [5: 1 Corinthians 11:8-9] [6: Galatians 3:28]
Much like Christianity, in Judaism there is a verse from the Torah that can be interpreted as believing homosexuality to be an abomination, “and a man who lies with a male as one would with a woman both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon themselves.” [footnoteRef:7] This verse can be used for both Judaism and Christianity because the Torah is the Hebrew Old Testament. I interpret this verse as a way to condemn the homosexuals. If there were to be any intercourse between males, they would be out to death, no questions asked. The verse hints at the fact that the death of those who participate in such acts would ultimately be their own fault for not following God and his teachings. However, in Judaism there is mainly a focus on a person’s actions. Sexual orientation is not punished, but sexual acts are. An example of this would be male masturbation. It is prohibited in Jewish law. In fact, the Talmud has a very harsh verse dedicated to it, “In the case of a man, the hand that reaches below the navel should be chopped off.” [footnoteRef:8] Due to the verse, I can conclude that male masturbation is something completely frowned upon and must not happen unless you want a limb chopped off. This restricts sexuality which can be considered inhumane due to the fact that many people believe such acts are natural. [7: Leviticus 20:13] [8: Niddah 13a]
In Judaism, both women and men are to equally to follow the Torah’s divine commandments (mitzvot). [footnoteRef:9] But, they were women, so they were exempt from having to participate in certain commandments. This was mostly due to the fact that they had to raise their children. Women were also discouraged from participating in the reading of the Torah. Judaism was seen as a very sexist religion. Unlike in Christianity, sexual pleasure is a man’s obligation and it is a women’s right. So, in Judaism the women are “in charge” when it comes to sexual activities, and do not have to submit to their husband if they do not wish to. “The times for conjugal duty prescribed in the Torah are: for men of independent means, every day; for laborers, twice a week; for camel drivers, once in thirty days; for sailors, once in six months.” [footnoteRef:10] While divorce is often the man’s right in Judaism, women have that right as well if the husband fails to fulfill his marital obligation of sex. “There must be close bodily contact during sex. This means that a husband must not treat his wife in the manner of the Persians, who perform their marital duties in their clothes.” [footnoteRef:11] The husband must be loving and passionate in the relationship, if the wife feels like he has failed to do so, she can ask for divorce to receive her ketubah.[footnoteRef:12] This is a bit of a slap in the face to other verses, specifically from the Torah. It shows a woman’s dominance in a very intimate way. Women usually are to subdue to their husbands, but sexually they have more power. [9: Patheos – Judaism] [10: Talmud, Ketubot 61b] [11: Talmud, Ketubot 48a] [12: Money settlement ]
I believe that sexuality and gender play a huge role in all of the major world religions. I picked these two specifically because I thought they were the harshest when it came to such topics: gender and sexuality. Christianity is the religion with most people, therefore we mostly hear things about it and chose to believe whatever I hear a lot of talk about how homosexuality is a bad thing from people of faith. Due to such beliefs, many people with other sexual preferences roam away from religion and church. I say this because my best friend has gone very against religion after being raised in a very religious household. However, I believe it isn’t really an issue.
I am a catholic, and it is something frowned upon by most, and gender is also a big issue. Many of my family members are still very closed minded because of religion and how they were brought up. Times are changing and not everyone is going to follow a religion the same way as in the past. There are now much more liberal Christians that lean towards acceptance of homosexuality and fair gender roles. Reform Jews are much more liberal and believe mostly in ethics. They are more welcoming than conservative Jews, and don’t treat others differently. Sexuality is something that has to be embraced no matter what your religious beliefs are. Everyone is human and cannot control who they love or who they are attracted to.
Judaism and Christianity share similar beliefs when it comes to sexuality and gender. But, in more recent religious movements, people of these religions have become more open and accepting of such topics. However, there are still some people who refuse to accept that times are changing, and that everything is different now. Religion is not what it used to be, and it is often times for the better. In America, we do not stone people for committing “unnatural” acts nor do we exclude them from society. These topics are most likely to continue to be hot subjects within Christianity and Judaism because not everyone believes in new times.
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