LGBT People Aren’t Nazis and Christian Extremists Aren’t 1930s & 40s Jews

I rarely talk about my milk-religion, although on the balance my experience growing up in Judaism was a positive one, because these days I am about as bad a Jew as is possible in 2014.

Being a surgically sterilized polytheistic pagan who regrew his foreskin, I’m pretty much the embodiment of a broken link in a chair of ancestry going back hundreds or even thousands of years. There are likely people out there who do greater disservice to the faith, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one on short notice.

However, while I may have betrayed the faith of my forebears, racially my background is purely Eastern European Jew.

Given that it’s an identity I generally reject, you might imagine that it takes a staggaringly grievous offense to fill me with anger as a Jew. But in the last few weeks, right-wing Christianity has been doing a bang-up job of it.

I am thirty-three years old, and thus belong to the last generation to be raised surrounded by survivors of the Nazi concentration, work, and death camps. From a young age I was told the stories of my people’s systematic dehumanization and mechanized extermination.

Before my thirteenth birthday I’d seen photos and read accounts of the world’s first factory-based genocide: the piles of corpses, mounds of ash, death chambers build for efficient wholesale slaughter, and the emaciated frames of hopeless survivors being liberated by the advancing American and Soviet militaries/ These are all part of my racial memory, and central to the experience of what it meant to be a late 20th-century Jew.

For a long time, I believed that Scott Lively’s disgraceful book The Pink Swastika, which asserts that…the Nazi party was entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals throughout its short history and is often touted or referenced by Christian extremists, was the lowest the right could sink.

The last few weeks have proven that belief to be tragically incorrect.

I’m going to draw on the excellent Right Wing Watch for these links, since I don’t want to drive traffic to the original sources (most often Matt Barber’s vile website), but those sources are all cited within the posts I’ve linked to:

  • Far-right columnist John Biver said that “…full capitulation to the homosexual agenda… or it will be re-education, incarceration, bankruptcy, marginalization, and state-sanctioned ridicule… or worse… are there any available cattle cars around?” He was alluding to the cattle cars in which millions of Jews were shipped to extermination camp.
  • Pat Fagan, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, criticized a United Nations report on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church by comparing it to Kristallnacht, the pogrom against German Jews in 1938 seen by many as the true beginning of the Jewish experience of the Nazi Holocaust (as distinct from the Nazi oppression and extermination of other populations such as the Roma, the disabled, and homosexuals)
  • Christian extremist Matt Barber said, “Christians are going to have to start wearing a yellow cross. Are we in 1939 Germany here?” He was referring to the yellow Star of David worn by Jews in the ghettoes and later the camps. Gay men wore a pink triangle, lesbians wore a black one (which was multipurpose), and Roma a brown one.
  • Indiana pastor Jeff Allen, writing (again) on Matt Barber’s website, said of gay and liberal activists: “Many of them really do console themselves with fantasies of their own Kristallnacht, in which Christians are euphemistically “taken out of the way” as part of the ‘gay’-stapo’s ‘final solution’ to the ‘Christian problem.'”

And that’s just the last few weeks! However, lest you feel I’m unfairly picking on Matt Barber, going back further we find:

  • Bryan Fischer on the Supreme Court’s marriage equality rulings: “…doing to [Christians] what the Nazis did to the Jews”
  • And one more classic from Fischer: “Ladies and gentlemen, they are Nazis. Do not be under any illusions about what homosexual activists will do with your freedoms and your religion if they have the opportunity. They’ll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents in Nazi Germany.”

And so, for all the Christians, homophobes, and right-wing activists who don’t seem to get it, speaking as someone who is racially, if not spiritually Jewish, allow me to make something abundantly clear:

Not being allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, have prayers to your particular god read at state-funded functions/institutions, or have the government make legal policies based on your particular holy book, is most emphatically not the same as being torn from your homes and families, and then systematically exterminated.

If you think that it is, your life has been so blessed with social privilege that you have become disconnected from reality.

A Religious Evolution Towards Wholeness

Over the years that I have been writing Notes From a Barking Shaman, I have written about my firm opposition to the barbaric practice of genital mutilation on multiple occasions:

I also have written about my personal experiences around my milk religion (Judaism) and my departure from it:

And one post that details my feelings on the intersection of the two topics:

There were many factors that went into my departure from my milk religion, but the practice and celebration of genital mutilation within it was one of the two biggest; as big perhaps even as the whole “one god” thing (I recognize that many other pagan oriented Jews have done the mental gymnastics needed to “reconcile” those two identities, but I could not have). 

I grew up in a household that cherished the spiritual nature of Reform Judaism, and embraced the teaching that Judaism is a dynamic and “living” religion; one which must evolve with the changing nature of our world to foster and nurture the relationship between people and their god, rather than become an obstacle. Both at home and in synagog I was taught that many of the Talmudic and Biblical laws are at their core about devotion, rather than blind obedience. And that Jews must study Torah, not in the pursuit of memorization, but of understanding, and beyond that, that they must ask themselves “what does this mean to me?” not simply “what did this mean to my ancestors?”

That modern Reform Jewry continues to place the mutilation of their male children’s genitals on a pedestal, while discarding other outmoded biblical proscriptions has long puzzled me. In a tradition that believes strongly in equality saying “women may hold equal place with men in Judaism, and require no cutting of their genitals, but only surgical altered men are Jews” seems to me to be terribly hypocritical. Either genital cutting is a fundamental part of Judaism, in which case women are not truly equal to men, or it isn’t required to be a Jew, in which case men are mutilated needlessly. Mixing the two ideas seems inconsistent in the extreme. 

It should be noted of course, that in the United States the damage or alteration of a girl’s genitals, no matter how minor (perhaps extending even to bloodletting via a diabetic lancet), is legally forbidden, whether for religious purposes or not. Modern Judaism has no choice but to allow their girls to remain unaltered, so perhaps we will never know if some form of female genital cutting might not have been embraced as part of Jewish sexual equality  had the option existed. 

Now however, there is a cadre of Jewish scholars, rabbis, and parents, who are beginning to gain momentum in their quest for Jewish parents to embrace brit shalom – a covenant of peace, rather than the traditional brit milah – covenant of circumcision. There are excellent books on the topic, both scholarly and personal, including:

And their are some amazing resources on the web, including:

This is not going to be an easy road for these dedicated and outspoken activists to travel down. Judaism is an extremely tribal culture. I know many people who only allow fellow Jews into positions of importance in their lives. Their doctor, accountant, realtor, even their car salesman, all must be Jewish. And it is impossible to convey to someone who did not grow up within that tribal community how fundamental genital mutilation is to the cultural identities of many Jews. Samara Cole, in her excellent essayRefusing to Circumcise: A Mom’s Difficult Demandeloquently conveys the frustration she experiences with her husband, who cares not at all for the biblical or spiritual meaning of the practice, yet steadfastly insists that his sons have their foreskins amputated, even after he has come to believe that the procedure has no redeeming value. 

Jewish Intactivism is an exciting and challenging development in the growing and changing nature of modern Jewry. There is a part of me that is sad that this is a cultural revolution that I have to watch as a well-informed outsider. I truly believe, as someone raised steeped in Jewish thought and belief, that intactivism is incredibly consistent with Jewish values and spirituality. I believe with all my heart that in discarding the barbaric mutilation of innocent children, modern Jews can reclaim and embrace the deeper purpose of the covenant ritual. 

I pray to my gods and theirs that these dedicated activists can transform pain, blood, and terror, into peace.