My son asked me the other day which, of the rise in single motherhood in the USA or the rising acceptance and proliferation of homosexuality in the USA constituted the greater threat to the nation.
I gave him my opinion that the rise in single motherhood was the greater threat. But then I thought, what would the Rabbi say? So I ask you the same question.
First of all, the fact that your son wants to have a discussion with you and cares about your opinion means that you are doing a good job as a father. By expanding the conversation to include us and others, you are also modeling the desire to seek greater understanding. Kudos to you!
If we may, we’d like to modify the question that your son asked. Imagine someone looking at an ill person and asking if his fever or his nausea or his elevated blood pressure is the biggest problem. We might well need to treat all these symptoms, and one or the other may need our focus at certain times, but they are all different signs of an infection ravaging the patient’s body. Our main goal is to get rid of the infection and strengthen the body so that it doesn’t succumb.
You can guide your son to broaden his perspective. He should understand that he isn’t asking whether a specific single parent or an individual acting on an inclination towards same-sex attraction is a good or bad person or which of those two individuals is causing society more harm. Each of us is complex and only God can look at us as complete beings and judge us. However, we humans can and must discuss what principles are guiding our society. What leads a society to decide that things are good or bad? How can it be that ideas that were universally accepted as wrong in one year become not only acceptable but elevated and lauded only a few years later? We need a larger and more coherent view than seeing it all as isolated and disconnected issues. Like a virus, many ideas circulate. For example, American society went from a legal system that treated people differently based on their race, to one that moved toward equal treatment, and is now deliberately moving back to being a system based in racist attitudes, even if it is now choosing to target and favor different groups than in an earlier iteration. So racism, defined as judging people solely on the color of their skin, had social approval, then disapproval and is gaining approval once again.
Both homosexual behavior and choosing to have children outside the framework of marriage are ideas that had widespread disapproval in many places and over long periods of time. This led many people to assume that condemnation of these practices was built into the human condition. This was a mistake. The reasons these had such a high disapproval rating was because many societies were steeped in a Biblical culture (even when they didn’t recognize the Biblical roots of their principles). God’s message venerates marriage between one man and one woman. It elevated that status one thousand years ago, one hundred years ago and today. However, as society moves away from the Bible, and indeed condemns, ridicules, and despises those who stay faithful to Judeo-Christian values, there is no longer a societally agreed upon definition of moral or good. At that point, everything, including any and all ideas that people assume that, “everyone agrees with” are up for grabs.
What is more, between entertainment, education, and politics, we’ve all been encouraged to focus short term. This helps conceal the destructive longer-term impact of certain behaviors such as bringing into society large numbers of children who grow up fatherless.
Repeating an example from our book, America’s Real War, it’s a bit like a man waking up after sleeping through an earthquake and marveling at how odd it is that his city has broken bridges, broken water mains and damaged roads all on the same morning. We experienced a social earthquake in the early 1960s and today we see many symptoms of damage including the two your son identifies.
Both of the examples your son raised are symptoms of a society severing its roots from God. As such, in our opinion, they are part of a greater picture of a problem and need to be looked at together rather than pitting one particular symptom against the other or indeed mistaking the symptom for the underlying problem.
Keep the conversation flowing,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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