Which is Worse?

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.


Dear Thor,

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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18 thoughts on “Which is Worse?”

  1. It’s always been my impression that same sex relationships involving sex were out of God’s order for this world and that it appears as a symptom of a civilization gone wrong. I might say that their actions of sexual perversion is not the direct threat to civilization but rather the morals and principles that allowed for it to become widely accepted. For if such a thing is widely accepted, what thing will be next?

  2. If the U.S. were able to return to more traditional attitudes toward gay behavior, how far back would we want to go?  I’m guessing not back to some parts of Europe in the 1600s, when being caught having gay sex could result in execution.  And probably not the late 19th century, when adult consensual gay sex could result in serious prison time. Or the Fifties, when the brilliant gay mathematician Alan Turing, who contributed greatly to the winning of WWII, was pressured by his government into chemical castration and what may have been suicide.

    Perhaps we’d only want to go back to the Sixties, when gay people in most of America were expected to stay well-hidden in closets, and even then, were vulnerable to blackmail, being fired, and being kicked out of their apartments.  Or maybe not that far back, just the not-so-distant time when gay teenagers were far more frequently kicked out of their homes by their parents and forced to live on the streets, and when gay relationships, however long, loving, and faithful, lacked legal protection, and family members could, for example, prevent a person’s lifelong same-sex partner from visiting that person in the hospital on her/his death bed.

    Which is worse, indeed.

    1. Your comment, with its rhetorical questions, sounds like it is born from pain, Anne. How to legislate a society and morality, whether we are discussing homosexual behavior, adultery, gossip, or theft, is a challenge that all societies face and that none have perfectly executed. It also has not worked to have a completely “do as you want” society. We personally think that moving away from Biblical values in dozens, if not hundreds, of areas is leading to a United States where there is less safety, less prosperity, and less freedom. How to restore those values is certainly not an easy question.

  3. I feel so discouraged about the US that sometimes I want to move to a more Christian nation, but where would we go? I’m very grateful the Lapins have come here to help us navigate the times we live in.

  4. alessandro mecle

    Dear Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin, amazing article! It can be applied to many issues. Recently I was discussing with my wife problems related to single motherhood and this perspective that you provided fits perfectly. In fact, it seems to be a principle of a large application. Additionally, I am always amazed by your capacity to be very aware of the intellectual debate’s cutting edge. The notion of infectious ideas clarifies many things. We, as a society, make room for an environment prone to such ideas.
    Once again, thank you.

    p.s. By the way: the website’s new design is elegant e easy to use.

  5. I would have added to the son’s concerns the lack of active, participating fatherhood for young men now who are now growing into adulthood but likely will never make it out of adolescence. Your wisdom always makes my day, Rabbi!

    1. Kristin, that is a very important concern, as is lack of ability to reason and think logically, attitudes to abortion, and many more problems. We only answered what we were asked.

    2. Kristin,

      Jordan Peterson has been filling a void in many young men that should have been filled by a father figure. JP puts an emphasis on being ‘responsible’. On the Steve Deace Show, last week, Mr Deace made mention of this and asked “why are there not (or so few) ministers/pastors in the church that are addressing that issue”. There is a documentary called ‘The Rise Of Jordan Peterson’ that you can watch, free, on the TUBI website.

      What a healthy society needs is men of strong character and good moral fiber. The ‘woman’s movement’ has/is doing it’s best to destroy that.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Gidon,
      And wishing you הצלחה ongoing success in your important work,

  6. Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin,

    Why didn’t you just come out and say to Thor, that God in his word doesn’t condone Homosexuality and that there will be No Homosexuals in Heaven and that Homosexuality is a Sin, instead of dancing around the truth?


    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Alan,
      We didn’t say what you wrote to us because we try to answer questions that people submit to the column entitled “Ask The Rabbi” and what you wrote had nothing to do with the question we were actually asked.
      I will tell you that never before have we been accused of “dancing around the truth” and I’m pretty sure we didn’t deserve that insult here either.

    2. For the same reason, Alan, that we didn’t say that God condemns adultery or theft or arrogance. That wasn’t the question.

  7. I think the patient that is America is on life support or close to it. I yearn for strong, common sense leadership. The black community in particular needs someone similar to MLK to show the way. The answer is already there, they just need someone that can help them see it. The answer lies in the family unit which has been dismantled for them by politicians. They need a clear thinker that can help them see how much better their lives would be if they were willing to make some changes.
    Just wishful thinking, I guess.

    1. Those politicians were/are mostly the democrat party, or as I refer to them, the ‘demokkkrat’ party. Also, the feminist movement has been very destructive. These opinions come from a woman with a degree in a STEM field.

    2. The black community has such a person like MLK – perhaps better IMHO. Look up Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson.

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