God and Glory
February 16, 2017
Many of the world’s largest religions set guidelines for what constitutes moral and immoral sex that deal with marriage and sex, as in male or female. But what is the reasoning behind these conditions? And are these conditions evolving or disappearing completely as ancient religious beliefs clash with modern ideas?
Judaism, the precursor the the Judeo-Christian religions, does permit premarital sex but there is a catch.
“Premarital sex is not forbidden, but there is a high value placed on a virgin bride,” Rabbi Jonathan Tabachnikoff said. “And there is therefore a stigma attached to not being a virgin, unless one is a widow or divorced.”
Nonetheless, on the topic of homosexual relationships, views depend on the branch of Judaism one looks at.
“The Torah forbids sex between two men, but doesn’t mention women,” Tabachnikoff said. “Orthodox Jews still believe gay men must overcome their urges to do that which is forbidden. Reform and Conservative Judaism are now fully inclusive and consider all people equal.”
Reform and Conservative Jews represent 35 percent and 18 percent of the total American Jewish population respectively but Orthodox Jews still represent 10 percent and this number may be larger in Miami than in other places in America.
“[The Reform and Conservative branches] are growing but in certain areas like North Miami Beach, the Orthodox population is much larger than the other branches,” Tabachnikoff said.
Christianity tends to be less lenient towards premarital sex. The Bible condemns this action and considers it a sin.
“[God] did make it enjoyable, but [sex] is supposed to be enjoyed within a marriage,” junior Megan Cabal said. “Everytime we leave a sexual relationship, we’re leaving a part of ourselves behind. The reason God doesn’t want us to have premarital sex is because he is trying to guard our hearts.”
Homosexual sex is also forbidden by the Bible, according to interpretations of Leviticus 18:22.
“The point of sex is technically to reproduce, making [homosexual] sex unfulfilling to its purpose,” Cabal said.
Islam is very similar in its views on these actions as it also forbids both of them.
“Any [sexual] relation outside marriage is not accepted,” Imam Abdul Samra said. “If you’re talking about other relations like a man with a man or a woman with a woman, that is not allowed. This is not the natural relation because God told us He created male for female and female for male. There is purpose for that: to continue the race of people. God also told us you’ll find more peace and more tranquility in the opposite sex.”
These values are not unique to the Judeo-Christian religions. Hinduism, while not explicitly prohibiting premarital and homosexual sex, is also against these practices.
“[Premarital sex] is not something that [Hinduism] promotes,” children’s program coordinator at Miami Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, Lakshmi Doobay, said. “It’s not allowed. [Homosexual sex] is not something the religion has really visited a lot. Something like that is not recognized.”
Yet while many religions set standards for sex, some seem relatively lacking in these guidelines by comparison. Buddhism permits premarital sex and homosexual sex. Only one guideline for sex exists for laymen Buddhists.
“You can break your Pratimoksha vows of sexual misconduct if the sex you have with someone else will hurt someone else’s feelings,” English teacher and Buddhist John de la Cruz said.
Besides this rule, Buddhists hold no negative positions on premarital sex and homosexuality like stricter branches of the Judeo-Christian religions, mostly because of the foundations of the religion itself: the idea that the material world is temporary and the goal of life is to break out of it.
“The body has always been glorified as something that’s beautiful but something that’s temporary,” de la Cruz said. “We are always living by the idea that everything has an expiration date so that you shouldn’t get attached to any one thing. There has never been that sexual repression. There’s nothing that deals with shame or anything like that.”
This view has not been prevalent since the start of Buddhism. In 1996 the Dalai Lama in his book “Beyond Dogma” prohibited the use of organs besides genitalia in sexual actions, like oral and anal sex, because they do not result in reproduction. But in 2013 the Dalai Lama stated that as long the sex between two partners of the same sex did not break the Pratimoksha vow, it was permissible.
Are other religions evolving to become more sexually lenient? We can see the efforts of reform in many aspects of modern Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Christian beliefs, especially in the views of homosexuality as LGBT+ people and allies around the world figure out ways to reconcile their beliefs with who they are.
The Hindu community has accepted more same-sex couples in recent years.
“We’ve seen more tolerance in the community for it and we’ve seen more people coming out than we’ve ever seen before because they kind of feel more comfort doing so,” Doobay said. “In the end of the day, we’re a very accepting religion. We believe God lives within so it’s the way you carry yourself, the way you conduct yourself. It’s not about a church making up all the rules and regulations that you must follow.”
While the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism reflect the evolving ideas of sexual morality in the Jewish community, the Orthodox branch, too, has evolved their position to be more tolerable of homosexuality in theory but not in practice.
“Orthodox Jews too have evolved to the point where they accept people are all created in God’s image, even gay people,” Tabachnikoff said. “They still do not allow the forbidden behaviors.”
Islam, without changing its beliefs on homosexuality, has emphasized forgiveness rather than persecution.
“God told us in the Quran to ask for forgiveness no matter how big your sin is,” Samra said. “God forgives all the sins. If you come with your sin and you want to stop, come to God and He will forgive you. Of course one of the conditions is that it has to be with sincerity and that that action which is considered to be not right or considered to be evil, it has to stop.”
While Christians have not completely changed their position on homosexuality, modern beliefs represent how, as homosexuality has become more accepted in the Western world, the religion has adapted.
“I feel like there is a stigma on this particular issue with a lot of heterosexual Christians that make it a bigger sin than it is,” youth pastor Matthew Hedinger said. “The whole basis of Christianity is that all of us have sinned. Some people take their prejudices and input that into Christianity.”
Many in the Christian community have called for an end to the kind of prejudice Hedinger described.
“The one thing that needs to change is how the Christian community treats the LGBTQ community,” Cabal said. “We have to be the way 1 Corinthians: 13 describes us to be: patient and kind. Who are we to judge others based on their sins when we ourselves aren’t even free of sin on earth?”