Friday, February 22, 2013

A4.  Homosexuality is an offense against the cosmic order, causing earthquakes, plagues, and hurricanes. 

A. The Charge.  Homosexual conduct brings disaster on any society that is foolish enough to condone it.  This consequence is shown by the recent prevalence of hurricanes and floods in the United States, where the incidence of homosexuality has been increasing alarmingly.

On the June 8, 1998 edition of his television show, the evangelist Pat Robertson denounced Orlando, Florida, and Disney World for allowing "Gay Days." Robertson stated that the acceptance of homosexuality could result in hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, terrorist bombings, and "possibly a meteor.”  Robertson returned to the theme on June 24, when he quoted the Book of Revelation to support his claims.

B.  Historical Background. A little known work of Hellenistic Judaism, The Testament of Naftali (ca. 100 BCE). combined several themes: idolatry and contumacy against the divine will; defiance of the cosmic order; and the sin of Sodom.  The putative destruction of that city by fire and brimstone in Lot’s time provided the core for the gradual assemblage of a catalog of disasters ostensibly called down by same-sex behavior. 

A further stage in the growth of these legends stems from the Christian emperor Justinian I, who ruled the Eastern Roman Empire from 527 to 565. In 538 this homophobic ruler issued a law (Novella 77), which condemned sodomites to death "lest, as a result of these impious acts, whole cities should perish together with their inhabitants," a reference to the destruction of the Cities of the Plain, as recounted in the book of Genesis. The edict spoke of "diabolical and unlawful lusts," maintaining that because of such crimes there are famines, earthquakes, and pestilences. In Justinian’s view same-sex acts are not simply immoral - they constitute a grave danger to the body politic.

By the seventeenth century learned prejudice and folk credulity had assembled a roster of no fewer than six such homo-catastrophes: earthquakes, famine, plague, Saracen incursions, large field-mice, and floods.  (Noted by Benedict Carpzov, in his Practicae novae imperialis Saxonicae rerum criminalium, 1658.)

The televangelist Rev. Pat Robertson has remarked that the disaster of  9/11 came about as a result of America's tolerance of "abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians." (He could have noted, following the old list, that “Saracen incursions”would surely occur.) His remarks were echoed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who has since been called to his maker.

Rev. John C. Hagee is a controversial Texas televangelist who regards the Catholic church as the "Great Whore of Babylon."  He also claimed that God sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans to punish the city for hosting a thriving gay and lesbian culture.

What all the commentators leave out, however, is what has been noted above: such arguments go all the way back to the emperor Justinian (527-565), who held that tolerance of same-sex behavior caused God to visit earthquakes on his realm. Stop the behavior, he believed, and the earthquakes would cease.

In a general sense these views reflect the Biblical pattern of the Prophet Jonah, who was thrown overboard to avoid shipwreck. More specific to homosexuality are the repeated denunciations in the Hebrew Bible of the male sacred prostitution of the kedeshim, an activity that was thought to incur Yahweh's displeasure. (I am aware that a recent revisionist school claims that the kedeshim did not engage in sex; I find this assertion unconvincing.)

In 2012 he following comment was making the rounds of the Internet net.

"Thirteen months before 9/11, on the day New York City passed homosexual domestic partnership regulations, I joined a group of Rabbis at a City Hall prayer service, pleading with G-d not to visit disaster on the city of N.Y. We have seen the underground earthquake, tsunami, Katrina, and now Haiti. All this is in sync with a two thousand year old teaching in the Talmud that the practice of homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes. Once a disaster is unleashed, innocents are also victims just like in Chernobyl. We plead with saner heads in Congress and the Pentagon to stop sodomization of our military and our society. Enough is enough." -- Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of America.

Does the Talmud in fact offer any support for the notion that homosexual conduct is “a spiritual cause” of earthquakes? Apparently it does, according to the expert opinion of

As Tzvee indicates, the relevant passage stems from Yerushalmi Berakot (9:2). In fact, the text asserts that earthquakes are brought on by any one of a number of acts, including disputes; not taking heave offering and tithes from your produce; and also because God is unhappy that the Temple lies in ruins and Jews are flocking to theaters and circuses.

Gay sex may also occasion the tremors. In Tzvee’s translation, “ [E] Said R. Aha, ‘[The earth quakes] on account of the sin of homosexual acts. God said, ‘You made your genitals throb in an unnatural act. By your life, I shall shake the earth on account of [the act of] this person.’"

The canon of the Jerusalem Talmud was closed about 600 CE, two or three generations after the promulgation of Justinian’s etiological speculations incorporated into Novella 77. Evidently the notion was still fresh at the start of the seventh century.

Unless an earlier Jewish source can be found - and none is known that directly makes this case - the Sages were channeling their hated enemy, the anti-Semite Justinian I. This would not be the first time that the rabbis borrowed from Christianity.

Finally, there is an Islamic parallel to these beliefs, though it is still imperfectly known.  This incident comes from medieval Afghanistan.  The poet Sanai of Ghazni (died ca. 1140) mocked the pederastic practices of his time, as embodied in the doings of the Khvaja of Herat.  This man is depicted as profaning a holy place by taking his catamite there for a quick erotic encounter:  

"Not finding shelter, he became perturbed,
 The mosque, he reasoned, would be undisturbed.

" But he was discovered by a devout man, who, in his revulsion, echoed a traditional attack on same-sex relations:

"These sinful ways of yours - that was his shout - 
have ruined all the crops and caused the drought!"

C.  Response.  All these claims rest on unproven links between individual conduct and the cosmic order.  These claims are at variance with modern science. As such, they are the equivalent of urban legends.


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