Image: The Black Mountains of North Carolina. Public domain.
Rabbi Stephen Roberts is a colleague and dear friend who wrote a guest editorial for the Boone, NC newspaper, the Watauga Democrat. It appeared on the paper’s website today. I share it because the situations of lesbians, gay men, transgender persons and bisexuals in North Carolina and Mississippi are much on my mind and in my prayers.
To my Christian readers: I ask that you read this thoughtfully, prayerfully, and consider sharing it.
To all my readers: I welcome discussion, but please as always keep it kind.
– Rabbi Ruth Adar
Jesus’ Teachings Conflict With State Law
As a rabbi, I have always viewed Jesus of Nazareth as a rabbinic colleague of mine from two millennium ago. While studying at seminary, I wrote my 125 pages rabbinic thesis on his words: “The Lord’s Prayer.” He is referred to as “rabbi” 16 different times in Scripture Christians call the “New Testament.”
In Mark 12:31, Jesus, the rabbi, taught: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” In Judaism, our similar teaching by the Rabbi Hillel, of the same period, is: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”
What then would Jesus do in the following case: Jesus, I and your own pastor/priest/reverend are out to dinner. We have ordered and are about to be served. The owner of the restaurant comes over to our table, and in front of your clergy and Jesus, I am told I will not be served. Further, I am asked to leave and told not to return. The reason given is that the owner had found out I was gay and he did not serve “queers.” I ask you: “What would Jesus do?” Would he agree with this person? I think Mark 2:15 provides the answer. Jesus, the rabbi, would fight for the right of each person in North Carolina — no matter how they are viewed by those around them — to be able to eat a meal in a public facility without having to worry about the discriminatory refusal of service — as can legally take place today here in the state.
I ask you further — what would Jesus do if he and I came to your town to teach about the Lord’s Prayer. When we went to register at the hotel, I am told by the manager that they will not rent me a room because I was gay. Further, he was going to call every hotel in the region and alert them to my being gay so that I would not have a room anywhere in the area. Mark 12:31 makes it clear that Jesus would be horrified that this was both allowed and legal.
Time and time again, Rabbi Jesus went against society to protect those on the margins. He spent his life working to keep them safe, to make sure they were treated well — no matter if society saw them as “sinners.”
Today, here in North Carolina, the state I work in as a rabbi by serving a congregation, I can be refused service and also be removed from any restaurant in the state because I am gay. It is not against the law. Today, here in North Carolina, I can be refused service at any supermarket, pharmacy, gas station, just because I am gay. I can be fired from a job. I can be refused admittance to a college. I can even be denied health care services from hospitals, nursing homes, doctors and nurses.
To treat me this way, to discriminate against me, as someone Jewish is illegal. However, to treat me this way as someone who is gay — is completely legal in North Carolina. The state legislature just passed House Bill 2 and the governor signed the bill, keeping this discrimination the law of the state.
I am left to ask each of you: “What would Jesus do?”
Rabbi Stephen Roberts, MBA, BCC
Rabbi Roberts’ family have deep roots in the Appalachians. He and his family have summered here for more than five decades, he has immediate family that are year-rounders and he is in his third year serving a congregation in the region.
7 thoughts on “A Voice from North Carolina”
I really like it.
I believe Jesus would have answered, quietly, with the words you quoted and rise, gather his companions and leave, shaking the dust from his shoes.
Thanks for reading, Marilyn! I agree.
Another voice from North Carolina: Judea Reform Congregation’s Board-approved congregational statement:
“Judea Reform Congregation, in keeping with the Jewish Tradition’s emphasis on the dignity of all human beings made in the divine image (b’tzelem elohim), and also with our Reform Movement’s recent resolution on the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people, regrets the passage of H.B. 2. We have been, and will remain, a congregation that welcomes transgender and gender non-conforming members and guests. Our prayers are with North Carolinians whose dignity and humanity is under attack. We stand with them, and against those who would strip them of their protections under the law.”
Thank you! Where is your congregation located? If I am ever in NC again, I would like to visit.
Yashar koach, Judea Reform Congregation!