Category Archives: Books and other resources

The Vatican War on “Gender Ideology” – a Journal Resource

For some useful material on the  Vatican’s attacks on (so-called) “gender ideology”, see the special issue on the topic at the on-line journal Religion and Gender, under the title Habemus Gender! The Catholic Church and ‘Gender Ideology’.

Describing itself as “the first online, peer reviewed, international and open access journal for the systematic study of gender and religion in an interdisciplinary perspective”, this issue lives up to the claim with a range of articles from respected writers with differing backgrounds and geographic perspectives. As a South African, I am particularly concerned that some of the harshest rhetoric has come from African hierarchs – and so delighted to note that one of the articles is a specifically African response by Kapya Kaoma.

There is also an important interview with Msgr Krysztof Charamsa, and additional material by writers I am familiar with are by Tina Beattie, Mary Hunt and Mark Jordan – as well as much by others not yet known to me.

All the material is available on-line, by open access. Follow the links in this list of articles for abstracts, and to download a PDF.

EditorialUnpacking the Sin of Gender (Sarah Bracke ,David Paternotte)

Articles:

The Role of the Popes in the Invention of Complementarity and the Anathematization of Gender ( Mary Anne Case)

Gender and the Problem of Universals: Catholic Mobilizations and Sexual Democracy in France (Eric Fassin)

Against the Heresy of Immanence: Vatican’s ‘Gender’ as a New Rhetorical Device against the Denaturalisation of the Sexual Order (Sara Garbagnoli)

Sexual Politics and Religious Actors in Argentina ( Mario Pecheny, Daniel Jones, Lucía Ariza)

Interview

The Sin of Turning Away from Reality: An Interview with Father Krzysztof Charamsa (David Paternotte,Mary Anne Case, Sarah Bracke)

Responses

Gender and Meaning in a Postmodern World: An Elusive Quest for Truth ( Tina Beattie)

Moral Panic and Gender Ideology in Latin America (Gloria Careaga-Pérez)

‘Theologies’ and Contexts in a Latin American perspective (Sonia Corrêa)

Unreal: Catholic Ideology as Epistemological War (Elsa Dorlin)

‘Gender Ideology’: Weak Concepts, Powerful Politics (Agnieszka Graff)

Catholic Gender Denial (Mary Hunt)

Vetera novis augere: Notes on the Rhetoric of Response (Mark Jordan)

The Vatican Anti-Gender Theory and Sexual Politics: An African Response (Kapya Kaoma)

The Vatican and the Birth of Anti-Gender Studies (Elżbieta Korolczuk)

How are Anti-Gender Movements Changing Gender Studies as a Profession? (Andrea Pető)

Gender and the Vatican (Joan W. Scott)

Francis and ‘Gender Ideology’: Heritage, Displacement and Continuities (Juan Marco Vaggione)

Book Reviews

Thinking about Goddesses: A Review of Three Recent Books (Carol Christ)

Review of Robin L. Riley, Depicting the veil: Transnational sexism and the war on terror (Linda Duits)

Review of Rebecca Moore, Women in Christian Traditions (Janet Eccles)

Review of Joanna Mishtal, The Politics of Morality. The Church, the State, and Reproductive Rights in Postsocialist Poland (Dominika Gruziel)

 

 

Review of Tine Van Osselaer, Patrick Pasture (eds.) Christian Homes. Religion, Family and Domesticity in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Marguerite Van Die)

 

Book List

(All links are to Amazon, UK).

A

Aldrich Robert Colonialism and Homosexuality Routledge, 2002

Alexander, Marilyn Bennett, and James Preston. We Were Baptized Too: Claiming God’s Grace for Lesbians and Gays (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press).

Alison, James: Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay(Darton Longman Todd, 2001) 239 pages*

Alison, James: On Being Liked (Darton Longman Todd, 2003) 168 pages*

Alison, James:  Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-in (Darton Longman Todd, 2005)*

Alison, James: Broken Hearts New Creations: Intimations of a Great Reversal(Darton Longman Todd)*

Althaus – Reid, Marcella: Liberation Theology and Sexuality (Reclaiming Liberation Theology) ( Ashgate Publishing Limited)

Althaus – Reid, Marcella: Indecent Theology (Routledge)

Althaus – Reid, Marcella: The Queer God (God the Homosexual) (Routledge)

Althaus-Reid, Marcella From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology SCM 2004

Althaus-Reid, Marcella and Isherwood, Lisa The Sexual Theologian: A Primer in Radical Sex and Queer Theology T&T Clark, 2005

Althaus-Reid, Marcella  Controversies in Body Theology (Controversies in Contextual Theology) 

Althaus-Reid, Marcella, and Lisa Isherwood (eds). 2009. Trans/formations  (Controversies in Contextual Theology) London: SCM Press. (Review by Sarah Jane Jones)*

B

Beattie, Tina, The New Catholic Feminisim Theology, Gender Theory and Dialogue  (Review by Grahan Ward)

Beattie, Tina, God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate:a gynocentric refiguration of Marian symbolism in engagement with Luce Irigaray, CCSRG Monograph Series 3, Dept of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol, 1999.

Beattie, Tina, Rediscovering MaryInsights from the Gospels Burns & Oates, 1995.

Beattie, Tina, Eve’s Pilgrimage: a Woman’s Quest for the City of God. Burns & Oates/Continuum 2002

Beattie, Tina The Last Supper According to Martha and Mary Continuum/ Burns & Oates 2001

Beattie Jung, Patricia (ed): Sexual Diversity and Catholicism: Toward the Development of Moral Theology  (The Liturgical Press, 2002)

Bohache, Thomas: Christology from the Margins(SCM Press, 2009)*

Boisvert, Donald: Sanctity And Male Desire: A Gay Reading Of Saints

Boisvert, Donald: Out on Holy Ground: Meditations on Gay Men’s Spirituality (Pilgrim Press, 2001) 148 pages

Boisvert, Donald L., and Jay Emerson Johnson: Queer Religion (Praeger).

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century  (University of Chicago Press, 1980) 424 pages

Boswell, John: The Marriage of Likeness: Same-sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe (Harper-Collins, 1994) 412 pages

Bouhdiba, Abdelwahab:  Sexuality in Islam, Saqi Books, 1998.

Bouldrey, Brian: Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men(Riverhead Books)

Brawley, Robert (ed), Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture, John Knox Press, 1996.

Browne, Kath:  Queer Spiritual Spaces

Burrus, Virginia: Sex Lives of Saints: An Erotics of Ancient Hagiography U of Pennsylvania 200

C

Carden, Michael. Sodomy: A History of a Christian Biblical Myth  (Bibleworld) (Equinox)

Chellew-Hodge, Candace: Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians 192 pages

Cheng, Patrick S. Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology (Seabury Books)

Cherry, Kittredge: Jesus in Love

Cherry, Kittredge:  Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More (AndroGyne Press, 2007) 100 pages

Cherry, Kittredge, and Zalmon O. Sherwood: Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations(Westminster/John Knox Press).

Clark, J. Michael: A Defiant Celebration: Theological Ethics and Gay Sexuality (Tangelwüld Press).

Clark, J. Michael: Defying the Darkness: Gay Theology in the Shadows (Resource Publications)

Clark, J. Michael. Beyond Our Ghettos: Gay Theology in Ecological Perspective (Pilgrim Press)

Clark, J. Michael. A Place to Start: Toward and Unapologetic Gay Liberation Theology (Monument Press)

Cleaver, Richard: Know My Name: Gay Liberation Theology (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995) 161 pages

Coleman, Gerald: Homosexuality: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice(Paulist Press, 1995) 207 pages

Collins, Raymond F: Sexual Ethics and the New Testament: Behaviour and Belie  (Crossroads, 2000 )

Comstock, Gary David, &Henking, Susan E. Que(e)rying Religious Studies: A Critical Anthology (Continuum, 1999) 552 pages 

Comstock, Gary David: Unrepentant, Self-affirming, Practicing: Lesbian/Bisexual/Gay People within Organised Religion

Comstock, Gary David: Gay Theology Without Apology

Comstock, Gary David: Whosever Church: Welcoming Gays and Lesbians Into African American Congregations

Gary D Comstock: The Work of a Gay College Chaplain: Becoming Ourselves in the Company of Others

Cornwall, Susannah. Controversies in Queer Theology (SCM)

Cornwall, Susannah: Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology

Cotter, Jim: Pleasure, Pain & Passion: Some Perspectives on Sexuality and Spirituality (Cairns Publications, 1988)1993

Coulton, Nicholas, (ed) The Bible, the Church and Homosexuality(Darton Longman Todd, 2005)

Countryman, L.William: Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today (Fortress Press 2007 (revised edition) 290 pages)

Countryman, William and Ritter, Kathleen:  Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church

Curoe, Carol: Are There Closets in Heaven?; A Catholic Father and Lesbian Daughter Share their Story

Crompton, Louis: Homosexuality and Civilization

D

De La Torre, Miguel A(ed): Out of the Shadows, into the Light: Christianity and Homosexuality (Chalice Press)

Drinkwater, GreggJoshua Lesser, and David Shneer. Torah Queeries Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible (New York University Press)

Duffy, Eamonn: Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes

Duncan, Geoffrey: Courage to Love: Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (Pilgrim Press)

Dzmura, Noach: Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community (North Atlantic Books)

E

Edwards, George R. Gay/Lesbian Liberation: A Biblical Perspective (Pilgrim Press).

Ellison, Marvin Mahan, and Kelly Brown Douglas, editors. Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection 2nd ed. (Westminster John Knox Press)

F

Farley, Margaret: Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics

Fletcher,  Lynne Y: The First Gay Pope and Other Records

Ford, Michael: Disclosures: Conversations Gay and Spiritual (Darton Longman Todd, 2004, 216 pages)

Fortunato, John E. Embracing the Exile: Healing Journeys of Gay Christians (Harper & Row) G

Gearhart, Sally Miller, and William Reagan Johnson. Loving women/loving men;: Gay liberation and the church (Glide Publications)

Gentilini, Joseph:  Hounded by God: A Gay Man’s Journey to Self-Acceptance, Love, and Relationship

Glaser, Chris: As My Own Soul: The Blessing of Same-Gender Marriage (Seabury Books)

Glaser, Chris: Coming Out to God: Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends (John Knox Press, 1991) 168 pages

Glaser, Chris:  Coming out As Sacrament

Glaser, Chris:  Come Home!: Reclaiming Spirituality and Community As Gay Men and Lesbians (Chi Rho Press).

Glaser, Chris:  The Word is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Glaser, Chris: Uncommon Calling: Gay Christian’s Struggle to Serve the Church

Godfrey, Donal: Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish (Lexington Books, 2007, 195 pages)

Goss, Robert:  Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto (Harper & Row, 1993) 240 pages

Goss, Robert: Queering Christ: Beyond JESUS ACTED UP

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word – A Queer Reading of the Bible

Gramick, Jeannine Furey, Pat (eds):The Vatican and Homosexuality : Reactions to the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of Homosexual PersonsCrossroad, 1988

Gramick, Jeannine &Nugent, Robert: Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church  Twenty Third Publications, 1992

Gramick, Jeannine: Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Gay & Lesbian Issues Centre for Homophobia Education, 1995

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache,(eds)The Queer Bible CommentaryLondon: SCM.

H

Haldeman, S. “A Queer Fidelity: Reinventing Christian Marriage.” Theology and Sexuality 13.2: 137–52.

Hanigan, James: Homosexuality: Test Case for Christian Sexual Ethics  (Theological Inquiries) (Paulist Press, 1988)

Hanks, Tom: The Subversive Gospel: A New Testament Commentary of Liberation (Pilgrim Press)

Hanvey, John Michael: Prayed Out: God in Dark Places

Hasbany, Richard: Homosexuality and Religion (Haworth Press, 1990) 231 pages

Heacock, Anthony:  Jonathan Loved David: Manly Love in the Bible and the Hermeneutics of Sex (Sheffield Phoenix Press)

Helminiak,Daniel: What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality
(Alamo Square Press, 1994 ) 149 pages

Helminiak,Daniel:  Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth
(Harrington Park Press, 2006) 235 pages

Henson, John: The Gay Disciple: Jesus’ Friend Tells It His Own Way (O Books, 2007)

Heyward, Carter:  Speaking of Christ: A Lesbian Feminist Voice Edited by Ellen C. Davis. (Pilgrim Press)

Heyward, Carter:    Saving Jesus From Those Who Are Right

Heyward, Carter:   Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God

Horner, Tom: Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times

Hubble, Christopher: Lord Given Lovers:the Holy Union of David & Jonathan (Hubble Books, 2003).

Hunt, Mary: Fierce Tenderness: Feminist Theology of Friendship (Crossroad, 1991)

I

Isherwood, Lisa & Stuart, Elisabeth Introducing Body Theology (Sheffield academic Press, 1998)

Isherwood, Lisa, and Mark D. Jordan, editors. Dancing Theology in Fetish Boots: Essays in Honour of Marcella Althaus-Reid (SCM Press)

Isherwood, Lisa, and Marcella Althaus-Reid. Trans/Formations  (SCM Press)

Isherwood, Lisa: The Power of Erotic Celibacy: Queering Heterosexuality  (T & T Clark

Isherwood, Lisa. The Sexual Theologian: A Primer in Radical Sex and Queer Theology

J

Jennings, Theodore W. Jacob’s Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel (Continuum)

Jennings, Theodore W. Plato or Paul?: The Origins of Western Homophobia

Jennings, Theodore W. The Man Jesus Loved (Pilgrim Press)

Jennings, Theodore W. Transforming Atonement: A Political Theology of the Cross

Jonson, Toby: Gay Perspective: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us About the Nature of God and the Universe

Jonson, Toby: Gay Spirituality: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness (White Crane )

Jordan, Mark: The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology  (University of Chicago Press, 1997)

Jordan, Mark:  The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism (University of Chicago Press, 2000)

Jordan, Mark:  Blessing Same-sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage(Univ of Chicago Press)

Jordan, Mark: Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk About Homosexuality . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jordan, Mark D.Meghan T. Sweeney, and David M. Mellott, editors.Authorizing Marriage?: Canon, Tradition, and Critique in the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Jordan, Mark D: Telling Truths in Church: Scandal, Flesh, and Christian Speech

K

Kamitsuka, Margaret D: The Embrace of Eros: Bodies, Desires, and Sexuality in Christianityy Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Karslake, DanielHelen Mendoza, and Nancy Kennedy. For The Bible Tells Me So [DVD]  New York: First Run Features. (film)

Keenan, James(ed): Catholic Ethicists on HIV/AIDS Prevention (Continuum, 2000)

Keenan, James:  History of Catholic Moral Theology in the Twentieth Century: From Confessing Sins to Liberating Consciences

Kelly, Kevin: New Directions in Sexual Ethics: Moral Theology and the Challenge of AIDS (Geoffrey Chapman, 1998)

Kelly, Kevin: From a Parish Base: Essays in Moral and Pastoral Theology (DLT, 1999)

Kelly, Michael B: Seduced by Grace: Contemporary spirituality, Gay experience and Christian faith

Knust, Jennifer Wright. Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and DesireNew York: HarperOne.

Kuefler, Mathew (ed.) The Boswell Thesis: Essays on Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality ‘ University of Chicago Press, 2006 

Kundtz, David, and Bernard Sloan Schlager: Ministry Among God’s Queer Folk: LGBT Pastoral Care (Pilgrim Press)

L

L’Empereur, James: Spiritual Direction & The Gay Person (Geoffrey Chapman, 1998)

Lamp, Walter: Biblical Sex, What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say About Sex and MarriageLings, K. Renato: Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible

Lopata, Mary Ellen:  Fortunate Families: Catholic families with lesbian daughters and gay sons (Trafford Publishin, 2006) 180 pages

Loughlin, Gerard, (ed)Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body
.  Malden, Mass: Blackwell Pub

 Lynch, Bernard: A Priest on Trial Bloomsbury, 1993

Lynch, Bernard: If it Wasn’t Love: Sex, Death and God

M

Macourt, Malcolm. Towards a Theology of Gay Liberation. London: SCM.

Macwilliam, Stuart. Queer Theory and the Prophetic Marriage Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible (BibleWorld) . Sheffield, U.K.: Equinox.

Marshall, Paul Victor. Same-Sex Unions: Stories and Rites Church Pub.

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Saviour: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation annotated Edition by Martin, Dale B. published by Westminster/John Knox Press,U.S. (2006)
Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

McGinley, DuganActs of Faith, Acts of Love: Gay Catholic Autobiographies as Sacred Texts
(Continuum, 2004)

McNaught, Brian: On Being Gay: Thoughts on Family, Faith, and Love (Stonewall Inn Editions)
 (St Martin’s Press, 1988)

McNaught, Brian: “Sex Camp”

McNeill, John: The Church and the Homosexual
(new ed) Beacon Press, 1996

McNeill, John: Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life For Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else
 (Beacon Press, 1995)

McNeill, JohnBoth Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey

McNeill, John: Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians and Their Lovers, Families and Friends Beacon Press, 1988, 1996

McNeill, John: Sex As God Intended  Lethe Press, 2008 

Michaelson, Jay. God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equalityy Beacon Press.

Miner, Jeff, and John Tyler Connoley. The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships (LifeJourney Press)

Mollenknott, Virginia Ramey Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach

Monette, Maurice: Confessions of a Gay Married Priest: A Spiritual Journey

Moore, Gareth OP:  The Body in Context: Sex and Catholicism
(Continuum Books, 2001)

Moore, Gareth OP: A Question of Truth : Christianity & Homosexuality
(Continuum Books, 2003) (Scripture, Theology, Sexuality)

Moore, Stephen D.  God’s Beauty Parlor: And Other Queer Spaces in and Around the Bible  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

N

Naphy, William G: Born to Be Gay: A History of Homosexuality

Nelson, James B:  Crossing Over: Liberating the Transgendered Christian Pilgrim Press.

Nelson, James B., and Sandra P. Longfellow, editors. Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection

Nissenen, Marti Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: An Historical Perspective

Noort, Edward, and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar. Sodom’s Sin: Genesis 18-19 and Its Interpretations  Brill.

Nyland, Ann. Study New Testament For Lesbians, Gays, Bi, And Transgender (Smith and Stirling).

O

O’Brien, Glen:Praying from the Margins: Biblical Reflections of a Gay Man
(The Columbia Press, Dublin. 2001)

O’Neill, Craig, and Kathleen Ritter. Coming Out within: Stages of Spiritual Awakening for Lesbians and Gay Men San Francisco, CA: Harper SanFrancisco.

O’Neill, Dennis Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive Peoples

P

Patterson, Linda J. Hate Thy Neighbor: How the Bible is Misused to Condemn Homosexuality

Peddicord, Richard: Gay and Lesbian Rights: A Question–Sexual Ethics or Social Justice? (Sheed & Ward, 1996)

Perry, Troy, with Charles L. Lucas.The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay: The Autobiography of the Reverend Troy D. Perry Nash Publishing.

Pomfrett, Scott:  Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir
(Arcade Publishing, 2008)

Q

Quattrocchi, Angelo:  The Pope is Not Gay!

R Ramer, Andrew. Queering the Text: Biblical, Medieval, and Modern Jewish Stories. Lethe Press.

Ramer, Andrew: Gay Soul: Finding the heart of gay spirit and nature

Ramer, Andrew: Two Flutes Playing: A Spiritual Journeybook for Gay Men (White Crane )

Robinson, Geoffrey: Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus (The Columba Press, 2007)

Rogers, Eugene F. Sexuality and the Christian Body: Their Way into the Triune God. Oxford: Blackwell

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church
Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Rudy, Kathy: Sex and the Church: Gender, Homosexuality and the Transformation of Christian Ethics

S

Scanzoni, Letha, and Virginia R. Mollenkott. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?? Revised and Updated: Positive Christian Response, A (Updated and revised in 1994.)

Schinnick, Maurice: This Remarkable Gift: Being Gay and Catholic
(Allen & Unwin, 1998)

Scroggs, Robin: The New Testament and Homosexuality (Augsburg Fortress, 1984)

Sharpe, Keith.  The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People O-Books. 

Shelton,David W.  The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity & The Homosexual Reconciled: Christianity & the Homosexual Reconciled  

Siker, Jeffrey L: Homosexuality and Religion: An Encyclopedia Smith, Richard: AIDS, Gays, And the American Catholic Church The Pilgrim Press, 1994

Sphero, M.W. The Gay Faith: Christ, Scripture, and Sexuality Herms Press.

Spong, John Shelby. Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality Harper & Row.

Stevenson, Thomas B:  Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men

Stone, Ken, editor. Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible (Library Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies) Pilgrim Press.

Stone, Ken: Practicing Safer Texts: Food, Sex, and Bible in Queer Perspective   T & T Clark International.

Stone, Ken. Sex, Honor and Power in the Deuteronomistic History JSOT Press.

Storey, William: A Book of Prayer: for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Crossroads, 2002 )

Stuart, Elisabeth: Daring to Speak Love’s Name: Celebration of Friendship Hamish Hamilton, 1992

Stuart, Elisabeth:Just Good Friends: Towards a Lesbian and Gay Theology of Relationships (Mowbray, 1995)

Stuart, Elisabeth: Christian Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender (Gracewing, 1995 )

Stuart, Elisabeth: People of Passion: What the Churches Teach About SexCo-authored with Thatcher, Adrian] (Mowbray, 1997)

Stuart, Elisabeth:Religion is a Queer Thing: Guide to the Christian Faith for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered People (Cassell, 1997)

Stuart, Elisabeth:Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference

Sullivan, Andrew: Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality (Picador, 1995)

Sullivan, Andrew: Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival(Chatto & Windus, 1998)

Sullivan, Andrew: Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con

P. Sweasey: From Queer to Eternity: Spirituality in the Lives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People 

T

Tanis, Justin Edward.  Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith . Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press.

Tigert, Leanne McCall, and Maren C. Tirabassi.  All Whom God Has Joined: Resources for Clergy and Same-Gender Loving Couples  Pilgrim Press.

Tigert, Leanne McCall, and Maren C. Tirabassi. Transgendering Faith: Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality  Pilgrim Press.

V

Vasey, M: Strangers and Friends: New Exploration of Homosexuality and the Bible

Via, Dan Otto, and Robert A. J. Gagnon. Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views Fortress Press.

W

White, Mel. Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America New York: Plume.

Wilson, Nancy L. Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible (Updated and revised in 2000.)

Wink, Walter, editor. Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for Churches Augsburg Fortress.

Woods, Richard: Another Kind of Love: Homosexuality and Spirituality  (St Thomas More Press, 1988)   (Page updated July 2012)

 

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“Amours”: A Supportive Reading of Aquinas

This book by an eminent theologian and expert on Aquinas caught my attention last year. Aquinas’ presentation of natural law theory is widely used as one of the cornerstones of traditional Catholic opposition to homosexuality, but in this book, Oliva finds a supportive reading. He notes that while Aquinas is clearly against same-sex genital acts in general, he does accept that for some people, an attraction to others of the same sex is entirely natural. Being a natural part of who they are, concludes Oliva, it is also natural, and acceptable, that they should express this in sexual love. This is not the first time the point has been made: John Boswell drew attention to it in his own discussion of Aquinas in “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality”, and Gareth Moore also touched on it in “A Question of Truth”. However, this is the first extended presentation, and the first by such a distinguished specialist on Thomas.
Oliva Amours

Continue reading “Amours”: A Supportive Reading of Aquinas

“Sacramental” Same-Sex Unions?

In recent years, it’s been notable how Christian responses to committed same-sex relationships have evolved, from universal hostility half a century ago, to a diversity of responses that range from  full-blooded acceptance of same-sex marriage, in church, and openly gay church leaders, to a more cautious “hate the sin, love the sinner”.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/18/most-u-s-christian-groups-grow-more-accepting-of-homosexuality/

Even in the Catholic church, there have been signs of some acceptance that committed same-sex unions may be sacramental, and deserving of formal blessings by the church, just as they were once done many centuries ago. This has been seriously proposed by many individual priests and theologians, and has even been formally discussed by the German bishops. (It’s entirely possible that with Pope Francis’ new emphasis on a more decentralized church, that such blessings in Germany will now continue, with at least tacit approval from the bishops, as long as they are “private”).

A recent book by Adriano Oliva OP, a distinguished theologian and specialist on Aquinas, a specialist in the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas, has provided sound theological support for the principle. In  Amours : L’Eglise, les divorcés remariés, les couples homosexuels”  he argues that contrary to the popular presentations, the great Thomas’ celebrated theory of Natural Law in fact supports committed relationships between same-sex couples with a natural orientation to the same sex.

The main thrust of his argument is that based on Aquinas’ teaching, we should accept that:

  • for some people, homosexual orientation is entirely natural
  • that for such people, loving same-sex relationships are good, and in accordance with divine plan
  • that their relationships should include sexual expression
  • that although being non-procreative, their unions can not be equated with marriage, they have intrinsic sacramental value of their own
  • and so, they deserve church blessings.

Among other delights, he quotes Aquinas using both Adam and Eve and the Holy Family to show that marriage is not all about procreation – and then uses Humanae Vitae, of all things, to make the same point himself.

Watch this space. Even with my limited French, with the help of the Google ebook edition and  Google translate, I’m finding a huge amount to treasure. As I work my way through it, I’ll have much more to share from this valuable new insight.

Book Review: “Covenant and Calling”.

I really would have liked to be able to recommend this book, but sadly, I simply cannot. In fact, When I was offered a review copy for Quest, I accepted gladly, looking forward to what seemed to be a worthwhile endeavour. Song’s aims are laudable, he’s a reputable academic in a good university with good credentials in both religion and queer studies (including queer theology). The reading list he provides as an appendix is good, with reliable texts by a balanced range of authors, and the book comes with warm endorsements from people I respect. Unfortunately, on first reading I was so repulsed that I could not even finish it, resulting in constant nagging from the Quest Bulletin editor, waiting for the promised review. On eventually picking it up again, my view had softened a little (I did at least complete a full, careful reading), but my core objections remain.

Covenant and calling

Song’s intention is to steer a calm, thoughtful middle course between the two hostile positions in the polemical struggles over gay marriage, and to come up with a proposal that will be acceptable to all but the extremists on both sides. The solution he comes up with has some merit, and is worth serious consideration: to restrict “marriage” to its traditional use with opposite – sex couples “for the purpose of procreation”, but to accept that same – sex couples also deserve recognition, albeit under a different name. This has been tried before, for example as “civil partnerships / civil unions” in secular law, but has been found wanting. Separate can never be equal, is the objection, and opposite – sex couples who cannot or do not want to procreate, are not excluded from marriage.

What makes this suggestion novel and not inherently discriminatory, is that unusually, he wants to restrict marriage, reserving it exclusively for those couples who do intend to have children. The important distinction, he argues, should not be based on the sex of the partners, but on their willingness and ability to bear children. It’s not a solution that I find particularly viable, but it is certainly one worth serious discussion.

What I found disappointing was not his proposal, but his reasoning, which is completely unconvincing. I was constantly left with the impression that he had reached a conclusion, and then looked for arguments to back it up. For instance, his central proposition is that in Christian tradition, marriage has “always” been between one man and one woman, for the purposes of procreation, depending heavily on Aquinas, who was clear that this is one of three goods of marriage. Yet he also acknowledges that there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that marriage is about babies. It’s a little strange, to say the least, that procreation is central to the Christian tradition, when there is no evidence at all that it mattered one iota to the key figure in that tradition, after whom it is named.

Far more serious, is the total absence of any consideration of the real history of marriage. The “Christian tradition” as he describes it, dates back to Augustine. That’s a major part of the full Christian history – but what he overlooks, is the distinction between theological theory, and actual marriage in practice. It was not until late in the first millenium, five centuries after Augustine, that the Church placed any importance on marriage in church – except for priests. For long after that, marriage was still not to have babies, but to protect the legal status and inheritance rights of those that resulted. The result was, that for ordinary people with no property to bequeath to their children, most simply did not bother with marriage, at all. That was reserved for the rich and powerful.

It is also disturbing that while claiming that tradition that doesn’t really exist, he ignores the fact that tradition and practice can change. An absolute prohibition on divorce for example, was a firm part of that tradition, with much stronger scriptural support, but his own Anglican church has been able to accommodate a change there. For same – sex couples, the traditional objection to same – sex relationships was not simply to marriage, but that they should not exist at all. Yet, he is able to accept a change in that tradition too, acknowledging that for people with a natural homosexual orientation, a committed, faithful sexual partnership with another may well be a valid calling, equal in value to either marriage or celibacy. If long – standing Christian tradition is able to adapt on those counts, why not on his core argument (resting on unsound foundations) that Christian tradition has “always” been between one man and one woman, for life – for the purposes of procreation?

Most damningly, for someone proposing what he thinks is a novel solution of “covenanted partnership”, there is not even a single word about a similar practice that was a fixture of Christian rites for many centuries in the early church. John Boswell has produced extensive evidence for the existence of formal liturgical rites in the Eastern church for blessing same – sex couples, and Alan Bray has found similar evidence in the Western church, where they were known as “sworn brothers” – or even, “wedded brothers”. Scholars disagree about the exact significance of these partnerships, and there are undoubtedly significant differences between this practice and the solution proposed by Spong. It is however, remarkable that he does not even attempt to acknowledge their existence, let alone discuss their relevance (or otherwise).

Among gay and lesbian Catholics, there is significant divergence of opinion concerning church response to same – sex couples. Even among those who support full legal equality in marriage, there are some gay Catholics who do not want their own unions called marriage, and certainly not in church. There are strong arguments from those quarters, for a revival of this tradition of blessing same – sex couples, without conferring the word “marriage”. On the other side of the debate, there are others who hold to the traditional teaching demanding celibacy for gay people, who also see value in reviving this tradition, on the basis that these unions were not necessarily sexual, but made provision for mutual companionship and support.

This is a discussion deserving serious attention. It is tragic that a writer proposing a “solution” along similar lines, has simply ignored the historical evidence, blithely accepting and basing his argument instead on the falsehood that Christian marriage has “always” between one man and one woman.

“Catamites and Sodomites” (Again).

A reader has alerted me to the inclusion in today’s Mass readings of some superficially nasty lines from Corinthians. She writes:

Thank God I’ve been pre-warned in a homily that Tuesday’s readings apparently condemn catamites and sodomites, so will miss Mass for once, as this terrible translation needs explanation by a competent priest.

I’m no priest, but based on my extensive reading of several eminent bible scholars, I’ll do my best.

Let’s begin with final paragraph of the text, as it appears in “Universalis, Mass readings for today” , and taken from the Jerusalem bible.

 You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God: people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God. These are the sort of people some of you were once, but now you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.

Other translations vary. These are the relevant lines from the lectionary at the USCCB site:

neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves

There’s “sodomites” again, but catamites has become “boy prostitutes”. (That reference to commercial sex is important, to which I’ll return later).

The details vary between translations, but the general sense appears to be clear – men who have sex with men are included in this list of reprobates. We must remember though, that none of these are the words that Paul actually wrote: he was writing in Greek, and we are looking at translations through a filter of 2000 years. The New International Version attempts to explain, with this translation and its footnote:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlerswill inherit the kingdom of God.

Footnotes:
  1. 1 Corinthians 6:9 The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.

That seems to settle it. The attempt however, is deceptive, because it is not at all clear that the “two Greek words” referred to, “malakoi” and “arsenekotoi” really should be translated in the way described. That may well be the most common translation in modern bibles, but it has not always been so, and is not the onlly reading, as many professional biblical scholars are beginning to acknowledge.

Dr Renato Lings is not only a biblical scholar, but also a linguist, In “Love Lost in Translation”, he examines minutely the various translations, and how they came about. Modern translations have been heavily influenced by earlier English versions,such as the King James and Geneva Bibles.

The King James Version (1611) has

neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

In the Geneva Bible (1599), we find

neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor wantons, nor buggerers,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God.

These in turn were initially based on Jerome’s fourth century Vulgate, translated from the original Greek into Latin. Every translation risks some loss of accuracy of meaning, and that applies as much to the Vulgate as to the earliest English translations, more than a thousand years later. The further back we go, it seems, the less clear is the connection that is so widely taken for granted today – that “malakoi” and “arsenekotoi” refer to men who have sex with men.

“Malakoi” is the easier to deal with, translated in the Vulgate by the Latin adjective “mollis“, usually translated as “soft”, which also seems to be a reasonable view of the Greek “malakoi“. But how did this come to be written as “catamites”, or “boy prostitutes” in the English and American lectionaries, or even with Wycliffe’s 1388 translation as “lechers against kind”? As Lings notes, this is surprising, and we need to look for alternative translations for “mollis”. In Latin (but not in the Greek counterpart, which Paul used), these alternatives include “effeminate”, “womanish”, “unmanly” and “weak”. From a modern perspective, conscious of twentieth century stereotypes of homosexual men as “pansies”, we can see how the connection of “effeminate” and “passive homosexual” was made, but that was not the view of the Romans, and still less of the Greeks.

John Boswell, Dale B Martin and others have noted that for the Romans, “effeminate” could apply more readily to men with an excessive lust for women, as to passive homosexuals, for whom there was an alternative, much more widely used word – “cinaedus“. In addition to the sense of “effeminate”, there were also other senses for “mollis”, including an excessive devotion to luxury, indolence and sensual indulgence in general (calling to mind the description in Ezekiel of the nature of the real sin of Sodom). Lings also notes that 1 Corinthians 6 is not the only text in which “malakos / malakoi” occurs. It also crops up in Matthew 11.8.where it refers unambiguously to clothing, and so is translated as fine, delicate, or soft.

Yet another important further translation of “malakoi” is “weakling” – which is the word used by the first English translators (Tyndale, 1526, followed by Coverdale, 1535 and the Bishops’ Bible of 1568) before the Geneva and King James versions introduced the sexual connotations that later came to be taken for granted. Paul wrote “malakoi” in Corinthians in the mid first century, but it took a millenium and a half for that term to be construed as referring to male homosexuality, in any form.

If the link from “malakoi” to the standard modern translations is tenuous, that for “arsenekotoi” is even more so, because nobody knows just what the word meant. Paul’ usage here is the earliest recorded use, anywhere. It could be that he coined the word deliberately for his purpose, but we are unable to ask him what he meant. The modern interpretation as “sodomite” or “active homosexual”, rests on two based. One, is that it is paired with malakoi – so that if malakoi refers to passive homosexuals, then its counterpart as active partners is reasonable. But if, as shown above, that interpretation for malakoi is incorrect, then that for arsenekotoi will be, too. The other is based on a linguistic analysis which argues that as the two parts of the Greek word refer to “men”, and to “bed”, then the sense must be men who like to bed other men. That conclusion is shaky: it could equally refer simply to men who are too fond of sleeping, or if bed is accepted as euphemism for sex, to men who are too fond of sex, in any form.

An alternative modern interpretation, accepting “malakoi” as applying to boy prostitutes, rests on the pairing of the two terms, and irs proximity in this list and also in 1 Timothy 1:10, to assorted forms of pecuniary sin – frauds, swindlers and usurers. That reading suggests that just as “malakoi” refers to boys who are exploited sexually for commercial gain, then its counterpart “arsenekotoi” applies to those who exploit them, either as pimps, or as slave traders dealing in male slaves for sexual use.

The simple truth is that we just don’t know with any certainty just what these troubling words in 1 Corinthians 6 really refer to – but we can be fairly sure that they do not refer to equality – based, mutually loving and non- exploitative same – sex relationships as we know them today, because these simply did not exist in Paul’s day. Gay Christians and their allies are often accused of twisting the bible to suit our own ends, but the reality is the reverse. As Dale B Martin has argued, it’s the late translations that have read the words from a heterosexist perspective, imposing their own hostile reading on two Greek words which may have had nothing whatever to do with male sexual relationships.

I end with an extract from Gay Christian 101

The Remarkable Semantic Shift

The remarkable semantic shift in the meaning of malakoi, which by 1958, came to equate malakoi with homosexuality instead of softness, moral weakness or effeminacy, was not prompted by new linguistic evidence. Instead, cultural factors influenced modern translators to inject anti-homosexual bias into their translation.

In ancient times, the malakos word group never referred exclusively to homosexuals and lesbians. The malakos stem rarely, if ever, referred to homosexual behavior. In ancient times, it was sometimes used to refer to heterosexual men who followed the Greek custom of shaving the face daily.

For example: “Until Scipio Aemilianus (185-129 BC) made it fashionable, daily shaving was considered an affectation of the effeminate Greeks.” (The Immense Majesty, A History of Rome and the Roman Empire, Thomas W. Africa, 1991, Harlan Davidson, Inc, p. 148). How times have changed. Few these days regard daily shaving of facial hair as effeminate.

Books

“God and the Gay Christian”: WHY Religious Conservatives Are Running Scared.

In my previous post, I noted the furious and frenzied response by some conservative Christians to Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian”, suggested that the reason for the extraordinary strength of this reaction was that they are “running scared”.  I had barely published that piece, when my speculation was confirmed, by the reactionaries themselves, in the book they have rushed out to counter Vines’ argument:

God and the Gay Christian, response to Vines

Right up front, on the first page of the first chapter of the book, they concede directly that they (the anti – gay defenders of prejudice) are the last outpost of anti-gay religious discrimination and prejudice (except that naturally enough, they don’t call it anti- gay prejudice, preferring to claim that theirs is adherence to biblical truth). R Albert Mohler Jnr. writes:

Evangelical Christians in the United States now face an inevitable moment of decision. While Christians in other movements and in other nations face similar questions, the question of homosexuality now presents evangelicals in the United States with a decision that cannot be avoided. Within a very short time, we will know where everyone stands on this question. There will be no place to hide, and there will be no way to remain silent. To be silent will answer the question. The question is whether evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over 2,000 years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage.

They have good reason to be worried. There is now abundant evidence from social surveys that in Europe and the America’s, the tide is turning rapidly in favour of gay marriage, especially among the young. In many countries of the world, Pew Research has found that a majority do not believe that homosexuality is morally unacceptable – and that includes many Christians.

Several denominations no longer exclude gay men or lesbians from ministry, others permit either church weddings or church blessings for same – sex couples. Vines’ critics argue that this is diluting or ignoring biblical truth to accommodate Western liberal, secular values, but what this ignores, is that in every denomination which has changed its regulations, the change has been preceded by extensive study, prayer, listening and discussion among members of the church. This question of study is important. Writing about the conservative response to Vines, Owen Strachan noted that unlike his critics, Vines is not a scholar – but immediately gives away the weakness in his own scholarship. In attempting to refute Vines’ observation that neither homosexual practice nor what could be called homosexual “orientation” is approved of or legitimated in biblical doctrine, Strachan quotes from his chapter on the historical perspective, in which he refers to the fourth century writings of Ambrose and John Chrysostom.

These, however, are commentaries on scripture, their interpretations of the biblical words, and not found in the Good Book itself. Vines claim is absolutely accurate. Strachan’s references to Ambrose and John Chrysostom are telling: his need to quote from fourth century writers, because there are no biblical texts to support him, reveals a fundamental weakness in their entire case. It is simply not true that there exists, as they claim. an “unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over 2,000 years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage”.

As a scholar claiming to know something of the history of church teaching on the subject, Strachan should know, as Renato Lings, Theodore Jennings and others have shown, that the fourth century iinterpretations by Ambrose and Chrysostom differed from those of the first century when the texts were written, heavily influenced by non-Christian writers. Similarly, it is now well – established that the familiar identification of the modern word “sodomy” with the original “sin of Sodom” was a medieval invention, and the many changes in Christian understandings of marriage are too numerous to go into here.

The fact is, that the conservatives arguing against full LGBT inclusion in church rest their case on shaky ground, and they know it. Just as David Cameron declared his support for gay marriage not in spite of being a Conservative, but because he is a Conservative, many Christians are now declaring their support for full LGBT inclusion in church not in spite of being Christian – but because, as Christians, they believe that their faith demands it.

This applies also among Evangelicals, In the USA, there is now a majority of Evangelical millenials in support of full marriage equality, and additional support of legal recognition for civil unions.without the name of marriage. They know, from deep within their hearts or from the experience of their peers, and from the findings of science, that a same – sex affectional orientation is entirely natural, God-given and non-pathological. They also know from experience, their own or their friends’, that attempting to deny this basic truth in accordance with traditional church teaching and regulations gives rise to immense psychological, emotional and spiritual harm, seeming to contradict what they also know of God’s unconditional love for all.

One of the most useful passages in God and the Gay Christian is Vines reflection on the biblical verse, “by their fruits you shall know them”. In his own life, and that of others he was able to observe, he noted that for naturally gay and lesbian people, the fruits of acknowledging honestly the truth of their natural orientation was positive, leading to what in natural law is termed “human flourishing” – and the fruits of denial, for example in the attempts of ex-gay organisations at conversion therapy, were frequently downright tragic.  (Jeremy Marks, who once led an ex-gay ministry in the United Kingdom, aptly described this with another apt biblical phrase, “Exchanging God’s Truth for a Lie”).

Before the publication of this book, Vines had already attracted substantial public attention with his widely viewed Youtube video on the subject, which forms the heart of the book’s content. With the launch of his follow – up Reformation Project, he has an extensive, established base of followers to promote the book, and its ideas.

 

Recommended Books

Countryman, L.WilliamDirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today .

Glaser, Chris: The Word Is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache, (eds)The Queer Bible Commentary

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality

Jennings, Theodore: Plato or Paul?: The Origins of Western Homophobia

Jordan, Mark: The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology

Lings, Renato: Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible

Marks, Jeremy: Exchanging the Truth of God for a Lie

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Sharpe, Keith. The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People.

 

“God and the Gay Christian”: Religious Conservatives Are Running Scared.

Within days of its publication, Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian” has evoked a flurry of angry denunciation from a wide range of Christian bloggers and scholars, with news headlines like “Pro-gay book ‘exceedingly dangerous’”, “Pro-gay book departs from Christian tradition”, “Should Christians Use the Term “Gay Christian”?” (the writer thinks not), “Haven’t You Read? Answering a modern-day Pharisee”, “Some Honest Questions for Professing ‘Gay Christians’”, “A shameful day in evangelical Christian publishing” and“Deception: Christian publisher sells soul for mammon”

God and the Gay Christian

The extent of this reaction is remarkable. “God and the Gay Christian” is hardly the first book to challenge conservative Christian conventional wisdom on the subject, and not even the first from a conservative, Evangelical perspective. The Anglican Canon Derrek Sherwen Bailey began the reassessment of the biblical evidence almost sixty years ago, and has since been followed by a wide range of scholars and other writers, from the full range of Christian faith traditions, including Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and more.

Nor is it necessarily the best, by any standard – certainly not in terms of scholarship. One of the interesting responses to the book is a newly published e-book by faculty from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,  “God and the Gay Christian? a response to Matthew Vines. Writing about this at Patheos, Owen Strachan notes

Vines’s book is not dense in terms of scholarship. Hamilton and Burk catch numerous exegetical flaws and errors in his argumentation that their facility with their original languages allows. Indeed, one sees the strength of a program of scholarship in comparing the two books. Vines is a smart person, but he has no formal theological credentials. Hamilton and Burk are able to offer numerous critiques that Vines’s book cannot treat.

– “Thoughtlife”, Patheos blogs

In my own review, I found that although the book has much to recommend it, I had some quibbles of my own: there is some arrogance in seeing himself as a unique trailblazer, and an uncomfortable blending of form: biblical commentary bookended by the story of his personal journey of discovery.

If it’s not the first, or the best, of its kind – why has it provoked such a strong response from his critics?

The answer, I suspect, is that they are running scared. Public assessments of same – sex relationships is changing rapidly, even among evangelical Christians, and the defenders of continued discrimination and exclusion know it.

Quite why (in my view) these conservatives should be “running scared”, I leave for my next post.

Recommended Books

Vines, Matthew: God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships

Countryman, L.WilliamDirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today .

Glaser, Chris: The Word Is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache, (eds)The Queer Bible Commentary

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Sharpe, Keith. The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People.

 “God and the Gay Christian” (Matthew Vines)

For over half a century, since the pioneering work of Canon Sherwen Derrek Bailey, bible scholars have been reassessing what was one a commonly accepted view that the bible strongly and obviously condemned homosexuality. By the twenty first century, what was once a trickle of revisionist books on the subject has become a torrent: a book search on Amazon with the terms “bible” and “homosexuality” will turn up many more titles which either reject the traditional biblical view, or accept that there is room for disagreement, than those still insisting that the biblical view is hostile.

These reassessments, applying particularly to the six “clobber texts” take many different forms, varying from scholar to scholar and from verse to verse.  Some follow Bailey in pointing to internal Biblical evidence that contradicts the idea that the destruction of Sodom was because of same – sex practices. Others, notably William Countryman, show that the Levitical prohibition was part of the Jewish purity code, and so is not applicable to Christians, just as compulsory male circumcision and kosher dietary laws are not. Boswell and others deal with Paul’s complaint in Romans about men who act “against nature” with other males, by reminding us that for those with an inherently same – sex orientation, it is heterosexual, intercourse that is truly unnatural – and so the apparent prohibition does not apply. Still others have examined problems of translation and mistranslation or argued that the problem lies not in understanding or interpreting the texts, but in applying them to modern conditions and understandings of sexuality.

God and the Gay Christian

Some of these new books becoming available are aimed at the general reader, summarizing and presenting the range of scholarly material in more accessible forms, others present fresh, independent scholarship for an academic or specialist audience. I’ve been reading two very different new books, one from each of these perspectives. Each offers something new to what is already available, and each can be recommended, for its own intended market. I begin with Matthew Vines “God and the Gay Christian”, firmly in the former category and easily accessible by an interested general reader. I will get to the scholarly work of Renato Lings tomorrow.

If “Love Lost in Translation” is an academic work of scholarship, possibly intimidating to non – specialists, then Matthew Vines “God and the Gay Christian” is the reverse – primarily a summary account of familiar, existing work on the half dozen most notorious clobber texts. Those coming to the subject for the first time will find the book valuable for its clarity of exposition. Vines has shown previously (on – tube) that he is a gifted communicator in speech, and he shows similar skill in managing text. Those who are already familiar with the extensive corpus already published by trailblazing scholars and other popularizers may find the treatment of these key bible verses useful as clear summary, but with little new to offer.

What made the book particularly interesting to me though, was not these central chapters, but the opening and closing chapters which book – end it, and justify its sub-title, “The Biblical Case in Support of Same – Sex Relationships”.  Vines is a young man from a conservative Protestant background, raised by deeply religious parents who, together with the rest of their Presbyterian congregation in Kansas, shared in the traditional views that Christianity were bitterly unhappy when the majority of their denomination took decisions that led to the ordination of openly gay, partnered  clergy. They shared the traditional view, that is, until Vines began to realise that he too was gay, and the day that he came out to his father was described as the “worst day of my dad’s life”. In the opening chapters, which I found to be the most absorbing part of the book, he discusses his personal journey of biblical exploration and discovery. Unable either to reject the Bible or to renounce his sexual orientation, he took a year out of college for intensive study of the Biblical sources, and other relevant material. I found that these opening chapters left me with some notable and useful new insights, especially some extracts he quotes from Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body.  These assure us that celibacy is difficult and a gift, not a command, and so is not required of all. Those for who have not been given the gift of voluntary celibacy, says John Paul, should marry. Noting that for inherently gay people, heterosexual marriage is not an option, Vines’ conclusion is that this necessarily means same – sex marriage. I cannot fault the logic, but never expected to find an endorsement of gay marriage, even indirectly, from Pope John Paul!

He returns to this subject in the closing chapters, putting the case for same – sex marriage, including blessing and affirmation of same – sex covenanted relationships in church. Finally, he closes with a chapter called “Seeds of a Modern Reformation”, seemingly a reference to his fascinating program for evangelising LGBT inclusion in church, “The Reformation Project”. In fact, he gives not too much about his own project, but does profile three other notable activists for LGBT inclusion, Kathy Baldock (renowned for her work as a straight ally, and her “straight apologies” at Pride parades), Justin Lee (founder of the Gay Christian Network website and conferences and author ofTorn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate), and Dr James Brownson, father of a gay son and author of Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships

I have some quibbles. I was left with an uneasy feeling that this should really have been two books, one on defences against textual abuse of the Bible, and another combining his opening and closing chapters – covering more of his personal journey, the affirmative texts he presents, and how the biblical case for affirming our relationships, and the development and plans for his Reformation Project.

Although his presentation of the defensive chapters is clearly presented, generally reliable and backed by extensive reading, there are weaknesses. His discussion of Sodom and Genesis 19 accepts without question the standard translation of the key verse, “Let them come out, so that we can have sex with them” – even though his own analysis of all the other Biblical references to Sodom make it clear that there is no sexual association at all (not even as male rape).

Much of his argument is based on the contrast in understanding of sexuality between classical times, when there was no conception of homosexual people, or orientation, and modern understanding, in which people are understood to be either heterosexual or homosexual, with no possibility of a change in orientation. He’s right, but the treatment is simplistic: he completely ignores the possibility of bisexuality, for instance, and oversimplifies the Roman position.

I was also somewhat irritated by what comes across at times as a degree of youthful arrogance. He presents his “third way” in reconciling biblical authority with sexual integrity by reinterpreting the texts for modern conditions, as something new and original, which it is not. Others have been doing it for decades, as he well knows (he has drawn heavily on their work). In celebrating his allies on the Reformation Project, he completely ignores the extensive similar work that others have been doing since before he was born, including many in his own denomination.

But these are quibbles. Anyone coming to the subject for the first time, will find a readable, clearly presented response to the half dozen problematic texts, and those already familiar with those will find a moving story of a young man confronting the challenge of being both gay and Evangelical Christian, and supported by his father, finding a way to reconcile both, with integrity

Recommended Books

Countryman, L.WilliamDirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today .

Glaser, Chris: The Word Is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache, (eds)The Queer Bible Commentary

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Sharpe, Keith. The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People.

The Distorted Christian Tradition of the Sodomy Myth (2)

The remarkable thing about the Christian tradition that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was because of the sin of homoerotic sex, is that this was never part of the Jewish tradition: not in the Hebrew Bible (First, or Old Testament), not in the Apocrypha, not in the Pseudepigrapha, and not in the Rabbinic tradition that followed. The obvious question that follows, is quite how did the Christian theologians get it so wrong, using a strong condemnation against oppression, injustice and lack of hospitality to strangers, to justify their own persecution, oppression, and explicit refusal of hospitality in Church to sexual and gender minorities?

sodom

In tracing the historical development of what is clearly a distorted tradition, Renato Lings draws on the commentaries of the story from each historical tradition – and simultaneously describes how changes in language over those centuries meant that later commentators, up to the medieval scholastics, were depending on texts which had been through multiple translations, losing some of the subtlety and nuance of the original, and also had suffered corruption from copying errors.

A long church tradition may have led to errors of misinterpretation end errors of translation, some of which continue to affect todays versions of the Bible. Since the issues addresses by the Hebrew prophets are idolatry, pride, social injustice and oppression, it is indeed remarkable that today’s scholarly consensus emphasizes sexual violence.

Continue reading The Distorted Christian Tradition of the Sodomy Myth (2)