Queer Theology as “Radical Love”- Patrick Cheng

Gay and lesbian theology has been around as a distinctive sub-discipline of theology for several decades.  Later, Queer Theology developed with its own distinctive identity, as Stuart describes in “Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Difference“, a book I have found immensely useful in its tracing of the development of the different branches of theology with explicit focus on the LGBT/ queer community. However, this book was published back in 2oo?  and does not offer much on queer theology specifically beyond discussing its origins, and its strengths compared with earlier approaches.

Gerald Loughlin’s “Queer Theology” is valuable for gathering together a collection of impressive monographs by a range of authors, but it seems that there has not yet been a full length, introductory text book on the subject. That is about to change, with the imminent publication of Patrick Chen’s “Radical Love”.

Cheng’s colleague Kwok Pui Lan  has this to say about the book, in a review at her blog:

While queer theory could be highly theoretical and off-putting, Cheng’s Radical Love summarizes the contributions of queer theology in the last fifty years in an accessible and readable way.

So what is “queer”? This term was used in a derogatory way, but has been reappropriated as a neutral or positive term since the late 1980s. Cheng defines “queer” in an inclusive manner: as an umbrella term that refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and their allies; as a label that embraces transgressive actions against societal norms, with respect to sexuality and gender identity; and as a term used to subvert and erase boundaries especially in queer theory.

After tracing the genealogy of queer theology, the book proceeds to discuss the three persons of the Trinity, following the framework of ancient creeds. God is the sending forth of radical love, Christ can be seen as the recovery of radical love, and the Holy Spirit as the return of radical love.

This emphasis on God is typical of Cheng – and one of the features that Stuart says distinguishes queer theology from the gay and lesbian theologies that preceded it. (She places the origins of distinctly Queer theology in Robert Goss’s Jesus Acted Up, with its firm focus on Christology).

Another distinguishing feature, says Stuart, is a movement away from the sexual definitions that characterize gay and lesbian theology and gay and lesbian studies, with the inevitable alphabet soup of acronyms that result from the very correct desire to ensure that no minority is excluded. Instead, queer theorists and queer theologians simply insist on an end to the need for categorization:

Following queer, poststructuralist, and postcolonial theorists, Cheng questions the rigid boundaries such as the East and the West, homosexual and heterosexual, male and female, and divine and human. He argues that Christian theology is a queer enterprise, destabilizing all kinds of fixed binary categories. Queer theologians insist that gender identity and sexuality are social constructs, and these constructs are often deployed to provide sanctions for the status quo. To “queer” is to challenge “common sense” and to render what is hidden, transparent. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has used Natural Law to justify its arguments in favor of heterosexuality and procreation. But biologist Bruce Bagemihl in his book Biological Exuberance shows that hundreds of animal species engage in homosexual, bisexual, and transgender behavior. While feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether has questioned, “Can a male savior save women?” queer theologians go a step further to queer the gender and sexual identity of Jesus.

I look forward to the publication of “Radical Love”. In the meantime, you should read Kwok Pui Lan’s complete review. For a taste of Cheng’s own writing, see his extended essay on Christology for LGBT Christians, which is available on-line in a series at Jesus in Love blog.

Here is another extract describing the book, taken from Google Books:

Contextual theologies have developed from a number of perspectives — including feminist theology, Black theology, womanist theology, Latin American liberation theology, and Asian American theology — and a wide variety of academic and general introductions exist to examine each one.

However, Radical Love is the first introductory textbook on the subject of queer theology.

Queer theology is concerned with questions about the meaning of existence, as posed by lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, and other “queer” seekers. The classic problems of theology apply: the problems of both natural and human evil; the problem of “God,” or the ultimate source of the universe; the problem of the purpose of human life; the problem of ethical conduct; and the problem of human desire for eternal life.

Part One of this new book provides a historical survey of how queer theology has developed from the 1950’s to today. Part Two is a substantive, but highly readable introduction to the themes of queer theology using the ecumenical creeds as a general framework. Topics include revelation, God, Trinity, creation, Jesus Christ, atonement, sin, grace, Holy Spirit, church, sacraments, and last things, as seen through the lenses of LGBT theologians.

Recommended Books:

Althaus-Reid, Marcella : Indecent Theology

Cheng, PatrickRadical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology

Goss, Robert: Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto

Goss, Robert: Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus Acted Up

Loughlin, Gerald: Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body (BBPG)

Stuart, ElisabethGay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Difference


My Related Posts

Christianity is a Queer Thing – Elisabeth Stuart

Gay / Liberation Theology: An “Exodus”

Lesbian / Feminist Theology: Sensuous, Erotic


Related Posts Elsewhere

Radical Love by Patrick S. Cheng (kwokpuilan.blogspot.coml

Rev. Patrick S. Cheng, Ph.D.: Faith, Hope and Love: Ending LGBT Teen Suicide (huffingtonpost.com)

Cheng’s Series at Jesus in Love Blog Series on Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT Christians:

Erotic Christ

Out Christ

Liberator Christ

Transgressive Christ

Hybrid Christ


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One Response to “Queer Theology as “Radical Love”- Patrick Cheng”

  1. Jared Says:

    Just to let you know, Amazon shows that the book has already been published. I haven’t gotten it yet, but I look forward to reading it when I do.

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