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”.

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“Eternal Bliss” – SS Felicity and Perpetua, March 7th

Felicitas Perpetua” = eternal bliss – and also the names of the two saints the Catholic Church remembers and celebrates every year on March 7, SS Felicity and Perpetua, who were martyred together in Carthage in 203. Their story is not well known, but their names are familiar to Catholics as one of many same sex couples listed in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. These paired names are an echo of their place in the ancient rite of adelphopoeisis (literally, “making of brothers”), the liturgical rite once used to bless same sex unions in Church.

As two women martyred together, and from the kiss of peace which they exchanged at the end, they are frequently described as a lesbian counterpart to Sergius and Bacchus. This is inaccurate. Their relationship was not primarily one of lovers in the modern sense, but of mistress and slave. But that description is also inaccurate to modern ears, as it overlooks the very different status of women,and the very different nature of marriage relationships, in Roman times. In the journal kept by Perpetua (from which we know the story), she never once even mentions her husband. It is entirely possible (even probable?) that whatever the nature of her sexual life, Perpetua’s emotional involvement with Felicity may have been more important than her relationship with her husband.

 

 

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The Transformation of Christian Response to Homoerotic Love

You’d never guess it if your only knowledge of the churches and homosexuality came from Focus on the Family, NOM or California Catholic Daily in the US, or from Christian Voice or the rule-book Catholic blogs in the UK, or from breakaway groups in the Anglican communion worldwide, but we are in the midst of a dramatic, wholesale transformation of the Christian churches’ response to homoerotic relationships. This is clearly leading in the direction of full inclusion in church for queer Christians, and for evaluating couple relationships and their recognition in church on a basis of full equality. This is bound to lead in time to profound improvements in the  political battles for full equality, and in the mental health of the LGBT Christian community.

These are bold statements. Am I mistaken? Am I deluding myself? It is of course possible that this is a case of wishful thinking, that I am misreading or exaggerating the evidence.  It’s possible – but I don’t think so. The evidence is compelling, if not yet widely noted. To substantiate my argument, I want to present the facts, and their implications, in some detail. As there is too much for a single post, I begin today with just a summary, as heads of argument. I will expand on the main sections in later posts, which I have in preparation.

(For now, I have made no attempt to supply detailed substantiation or links – these will follow, as I expand later on each specific theme).

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Image via Wikipedia

 

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Gay Activists Focus on Faith: No Monopoly for the “Religious Police”

Far too often, faith and LGBT sexuality are seen as polar opposites, necessarily in opposition. The result is that some people of faith see it as their religious duty to promote prejudice or even violence and murder, with tragic results as in Uganda (but also in countless hate crime murders in Western countries, too). Conversely, too many people in the queer community simply dismiss all religious belief and practice as inherently bigoted, incapable of offering anything in their lives. Both positions are fatally flawed.

I liked this video by a young Australian gay Christian, who points out (quite correctly) that the “moral police” do not have a monopoly on faith.

In the video, he makes clear that as a gay man of faith he is vehemently opposed to “Christian political parties trying to be the moral police over the rest of society.”

“I believe it’s a very poor representation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the community, to the gay and lesbian community, to Sydney city in general, and especially to the Christian Church… the church is much bigger than them and their bigoted and limited ideas and understanding,” Grebart blasted Maddon’s actions in drumming up a “battlecry” protest against the Mardi Gras parade.

If Christians (and people of other faiths) need to treat sexual minorities with greater respect and inclusion, then the converse also holds. Gay activists need to recognize the influence that faith exerts in some people’s political thinking – and engage with religious communities on their own terms. A conference of activists in Minneapolis is doing just that:

Gay Activist Conference In Minn. Has Faith Focus

Whenever Nicole Garcia visited gay-friendly churches with large numbers of Hispanic people in the congregation, she would check the brochures and other materials geared toward gay churchgoers and their families and usually find a common theme.

“Typically what I’d see are materials written for white families and translated into Spanish,” said Garcia, a Denver-based transgender activist who works with several gay-friendly faith groups. “That’s appreciated, but you have to understand that you’re talking about a totally different set of issues in many cases.”

On Wednesday, Garcia and several hundred other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists who work within multiple faith communities will gather in Minneapolis as part of the much larger National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual conference. Garcia will lead a Latino working group, one of several such groups aimed at a greater diversity in gay religious activism — an arena that convention co-organizer the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel said “has been largely defined by white folks.”

In recent years, gay activists have won some major battles within several traditionally white, middle-class denominations. Both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church now allow openly gay clergy, and several other Protestant denominations have been moving in that direction.

-Read more at NPR

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No Room at the Inn: The False Divide of Gay v Christian

The recent award of damages to a same-sex couple who were denied accommodation by Christian hoteliers, continues to draw extensive coverage and comment in the British press. On the one hand, it seems that the B&B/hotel hosts are now receiving extensive hate-mail and nuisance calls and other harassment, including numerous attempted bookings by other gay couples threatening to launch follow-up legal actions if their bookings are denied. (The place is currently closed for the off-season, so no bookings are being accepted for anyone. Mrs Bull has not indicated what she will do if these bookings continue in the summer). Such harassment is clearly despicable and uncalled-for.

On the other, this harassment has led to her being portrayed in some quarters as a Christian martyr, standing up for her religious convictions. This is patent nonsense. If her religious convictions lead her to disapprove of lesbian sex, she need not engage in it. Religious freedom does not extend to the freedom to impose her religious beliefs on her guests. Presumable she also disapproves of masturbation. Does she have signs in her rooms warning that jerking off in the bath is forbidden?

She claims that she is not discriminating against gays in particular, but only against unmarried couples. This too is hogwash. In British law, here guests are married –  except that the technical legal term for their union (unjustly) is “civil partnership”, not marriage.

But the most serious complaint against their action, for a couple claiming to be acting from Christian belief, is that is totally contrary to the Christian Gospels, and the practice of Jesus Christ himself.

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Discrimination: Homophobia, or a Christian Duty?

In the eyes of the British courts, the answer is clear:discrimination against lesbian or gay people is against the law, and religious freedom is not a justification for denying equal treatment to all.

In a British example, one married couple who run a Cornish B&B refused to allow another married couple who had booked accommodation to share a double bed, insisting that their religious convictions did not permit them to accept unmarried couples. Their would-be guests,  Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, are both male, and so technically are “civil partners”, not conventionally married. In the eyes of the law however, there is no distinction, as the judge made clear to the defendants, Peter and Hazelmary Bull. He said that he fully accepted the sincerity of their beliefs, but that the law did not permit them to discriminate, and awarded Hall and Preddy £1800 damages each. Expect howls of outrage from the religious right, who will complain once again that Christians are being discriminated against, and that religion is being marginalised in this “secular” society.

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Christ into Christianity: Essential Self-Giving

There are many aspects to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. However you view the Christian story though, one feature has got to be pre-eminent: the self-sacrifice on the cross and the associated resurrection. It follows then that this comprehensive self-giving is one essential characteristic of the followers of Christ, the Christians. The CDF states, entirely without substantiation, that as gay men and lesbians, we lack this “essential self-giving” that is a mark of Christianity.

When I came across this assertion in “Homosexualitatis Problema”, I was puzzled. Other than self-giving in sex for procreation, I could not see any sense of self-giving that necessarily excluded gay men and lesbians. Research and anecdotal evidence in fact, is the exact opposite gay men typically are far better represented in the altruistic service professions of nursing, teaching, social work, librarianship and the priesthood itself than straight men – and markedly under-represented in the self-centred, greed-based professions of finance and business. Puzzled by the CDF claim, I wrote to several priests and former priests with greater knowledge of the Gospels than I, to see if I have missed something in the Gospels that might justify the CDF statement. I have already reported James Alison’s response (which I repeat below). I also liked the response of the priest who calls himself “Bart” on these pages, for its citing of the Gospel texts that elaborate on the meaning of “self-giving”  – and its demonstration that these simply do not apply in the way that the CDF intends:

 

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