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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Heed the Message of Christ: Queering Galatians

As we continue to consider the person of Jesus Christ, we must think also of what he expects of us. Above all he sends us out into the world to carry his message. This is what is meant by “apostle” – one who is sent as a messenger. We are all (or should be) apostles, and the world we are to carry the message to is our own, contemporary world, with its modern conditions and circumstances.

It is in this spirit that  Rev Steven Parelli, executive director  of Other Sheep, has posted an adaptation and paraphrase of Paul’s letter to the Galatians., that he prepared in the immediate aftermath of the Equality March in Washington D. C. This is a text that he once memorized in an attempt to fight against his same-sex attraction – but reassessing it in personal, modern terms has given it a very different complexion:

When I was in my freshman year of Bible college, I memorized most of the book of Galatians by heart (and filled five notebooks with personal study notes) ….for the purpose of helping me to overcome my “temptation” to same-sex sex (which I now realise is not a temptation but an orientation).

Last night while on the bus that brought us home from the National Equality March in Washington,  D. C., I went over chapter 1 of Galatians in my mind as well as read it from the NT Bible I had with me. …….Once I queered the very first word “Paul” as “we who strive for the equality rights of LGBT people”, I was off and running. And then the text spoke to me, as many texts from the Bible have spoken to other oppressed peoples of former and present times.

Apostles for Today

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“Coming Out”: A Gospel Command.

When I wrote yesterday about Fr Donal Godfrey’s homily to Most Holy Redeemer parish on “Finding God in the Erotic”, I referred in passing to another of his sermons, in which he compared coming out to Jesus’ command to Lazarus, to come out of the tomb. In doing so, I completely and stupidly overlooked a golden opportunity – yesterday in the US was “national coming out day”.

091011 OLYMPUS LGBT Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans...

091011 OLYMPUS LGBT Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Straight allies NCOD National Coming Out Day March across GGB 2009! (Image by niiicedave via Flickr)

As rather poor excuse, I remind you that I am not American. In compensation, now that I do not need to synchronise with the calendar, I have the opportunity to bring you instead a series of the best I have seen elsewhere on the religious importance of coming out.

The coalition of gay Catholic organizations “Equally Blessed” follows Fr Godfrey in reflecting on the Lord’s command to Lazarus, but as a more recent offering, with specific reference to coming out day, this is my first choice. (For Fr Godfrey’s take on the same theme, see the Gay Catholic Forum.)

The Spiritual Side of Coming Out

By Francis DeBernardo, Marianne Duddy-Burke,
Casey Lopata and Nicole Sotelo

Today is National Coming Out Day, a day set aside as a special time of reflection and celebration by gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) advocacy groups to highlight the unique perspective of GLBT people in “coming out of the closet” to acknowledge, embrace, and communicate their sexual orientation and gender identity. Read the rest of this entry »

The Rosary for October: Subversive, Queer. (Repost, Updated)

May is Mary’s month and I
Muse at that and wonder why?
Her feasts follow reason
Dated due to season:
Candlemas, Lady Day
But the Lady Month, May
Why fasten that upon her
With a feasting in her honour?

-GM Hopkins, the May Magnificat

virgin-mary-statue

Why, indeed?  For reasons I have never clearly understood, this is one of my favourite poems by the gay English Jesuit GM Hopkins,  which has stuck firmly in my memory since my school days.  ( It was note even one that I studied in school, but one I found in my own exploration of Hopkins’ work, inspired by those poems we did study. Apologies to GMH if my memory has failed me and I have misquoted him).

October too is a Marian month, and a time to be thinking particularly of the rosary.

The extract above, and that which follows, are taken from a post I wrote for October last year. The original post drew some encouraging comment, October is still the rosary month, and it is still useful to consider how we pray the rosary.  That alone makes it worth re-posting. However there is another reason to consider this afresh. Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Relationships, Cardinal Schonborn, & Church Reform

I’m a little slow in noting this, but last week marked three months since then Cardinal Schonborn, cardinal archbishop of Vienna, suggested that it might be time for the Church to rethink its stance on homosexual relationships, considering the quality of the relationships, rather than simply the “acts”, which is the sole focus of the Vatican document, “Homosexualitatis Problema” (“HP”). This seemingly obvious, eminently rational suggestion is nevertheless so out of kilter with the official stance embodied in HP that I have been waiting and watching carefully for any sign of refutation or repudiation, but there has still not been anything of the sort. Read the rest of this entry »

Water Into Wine: Jesus’ Gay Wedding at Cana

Yesterday I dipped into two books, and found ideas that amplified  each other with powerful effect, especially in the current context of advances for marriage equality and the bishops’ opposition. “Take Back the Word” (ed Robert Goss) is a compilation of writings on Scripture designed to take us as queer Christians beyond battles with the “texts of terror”, to an approach more in keeping with what it should be, a source of inspiration and value in our lives.  “Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body ” (ed Gerard Loughlin) is a broader and more ambitious compilation, of writing on a range of the dimensions of faith from a queer perspective.

 

Who was getting married?

 

In the introduction to his book, Loughlin reflects on the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana, (John 2: 1 – 11) which we usually think of in terms of the transformation of water into wine. Immediately I thought of this as a wonderful alternative image for Goss’s “Take Back the Word”. It is one thing for us to move beyond a fear of Scripture to a point where it is the “water” of life: but how can we go beyond even that, to the “wine” of celebration? Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Liberation Theology: An “Exodus”

In the introduction to “Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Difference“, her account of the historical development of gay and lesbian / queer theology, Elisabeth Stuart describes how they originated in three strands of more general twentieth century theology:  the “turn to the self” which was the defining characteristic of liberal theology; the “turn to others”, as shown in liberation theology; and the “turn to the text”, in post-modern theology. The second of these turns, “to the other” in liberation theology, worked in different ways for gay men and for lesbians.

For women, the ideas of liberation theology first had an impact in feminist theology, and only then on lesbian theology, which at times is barely distinguishable from specifically lesbian thinking. For men, the impact was much more directly on gay liberation theology. For both strands, the essential method was the same – drawing on the formation of base communities for prayerful reflection on their real life situations and conditions to draw theological insights.

The feminist / lesbian theologians I will deal with later. The gay male liberation theologies Stuart groups under the chapter heading “Exodus” – appropriately drawing on the Hebrew flight from Egypt and the freedom from slavery that it meant. The key writers she identifies as making up this group are:

J Michael Clark

A Place to Start: Toward and Unapologetic Gay Liberation Theology (1989)

A Defiant Celebration: Theological Ethics and Gay Sexuality (1990)

Beyond Our Ghettos: Gay Theology in Ecological Perspective (1993)

Defying the Darkness: Gay Theology in the Shadows (1997)

Gary David Comstock

Gay Theology Without Apology (1993)

Richard Cleaver

Know My Name (1995)

Daniel T Spencer

Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology, and the Erotic (1996)

Pioneers of Gay & Lesbian Theology: Reversing the Discourse.

Obama’s  officially designated “Pride Month” of June has come and gone, but the season of Pride continues – especially here in the UK, where the major Pride celebrations are in any case held later: in July (London) and August (Brighton). I have no compunction continuing my exploration of pride in church, which was in any case my primary motive in starting here at QTC eighteen months ago. Since then, my concerns have tended to wander, but I now want to return to my primary concern, which I do with a major series,  introducing our notable gay and lesbian theologians

One of the useful developments over the 40 years since Stonewall, has been the emergence of a wide range of writing and scholarship, across many fields, from an explicitly gay, lesbian or trans perspective  – or more generally, a “queer” perspective, or GLBT or GLBTQI , or…. Academics and activists may quibble over terminology, but the bottom line is simple. We no longer have to take all our knowledge straining through a hetero-normative filter.

I still remember the awe, the sense of shock I experienced the first time I saw a range of books displayed which included titles such as “Gay and Lesbian Theology”. The very idea at the time appeared to me welcome, but disorienting. If it was true that “theology” totally disapproved of “homosexuals”, how could it be that there could be “Gay” theology? The simple truth of course is that theology is more than just the official stuff propagated by the Vatican. It is more even, than just the formal, academic material churned out by the professional theologians. At its most basic, “doing theology” is no more than speaking about, and asking questions about, God and God’s place in our lives. This obviously includes consideration of the work that is collectively known as the “Magisterium”, but also a great deal more.

“Formal” (i.e. written by “professionals” ) gay and lesbian theology, queer theology, and even indecent theology has come in many forms, with many emphases and concerns. To guide us through the thicket, I shall begin with a summary of its unfolding by the lesbian Catholic theologian, Elizabeth Stuart, as presented in her book “Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Differences“, which I have been re-reading.  Paradoxically, in spite of her title, Stuart in this book is not promoting but critiquing “gay and lesbian” theology, as she argues that gay and lesbian theology has failed, and needs to give way to queer theology. (Yes, there is a difference). Still, in critiquing the earlier work, she offers a most useful commentary on its historical development and sources, before introducing the newer ideas from queer and indecent theology.

The Pioneers.

It may come as a surprise that books on gay and lesbian theology have been around for over three decades, ever since a trio of titles appeared in the 1970’s. Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Popes, Papal Sodomites

For the month of Gay Pride (in church), it would be great if we could simply celebrate a list of unambiguously gay popes – but we can’t. This is not because they don’t exist (there were undoubtedly several popes whom we know had physical relationships with men), but because of the inadequacies of language, and the weakness of the historical record over something so deeply personal, especially among the clergy. Both of these difficulties are exemplified by Mark Jordan’s use of the phrase, “Papal Sodomites”.  In medieval terms, a “sodomite” was one of utmost abuse, which meant far more than just the modern “homosexual”. It could also include, bestiality, or heresy, or withcraft, and (in England, after the Reformation) “popery”, which is deeply ironic, and hence treason.

So in the years before libel laws and carefully controlled democratic institutions, accusations of “sodomy” were a useful slander for the powerful to throw at their political enemies. Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Popes, Papal Sodomites

For the month of Gay Pride (in church), it would be great if we we could simply celebrate a list of unambiguously gay popes – but we can’t. This is not because they don’t exist (there were undoubtedly several popes whom we know had physical relationships with men), but because of the inadequacies of language, and the weakness of the historical record over something so deeply personal, especially among the clergy. Both of these difficulties are exemplified by Mark Jordan’s use of the phrase, “Papal Sodomites”.  In medieval terms, a “sodomite” was one of utmost abuse, which meant far more than just the modern “homosexual”. It could also include, bestiality, or heresy, or withcraft, and (in England, after the Reformation) “popery”, which is deeply ironic, and hence treason.

So in the years before libel laws and carefully controlled democratic institutions, accusations of “sodomy” were a useful slander for the powerful to throw at their political enemies. Read the rest of this entry »