June 1, 2010

queer theology

Same-sex relationships are often rejected based on their biological inability to produce children and their departure from the so-called “healthy” heterosexual family. But, in fact, the Christian church has no long-term interest in the nuclear family. As Gerard Loughlin suggests in Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Cinema and Theology, the starting point for the church is not the procreating heterosexual couple, but "the theological space of Christ’s ever extending kin, the family of Christ’s friends.”

Furthermore, Loughlin writes, “the church is right to insist on sexual difference, and to mark, enhance and celebrate this difference, while resisting those tendencies in modernity which would deny sexual difference in the name of neuter or egalitarian sex, which is always finally a male sex." A Christian understanding of difference does not reduce identity to immanent markers like gender, ethnicity or sexuality. Counter to the logic of the market, our desires cannot be fulfilled through practices of consumption and domination; nor can we find fulfillment in biological reproduction and familial life. These points of fulfillment express a modern attempt to essentialize subjectivity and fix human desire.

Recently, Loughlin edited a collection of essays entitled Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body. In his introduction, he writes:
". . . even when theology was culturally dominant it was strange, for it sought the strange; it sought to know the unknowable in Christ, the mystery it was called to seek through following Jesus. And of course it has always been in danger of losing this strangeness by pretending that it has comprehended the mystery, that it can name that which is beyond all names. Indeed — and despite its own best schooling — it has often succumbed to this danger, which it names 'idolatry.'"
". . . queer theology is also queer because it finds — like queer theory — that gay sexuality is not marginal to Christian thought and culture, but oddly central. It finds it to be the dis­avowed but necessary condition for the Christian symbolic; and not simply as that which is rejected in order to sustain its opposite, but upfront on the surface of that opposite, playing in the movement of stories and images that constitutes the Christian imaginary. The most orthodox turns out to be the queerest of all. Moreover, queer theology — like queer theory — reprises the tradition of the church in order to discover the queer interests that were always already at play in the Spirit's movement, in the lives and devotions of saints and sinners, theologians and ecclesiastics. What could be queerer than the thought of Gregory of Nyssa, St John of the Cross or Hans Urs von Balthasar?"

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