Devotions and Desires: Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the Twentieth-Century United States

Devotions and Desires: Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the Twentieth-Century United States

Devotions and Desires: Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the Twentieth-Century United States

Devotions and Desires: Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the Twentieth-Century United States

Synopsis

At a moment when "freedom of religion" rhetoric fuels public debate, it is easy to assume that sex and religion have faced each other in pitched battle throughout modern U.S. history. Yet, by tracking the nation's changing religious and sexual landscapes over the twentieth century, this book challenges that zero-sum account of sexuality locked in a struggle with religion. It shows that religion played a central role in the history of sexuality in the United States, shaping sexual politics, communities, and identities. At the same time, sexuality has left lipstick traces on American religious history. From polyamory to pornography, from birth control to the AIDS epidemic, this book follows religious faiths and practices across a range of sacred spaces: rabbinical seminaries, African American missions, Catholic schools, pagan communes, the YWCA, and much more. What emerges is the shared story of religion and sexuality and how both became wedded to American culture and politics.

The volume, framed by a provocative introduction by Gillian Frank, Bethany Moreton, and Heather R. White and a compelling afterword by John D'Emilio, features essays by Rebecca T. Alpert and Jacob J. Staub, Rebecca L. Davis, Lynne Gerber, Andrea R. Jain, Kathi Kern, Rachel Kranson, James P. McCartin, Samira K. Mehta, Daniel Rivers, Whitney Strub, Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci, Judith Weisenfeld, and Neil J. Young.

Excerpt

The lines seem so clearly drawn: a white evangelical minister stands in front of his California congregation on a Sunday morning. in one hand he holds a Bible. in the other is the text of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the country. “It’s time to choose,” he thunders to thousands of believers in the stadium-style worship center. “Will we follow the Word of God or the tyrannical dictates of government?” His declaration “This is who I stand with” is met with applause from the faithful as he dramatically flings the Court’s decision to the ground and tramples on it, waving the Bible in his upraised hand.

If ever there were a moment in U.S. history when the categories of “religion” and “sexuality” seemed diametrically opposed, it was the Sabbaths that followed the Court’s historic “gay marriage” decisions on a Friday in June 2015. Not an hour after the announcement that same-sex partners must be admitted to civil marriage in all fifty states, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America released an official statement to the press. It reiterated “the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages.” At the National Review, culture warrior George Wiegel counseled fellow Roman Catholics to interpret their post-Obergefell position as analogous to that of their persecuted predecessors in Elizabethan England, holding out as a particularly apt symbol the “gutted, dismembered” body of a sixteenth- century Jesuit martyr. Not to be outdone, evangelicals likewise broadcast their . . .

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