God Forbid: Religion and Sex in American Public Life

God Forbid: Religion and Sex in American Public Life

God Forbid: Religion and Sex in American Public Life

God Forbid: Religion and Sex in American Public Life

Synopsis

Since the 1980s, religion has been most visible in American public life when issues of sexuality and reproduction are at stake. Paradoxically, however, the voices that speak most loudly in the name of religion are often unschooled in religious history, world religions, theology, or ethics. As a result, religion in America is misrepresented as anxiously and obsessively concerned with sex, and as uniformly supporting the conservative agenda of "family values." This volume corrects that distortion in American public discourse. Its thirteen previously unpublished articles introduce scholarly perspectives on issues including the family, gay rights, abortion, welfare policy, prostitution, and assisted reproduction. They richly display the complexities and conflicts that exist not only between but within America's various religious traditions--for example, the pro-choice strain within Christian history, the support of many religious denominations for gay rights, and the criticism of patriarchal family structures within religious communities past and present. In these essays, contributors put forth views of sexual ethics that are just and compassionate, respectful of cultural pluralism, and attentive to democratic processes. Thorougly researched, lucidly written, and carefully argues, this anthology will debunk the claims of the Religious Right to be the only "religious" word on sexuality in America.

Excerpt

We Americans have subjected ourselves to many a public conjunction of religion and sex. First came the Moral Majority in 1979, the rise of the Religious Right, and the minting of family values as the new currency of politics. Religious and moral values were invoked by Supreme Court justices in 1986 when they decided that homosexual sodomy was not entitled to constitutional privacy. Since the Defense of Marriage Act became federal law in 1996, religious authority has been called upon by social conservatives as they attempt, state by state, to legislate an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage. Opposition to sex education in public schools has become a key organizational point for the Religious Right, which often establishes school boards as its local base. Abortion and gay rights remain the social issues in regard to which religious groups are most politically visible and have become ideologically (if not logically) linked with the whole agenda of religious conservatism, from school prayer to reduced taxation and diminished government. In the 1990s teen pregnancy and single motherhood in general have been invested with tremendous social significance and, particularly with the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996, remanded to the special care of "faith-based" organizations.

We could list many more conjunctions of this type, but the culmination (let's hope) was the unprecedented spectacle of a president forced to confess a sexual affair on television. Although Bill Clinton's initial response was to insist that the matter was private, he was quickly given to understand that nothing less than an altar call would be politically demanded of him. And that he performed at the prayer breakfast of September 21, 1998, in the language of "a broken and contrite heart," which he cited from his personal Bible, followed by well-publicized sessions with a . . .

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