Sex and the Church: Gender, Homosexuality, and the Transformation of Christian Ethics

By Kathy Rudy | Go to book overview

Introduction

The issue of homosexuality threatens to divide Christian churches today in much the way that slavery did 150 years ago. Should "practicing" Christian homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgendered people be allowed to serve as ordained ministers? Should the unions of gay and lesbian couples be recognized as legitimate marriages in the eyes of God? These and other questions rend our congregations, our denominations, and sometimes even our families. One side asserts that people should be welcomed into our churches, into the ministry, and into our understanding of the American family regardless of their sexual orientation; the other side insists that any sexual preference other than heterosexuality is a sin and should be proscribed by all faithful Christians. No apparent solution to these disagreements lies on the horizon.

This book offers new ways to think about this stalemate. I believe we Christians are in desperate need of revitalization, both on issues related to homosexuality and on the related topics of gender and sexual ethics. But before we begin, we need a better, deeper understanding of contemporary Christian beliefs about homosexuality, sexual ethics, and women's role in the church. What questions are being asked, and which are left unasked? How is the debate about issues of gender and sex for Christians being framed, and is that framework in keeping with church tradition? What positions have our forebears taken on these issues, and why? This book will take up these questions.

I believe we must begin with the public words and works of the Christian Right -- and in particular the logic and assertions associated with the family values campaign -- in order to understand how the agenda and tone of contemporary Christian politics evolved. The family values campaign has resonated with a broad spectrum of Christians in America. However, although it makes important links between Christians of different races and classes, I will suggest that it does so by deepening the already troubled divisions between male and female Christians and between gay Christians and straight. I will show how the family values campaign is imbued with both homophobia and sexism, and demonstrate that these two oppressions are intrinsically and necessarily related. Specifically, we cannot understand the Right's homophobia until we uncover the deep commitment conservative Christianity has to nineteenth-century gender roles.

In this book, I suggest that mainline and progressively minded Christians should combat the sexism and homophobia of the Right's agenda by examining and moving beyond our commitment to the structure of family, by moving beyond gender

-xi-

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