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

By Kathy Rudy | Go to book overview

and sexual identity politics, and by reconstructing a church politic based on Christian community. By applying contemporary queer theories to Christian theology, I argue that the church is the ideal location for questioning such institutions as the nuclear, heterosexual family. We are a people founded on the community called church; we understand ourselves within that community to constitute the Body of Christ. More strongly, I believe that our Christian commitment to God manifests itself first and foremost through our commitment to community. I argue that a more faithful and more radical sexual ethic can stem from grounding our ideas first and foremost in this community. By placing our commitment to community above and before any involvement in the local or nuclear family, we can develop an ethic that is not only more friendly to all sorts of sexual minorities, but also more faithful to the tradition of Christian community.

I will suggest throughout this work that sexuality is a site of spiritual and communal possibility, a way to proclaim the gospel and remember the call of Christ. Part of the reason that Christians have had a difficult time discussing sex (both heterosexual as well as homosexual) is because we intuit that something important -- something almost beyond words -- happens during sexual activity. On a deep level, we know that sex is a powerful component of many of our lives, and that it can have a connection to life's ultimate meaning which, for Christians, involves God. Lacking the language to discuss these connections, we allow ourselves -- as I will display in chapters 2 and 3 -- to be captured by legalistic formulas prescribing narrow conditions for legitimate sex.

In the second part of this book, I will suggest that this is the wrong way to think about the relationship between sex, God, and the Christian church, or to understand what our genders and sexual preferences have to do with our relationships with God and with each other. I will argue that for Christians to build a viable community in the next century, we must discuss the philosophical and cultural presuppositions behind our understandings of moral and immoral sex. These discussions of sexual ethics not only respond to the call to alleviate oppression (in this case of women and gays), they also enable us to discuss the spiritual, elusive part of the Christian summons, how to treat our bodies as if they were spirit, how to embody the remembrance of Jesus. One of the costs of our inability as Christians to discuss sexual matters has been that the spiritual dimension of sex has all but disappeared. We do not see sex as being about the business of Christian community and loving God; rather we act as if it is too private to discuss. In our refusal to discuss the connection be-

-xii-

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