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

By Kathy Rudy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Gay Communities and the Value of Family

The cornerstone issue of the gay rights movement should be the legal recognition of gay unions.

Bruce Bawer

While the Christian Right championed and developed an extensive discourse about the value of the family and the sinfulness of homosexuality, mainline Christian denominations failed to issue clear, unambiguous statements on these issues. Even progressive Christians marshaled no counterpart to conservative rhetoric. In part this is due to the fact that the belief that the heterosexual nuclear family was both superior to other configurations and in need of protection was hard to escape. It was advocated not only by religious conservatives, but also by an assortment of scholars, journalists, and cultural critics who asserted the family's superiority on sociological or psychological rather than religious grounds. For example, political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain argues that the nuclear family was the source of values necessary for resistance to corporate power and antidemocratic tendencies in the modern world. From her perspective, the heterosexual family was the most natural way of intimately relating to other human beings and therefore ought to be encouraged for the good of democracy and the nation. 1

In a similar fashion, many "middle-of-the-road" journalists began to champion the role of family in American culture of the early 1990s. For example, the cover of the April 1993 Atlantic unabashedly announced that "Dan Quayle Was Right," and the accompanying story by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead proclaimed that "the social arrangement that has proved most successful in ensuring the physical survival and promoting the social development of the child is the family unit of the biological mother and father."2 Pro-family journalists and scholars formed a network which, as sociologist Judith Stacey describes it, "forge[d] a national 'consensus' on family values that has . . . shaped the family ideology and politics of the Clinton administration."3 In a reversal of his earlier position, Clinton endorsed family values at the end of 1993 in his statement, "I believe this country would be a lot better off if children were born to married couples." This sentiment, along with the scholarly re-

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