Deborah Beth Creamer
This chapter explores models of disability as they relate to sexuality and theology. It begins by examining moral assumptions that define people with disabilities as asexual or hypersexual, and offers alternatives to these limiting perspectives. It then explores medical understandings of disability, highlighting those that facilitate holistic notions of health and that focus on adaptive sexual practices in response to impairment, as well as liberationist understandings that demand justice and sexual rights for all people with disabilities. Finally, this chapter explores the ways in which disability reminds us to attend to embodiment more authentically in general, not as an idealized and static norm but rather in the messiness and limits and goodness of real life. Attention to disability as such offers new possibilities for sexual theology, not just for disabled people but for the (temporarily) non-disabled as well.
Doing a Theology from Disappeared Bodies: Theology, Sexuality, and the Excluded Bodies of the Discourses of Latin American Liberation Theology
This chapter begins by considering the contributions of feminist theologies. It then discusses Liberation Theology, a theology reflecting on the concrete site of bodies in suffering, and looks at what a Queer Liberation Theology, concerned with issues of politics and sexuality, can contribute both to the Liberation Theology project and to the Feminist Liberation Theology movement. This is followed by a discussion of bisexuality and Latin American liberation spirituality, and the so-called “the postcolonial queer twist.” It is argued that the unveiling of ideology in theology also applies to Feminist Liberation Theology itself, and to its own ideological presuppositions. If our theological projects are nurtured by the understanding that theology is a second act, then Feminist Liberation Theology needs to take more seriously the fact that a critical reflection on women's material lives and experiences is the starting point and the only valid agenda of our theological reflections; this includes women's sexualities. Feminist Liberation Theology's own poiesis (or sense of creation) should come from that. In a way, this is the kind of theology that allows God to be God, by allowing people “to come as they are,” too, beyond the politics of ideal theological constructions.
Pamela Sue Anderson
A major obstacle inherent in patriarchy remains its barely perceptible reality for all of those women and men whose lives have been decisively ordered by the rule of the father. Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, captures the imperceptible reality of racial domination with imagery of a fishbowl. Her imagery reveals the ways in which apparently invisible structures of domination can suddenly become visible. With Morrison's cogent use of imagery in mind, this article examines patriarchy by revealing the transparent structure of male domination that has contained women's lives, and the ways in which feminism has emerged with this revelation. The bare outlines of the former are made evident here in a reading of English literature and theology; the latter can be seen as if the writer and reader were outside that ordered life, tackling ‘the obstacle which does not speak its name’.
This chapter highlights some key contexts in which feminist ethical discourses emerge, and important methods that Jewish feminists employ in order to address gender and other inequalities, arguing that all the many forms of Jewish feminism are “fundamentally about ethics.” Across denominations, in the broader feminist movement, in academia, and in Israel as well as North America, Jewish women have been reshaping what and how Jews and non-Jews think and act—regarding women, gender, inequality and injustice, and many other critical ethical issues, including Judaism itself. Feminist methodologies creatively critique halakhah, theology, liturgy, ritual, and textual interpretation, with implications for social and political analysis and activism. In doing so, Jewish feminists “have created both a rich literature and a legacy of activism that is ethical to its core.”
Gerard P. Loughlin
This chapter considers how gay identities—and so gay affections—were formed in the course of the twentieth century, building on the late nineteenth-century invention of the ‘homosexual’. It also considers earlier construals of same-sex affections and the people who had them, the soft men and hard women of the first century and the sodomites of the eleventh. It thus sketches a history of continuities and discontinuities, of overlapping identities and emotional possibilities. The chapter resists the assumption that gay identity and experience can be reduced to anything less than the multitude of gay people, and that as Christians they have to give an account of themselves in a way that heterosexual Christians do not. The chapter warns against thinking gay identity undone in Christ.
In confronting questions of the origin of existence, asserting belief in an ultimate spiritual source of phenomena, and striving for a relationship between it and human beings, Hindu theology identifies sexuality as a valid and necessary explanation. Both on the theogonic plane and the worldly, Hindu thought associates sexuality with gender, but treats the latter as a fluid identity rather than natural and essential, viewing it as a product more of the will than of physiology, an ever-present but negotiable perception, since it can be willed into altered states. This is illustrated both by the myths of Hinduism and by its devotional cultures. Observing the evolution of Hindu theology, its major traditions, and its worship practices chronologically, this chapter demonstrates why and how sexuality and gender may serve as keys to understand Hindu spirituality.
Mary Jo Iozzio
This chapter examines how sex figures in the HIV/AIDS pandemic and how the pandemic may be understood in the light of God’s extravagance and hope for the future. Sex is one of those gifts that human beings have received at the hands of a God of extravagance: a God of infinite possibility, copious generosity, and unparalleled solidarity. The very creation is a manifestation of a fecund imagination and God’s own joy writ large enough to witness sexual diversity—from asexual to heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer—among all living beings. In the human community the gift of sex and one’s identity as a sexual being include the purposes and promises of the extravagance that is sexual creativity in and through diversity. This chapter explores what insights theology can bring to the purposes of sex as creativity/generativity and intimacy-building communion/pleasure, and what intuitions theology can bring to the promises of sex as transcendent experience.
Intersex and transgender are discrete issues and should not be conflated. However, both phenomena, and the experiences of both groups of people, demonstrate the limitations of existing theologies of sexuality which assume stable and binary models of human maleness and femaleness. Sexual theologies for intersex and transgender people must take into account a range of issues, including the reality of variant sex and gender; the question of same-sex relationships; the theological significance of non-penetrative sexual activity; the challenges of unusual genital anatomy; ethical issues surrounding sought and unsought genital surgery; discourses of pathological versus variant embodiment; and questions of vulnerability and safety in sexual encounter. Drawing on liberationist theological goods, this chapter points to the necessity for non-pathologizing theological accounts of variant sex and gender.
This chapter analyses the Qur’an’s position on theology, sexuality, and gender, with the intent of challenging readings of Islam as a patriarchy. It illustrates that missing from Islam’s scripture is the imaginary of God as father/male and endorsements of father-rule (the traditional form of patriarchy), as well as any concept of sexual differentiation that privileges males (more modern forms of patriarchy). Indeed, many Qur’anic teachings can be read on behalf of the principle of sexual equality since they establish the ontological equality of women and men and emphasize the need for mutual care and guardianship between them. Both by re-reading some of the ‘anti-women’ verses and by applying a hermeneutical method to interpret the Qur’an—which is implicit in the text itself—the chapter also demonstrates that different interpretive strategies can change our understanding of textual meaning.
This chapter discusses a few major concepts in Jewish sexual ethics. These include extramarital sex and marriage, consent and pleasure in contrast to the duty of both partners to satisfy each other sexually, the traditional requirement that a couple refrain from sexual relations during the woman's menstrual period, masturbation, procreation, same-sex relationships, and gender identity and sexuality. These issues are considered from the author's unique vantage point as both a Conservative rabbi and a feminist. As a Conservative rabbi, she is committed to the Jewish tradition and aware that it both has changed in the past and must be adjusted to respond to new scientific findings about sexual orientation and sexual practices, and new social conditions and moral sensitivities. As a feminist, the author probes that tradition for its biases against women, homosexuals, and transgender people.
This article examines the hitherto unquestioned consensus in Judaic studies that Judaism embraces a positive attitude towards sexuality. Grounded in the new scholarly trends of cultural and gender analysis as well as feminist critique and their impact on Jewish studies, it singles out four focal issues: sexuality in ancient rabbinic thought, to which the most scholarly attention has been directed; and issues in modern Halakhah that have just begun to inform scholarly research: the ethos of modesty and the construction of the female body; homosexuality and lesbianism; and reproduction and sexuality. The discussion reflects the tension between these two scholarly trends, and between the conceptual-theological stratum of Judaism and its reflection in the practical-legal sphere of Jewish law (Halakhah). This examination of Jewish attitudes towards sexuality, in light of the new scholarship, leads to the conclusion that although Judaism affirms sexuality, this cannot be grasped in a simple, superficial, or monolithic fashion.
James T. Richardson
This chapter discusses legal restrictions and controls on conversion and proselytizing as practiced around the world in various countries and regions, and also examines whether some religious traditions foster more restrictive approaches to proselytizing. The situation in the United States is discussed first, including a discussion of “brainwashing” and deprogramming, followed by an examination of the European situation. Special attention is paid to decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in cases that involve minority faiths, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses. The chapter closes with briefer coverage of other nations and regions of the world.
This essay is situated within the sexual theologies discipline—that is, it will not consider what theology has said about lesbians. It will rather engage with what lesbian experience has offered traditional Christian theology. Perhaps this can be best summed up in the words of Carter Heyward who wrote ‘To say “I love you” means—Let the revolution begin!’ Once lesbians in theology found a voice, what we witness is indeed a revolution as the diverse face of the divine began to emerge from what had been a ‘one size fits all’ theology in matters of sexuality and ethics. Far from simply stating that the norm did not fit all sexualities and genders, many lesbian theologians moved on to say that the norm did not even do justice to those seen as normal and that the heteronormative underpinnings of theology actually crippled it.
After a brief overview of the social context and role of marriage and sexuality in Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures, the chapter traces the impact of the Genesis creation narratives, positively and negatively, on how marriage and sexuality were seen both in the present and in depictions of hope for the future. Discussion of pre-marital sex, incest, intermarriage, polygyny, divorce, adultery, and passions follows. It then turns to Jesus’ reported response to divorce, arguing that the prohibition sayings should be read as assuming that sexual intercourse both effects permanent union and severs previous unions, thus making divorce after adultery mandatory, the common understanding and legal requirement in both Jewish and Greco-Roman society of the time. It concludes by noting both the positive appreciation of sex and marriage, grounded in belief that they are God’s creation, and the many dire warnings against sexual wrongdoing, including adulterous attitudes and uncontrolled passions.
The Hebrew Bible is sometimes understood as the source of a ‘traditional’ Judaeo-Christian approach to marriage and sexual practice. A comprehensive examination reveals, however, that biblical assumptions about sex, gender, and kinship are complex and internally diverse. Some of these assumptions stand in tension with traditional Jewish and Christian norms for marriage and sexual activity. This essay reviews such matters as the biblical vocabulary for, and representations of, marital relations; the status of women in households organized around fathers; the role of polygyny; differing standards for the sexual conduct of husbands, wives, and concubines; intermarriage and inter-ethnic sexual relations; prostitution; the use of sex and marriage within male contests for power and honour; the use of sexual and marital images in representations of Israel’s relationship to God; and the attitudes towards sex and gender found in less frequently read books of the Bible such as the Song of Songs.
Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler
This chapter discusses sex and the beginning of sexual activity. It develops a theory of virtue and virtue ethics which focuses more on the character of the sexual agent than on the acts the agent does. A virtuous character learned in a community of origin, it is argued, will impel a person to acts of sexual virtue and avoidance of acts of sexual vice. Three virtues are advanced as primary for virtuous sexual activity: love, justice, and chastity. Also considered is the relationship between the phenomenon of cohabitation and marriage, and nuptial cohabitation, that which is premised on the commitment to marry, is presented as a first step on a journey that will eventually end in the cohabiting couple’s marriage. The chapter concludes by proposing for cohabiting couples a period of ritual betrothal sanctioned and guaranteed by the community in which they are expected to learn virtue.
Margaret D. Kamitsuka
This chapter presents important representative historical Roman Catholic and Protestant views about sexual pleasure from the New Testament period to the present day. The author describes two dominant themes in contemporary feminist, womanist, and queer theologies: sexual pleasure as sacred and God-given (Carter Heyward, Mary Hunt, Jane Grovijahn); and sexual pleasure as having justice-making potential vis-à-vis patriarchy and heteronormativity (Patricia Beattie Jung, Karen Baker-Fletcher, Kelly Brown Douglas, Marvin Ellison, Marcella Althaus-Reid). These theological views on sexual pleasure will be assessed in light of Michel Foucault’s and Judith Butler’s postmodern views on sexuality. The chapter surveys some topics for future theological reflection about sexual pleasure in relation to the following: postcolonialism, disability, ageing, sado-masochism, and transgender and intersex identities. The author offers a modest proposal in theological eschatology, arguing that reflecting on sex in heaven from a feminist psychoanalytic perspective (Julie Kristeva) can open up productive ways of thinking theologically about sexual pleasure.
Sexuality is a domain of experience that has been variously described as embodied, deeply personal, intimate, ecstatic, and even sacred. Yet, precisely because of some of these qualities and the emotions associated with them, it is also a domain that entails not only pleasure but also the possibility of violation, even terror. It is a ground on which wars are fought (including intrapsychic, familial, social, political, and military). This chapter explores multiple aspects and causes of sexual violence, in particular interrogating the saying from the rape crisis movement: ‘Rape is about power, not sex’. Additional statements will be proposed, including ‘Rape is about power, and sex’; ‘Rape is about power, using sex’; and ‘Rape is about power, gender, and race’. The chapter concludes with an ethic of sexual justice that addresses the ethics of sexuality and of power, drawing on a Trinitarian theology that emphasizes relationality and abundant life.
Thomas Knieps-Port le Roi
The chapter provides an overview of recent developments in the theology and ethics of marriage. It places the debates first in a sociocultural context of deinstitutionalization and individualization which has rendered marriage more optional and more fragile, but not weakened its symbolic meaning. It is then shown how the Christian churches have responded to the challenges of late modern society, in particular the Roman Catholic Church with its new emphasis on conjugal love at the Second Vatican Council. Three main strands have marked the theological and ethical discourse subsequently: a revisionist position which defends the subjective and interpersonal aspects of marriage, a traditionalist position which insists on a divine plan for marriage and a corresponding theology of the body, and the approach of a new generation of scholars who accuse the traditionalists of an abstract and idealistic description of the spousal relationship and criticize the revisionists for their narrow focus on private interiority. In a third and final section three major trends are explored and perspectives developed: first, possible arguments for commending marriage over alternative forms of living together are assessed; second, it is argued how heterosexual marriage can still be proclaimed as the ethical norm without discriminating against deviant forms of sexual expression; third, the tension between interpersonal and institutional approaches to marriage is explored and the search for a balance between both poles suggested as a future challenge for the theology of marriage.