This article uses the term ‘equivocation’ to describe the sense in which Christian incarnational theology appears to have provided a resource or way of thinking about the embodied human condition. For British literary works produced across a period of over a thousand years, that is not wholly negative. Christian convictions about God's investment in the materiality of human existence bear witness to the perception of infinite human longings and seemingly endless possibilities, as well as our fearful limitations. British artists and commentators during this period have not all accepted the authority of a Christian approach, and in the last two or three centuries many have aspired to challenge the more negative or limiting emphases of its teaching. Arguably, the paradigm remains significant, yet it continues to provide both impetus and challenge to ongoing reflections on the nature of unavoidable human incarnation.
Colleen M. Conway
This chapter begins with a brief overview of the theorists who have shaped gender analytical work on the New Testament, especially the application of gender theory in classical studies. It then concentrates on gender analyses on New Testament writings that demonstrate the differing approaches of masculinity studies, queer theory, and intersectional analysis. The primary focus is on gender construction in Paul’s letters and the canonical gospels, with additional discussion of symbolic and metaphorical uses of gender in other writings of the New Testament. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of future directions for gender criticism.
Cynthia Nielsen and Michael Barnes Norton
Gender, like race, is a controversial and volatile topic. We encounter one another as embodied and thus gendered beings. But what precisely is gender? What does it mean to be feminine? This chapter offers a philosophical analysis of the concept of gender and discourses about gender. The opening sections begin with a discussion of key terms and distinctions such as gender essentialism, gender as a social construction, the distinction between gender and (biological) sex, gender realism and nominalism, and so forth. Specific examples—both historical and contemporary—are employed to elucidate the claim that gender is socially constructed. Two sections are devoted to prominent feminist philosophers, Judith Butler and Linda Martín Alcoff. The topics addressed in these sections include: Butler’s notion of performing gender and her rejection of the gender/sex distinction, and Alcoff’s development of gender as positionality and fluid identity and her historically and materially sensitive version of gender realism.
Desire and love have always been important themes in Christianity, but there is no self-evident meaning for either of these concepts. This chapter examines some important contributions in the history of theology to the understanding of each, and offers some steps towards a constructive theology that regards desire as an integrative part of love. If the problem with the dominant tradition during antiquity and the Middle Ages was that it separated eros from a legitimate sexuality, the problem of modern Christianity is that it has reduced desire to sexuality. It is not helpful to separate agape from eros, as this implies a theology for which important aspects of human longing fall outside its frame. An account of love that avoids narcissism and an economy of the same includes desire; a love without desire lacks the motor that moves us forward towards the other.
This article focuses on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her book, The Woman's Bible. Born in 1815, Elizabeth was one of a well-to-do family from Johnstown, New York. She married her husband Henry on 1 May 1840 at the age of 24, seven years after leaving school and without the presence of her family, who disapproved of him largely on the grounds of his prospects. Henry was an abolitionist, and by marrying him she was to cut her own political teeth, learning the important lesson that what appeared to be long-established social institutions could indeed be changed. The Woman's Bible was to be a commentary written by women on those parts of the Bible which explicitly referred to women.
This essay examines possible ascetic tendencies in apocryphal gospels and their relationship to theological ideas and the role of female disciples in those texts. In some gospels, certain theological ideas correlate with the prominent participation of women and with statements that are susceptible to an ascetic interpretation: salvation is regarded as a (perhaps already achieved) return to an original state of creation, a spiritual existence without sexual differentiation and without birth and death; ascetic practice and an equal role for women seem to be derived from such a state. In this context, asceticism is not a separate issue and not the path to salvation, but rather the consequence of the theology. In other writings, calls to control desire and negative sexual imagery are important, although they do not necessarily have to result in abstinence; a married life (including sexuality without desire) is acceptable.
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’.
Christian feminist exegesis has other procedures and thematic concerns compared with a Jewish feminist engagement with the Bible; and criticism of society, politics, and the economy is not carried out with the same sharpness by all of these. Lesbian and queer (gender-confusing) exegetical approaches bring in yet other perspectives. The designation ‘queer’ indicates in addition the debate about the deconstruction of ‘gender’ which, from its side, also brings pressure to define afresh the contours of ‘feminist’ theology and exegesis. This article deals first with basic hermeneutical questions, and then turns to methodological perspectives.
This article explores the literary revisioning work as it is displayed in the work of two women writers whose attention has been largely focused on the Jewish and Christian traditions. Alicia Ostriker and Michèle Roberts are women whose work arises out of direct political involvement with the women's movement. Both are authors who are deeply immersed in contemporary critical debates and both acknowledge their conversational relationships with other female creative artists. As such, it is possible to view their work as representative of a revisionary movement within contemporary women's literature concerned with nothing less than the radical revisioning of religious traditions.
Margaret M. Miles
In the field of Religion and Art, gender plays an important role in developing methods for the analysis of artworks in relation to the cultures and societies in which they were created. Images offer a means to correct a pervasive contemporary misrepresentation of Western Christianity as focused on ideas, doctrines, and theology—that is, on language. Imagery and religious imagination are intertwined in the testimony of many historical people from Francis of Assisi to Catherine of Siena. This article examines the interrelationships between religion, art, and gender. It discusses disciplines that address the nexus of gender, imagery, and religious imagination, and how each field has spawned studies of historical women before studies of gender relations. These include Gender and Art, Film Studies, Gender Studies, Feminist Studies, Religious Studies, and Women’s Studies.
María Cristina Ventura
This chapter considers globalization and its relationship to women's bodies in Latin America, both the effects this new face of capitalism is having on women's bodies in this part of the world and the ways in which women construct modalities as creative resistance strategies. It goes beyond a mere analysis of the socioeconomic impact in a variety of situations to examine what women invent, represent, and endow with power in their discourse, practices, and collective quest to redefine the status of all women, and particularly of women excluded from the so-called global economic system.
On November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson stunned fans with the news that he was retiring from basketball. Just days before, during a routine blood test, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar discovered he had contracted the AIDS virus. This article examines how the first decade of AIDS coverage at three large metropolitan newspapers (the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Dallas Morning News) was bound up with issues of religion and sexuality. It explores the what, when, why, who, and how of news coverage to ascertain patterns in framing, sourcing, and contextualization. It argues that, by 1983, a medical/moral frame for the disease made religion an integral part of the story. Subsequent coverage reflected three dominant tropes: AIDS as a punishment for immorality, as a pastoral challenge for denominations, and as a spiritual trial for the afflicted. The article concludes by considering the impact of AIDS coverage in general and on reporting about sexuality in particular.
Marcia Alesan Dawkins
In the 1960s, America's newspaper-reading public was preoccupied by an outrage involving Nation of Islam Minister Malcolm X, who had said that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was an instance of “the chickens coming home to roost.” In April 2008, an infamous YouTube clip titled “God Damn America” depicted a sermon in which Rev. Jeremiah Wright expressed anger toward injustices and moral crimes committed by the United States government against people of color. Arguing that American religious and racial histories are intertwined, this article explores the coverage of Malcolm's and Wright's comments as examples of how racialized religion is reported. It examines how news coverage of African American religion tends to racialize religion and encourage racism by and against African Americans. It also considers the similarities in coverage between the scandals on the basis of race. Despite charges of racism, black Christians fare better in the press than black Muslims because they are seen as members of a preferred religious group.
The chapter is divided into five sections. The first one pinpoints the rationale of semiotics in dealing with religious conversion: describing, analyzing, articulating, and interpreting the various signs, texts, discourses, and cultures through which conversion is signified and communicated. The second section clarifies the position of semiotics as regards two dialectics: between sociality and individuality and between sociality and transcendence. The third section points out the specificity of the semiotic perspective, describing it not so much as a new methodology but as a new point of view on already established methods. The third and final sections survey the main trends of semiotic research on conversion with reference to the three main approaches to the study of signification: those of Saussure, Peirce, and Lotman.
Religious conversion may be approached by paying particular attention to the way in which the experience of conversion is narrated by the converts themselves. Drawing upon case studies of conversion to Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, this chapter distinguishes clearly the life lived in the past by the convert and the life lived in the present by the narrator, paying attention to the way religious conversion is so often presented in the form of narrative and autobiography. Reviewing the theoretical and critical literature in these fields, this chapter shows how conversion narratives may be analyzed as formal systems, political declarations, and ethical rhetoric, and how as autobiographies they may be further studied as eyewitness history, statements of self-identity, and ideological commitments. The chapter concludes by pointing toward the explanatory power of religion as a theoretical category in its own right in ethics and anthropology, as in narrative and autobiographical theory.
Peter G. Stromberg
While some argue that the conversion experience is ineffable, such experiences can only be communicated through language. This means that the properties of language are necessarily intertwined with both believers’ and observers’ attempts to understand the conversion experience and its implications. Here, several language-based approaches to the conversion are reviewed. The most important of these are: (1) consideration of the narrative features of conversion accounts; (2) study of the poetics and rhetoric of conversion narratives; (3) how performance and stylistic features of the conversion narrative construct specific social situations; (4) the role of linguistic ideologies in conversion narratives; and (5) the relationship between discourse and the self in conversion narratives.
Jay Emerson Johnson
The curious ‘career’ of Genesis 19 in the Anglican Communion offers in microcosm the broader complexities involved in analysing the cultural and religious reception of biblical texts. This article sketches those complexities in three steps, first with reference to the resilience of sodomy in the religious imagination and Western jurisprudence, a resilience that need not rely on the actual content of the biblical text. Second, it places that resilience of sodomy's popular meaning more particularly in the context of shifting and unstable relations among the provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Lastly, it suggests that early 21st-century controversies in the Anglican Communion turn not on ‘homosexuality’ per se but on the gendered ordering of human relations. Highlighting the theological construction of gender in today's debates not only sheds light on the peculiar reception history of Genesis 19; it also suggests a renewed reading of that biblical text in which idolatry emerges as a better definition of that ancient city's sin known as sodomy.
This chapter traces the academic development of postmodern theology and gender studies, from the feminist theologies of the 1960s–1980s through the ‘linguistic turn’ to the emergence of the concept of ‘intersectionality’. Beattie argues that gender theory restores to theology the forgotten wisdom of its own tradition with regard to language and the interpretation of scripture. However, she cautions against the Manichaean seductions of postmodernism, arguing that the theology of gender must be rooted in the goodness of creation, including the human created male and female in the image of God. Analysing differences between Protestant and Catholic theologies in terms of grace and sacramentality, and with reference to Christian mysticism, she argues for a contemplative, sacramental theology of gender that is open to the divine mystery, animated by desire while remaining attentive to the distorting effects of sin on desire, and actively expressed in love of neighbour and of creation.
This article explores the key methodological approaches evident in theologies of sexuality since theological reflection upon sexuality emerged as a distinctive discipline in the latter part of the twentieth century. It charts the movement from a radical valorization of sexuality by conservative, liberal, and gay and lesbian theologians to a fundamental questioning and rejection of the very notion of sexuality. It argues that there is a need for Christian theologians to stop focusing on sexuality as such and turn their attention to right ordering of desire as part of the project of Christian discipleship.
The question of women in Qumran is a recent one. The interest in, and awareness of, women on the site and in the scrolls was slow in coming, and associated with the emergence of intellectual feminism, which put as its chief goal the discovery of women where none had previously been noted. This external phenomenon was bolstered by two internal developments, strongly connected with Qumran research: 4QMMT, with its apparent similarity to Sadducee halakhah, created doubt with regard to the Essene hypothesis; the belated publication of all the documents from Qumran in the 1990s and 2000s made the cumulative presence of women in them ever more evident and difficult to ignore. This article presents an overview of women's appearance in the Qumran texts and discusses their history and state of research. It follows the conventional structure of dividing the Qumran library between biblical texts, apocryphal texts, and unique Qumran-sectarian texts.