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date: 20 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Ned Rorem’s setting of 2 Samuel 1, “Mourning Scene,” and Diamanda Galas’s incorporation of verses from Leviticus in her Plague Mass are two examples of musical queerings of biblical texts. Such musical queerings are an element of the ongoing interpretation of the Bible that is constitutive of Protestant spirituality and identity. Because liberal Protestant theology takes the historical contingency of and ideological division within the Bible seriously, this process of continual reinterpretation of the Bible can critically engage both queer affirmative and heterosexist aspects of the Bible and its reception. After investigating how Rorem and Galas use music to make biblical texts express homoeroticism and denounce homophobia, I place their interpretations in dialogue with three Protestant theologians: Georgia Harkness, Carter Heyward, and Marcella Althaus-Reid. One can trace a historical development from Social Gospel liberalism to Indecent Theology among these theologians that roughly parallels the span of time in which Rorem and Galas were active. Because the theologians under discussion wrote at different historical stages and with different ideological commitments, the extent to which specific musical queerings align with different theological perspectives varies widely. This variety in the current conversation continues the perspectival approach to theology that liberal theology recognizes as mandated by the biblical texts’ heterogeneity.

Keywords: theology, Bible, Protestantism, Ned Rorem, Diamanda Galas, Georgia Harkness, Carter Heyward, Marcella Althaus-Reid

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