Location: People >> Queer CouchSurfers >> RELIGION IS A QUEER THING
One of the most extraordinary features of late twentieth-century Christianity has been the way in which innumerable groups of Christians who have been the object of theological discourse and discussion have found their own theological voice as part of wider social movements in which they have claimed the ability and right to define and reflect upon their own experience. What is now often labeled as 'queer theology' is part of this process. It was in the 1960s that books about homosexuality by homosexuals themselves began to appear. They tended to be based almost exclusively upon male experience. In the 1970s and 1980s as Christian feminism gathered force the lesbian voice began to make itself heard and differences between gay male theology and lesbian theology began to emerge. Very broadly speaking, gay men often seemed content to seek a place at the Christian table, using already existent and accepted theological concepts and arguments to gain that place. Lesbian theologians, however wanted to overturn the whole table. They argued that Christian theology was rooted in patriarchy, racism, heterosexism and other exclusionary beliefs and practices, and that it would have to be deconstructed and rebuilt if it were to be truly liberating. As these differences were emerging in the theological arena, on the ground lesbians and gay men were engaging in unprecedented acts of solidarity in response to the horror of the HlV/AIDS pandemic and its repercussions.
It was out of this context that queer theology began to emerge in the 1990s, part of a larger queer movement whose political ideals were never quite realized and which soon fragmented but which lives on in the desire of many sexual outcasts and outlaws to work in solidarity with one another. The term 'queer' was reclaimed from a long history as a term of abuse and its meaning 'to spoil or to foul up' was adopted to describe a coalition of solidarity among all those who 'foul up' heterosexual normativity by being different. Thus transgendered people and bisexual people were brought into the equation.
Queer theology increasingly draws upon the body of philosophy known as queer theory. Inspired by the work of Michel Foucault and associated with queer philosophers and sociologists such as Gayle Rubin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler and Jeffrey Weeks, queer theory rejects the view (often termed 'essentialism') that sexuality is a drive that is universal and eternal. Queer theory takes what is known as a social constructionist view of sexuality. Erotic desire does not exist above or beyond history or culture but is always interpreted within it. Its interpretation, or construction, is almost always bound up with issues of power of those who categorize and label and of those who are labelled.The very notion that we can define the essence of people according to their sexual orientation, although it had its roots in the medieval obsession with the irredeemable sodomite, only emerges fully in the nineteenth-century desire to classify people using medical models. The male 'homosexual' was invented to describe those men who would not or could not conform to the type of masculinity that modern western capitalism felt it needed. Grouping people together and giving them an identity, teaching them to 'perform' in certain ways, gave them the power eventually to challenge the notion that they were 'sick', and so the modern lesbian and gay liberation movement was born. Social constructionism teaches us that nothing is 'natural', including heterosexuality. Some men and women may be attracted to each other in all times and cultures, but how that attraction is interpreted and the repercussions of it are constructed differently in different times and cultures. The same is equally true of gender.
Recognition of difference in solidarity is central to queer theology. It acknowledges that black, white, disabled, poor, rich, male, female and transgendered queers are oppressed in different ways and that some of us are involved in the oppression of our fellow queers. Whilst western theology and society as a whole have tended to view difference as problematic and dealt with it by creating hierarchies which allow some people's understanding of the world and of God as truth and that of others as unimportant or wrong, queer theologians (along with others) celebrate difference as an insight into truth rather than a threat to it. This is not to say that anything goes. Queer Christians are not content simply to allow one another a completely free rein. We are Christians because we believe that Christianity provides us with the rules, the language, the grammar to make sense of our lives. We often disagree over the rules of Christian grammar.... [Q]ueer theology shares the conviction of liberation, feminist and other new theologies that no theology is neutral or objective..... Only if queer theology reflects the reality and spirituality of those who live the reality of queer lives in the mass and muddle of the world will queer theology escape the danger of being a self-serving ideology masquerading as theology and become a theology which has the potential to transform not just queer people but all men and women. §
§From the Introduction of "Religion is a Queer Thing", by Elizabeth Stuart