54. lightning

Standard

Came across this quote yesterday while reading some Eve Sedgwick at lunch (it should be briefly mentioned that in the following Sedgwick defines “homosocial” as referring to social bonds between persons of the same sex):

The diacritical opposition between the “homosocial” and the “homosexual” seems to be much less thorough and dichotomous for women, in our society, than for men. At this particular historical moment, an intelligible continuum of aims, emotions, and valuations links lesbianism with the other forms of women’s attraction to women: the bond of mother and daughter, for instance, the bond of sister and sister, women’s friendship, “networking,” and the active struggles of feminism . . . Thus the adjective “homosocial” as applied to women’s bonds need not be pointedly dichotomized as against “homosexual”; it can intelligibly dominate the entire continuum. The apparent simplicity . . . would not be so striking it if were not in strong contrast to the arrangement among males. When Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms get down to serious logrolling on “family policy,” they are men promoting men’s interests. (In fact, they embody Heidi Hartmann’s definition of patriarchy: “relations between men, which have a material base, and which, though hierarchical, establish or create interdependence and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women.”)

So that got me to thinking: that the patriarchal, ecclesiastical power structures of the Church are essentially a homosocial “bromance”—men looking out for the interests of men; and that since the Church was founded as a patriarchy, therefore any theology written under its auspices will mirror that. (Well, much of it then. It’s unfair to generalize.) We have to ask ourselves whether any particular theology is one of love, or of patriarchy; whether it’s about God, or about men (consciously or unconsciously) creating a hegemonic construct for the domination of women and minorities (including homosexuals).

Now, I fully realize that it’s not so simple, making grand sweeping statements about something so broad and complex as theology. Perhaps it would be best to narrow this down to theologies of sexuality, but this seems to get at the core of our understanding of Scripture. Is the Bible itself a patriarchal text? Do we have to read the Pauline epistles through that lens/filter, and can we do so without completely undermining the authority of Scripture?

I guess the real question I want to get at is whether the problem is with Scripture, or with the evangelicals and fundamentalists who seek to co-opt the texts for their political ends, as in the case of the “moral majority” or the more recent movement on the part of religious conservatives to defend the “Biblical definition of marriage” (i.e., “one man, one woman”)? And can we apply ancient Judaic customs to present-day relationships? Is the Bible even a book on sexual ethics?

However, the thought that stuck with me all day was that the theology that allows Christians to oppress homosexuals and try to block the anti-bullying legislation comes down to their frozen gender construct, which colors their view of Scripture and thus of the world. They’ve built an entire Church modeled on this theology, and an entire political movement, so they desperately have to be right. Otherwise, there could be some other gaping holes in their beliefs.

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