Table of Contents
Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer
The Way Out by Christopher L Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr
Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low
Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman
The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine
The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther
The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak
Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman
Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano
The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
Occam’s Razor by David Duncan
Grace and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso
The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen
War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar
The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal
The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre
Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak
A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey
Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes
The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes
Keys to Spiritual Being by Adrian Ravarour
In Walt We Trust by John Marsh
Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary
A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary
Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott
Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou
Internal Landscapes by John Ollom
Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks
Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler
Sanctity & Male Desire by Donald Boisvert
Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal
Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson
Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette
The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson
The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire
"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught
Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology
The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons
Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert
The Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker
Out There by Perry Brass
The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh
The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan
It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja
ReCREATIONS, edited by Catherine Lake
Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard
Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson
Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch
Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan
The Substance of God by Perry Brass
The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols
10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort
Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe
The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann
Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall
Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long
Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David Sparks
An Interview with Randy Conner
Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard
Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak
Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan
Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson
Blessing Same-Sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage
by Mark D. Jordan
University Of Chicago Press
trade paperback, 268 pages, $16.95
Available from Amazon.com -- new and used -- paperback.
Blessing Same-Sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage
This review appeared in White Crane Journal #70 Fall 2006
Mark Jordan is Professor of Religion at Emory University, author of two influential and mind-blowing books on the history of the idea of “sodomy” in Christian Church history and several other books, and he is a marvelous writer and rhetoritician.
Blessing Same-Sex Unions is a delight to read. At times, of course, it is precise and theological. There’s nothing lax about the book’s argumentation. But it’s written with a certain whimsy and delightfully arch rhetorical style. In the Epilogue, Jordan compares the book to an opera buffa, a comedy of manners, and his narrative voice perhaps to what he calls “the avuncular parson’s winking approval.” From behind the curtain of his serious theological and cultural commentary, you can occasionally imagine the author sticking his head out, smiling at the audience, and delivering a great one-liner—or maybe giving a campy raspberry to all the seriousness.
Blessing Same-Sex Unions takes a different point of departure from usual for discussing gay marriage. Instead of arguing about rights and benefits and human or American liberties, Jordan addresses the question of ceremonies: what is a “wedding”? how do you put on a properly “gay” wedding? what does it mean to “bless” the union? what is the “union”?
One of the reasons, perhaps, that Jordan’s prose is so pleasantly mannered is that he is acutely concerned with language and complains that the language used to debate this contentious issue is usually imprecise and misleading. So he spends considerable space in the book analyzing the language of religion and particularly of marriage and relationship.
I recommend the book simply for its enjoyable readability and its occasional comedy about what is often so “deadly serious” on both sides of the debate. But, of course, the content matters and Jordan’s take on the content is refreshingly different from the usual.
As part of analyzing “marriage,” Jordan looks at the real issues: the wedding and the commitment (to what?). In one of the more humorous sections, he picks apart an issue of Modern Bride Magazine, showing that weddings are really for ceremonies for women and they’re mostly about spending exorbitant sums of money on dresses and catering. He jokes that gay men are intrinic to weddings—but usually as the dress designers, the planners, and the caterers (and maybe the priests!). Weddings are big business in America. They’re done through the Churches, but really have very little to do with religion.
As a Church historian, Jordan solidly refutes the notion that heterosexual marriage is the fundamental building block of society and has remained unchanged through Church history. Early Christianity did not approve of marriage at all. St. Paul wanted all Christian believers to abstain from sex, reproduction, and marriage as he did. The early Christians believed the end of the world and the return of Jesus were imminent. Having children and planning for the future were signs of unbelief. And monogamy and indissolubility as the central characteristics of Christian marriage are new ideas, certainly not consistent with the polygynist model of the Biblical patriarchs. Even Jesus’s teachings on marriage have more to do with honoring women as equal human beings than with offering a legal structure for or a theology about sex.
Christianity has been traditionally anti-sex and anti-pleasure. So marriage is less about legitimating sex or discovering the mystical significance of sexual consciousness than it is about keeping inheritance lines clear and placing sexuality in a pattern that ultimately subordinates it to child-rearing.
A theme that runs through the book is how modern gay men and lesbians might be reforming marital and childrearing expectations, perhaps, by doing it better. The (surreptiously anti-sex?) Fundamentalists complain that gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed because gay people (men especially) are more likely to be pro-sex and liberal (adulterous?) with one another. We gay men might argue, for instance, that a little outside sex, especially engaged in honestly and forthrightly within rules like “only when the partner is out of town,” can actually strengthen the bond of love between the partners. That’s what the “family values” people call redefining marriage and worry that our gay adaptations to reality might allow all marriages to be happier, more stable, and—god forbid!—more sexually satisfying.
One of the most interesting discusssions in the book is based on analysis of love letters from earlier times. In the letters between the literary critic F.O. Mathiessen and the painter Russell Cheney, for instance, who were lovers from 1924 to 1945, Jordan finds a definition of male love and bonding that blends Walt Whitman’s enthusiasm for embodiment with conventional marriage to come up with a notion of loving “companionship, devotion, and laughter” that enhances personal freedom rather than constraining it.
Jordan looks at “rites” and “liturgies” to see just what is being blessed. Looking at several scripts for gay marriage ceremonies, he elucidates just what kind of commitment the partners might be entering into based on the words they use in their, perhaps personally composed, vows. He also analyzes John Boswell’s arguments that “Pre-Modern” Christianity actually had rituals for same-sex bonding.
If you’re rushing out to join the crowd demanding the same rights—and rites—as heterosexuals because it’s the cause celebre of the moment, you might be more interested in one of those guides to gay marriage, with referral pages for the best costumes or most stylish comestibles for the reception. But if you want to delve deep into the meaning of what such a “blessing” is, here’s the book for you. And it’s a fun read!
Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness, The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell and other novels and books
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are
available now from Lethe
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