Review:  Telling Truths in Church: Scandal, Flesh, and Christian Speech

by Mark D. Jordan

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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

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

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

Meditation Practice

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

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

Book Reviews

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

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

 Can We Talk?

Telling Truths in Church
Telling Truths in Church: Scandal, Flesh, and Christian Speech

by Mark D. Jordan

Beacon Press paperback, 128 pages, $14.95

June 2004


Available from -- new and used -- paper and hard cover. Also available for Kindle.

Telling Truths in Church: Scandal, Flesh, and Christian Speech

5 stars

This review appeared in White Crane Journal #60, Spring 2004

The evocative—and provocative—title of this book, almost by itself, calls out to the reader  to pick it up and find out what the “truths” are. And the exercise would be more than successful, though it turns out the “truths” Jordan is talking about are not a series of literal propositions, but an attitude to openness to human life--and especially the passion of human life called eros.

Mark Jordan is a professor of religion at Emory University in Atlanta. He’s made himself a reputation for challenging na´ve assumptions about the veracity of Church teachings, especially about sexuality and homosexuality. His previous book The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism opened with  a meditation on daily life around the Vatican that—truly—should be required reading for all Catholics. In that meditation, Jordan posed the question: what if the Holy Spirit reveals to the Pope and Vatican officials that the Church’s position on homosexuality is in error? How would the Pope or the Cardinals  ever manage to bring themselves to talk about this realization during the morning meetings? At every stage, they’d be frightened of revealing too much about themselves (and maybe their previous night’s indulgences). No one would be able to broach the subject.

With similar awareness of how the inertia of orthodoxy prevents honest discussion, Telling Truths in Church describes the difficulties of creating modern, sensitive,  psychologically aware theologies of sex. And yet it is incumbent on the Church to do so; changes in culture, developments in reproductive biology, not to mention scandals involving priestly sexual behavior,  require religious institutions to evolve and update the expressions of doctrine. And yet they are generally loathe to do so. And, in fact, usually satisfy themselves with reiterating what they claim to be age-old, immutable orthodox truths. The condemnation of modern homosexuality is a standard in this enterprise. Now the one man-one woman theology of Christian marriage has become another. Yet the “truth” is that the styles of marriage have changed dramatically over the thousands of years of Judeo-Christian practice. And Jesus himself was hardly an advocate of heterosexuality and  the modern nuclear family.

This brief, but packed,  little book is based on a series of lectures Jordan gave at Boston University, and the rhetorical style sometimes shines through most pleasantly. You can almost him the passion and innocence in the author’s (gay male) voice behind the written words.  Coincidentally, the priestly pedophilia crisis, starting in Boston, broke just shortly before these lectures were to be delivered. Telling truths in—and about—the church suddenly took on new meaning. Pedophilia and gay marriage are major examples of how Church “truths” are shaped and sometimes corrupted to fit political realities. The Church, after all, has its own survival and organizational maintenance to look out for. We’ve all observed how blaming the homosexuals is a convenient way to redirect attention.

Jordan’s discussions of these issues are fresh and insightful. He generally avoids the  political and theological rhetoric, observing that the usual arguments obscure the actual human and personal issues involved. He writes, for instance,  of the two men or two women who come to the Church to seek and declare God’s blessing on their commitment to one another, only to be turned away because of political strategies and institutional quarrels that have nothing to do with the love and faithfulness the two of them feel and trive to strengthen. (Jordan makes the astringent observation that it is not the priest or pastor today who determines the style and iconography of marriage, but rather the wedding planner, followed closely by the photographer, florist, and caterer.)

Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is a treatise on “apophatic theology,” that is, the tradition that nothing can really be said in total truth about God and God’s reality because anything about God is necessarily beyond human thought. Talk about God is really always talk about humans and their concerns and conflicts.

Frankly, I’d go a step further than Mark Jordan does and challenge the “lies” the Church and religion tells about the factuality of religious doctrines, especially afterlife. Threats of hellfire are used to manipulate human behavior in ways that our modern psychological awareness now shows us are truly morbid and crazy-making. The suicide bombers in Israel who think they’ve earned  their way to deflower seventy virgins is but a notably contemporary example. The homosexuals burned at the stake down the centuries must not be forgotten when we evaluate the “truth” of Christian teaching. But most importantly delaying “heaven” till after death is literally closing the gates to the realization of divine presence in this life here and now that Jesus had tried so hard to open.

This is a lovely book. It—truly—got me thinking. It’s challenging, but eminently readable. You’re likely to come away from it wishing you’d had a pastor more like Mark Jordan.


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


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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 GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY 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 Press.

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