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YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned
from Joseph Campbell: The
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, a sci-fi novel with wonderful "aliens" with an Afterword by Mark Jordan
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:
Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods
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: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey
Books on Gay Spirituality:
White Crane Gay Spirituality Series
Articles and Excerpts:
Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996
The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate
A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality
Why gay people should NOT Marry
The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage
Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness
What Jesus said about Gay Rights
Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men
Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?
Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality
What the Bible Says about Homosexuality
Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men
Waves of Gay Liberation Activity
Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?
The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter
Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium
Easton Mountain Retreat Center
Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism
The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
Joseph Campbell's description of AvalokiteshvaraYou'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
What Anatman means
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
Cutting edge realization
The Myth of the Wanderer
Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss
What the Vows Really Mean
Manifesting from the Subtle Realms
The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse
The est Training and Personal Intention
Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven
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 nine 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, four 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 and editor of a collection of "myths" of gay men's consciousness.
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They
YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth
of the Great Secret III tells the story of Johnson's learning the
real nature of religion and myth and discovering the spiritual
qualities of gay male consciousness.
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