For 26 Oct
White – The Historical Roots of LGBT Religious Organizing, 1946–1976
The intersection of queer identities and religious allegiance has constituted a lively source for emerging new religious movements. This article examines the roots of the contemporary flourishing of religious fellowships for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) practitioners, focusing on the “gay church movement” of the late 1960s and early 1970s. These predominantly gay religious fellowships initiated models for religious organizing that facilitated continued proliferation across religious affiliation.
For 16 Nov
Hammer – Queering the Torah
For two thousand years, midrash— creative commentary on biblical text that both explains and expands its meaning— has been an important vehicle for the evolution of Jewish theology and practice. Contemporary midrash— midrash written (or otherwise artistically composed) by contemporary artists— maintains the purpose of this ancient genre, shifting Jewish self-understanding through creative approaches to biblical text. It also introduces modern elements of doubt, subjectivity and challenge. For example, feminist writers and artists have transformed Jewish ways of looking at gender by creating midrashim in which biblical women speak for themselves. In recent years, Jews who identify as LGBT have also begun to create midrash that inscribes queerness into sacred text. This midrash not only challenges the reader to accept LGBT individuals as part of the core community of Torah interpreters, but also invites LGBT Jews to see themselves as a fundamental part of the Jewish past, present, and future.
For 30 Nov
McQueeney – Lesbian Commitment Rituals
Despite the legal and religious establishment’s denial of rights and recognition to same-gender couples, many lesbians and gay men are adapting and/or creating their own rituals to affirm their commitments to each other. This article uses participant observation of a black lesbian couple’s shower and holy union ceremony to explore the multiple and competing meanings attached to the ritualistic symbols and narratives they incorporated. I seek to complicate the existing framework, in which rituals are held to produce feelings of belonging to participants and serve as vehicles for the social transformation of marginalised groups (e.g., Driver, 1991). By adapting and appropriating ritualistic elements often used in heterosexual weddings, I argue that this couple and the ritual coordinators succeeded in creating a sense of social order, “communitas” (Turner, 1969), and personal and social transformation for some participants. However, I also suggest that the achievement of these functions hinged on the creation of symbolic out-groups and the reproduction of social conventions around gender, the family, and the “appropriate” expression of sex in marriage, which diminished the experience of communitas and social transformation for other participants. Future research should focus on the competing expectations and interpretations participants bring to their experiences of rituals and the ways in which existing structures of power and authority may limit rituals’ social functionality, creation of communitas, and revolutionary potential.
For 7 Dec
Blevins – Debating Same-sex Marriage and Queer Families in America
Since the United States Supreme Court overturned state sodomy statutes in its 2003 decision, Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, religious and political conservatives in America have feared that the decision could pave the way for legalization of same-sex marriage. No longer able to rely on the illegality of same-sex relationships to deny the legal protections of marriage to those relationships, conservatives have had to rely on broader discourses from which to argue against same-sex marriage. One particularly powerful discourse claims that marriage must be confined to heterosexual relationships in order to protect children. This paper explores the various discourses surrounding heterosexual marriage and families that are commonly employed in the ongoing debates about same-sex marriage in America today. First, the paper explores the ways in which psychoanalysis requires heterosexuality to articulate a theory of childhood development, comparing the dynamics of psychoanalytic discourse in both France and America. Second, the paper critiques common Christian theological claims of marriage, focusing on the theology and ethics of Karl Barth. Having explored psychological and theological claims, the paper ends by pointing to progressive Christian communities as sites from which alternative theologies and rituals are developing that illumine broader expressions of family.