The Religious Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage: New Book from Columbia

Paul Harvey

I have yet to take a look at this new volume, but it will surely be of interest to many of you, so I"m pasting in below information from this new book's website:

Between a Man and a Woman?
Why Conservatives Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

Ludiger H. Viefhues-Bailey

Read the Table of Contents.

Ludger Viefhues-Bailey alights on a profound theological conundrum: in today's conservative Christian movement, both sexes are called upon to be at once assertive and submissive, masculine and feminine, not only within the home but also within the church, society, and the state. Therefore the arguments of conservative Christians against same-sex marriage involve more than literal readings of the Bible or nostalgia for simple gender roles.

Focusing primarily on texts produced by Focus on the Family, a leading media and ministry organization informing conservative Christian culture, Viefhues-Bailey identifies two distinct ideas of male homosexuality: gender-disturbed and passive; and oversexed, strongly masculine, and aggressive. These homosexualities enable a complex ideal of Christian masculinity in which men are encouraged to be assertive toward the world while also being submissive toward God and family. This web of sexual contradiction influences the flow of power between the sexes and within the state. It joins notions of sexual equality to claims of "natural" difference, establishing a fraught basis for respectable romantic marriage. Heterosexual union is then treated as emblematic of, if not essential to, the success of American political life-yet far from creating gender stability, these tensions produce an endless striving for balance. Viefhues-Bailey's final, brilliant move is to connect the desire for stability to the conservative Christian movement's strategies of political power.

"To understand Christian rhetoric around sexuality, you have to listen through the clanging speeches without falling under their compulsions to repeat. Ludger Viefhues-Bailey can do this and then some." - Mark D. Jordan, Harvard Divinity School


AMBurgess said…
huh? I don't think I get it. I guess I'll have to read the book.

Why do we have to come up with some concealed or even unconscious motive for understanding a political or religious position? This seems disrespectful and actually quite counter to mutual understanding. Maybe a lot of conservatives oppose same-sex marriage because that's simply what their religious tradition teaches. And maybe a lot of progressives support it because their social justice tradition informs that perspective. Let's give people the benefit of the doubt and respect their particular line of reasoning rather than subject their views to psychoanalysis. I really hope this book amounts to more than pseudo-scientific Freudian superstitions.

And why did the author focus on FotF for understanding the conservative position? This seems very cliched to me. Not to mention tedious and predictable.
AMBurgess said…
Oh, and I forgot to mention that Viefhues-Bailey's connection of ssm opposition to political power plays is also highly predictable. When political theorists think that power quests are at the heart of everything, it seems to me that they're the ones who can't see beyond the political.
Tom Van Dyke said…
There is a rising tide in American jurisprudence that religious sentiment is inherently irrational, and has no place in our polity.

There was a very bizarre episode in 1993, Romer v. Evans, where [Catholic] "natural law-yers" Robert George and John Finnis felt obliged to argue via Plato that opposition to SSM wasn't mere Judeo-Christian superstition, but had support in reason as well. [Surely Plato is a reasonable man! Further, "natural law" theory per Aquinas through to James Wilson has always maintained that scripture and the "natural law" cannot be in conflict.]

For those interested, an account is here

told by a fella who, although his sentiments happen to be in sympathy with SSM, is an honest man. Martha Nussbaum clearly lost, perhaps even guilty of scholarly malfeasance.

[Although her side won the case. As it turned out, the court ignored this scholarly sideshow, and ruled against George's and Finnis's side...]

Nussbaum's testimony, George later wrote, "amounted to a series of misrepresentations, distortions, and deceptions" involving material that lay within her area of expertise.

Even without Finnis's and George's accusations, Romer v. Evans would have been an unusual trial. Because some of the legal strategies pursued by both sides depended on testimony offered by classical scholars, natural law theorists, and specialists in ancient philosophy, the case became a lightning rod for discussion about the relevance of the humanities to "real" life--and, by implication, about the motives and methods of public intellectuals. Not all of this discussion was especially respectful of the life of the mind. There were those--among them writers at The New Republic and The New Yorker--who found something comic in the sight of academic superstars earnestly debating Plato's views on anal intercourse in a Denver, Colorado, courtroom a good 2,300 years after Plato himself presumably rejoined the realm of pure Ideas.

But the nature of Finnis's and George's allegations against Nussbaum did raise a serious question, one closer perhaps to the concerns of tragedy than those of comedy: Must scholars sacrifice their intellectual standards when they enter the public arena?

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