Between a Man and a Woman?

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

LUDGER H. VIEFHUES-BAILEY
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/vief15620
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  • Book Info
    Between a Man and a Woman?
    Book Description:

    Through a probing investigation of conservative Christianity and its response to an issue that, according to the statistics of conservative Christian groups, affects only a small number of Americans, 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52101-7
    Subjects: Religion, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. AUTHOR’S NOTE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-28)

    Religious language is ubiquitous in the arguments against social acceptance or even legal protection for gays and lesbians. Historically, only a few ministries or gay and lesbian rights groups drew explicitly on religiously motivated ideas of justice; mostly, however, religious language was used to defend a legal and social status quo in which gays and lesbians were subjected to various degrees of discrimination.¹ Today a handful of mainstream denominations endorse the idea that a loving relationship between adults of the same sex is religiously acceptable. Yet the most vociferous resistance against such love still comes from religious organizations and persistently...

  6. 2 RELIGIOUS INTERESTS BET WEEN BIBLE AND POLITICS
    (pp. 29-60)

    I want to begin our project of understanding what conservative Christians say about same-sex love by asking what motivates this discourse. This seems to be an easy question. Is it not apparent that conservative Christians base their beliefs on a literal reading of the Bible? And if it is not the Bible that motivates them, then it must be that conservative politics (and not deep-seated religious convictions) determine how conservative Christians think about same-sex love.

    Indeed, the notion that belief in biblical inerrancy is the key factor in their attitudes toward sexuality is a staple in the scholarship about conservative...

  7. 3 AMERICA AND THE STATE OF RESPECTABLE CHRISTIAN ROMANCE
    (pp. 61-94)

    In the previous chapter I argued that conservative Christian narratives about same-sex couples and their love are motivated not simply by a doctrinal belief in biblical literalism or by exclusively political concerns. Rather, we saw how cultural and hence political contexts shape how Christians read the Bible and how they conceive of its truth. And we learned that evocations of tradition in religious revival movements are aimed at rejecting the interpretations of previous elites and endorsing new religious and political regimes. Religious convictions are therefore public and political. They are produced in a political process, and they shape it. Therefore...

  8. 4 SAME-SEX LOVE AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF CHRISTIAN FEMININITY AND MASCULINITY
    (pp. 95-121)

    As we saw in chapter 3, conservative Christian organizations fear that allowing marriage for same-sex couples would threaten the ideal heterosexual structure of society. At stake is a specific understanding of what constitutes the heterosexual difference. To understand why this is the case and what characterizes this difference, we need to take a closer look at how same-sex love appears in conservative Christian texts. Therefore this chapter analyzes how Focus on the Family depicts same-sex love and its threat to the heterosexual order. We will see that male homosexuals are talked about most frequently in Focus literature. In it, two...

  9. 5 A POLITICAL AND SEXUAL THEOLOGY OF CRISIS
    (pp. 122-142)

    Why is the issue of same-sex love so deeply problematic for conservative Christian groups and their followers? What motivates their nearly obsessive concern with it? After the analysis of the previous chapters we can see the outlines of an answer for these questions. The invocation of the hyper- or hypo-male gay, the masculinized lesbian, or the secular feminist woman helps delineate normative Christian heterosexuality as one that is structured by a hierarchy of submission. Thus, the Christian imagination of same-sex love and of feminism plays an important part in the construction of respectable sexual relations. As we learned in chapter...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 143-156)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 157-168)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 169-176)