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.
Subjects: Religion, Language & Literature
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