Thursday, 25 March 2010

GREENBERG, David: The Construction of Homosexuality

"At various times, homosexuality has been considered the noblest of loves, a horrible sin, a psychological condition or grounds for torture and execution. David F. Greenberg's careful, encyclopedic and important new book argues that homosexuality is only deviant because society has constructed, or defined, it as deviant. The book takes us over vast terrains of example and detail in the history of homosexuality."--Nicholas B. Dirks, New York Times Book Review

Editorial Review - Kirkus Reviews Copyright (c) VNU Business Media, Inc.
A densely documented study of societal attitudes toward homosexuality through the ages and across the cultural spectrum. To supply insight into prehistoric practices, Greenberg begins with homosexuality in tribal societies. In various Pacific Island tribes, for instance, prepubescent boys are placed under the aegis of an older male for manhood-training--which includes a ritualized pederastic relationship until the younger male marries. Throughout the world, a number of tribal societies regard nonritualized homosexuality for men and, occasionally, for women with considerable tolerance. The widespread homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome may, says Greenberg, have evolved from earlier rituals. The Christian era was characterized by official hostility to all nonprocreative sex, with horrendous penalties (castration, stoning, immolation) for homosexual acts. Such penalties were rarely invoked, and large medieval and Renaissance cities contained sizable male homosexual undergrounds. With Protestantism and the Industrial Age, attitudes hardened as a burgeoning middle class saw nonconformity as a threat to their values, children, and societal stability. Gay liberation has now produced a backlash triggered by the sudden visibility of homosexuals, with the AIDS crisis further ammunition against deviation. Every page here bristles with information: Greenberg cites over 2,300 books and articles. Although he relies on no original sources, he has assembled and interpreted well a mass of fascinating material.

MURRAY, Stephen O: Homosexualities.

One of the world's leading authorities on global homosexualities has produced a magnum opus. Breathtaking in its historical and geographical scope, Stephen O. Murray's landmark work provides a sweeping examination of the construction of male and female homosexualities, stressing both the variability of the forms same-sex desire can take and the key recurring patterns it has formed throughout history. From imperial China to Tudor England, and from medieval Egypt to the Ottoman Empire to modern-day Japan, Murray expertly explores the full range of both behavior and meaning in same-sex relationships.

NAPHY, William: Born to be Gay

HERDT, Gilbert H: Same sex, different cultures:

Exploring gay and lesbian lives

Westview Press, 1997

204 pages

Because homoerotic relations can be found in so many cultures, Gilbert Herdt argues that we should think of these relations as part of the human condition. This new cross-cultural study of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals around the world, Same Sex, Different Cultures provides a unique perspective on maturing and living within societies, both historical and contemporary, that not only acknowledge but also incorporate same-gender desires and relations.Examining what it means to organize “sex” in a society that lacks a category for “sex,” or to love someone of the same gender when society does not have a “homosexual” or “gay/lesbian” role, Herdt provides provocative new insights in our understanding of gay and lesbians lives. Accurate in both its scientific conceptions and wealth of cultural and historical material, examples range from the ancient Greeks and feudal China and Japan to the developing countries of Africa, India, Mexico, Brazil, and Thailand, from a New Guinea society to contemporary U.S. culture, including Native Americans. For all of these peoples, homoerotic relations emerge as part of culture—and not separate from history or society.In many of these groups, loving or engaging in sexual relations is found to be the very basis of the local cultural theory of “human nature” and the mythological basis for the cosmos and the creation of society. The mistake of modern Western culture, Gilbert contends, is to continue the legalization of prejudice against lesbians and gays.In this light, the book addresses the issue of “universal” versus particular practices and reveals positive role models that embrace all aspects of human sexuality. Finally, it offers knowledge of the existence of persons who have loved and have been intimate sexually and romantically with the same gender in other lands through divergent cultural practices and social roles.The most important lesson to learn from this cross-cultural and historical study of homosexuality is that there is room for many at the table of humankind.

Monday, 8 March 2010

NELSON, James B: Between two gardens:

 Reflections on sexuality and religious experience
Pilgrim Press, 1983

Thoughtful reexamination of human sexuality and the Christian experience. Discusses men's and women's liberation, singleness, abortion, the family, religious and moral questions related to homosexuality, and other issues.

The Spiritual Gifts of Gay Sexuality

Spiritual direction is one of the best -kept secrets of the Catholic Church. This is unfortunate- the process needs to be better known and used. This is how Jesuit theologian James L'Empereur describes it:

the process in which a Christian accompanies others for an extended period of time for the process of clarifying the psychological and religious issues in the directee so that they may move toward deeper union with God and contribute to ministry within the Christian community.

I have unexpectedly been able to borrow L'Empereur's "Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person", which I would now like to prescribe to all my readers as required reading, with a 3 hour examination at the end of the course. I began reading last evening, and have been devouring it with enthusiasm. I am now about half way through, and not yet ready to offer a full and balanced assessment. (That will come later). Still, every page has important insights that I want to share or explore further. As an appetizer before the main course to follow, I offer some snippets today:

Here are the opening sentences:

Homosexuality is one of God's most significant gifts to humanity. To be gay or lesbian is to have received a special blessing from God. to be gay or lesbian is to have received a special blessing from God. All humans receive their own special graces from their creator, but god has chosen some to be gay and lesbian as a way of revealing something about Godself that heterosexuals do not.

This is a startling, unexpected beginning, but of course he goes on to explain and fully substantiate it, in a chapter that had me engrossed, and anxious to explore also all his references and sources (a task, I fear, which may be well beyond me.) Elsewhere, he makes another startling claim: he calls the gay state a "charism", exactly comparable to the charism of celibacy embraced by Catholic clergy. Both are charisms granted to just a few, from which the wider church can learn. Here I was reminded of an observation in one of our Soho Mass homilies, that if "homosexuality" is an environmental threat because it cannot lead to procreation, so is celibacy.) The key manner in which we who are gay or lesbian can teach the wider Church is in the manner of our sexuality, which is not exclusively about genital contact (in complete contradiction to the popular stereotypes), nor is it based in patriarchal patterns of domination and submission.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

MACLAREN Brian: A New Kind of Christianity

Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith
Harper Collins, 2010
320 pages

Examines 10 questions facing Christianity today, questions about authority, God, Jesus, how to articulate the faith itself, the nature of the gospel, sex, the future and pluralism, in a book that lays out a vision of what the church will look like for its next 500 years.

From Publishers Weekly
McLaren's fans and detractors have eagerly awaited this book, which promises to codify the beliefs he introduced in his bestselling A New Kind of Christian and other titles. McLaren, one of the most visible faces of the emergent movement, examines 10 questions the church must answer as it heads toward a new way of believing. McLaren deconstructs the Greco-Roman narrative of the Bible and addresses how the Bible should be understood as an inspired library, not a constitution. He moves into questions regarding God, Jesus, and the Gospel, urging us to trade up our image of God and realize that Jesus came to launch a new Genesis. The Church, sexuality, the future, and pluralism merit chapters, as does McLaren's final call for a robust spiritual life. Followers will rejoice as McLaren articulates his thoughts with logic and eloquence; detractors will point out his artful avoidance of firm answers on salvation, hell, and a final judgment. All sides will flock to this with glee. (Feb.)

Amazon User Review:

Brian McLaren has emerged as a voice that asks aloud the questions that many of us have wrestled with in silence. As a result, he has been lionized (and sometimes idolized) by those who find resonance with his theological ponderings. He has simultaneously been demonized and even slandered by those who are disturbed by his explorations into what it means to follow Jesus in the 21st century. He has become both an antenna and a lightning rod for the light and heat generated by the friction of Christianity's transition into post-modernism.

I have just finished reading McLaren's latest book, A New Kind of Christianity. Having read several of McLaren's other books, I would consider this one to be essential. I mean "essential" in two different ways:

1. "Essential" in the sense that A New Kind of Christianity is a streamlined and tightly focused distillation of ideas that McLaren has explored elsewhere. This book seems to contain the concentrated essence of what McLaren's theological labor has produced thus far. I often found points which he had sketched out in previous books now re-drawn in sharp, clear and muscular form. As a result--at under 300 pages--this book packs a great deal of theological, intellectual and inspirational punch.

2. "Essential" in the sense that A New Kind of Christianity is *the* Brian McLaren book to read, whether you haven't read anything else by him or whether you have read everything else by him.

The 10 Questions:

1. What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
2. How should the Bible be understood?
3. Is God violent?
4. Who is Jesus and why is He important?
5. What is the Gospel?
6. What do we do about the Church?
7. Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
8. Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
10. What do we do now? (How do we translate our quest into action?)

Thursday, 4 March 2010

NAPHY, William: Born To be Gay

A History of Homosexuality

“A global history of the lives of gay men and women from the earliest civilizations to the present day.”

Homosexuality ahs always been present in society.  William Naphy’s book dramatically highlights the positive attitudes of bygone generations and cultures, as opposed to nineteenth century views of the “disease” of homosexuality.

There has long been an assumption in the West that views on sex and sexuality are basically similar worldwide.  This has never been the case.  Many ancient cultures actively promoted same-sex relationships as an integral part of adolescence or even worship. The rise of Judeo-Christian views forced homosexuality “underground”, leading to Henry VIII’s 1535 ban on homosexuality and Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for sodomy.

Born to Be Gay takes a radical look at homosexuality from Bacchanalian orgies to “Gay Pride”.




Before Sodom and Gomorrah
”Joined in Life, Joined in Death

The Birth of Homophobia
”They Must Be Put to Death”

Classical Civilizations and the Birth of Christianity
”Every Woman’s Husband and Every Man’s Wife”

Closing Minds
”The Amir Wants to See What I Look Like When I’m Sodomised

Spreading Christian Values
”Because the White People Thought it was Evil”

Colonizing Minds
”They Had Grown From Childhood in Their Own Natural Way”.

DUBERMAN, Martin; CHAUNCEY, George; VICINUS, Martha: Hidden From History,

Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past

New American Library 1989
Penguin 1991

579 pages

Lesbian and Gay History
Winner of two Lambda Rising Awards. "A landmark of a book and a landmark of ideas that will shatter ignorance and delusion."-Catharine Stimpson

Introduction George Chaunsy Jnr, Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus
The Ancient World
Revolutions, Universals and Sexual Categories: John Boswell
Sex Before Sexuality: Pederasty, Politics and Power in Classical Athens: David M Halperin
Sexual Matters: Rethinking Sexuality in History
Preindustrial Societies
Lesbian Sexuality in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Judith C Brown
Homosexuality and the state in Late Imperial China: Vivien W Ng
Lesbians in American Indian Culture: Paula Gunn Allen
Male Love in Early Modern Japan:  A Literary depiction of the “Youth”  Paul Gordon Schalow
The Birth of the Queen: Sodomy and the Emergence of Gender Equality in Modern Culture,1660 – 1750 Randolph Trumbach
Sodomy in the Dutch Republic in the Eighteenth Century: Arend H Huussen, Jnr.
The Nineteenth Century
“Writhing Bedfellows” in Antebellum South Carolina: Historical Interpretation and the Politics of Evidence  Martin Duberman
Knights Errant and Gothic Seducers:  The Representation of Male Friendship in Mid-Nineteenth Century America Robert K Martin
“She Even Chewed Tobacco”: A Pictorial Narrative of Passing Women in America  San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project
Inverts, Perverts and Mary-Anns: Male Prostitution and the Regulation of Homosexuality in England in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries. Gefffrey Weeks
Distance and Desire:  English Boarding School Friendships, 1879 – 1920  Martha Vicinus
Early Twentieth Century
Iconography of a Scandal: Political Cartoons and the Eulenberg Affair in Wilhelmin Germany Jame D. Steakley
Discourses of Subjectivity:  The New Woman, 1870 – 1936  Carroll Smith-Rosenberg
The Mythic Mannish Lesbian:  Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman Esther Newton
Christian Brotherhood or Sexual Perversion? Homosexual Identities and the Construction of Sexual Boundaries in the the World war I Era  Geoffrey Chauncey, Jnr
A Spectacle in Color: The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz age Harlem  Eric Garber
Paris Lesbianism and the Politics of Reaction , 1900 – 1940: Shari Benstock
Russia’s Gay Literature and Culture:  The Impact of the October Revolution Simon Karlinsky
Swastika, Pink Triangle and Yellow Star: the Destruction of Sexology and the Persecution of Homosexuals in Nazi Germany
Erwin J Haeberle
World War II and the Postwar Era
Marching to a Different Drummer: Lesbian and gay GI’s in World War II Allen Berube
“Imagine my Surprise”: Women’s Relationships in Mid –Twentieth Century America Leila J Rupp
Migrancy and Male Sexuality on the South African Gold Mines T Dunbar Moodie (with Vivienne Ndatshe and British Sibuyi)
Homosexuality, Homophobia and Revolution:Notes towards an Understanding of the Cuban Lesbian and  Gay Male Experience. Lourdes Arguelles and B. Ruby Rich
Gay Politics and Community in San Francisco Since WWII John D’Emilio