Having recently concluded that I may be more conservative than I realised, this past week I’ve found myself reflecting on whether I might be more liberal than I realised too.
What sparked this reflection was some reading I’d been doing in preparation to speak about sex and gender — and the difference Jesus makes not only to how we think about these things but also to how we engage with them practically.
Basically, I keep finding that — as a Christian — I agree with Queer Theorists like Judith Butler and Eve Sedgewick.
I’ve noticed this surprising alignment when I consider the way Sedgewick argues against the naturalness of sexual orientation — and the comfortable Either/Or we often reach for when discussing sexual identity (e.g., either gay or straight).
Likewise, I’m inclined to credit Michel Foucault’s provocative claim (upon which Queer Theory is more or less founded) that homosexuality was invented in the nineteenth century.
Before that, homosexuality as we know it — ie. as an identity tied to a particular lifestyle — didn’t exist.
I can’t see any point in denying this.
In fact, there are even things here I want to affirm. For example, Queer Theory’s overall tendency to treat sexuality as something quite fluid and multifaceted seems to resonate nicely with the scholarly consensus about the lack of reference to homosexuality as a settled identity or orientation in the Bible.
Although — and here I no doubt part ways with most Queer Theorists — the Bible is perfectly well acquainted with same-sex desire and same-sex sexual activity.
Biblically, homosexual desires — along with a wide range of other misdirected and out-of-proportion desires — are treated as evidence of the brokenness of our world.
And homosexual acts as a misuse of our bodies — one that departs from our good Creator’s vision for our sexual wholeness.
Neither homosexual acts nor homosexual inclinations are the real issue. They’re results of the real issue — which is idolatry according to Romans 1, the ‘de-godding’ of God.
And so, with that thought, my reflections come full circle.
Because the issue of idolatry also lay at the base of my previous attempt to summarise my theology of politics (I hesitate to call it a political theology):
Before the risen Lord Jesus, earthly governments must renounce their tendency to idolatrous self-divinisation.
Of course, the same goes for the Economy and My Little Patch Of Individual Autonomy — two often-hypostasised alternatives to earthly governments.
They are the things governments should butt out of, according to classical and contemporary conservative thought.
But neither the economy nor the individual is immune to the temptation to pose as divine. Thus, both must learn to shrink back before the Lord Jesus, whose self-emptying ‘economy’ alone truly enriches and gives life (2 Corinthians 8.9) and whose risen sovereignty alone offers lasting security and salvation (1 Peter 1.3-5).
In other words, sexuality, politics, and the economy are all in the same boat.
All are good gifts from our Creator, and all able to be rightly used when he is allowed to be God. And yet all also tend to claim too much for themselves — presenting themselves as natural and inevitable — drawing our hearts and allegiance into their self-destructive maelstrom.
Hence, my surprising sense of alignment with Queer Theory when it questions this ‘naturalness’ when it comes to sex and gender…