Studies of Homosexuality Volume 12 Introduction

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[03/12/92] [vol 12: Religion & Philosophy]



Throughout most of human history, religion and philosophy, both concerned with ultimate questions, have traveled hand in hand; in Asian civilizations, they have never parted company. In the West philosophy originated as a tradition of speculative thought critical of religion among the pederastic Ionian Greeks of the sixth century B.C., but became a captive of Christian doctrine after Constantine in the fourth century, lingering there until it reemerged as a distinct category in the wake of the Renaissance.

Philosophy has tended to favor abstract questions of logic, epistemology, and ontology, though religious writers have also explored all these areas, often in a less than systematic fashion. As a rule, such discussions have little immediate relevance to sexuality, but homosexuality figures in the biographies of many notable philosophers. The nature of love has merited continuing discussion, initially against a pederastic background, and often marked by gender comparison and reflections on what today is often termed "homosociality." Ethics, the most practical branch of philosophy, and one with a strongly articulated parallel tradition under religious auspices, does however address questions relating directly to sexual life and social stigma. For an overview, see Laurence J. Rosán's article, included herein.

The Ancient Philosophers

Resonating throughout the classical age, the skeptical stance of the Ionians prefigured the conflict between science (which traces its roots to them) and religion-—a conflict which broke out again with the Enlightenment and which carries over into the contemporary antagonism between fundamentalist religious leaders, who continue to rely on "revealed" authority and ancient texts, and spokespeople for the gay and lesbian movement, who appeal to contemporary secular values.

The Athenian tradition of pederasty, which emphasized the intellectual training of the young beloved by his older lover, set the stage for the flowering of classical philosophy in the person of Socrates (469 399 B.C.). Archelaus, the philosopher of physics and ethics who was his lover and teacher in the pederastic mold, "considered that right and wrong were not by nature but by convention," a position which not only influenced Socrates, and through him the entire subsequent philosophical tradition, but which has echoed down through the centuries in the continuing polemics between proponents of homosexuality and of Christianity.

Socrates' pupil Plato celebrated pederastic love and its usefulness in preparing for contemplation of the Good in his mid life dialogues such as The Symposium (see Donald Levy's article, included herein), but in his old age turned against his earlier views, bitterly denouncing pederasty in The Laws as "contrary to nature" and calling for its complete suppression. While this argument found little favor in classical Greece, Christians adopted it (Romans 1:26-27), so that it survived as a basic theme of homophobic rationalization to the present day.

Plato's pupil Aristotle (384 322), tutor of Alexander the Great, had several male lovers, and was the first to distinguish between innate and acquired homosexuality. His study of animals led him to comment on homosexuality among birds. Like Plato, Aristotle was also concerned with the nature of friendship, which to him could only occur between free males.

The Athenian philosophers yielded to the Epicureans, who valued hedonism, and the Stoics, who emphasized natural law and restraint. Neoplatonism, which opposed all sex, dominated philosophy towards the end of the classical age; the homoerotic Marsilio Ficino (1433 1499) revived it and popularized the concept of "platonic love," which he took from Plato's Symposium while stripping it of its physical expression.

Modern Philosophers

One of the leaders of the seventeenth century revival of philosophy, Benedict Spinoza, established the primacy of reason over scriptural authority. Voltaire in the following century attacked the persecution of sodomites as a survival of medieval tyranny. At the end of his life Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 1860), who drew more inspiration from Buddhism than from Christianity, wrote on "pederasty" from a philosophical perspective, deducing from cross cultural and transhistorical data that homosexuality could not be unnatural (thereby disagreeing with Immanuel Kant). He went on to conclude that homosexuality as such (though the term was as yet unknown) is not reprehensible. See Udo Schüklenk's article, included herein.

In England Jeremy Bentham (1748 1832) applied his philosophy of utilitarianism to the question of sodomy laws, arguing at length that they should be abolished, though he did not dare publish his writings on the matter.

George Santayana (1863 1952) was an exclusive (though perhaps largely nonpracticing) homosexual, a preference that influenced the decision of this American philosopher to leave his country for the more tolerant climes of France and Italy.

The homosexuality of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 1951), iconoclastic logical positivist and perhaps the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century, is now well established, though many heterosexual Wittgenstein interpreters have shown a reluctance to explore the issue. See the article by William Warren Bartley III, included herein.


Little work has been done applying the methodology of philosophical ethics to questions facing those involved in homosexual conduct in the present day. There are numerous ethical issues connected with the "coming out" process, or in living with a concealed sexuality. Most recently, the question of "outing"—the forced revelation of homosexuality—has engendered a lively debate, but not one conducted along the lines of philosophical inquiry.

Sexual objectification raises other issues which seem to fall more easily within the traditional scope of philosophy's generalistic approach.

Gay organizations, publications, and spokespeople have generally neglected to address interpersonal ethical issues, taking a relativistic and individualistic approach when they do so which may still be rooted in antipathy to the type of coercive moralizing which in the past has often had homosexuals as its target. See Thomas Merritt's article, included herein. Regrettably, this approach leaves the question of the construction of a positive ethic up in the air.

A new issue has been the ethical status of homophobia, and more particularly of discrimination against those who practice homosexuality. In some circles, the current of opinion appears to have leapt willy nilly in the course of a score of years from the view that homosexuality is immoral and to be condemned out of hand to the view that homophobia is immoral and to be condemned out of hand, without in either case subjecting the view in question to rigorous philosophical analysis or comparative ethical examination.

The AIDS epidemic has brought a host of new and still largely inchoate ethical issues with it. Some of them relate to sexual behavior, others (paralleling the "coming out" question) to disclosure. The testing and approval process for experimental drugs and vaccines raises difficult questions of medical ethics. The consensus that discrimination against HIV positive persons is immoral, which has been written into federal American law, contrasts sharply with the controversy over homophobic discrimination, and with the widespread actual practice of stigmatizing and ostracizing HIV positives. The question of providing prophylactics—or, as in prisons and jails, prohibiting them altogether despite widespread anal sex—has raised numerous ethical issues.


Sexuality has been a major concern of religion from earliest times, perhaps because both endeavors tap into the deepest emotional and psychological currents of the human species, perhaps because both activities transcend the limitations of the solitary self and may easily become competitors in the ecology of human energy. Often religion has allied itself with sex, as in the case of sacred temple prostitution or phallic worship; at other times it has worked hard to suppress all sexual energy, as with Christian and Buddhist monastic celibacy, but it has seldom remained silent on sexual questions.

Organizationally, religion has often favored single gendered and often residentially grouped professional organizations of unmarried and unprocreative clerics. These professions have often attracted those who would otherwise feel obliged by social custom to marry, but were not sufficiently attracted to the opposite sex to wish to do so. They also provided environmental conditions favoring situational homosexuality. Thus homosexuality commonly preoccupies the internal organization of religious groups, even to the point of obsession. Sometimes, by emphasizing a prohibition of premarital or extramarital heterosexuality and heterosociality, religions have unwittingly encouraged homosexuality by the unmarried. Some traditions, such as Hinduism, have favored an androgynous mythology for divinity which has religiously undermined strict gender roles. In shamanism the crossing of gender roles itself provides evidence of advanced spiritual status. Thus there is much more to the general question of religion and homosexuality than the overwhelming homophobia which appears on first examination of the Judeo Christian tradition.

Methodological Problems

Ancient religious texts and traditions present many hermeneutic problems. Translations into modern Western languages have tended to obscure sexual aspects, reflecting not only a lack of scholarship on the part of translators, but suppression of the literary record in the original language, prejudice by the translators, and in the past century the superimposition of modern concepts (such as "the homosexual" as a type of person) on ancient cultures which knew nothing of them. As a result, for example, the proper translation of all the Biblical passages referring to homosexual behavior has become exceedingly controversial, with conservatives clinging to previous renderings while gay advocates often seem to seek to interpret them out of existence; in the context of this dialogue of the deaf scholarly reconstruction finds little support in the middle. The original and sometimes only Western translations of the texts of other religious traditions were often produced by Christian missionaries, who imposed their own concepts on the translation rather than explore the viewpoints of the culture which produced the text.

Scriptural editing usually preceded translation, and has been responsible for other problems. Often the dating of passages has been controversial, with evidence for the late interpolation of texts (such as the Holiness Code of Leviticus or the pederastic practices of the Greek gods) into earlier material being controversial among fundamentalists, and other problems are raised by clues--not obvious to all believers--to the excision of material (for example, by the early Christian conclaves which determined the biblical canon, or even by the gospel compilers who preceded them).

Usually the context for scriptural utterances is lacking in the text itself and must be sought elsewhere, a process which may be foreign to fundamentalists and controversial even where accepted as a necessary hermeneutic tool. Thus one must see the ancient Hebrew pronouncements on kedeshim in the context of religious competition with Canaanite and Mesopotamian traditions which featured these sacred prostitutes, and the Pauline texts in light of the pederastic institutions, mystery cults, and other currents prominent in the Roman empire at the time they were written. But the record of such contexts has often not survived obliteration by the followers of the scripture in question.

Another problem arises in connection with the emphasis or weight given to the texts at different periods of time. Byzantine church fathers (the patristic writers) and late medieval Inquisitors may have found certain texts grave enough to warrant torture and death as their consequences, but early medieval writers and some modernists found in the same texts only peccadillos and minor vices. Looking at the prohibitions of the Buddhist monastic legal code and the widespread unconcern with them today, can we properly deduce that Buddhists took them as lightly two millennia ago? Or examine the Islamic tradition, which is generally taken to penalize homosexuality with death, but at the same time attaches so many evidentiary conditions as to make the penalty a dead letter in practice: what is the actual attitude of the text?

Where there is religion, there is hypocrisy, and the student of religious history can hardly fail to take this linkage into account when he contrasts normative behavior codes with abundant evidence for their transgression by the very clerics who promulgate them, a pattern which has proven remarkably durable from ancient days to the most recent scandals of televangelism.

Another general issue involving the role of homosexuality in the history of religions has been the sublimation of homoerotic emotion, a subject of considerable speculation since Freud's day, but for which evidentiary standards are notably lacking. That many religious professionals have had very strong homoerotic feelings is clear enough, that many if not most have not acted them out sexually seems reasonable enough, and that these feelings have had profound influences on their spiritual work and practice is also obvious to many, but the nature of the connections between these observations remains problematic.

Non Judeo Christian Religions

For distributional reasons, the selections in this volume are limited to the Judeo Christian religious tradition. For other traditions of classical antiquity, see the volume on the Ancient World; for shamanism, the volume on Anthropology; for Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, the volume on Asian Studies. For comparative purposes, however, a brief survey of these religions follows:

Shamanism, probably the oldest of these traditions, often appears along with gender crossing behavior in preliterate cultures where the dominant form of homosexuality is gender differentiated (This model features one adult who is considered not-male for life and takes a passive sexual role with "normal" insertive adult males, in the male version; among females it involves an aggressive not-female pairing with a typical woman). The shaman is the religious professional of the tribe, the one who mediates between the community and the spirit world. The shaman's cross gender behavior reflects the influence of the spirits on him, being a sign of his special status, in this system. In those cultures featuring this type of shamanism, the shaman usually cross dresses, renounces male status, and is married to a typical male of the community. Female shamanism is also known and in some tribes is more common than the male version. Shamanism is a lifelong occupation; shamans sometimes work together but are seldom grouped residentially. The phenomenon of the cross gendered shaman (often termed "berdache") in the preliterate cultures of Siberia and among the native American tribes has been the focus of extensive study, but it also pops up in Polynesia, parts of Africa, among non Christian groups in Brazil and Haiti, and elsewhere. Its prevalence has declined under pressure from Christianity. See Edward Carpenter's article, included herein.

Sacred prostitution was common in temples of ancient Babylonia, Assyria, and Canaan, and known to ancient India, with both females and effeminized male slaves servicing male worshippers of deities such as Ishtar and Bel marduk--perhaps connected with traditions of phallic worship.

Regarding ancient Egypt and Greece, there are no records of a cultic or religious ritual role for homosexuality, but the mythologies of both religious traditions include a number of instances of homosexual acts on the part of deities. The Egyptian mythology prominently features divine anal rape. There is some evidence that the numerous episodes in Greek mythology of pederastic initiatives on the part of the gods (especially Zeus, Apollo, and Poseidon) stem from the introduction of institutionalized pederasty to Greek culture in the seventh century B.C. rather than forming part of the original Homeric ethos.

Roman mythology pretty much coopted the Greek model, but homosexuality may have played an important role in the secret initiation rites of the "mystery" religions which were very popular in the empire during the last few pagan centuries before Constantine.

Islam doctrinally treats male homosexual acts as a type of adultery, theoretically condemning them with the death penalty, but actually imposing such strenuous evidentiary requirements (sworn eyewitness accounts by four adult Muslims of good character, and whippings for accusers who fail to produce these four) that private conduct is protected. In practice, Islam is concerned with public propriety rather than private behavior and has long displayed great tolerance for pederasty, many of its greatest poets having written of their fondness for boys. "Homosexuality" to the Muslim means the acceptance of a passive, feminine role by an adult male, which is severely condemned. The seclusion of women in Muslim lands has favored pederasty as a sexual outlet for the as yet unmarried male. Islamic clerics, especially Sufis, have also developed a reputation for pederastic interests. Crossing ethnic boundaries, the Islamic pederastic tradition flourishes among Turks, Berbers, Persians, Afghans, Muslim Indians and Filipinos, and Indonesians in addition to the Arabs; this points to a religious connection. The Ayatollah Khomeini launched a vigorous persecution, including numerous executions, of "homosexuals" in Iran in the early 1980s, but this campaign appears to have targeted sexually passive adults and political opponents rather than practitioners of traditional pederasty, who held high office in the Khomeini government.

Hindu mythology offers numerous instances of androgyny on the part of the deities, one of Shiva's major forms being Ardhanarshvara, the right side male, the left female. Vishnu, normally male, assuming a female body becomes pregnant by Shiva, giving birth to Ayappa, who is the focus of a large and growing cult in South India. Hindu sanny_sin ("renunciates," the swamis, monks and "holy men") are heterosexually celibate, but temple priests may be married, and laymen are invariable so. Homosexuality appears rarely in the voluminous Hindu scriptures, though one of the best known incidents has Agni, the god of fire, swallowing Shiva's sperm after the latter god ejaculates following coitus interruptus with his female consort/aspect, Parvati. There is no consistent Hindu homophobic tradition, though British Victorian taboos and associated homophobia have taken root since the colonial era. Some of the ancient sacred law codes do mention homosexuality, the Code of Manu (first to third century) prescribing minor purification rituals for upper class males only, but fines and severe punishments for lesbianism. Manu appears to be the only known law code providing heavier punishment for lesbian than for male homosexual activities. In practice, India disregarded Manu's writ, and today India law proscribes male but not female homosexuality, following colonial era British law, though convictions are rare.

Two Hindu sects, the Hijras and the Sakhibhavas, display sacred gender reversal and engage in homosexual prostitution, which takes the gender differentiated form with "normal" male customers. The Hijras worship the Mother Goddess and seek to identify with her by becoming as feminine as possible, often severing the penis to do so. This sect welcomes many teenage homosexuals who are cast out of their families and have no other niche in a communal oriented culture.

Buddhism contains no trace of homophobia, but prohibits all insertive (only) sexual activity on the part of monks. For novices (usually teenagers), the orthodox disciplinary code provides mild penalties for homosexual acts and expulsion for heterosexual ones. A pederastic tradition long flourished among the Tibetan and Japanese monks; the northern (Mahayana) Buddhist tradition of Tibet, China, Korea and Japan does not take the disciplinary code as seriously as the southern (Theravada) one of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Cambodia. Even the Theravadin monks, however, seem to frequently tolerate homosexual violations of the discipline, though not heterosexual ones. Homosexuality on the part of Buddhist laypersons is not discouraged.

Neither Chinese Taoism nor Japanese Shinto include restrictions on homosexuality. Taoism favors the way of passivity, while Shinto's highest deity is a female, Amateratsu.

The general absence of lesbian¬ism from the descriptions above reflects the lack of concern with female homosexuality characterizing all these traditions of the "higher" religions as distinct from tribal belief systems and practices, which often accord an important place to the priestess or female shaman, who may be either celibate or gender-variant.


Many scholars who have examined the relevant texts now believe that homophobic motifs entered Judaism during and after the Babylonian captivity, following a more tolerant era. However this may be, homosexual sacred cult prostitutes (kedeshim) were part of the religious life of Judah from about 1200 to 587 B.C.; they appear to have been foreigners and were active in the first Temple, but Old Testament writers saw them as religious competitors and criticized them as such.

The well known story of Sodom has given rise to retroactive interpretations as a harsh divine judgment on homosexuality ("sodomy" as a term originated in late medieval Latin), but scholars find that the crimes involved in the Sodom story are (attempted) rape of males and inhospitality. (Though widely propagated, the notion that the episode concerns inhospitality exclusively does not seem plausible.)

David and Jonathan (beginning of the first millennium B.C.) have reputations in gay circles as homosexual role-model lovers, but a close examination of the biblical narrative indicates that prince Jonathan was the passionate one and perhaps effeminate, while David was macho and opportunistic; it appears that David was what we would call "straight trade" to Jonathan's passivity, a relationship that would fit better with the gender differentiated model of homosexuality prevalent in the Middle East at the time than the androphilia (reciprocal relationships between adults) of the current industrial West.

It appears to have been while under Persian rule that Judaism adopted the prohibition against homosexual acts (male only) located in the Holiness Code of Leviticus. This prohibition seems to derive from the Zoroastrianism dominant at the court of Darius I (d. 486 B.C.), its language taken from passages in Avestan writings, and may have been intended to restrict patronage of the sacred prostitutes of the older religions against which both Zoroastrians and Jews struggled.

During the Hellenistic period, diaspora Judaism came into conflict with the widespread practice of pederasty, causing a reinterpretation of the Sodom legend so as to make it a condemnation of pederasty; this was the state of affairs when Christianity arrived on the scene. Later Jewish literature held both active and passive partners to be culpable, in marked contrast to the general practice in the Roman empire of drawing sharp distinctions between the two roles.

Medieval Hebrew literature, imitating Arabic modes, developed an impressive body of pederastic poetry, utilizing imagery from both the Hebrew scriptures and Arabic literature; see Norman Roth's article, included herein.

As a rule Jewish clergy were married and procreative, leaving no hidden traditions of homoerotic clerical brotherhoods. Nevertheless, the German homosexual rights movement was founded by a Jew, Magnus Hirschfeld, in 1897, and it was Kurt Hiller, also Jewish, who in 1921 conceived of the notion that "homosexuals" were members of a minority group deserving of protection, a position which became the dominant ideology of the movement, with numerous consequences. Israel repealed its British derived sodomy law in 1988 and passed gay rights legislation in 1992. The Reform wing of modern Judaism has witnessed and sometimes encouraged the growth of gay synagogues, and has most recently declared its willingness to accept gay rabbis. See Rav Soloff's article, included herein.

Early Christianity

Jesus made no surviving pronouncements on homosexuality. His bachelorhood was extraordinary for his culture. The late Morton Smith reconstructed a gospel text which may suggest that Jesus engaged in homosexual acts with initiates; see his article herein. The episode of the Roman centurion who pleaded with Jesus on behalf of his boy slave may indicate Jesus' tolerance of pederasty; see Donald H. Mader's article, included herein. The matter of the disciple "whom Jesus loved" remains shrouded in mystery. Also of interest is Matthew 5:22, where Jesus may have prohibited verbal aspersions on someone's masculinity; see Warren Johansson's article, included herein.

Paul of Tarsus, traditionally the author of much of the New Testament, adopted the sexual attitudes of Hellenistic Judaism but introduced the concept of homosexuality as "unnatural," taken from Plato's Laws and unknown to the Old Testament (Romans 1:26 27). Although the contrary is widely assumed, it is unlikely that Paul meant to include lesbianism, which had been ignored to this date, in his condemnation. See the articles by David F. Wright and Bernadette Brooten, included herein.

The post Pauline church was antisexual, taking its cue from Paul's negative attitude towards marriage, making asceticism an ongoing theme of Christian tradition. The monastic tradition began about the third century, bringing with it an obsession with suppressing homoeroticism in religious communities. John Chrysostom (347 407) intensified Christian homophobia in the Eastern church, leading to capital punishment for homosexuality. His Western counterpart, Augustine (354 430), denounced sexual pleasure in general, grudgingly allowing it only for procreation.

Medieval and Reformation Christendom

The Augustinian view prevailed in the West until the thirteenth century, when Thomas Aquinas emphasized homosexuality as a sin against nature (along with masturbation and heterosexual acts other than vaginal coitus) and hence worse than other sexual sins. Medieval Christianity was relatively mild in its actual treatment of homosexuality until Peter Damian (1007 1072), whose intensified homophobia became increasingly influential. Clerical celibacy became mandatory in the Roman church about the same time. Clerics saw "sodomy" as a type of heresy (hence "buggery"), treated it as worse than incest, and made it punishable by death.

Sodomy was subject to the Christian Inquisition after 1451, leading to numerous burnings at the stake in what became, after Hitler's holocaust, the second worst persecution of homosexuality in history. The use of torture decreased after 1630, and Inquisitional prosecutions became uncommon in the eighteenth century.

Meanwhile the Christian monastery and nunnery saw a good deal of homoerotic friendship and no small amount of homosexual conduct. See Judith C. Brown's article, included. The Renaissance papacy was also notable for homosexuality.

The Protestant Reformation changed little as far as homosexuality was concerned, though reformers abolished clerical celibacy and closed monasteries and nunneries. Reformers and counterreformers alike accused their enemies of sodomy and heresy interchangeably and sometimes confounded sodomy and witchcraft; Protestants executed sodomites with a zeal sometimes surpassing that of the Inquisitors. Laws were carried over from the sacred to the secular realm in the newly Protestant countries virtually intact, and the Protestants resisted the Code Napoleon reforms which in the early nineteenth century decriminalized sodomy in most Catholic countries. Only the Quakers under William Penn in the colony of Pennsylvania reformed the law in 1682.

The Anglican Church was less austere than most Protestants, harboring large numbers of gay clergymen (especially in the High Church wing, see David Hilliard's article, included). Under the leadership of Canon Derrick Sherwin Bailey in the 1950s, Anglicans eventually championed the cause of British law reform; see Jonathan S. Carey's article, included.

Contemporary Christianity

Under Pope John Paul II the Roman Catholic Church has remained a bastion of resistance to liberalization, reaffirming the doctrines of Aquinas as eternally valid and fighting gay civil rights laws and sodomy repeal with all of its political strength; see G. Coleman's article, included herein. The Eastern Orthodox churches have also maintained their medieval traditions virtually unchallenged.

The fundamentalist wing of American Protestantism has vociferously promoted traditional Christian homophobia, with such leaders as Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant launching highly visible campaigns to oppose gay rights and even characterizing AIDS as God's judgment on the wicked sodomites.

In other Protestant churches, a wracking debate between those urging changes and the defenders of traditional positions broke out in the 1960s and continues unabated. One milestone came in December, 1964, when Ted McIlvenna, a Protestant clergyman, founded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in order to bring San Francisco clergy and gay leaders together; the "CRH" soon became involved with police oppression issues and led to similar groups in other cities. Substantial gains have been made, with a few denominations such as the United Church of Canada accepting openly homosexual or lesbian ministers; for most the position has been "we welcome the gay sinner but condemn the sin," a compromise with which reformers cannot in the long run remain comfortable. Denominations with a more educated, upper income membership seem to have been most willing to overlook or reinterpret their scriptural traditions. See the articles included herein by Georg Strecker and Edward Batchelor, Jr.

Given the large numbers of self identified homosexuals raised as Christians and the continuing homophobia of the denominations, it was probably inevitable that the growth of the gay movement should foster the foundation of gay churches. The first such, though rather closeted, was Charles Webster Leadbeater's Anglican derived Liberal Catholic Church, founded in Sydney, Australia, in 1916. It remained for Troy D. Perry to establish an openly homophile congregation, the Metropolitan Community Church, in Los Angeles in 1968; this diverse Protestant group has since grown to over 300 congregations and missions on five continents, and has provided a haven for gay and lesbian fundamentalists and evangelicals driven out of their original churches by those groups' vehement homophobia. See the article by Paul F. Bauer, included herein.

Another response has been the formation of gay and lesbian caucuses within the denominations, sometimes under official sponsorship. At other times the church authorities have banned them from the premises, as with the Mormon's Affinity group or the Catholics' Dignity, founded in 1969 in San Diego and at its zenith the largest such caucus, with seven thousand members. The Quakers even hosted a bisexual caucus in the mid-1970s.

Lesbians often seem to be more involved in the feminist challenge to established Christian practices and thinking than in confrontations with Christian homophobia, which has usually ignored or only sideswiped them. See articles by Mary E. Hunt and Carter Heyward, included herein.

Not all those raised as Christians have been content to remain identified with a tradition they consider their historic oppressor. Many homosexuals have gravitated towards non Western traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and others have left the realm of organized religion altogether. Still others have flocked to the New Age movement, whose oracular pronouncements have generally been encouraging, or to the Radical Faerie movement, which has looked to pagan European antecedents and to the shamanistic tradition of the American Indian for inspiration in developing a uniquely homoerotic sense of spirituality.

The Outlook for Christianity

Three trends appear likely to continue into the early twenty first century. The fundamentalist reaction shows no signs of weakening and may indeed gain strength from the abandonment of the homophobic ramparts by other Christian (and secular) defenders of the old order. Those individuals whose strong antipathy to homosexuality derives from psychological roots may find in fundamentalism a reassuring source of comfort and stability in a world of changing values. Whether the Roman Catholic Church will continue its de facto alliance with the fundamentalists is not so predictable, given the mortality of popes and the pressures from more liberal elements of the Roman ecclesia, combined with the ever more urgent problem of staffing a growing church with unmarried clergy. The Orthodox churches are likely to continue their resistance, but with little impact on society in general.

More liberal Protestant groups will continue to be pulled—kicking and screaming—toward an acceptance of homosexuality, though struggles over ordination will continue and a new wave of confrontations over homosexual marriage may prove traumatic.

Finally, some gay identified persons raised as Christians will continue to find their native religion alien, the struggle to reconcile their own sense of self worth with the historical hostility of Christianity simply not worth the effort, while the globalization of world culture increases their exposure to the wide array of spiritual traditions outside the Christian fold.


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