Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk about Homosexuality


In the view of many Christians, the teenage years are simultaneously the most dangerous and the most promising. At the very moment when teens are trying to establish a sense of identity and belonging, they are beset by temptation on all sides—from the pressure of their peers to the nihilism and materialism of popular culture. Add the specter of homosexuality to the mix, and you’ve got a situation ripe for worry, sermonizing, and exploitation.

In Recruiting Young Love, Mark D. ...

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In the view of many Christians, the teenage years are simultaneously the most dangerous and the most promising. At the very moment when teens are trying to establish a sense of identity and belonging, they are beset by temptation on all sides—from the pressure of their peers to the nihilism and materialism of popular culture. Add the specter of homosexuality to the mix, and you’ve got a situation ripe for worry, sermonizing, and exploitation.

In Recruiting Young Love, Mark D. Jordan explores more than a half century of American church debate about homosexuality to show that even as the main lesson—homosexuality is bad, teens are vulnerable—has remained constant, the arguments and assumptions have changed remarkably. At the time of the first Kinsey Report, in 1948, homosexuality was simultaneously condemned and little discussed—a teen struggling with same-sex desire would have found little specific guidance. Sixty years later, church rhetoric has undergone a radical shift, as silence has given way to frequent, public, detailed discussion of homosexuality and its perceived dangers. Along the way, churches have quietly adopted much of the language and ideas of modern sexology, psychiatry, and social reformers—deploying it, for example, to buttress the credentials of anti-gay “deprogramming” centers and traditional gender roles.

Jordan tells this story through a wide variety of sources, including oral histories, interviews, memoirs, and even pulp novels; the result is a fascinating window onto the never-ending battle for the teenage soul.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jordan (The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology), professor at Harvard Divinity School, tracks the rhetoric evangelical Christians have used to oppose (or, in fewer cases, support) homosexuality. He argues that this rhetoric has an underlying concern about adolescent vulnerability. Over the span of nearly a hundred years, from the early 20th century coining of the terms both homosexual and adolescent to mid-1990s youth ministries, he unpacks and traces the intellectual genealogy of well-known figures, such as Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell and Paul Cameron, as well as lesser-known and committee-produced works. His recounting, however, is less about individuals than patterns, which explains in part the limited selection of writings he considers, among them psychological treatises, polemical works, pulp novels, and pamphlets. At several points, the connections between the rhetoric and adolescents themselves seem absent or tenuous, a fact Jordan explains partly by noting the historical silencing of actual young people. Also, his analysis ends before the contemporary debates about same-sex marriage begin in earnest. These minor issues aside, this work provides excellent insights into the development of Christian arguments about homosexuality. (Apr. 15)
"A professor of divinity writing about the key terms in the American Christian controversy over male homosexuality would seem to promise dull reading. But by steering clear of all jargon except the terms he focuses on—terms used in public, not academic, debate—and by critiquing many important pamphlets and books about homosexuality, Jordan produces an absorbing book. . . . Dense with information, bristling with provocative perspectives, Jordan's effort is a vital supplement to the political and social histories of the long struggle for gay rights."
Harry Knox
“The anti-LGBTQ industry invented a theology of self-loathing and oppression in order to gain power at the expense of queer people’s lives.  Mark Jordan has captured this history and offers deep, but practical analysis of its rhetorical frames. I am sure I will turn to it again and again as a pastor and activist seeking to do God’s justice in a dangerous world.”
Michael Cobb
Recruiting Young Love is quite special. Jordan has once again written a compelling, concise, exciting, and important contribution to the study of sexuality and religion, which will most certainly shape scholarly work and cultural debates for years to come. Jordan confirms his reputation as one of the leading voices in the study of religion and sexuality.”
Library Journal
In an earlier work, The Silence of Sodom, Jordan (Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity Sch.) concluded that the Roman Catholic Church of the past hundred or so years grew not more but less tolerant of homosexuality. While some more liberal Protestant denominations have moved toward tolerance and even offered acceptance of homosexuals, conservative denominations, mainly evangelicals and fundamentalists, have been hardening their approach to homosexuality, as the author shows here, and tend to foment fear and hatred of gays by asserting that gay men in particular are out to seduce and corrupt their children and are antifamily and often even anti-American. The most prominent of the fear-mongers was, of course, Anita Bryant, beginning in the mid-1970s, and the rhetoric she pioneered is still in use by many Protestant preachers. Worse is the insistence by many Protestant preachers that homosexuals can be deprogrammed and converted to true Christianity, which, Jordan tells us, simply causes more suffering. VERDICT This work of cultural criticism is a solidly academic text, requiring slow and careful reading and understanding of the nuances of terminology. Not for casual readers, this is important for scholars of religion and cultural history. With substantial notes and bibliography.—James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226410449
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark D. Jordan is the Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School and the author of many books, including The Silence of Sodom, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Sexual Characters

1  Degenerating Youth
2  First Reports of Hidden Worlds
3  A Social Problem
4  Spirit of the Homophile Race
5  Meeting Face to Face
6  Churchly Liberations
7  Saving Their Children
8  Coming Out of Homosexuality
9  Polemic in a Time of Plague
10  In Search of New Youth

Conclusion: How Not To Talk about Sex in Church
Works Cited

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