The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theologyby Mark D. Jordan
In this startling original work of historical detection, Mark D. Jordan explores the invention of Sodomy by medieval Christendom, examining its conceptual foundations in theology and gauging its impact on Christian sexual ethics both then and now. This book is for everyone involved in the ongoing debate within organized religions and society in general over moral judgments of same-sex eroticism.
"A crucial contribution to our understanding of the tortured and tortuous relationship between men who love men, and the Christian religion--indeed, between our kind and Western society as a whole. . . . The true power of Jordan's study is that it gives back to gay and lesbian people our place in history and that it places before modern theologians and church leaders a detailed history of fear, inconsistency, hatred and oppression that must be faced both intellectually and pastorally."--Michael B. Kelly, Screaming Hyena
"[A] detailed and disturbing tour through the back roads of medieval Christian thought."--Dennis O'Brien, Commonweal
"Being gay and being Catholic are not necessarily incompatible modes of life, Jordan argues. . . . Compelling and deeply learned."--Virginia Quarterly Review
Although the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is at least as old as the book of Genesis, the view of sodomy as a form of sexual sin seems to have been invented in the 11th century by the Italian ascetic St. Peter Damian. Jordan (Medieval Institute/Notre Dame Univ.) restates the now generally accepted view that the sin leading to Sodom's destruction was transgression of the laws of hospitality rather than same-sex intercourse per se, and he gives some very relevant philosophical warnings about using centuries-old texts to find answers to modern questions. For example, there is no clear medieval equivalent for our concepts of "homosexuality" (a 19th-century neologism of forensic medicine) or, indeed, of "sexuality." Jordan's study begins with the Canoness Hrotswitha of Saxony's account of the martyrdom of St. Pelagius, who died rather than serve a caliph's sexual desires, and Peter Damian's Book of Gomorrah. Our author guides us adeptly through the writings of Alan of Lille, St. Albert the Great, and St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as several confessors' handbooks, as he explores how the terms "sodomite" and "sodomy" were used and notes inconsistencies in emphasis and argumentation. For example, Albert the Great, contrary to his normal method, omitted medical data from his Arabic sources that would have suggested a natural (and therefore morally positive) basis for sodomy. Jordan succeeds in showing that Thomas Aquinas's analyses of luxuria and unnatural vice are inadequate for contemporary Catholicism's evaluation of gay and lesbian relationships, but the methodological problems he highlights would seem to emphasize the tradition's stance that sexual intimacy belongs to heterosexual marriage.
A stimulating, if not quite convincing, contribution to Thomistic and gay studies.
- University of Chicago Press
- Publication date:
- Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society Series
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Meet the Author
Mark D. Jordan is the Reverend Priscilla Wood Neaves Distinguished Professor of Religion and Politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University. He was previously the Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity and Professor of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University and also taught at the University of Notre Dame and Emory University. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books.
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