Anyone who has in the last few months or years picked up a church document about sexuality or marriage will immediately recognize the immense impact of the two major paradigms discussed in this chapter: the ideas about marriage, which were promoted in the Protestant Reformation, and Enlightenment ideas, under which we still labor today, about women, men, sexual difference, and sexual identity. The church too often takes as "given" a particular model of marriage, a particular understanding of women and men, and a particular notion of sexual identity, without historicizing any one of them. And yet, our modern understandings of all of these things have come about as a result of radical shifts in thought and the culture. In the Reformation, a radical new interpretation of Scripture, as well as an appeal to raw need, brought about a new appreciation and promotion of marriage; this shift marked a radical rupture with the patristic and medieval eras' understanding that celibacy was the greater good. In the Enlightenment, new scientific and cultural ideas about women and men and sexual identity were assumed into theological systems of thinking without question; women were seen as "naturally" more religious, and suited for only limited roles in the private sphere. All of these could be understood within - indeed, mapped back onto - a particular corpus of biblical texts (Genesis; certain Pauline letters).
At the heart of the fierce debates about homosexuality in the churches today lie two key factors: Scripture and science. Can Christians re-interpret Scripture to be more tolerant of homosexuality? Why not? The church has done it before with marriage. And can Christians take into account scientific findings about homosexuality that suggest that it is natural, even genetic, and not something out of which someone can be talked or forced. Why not? The church has accepted science at face value before, when scientists made the bold and daring suggestion that woman and man were different from each other.
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