Make Him a Monogamy Junkie

The Monogamy Method

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1 For example, in the story of Adam and Eve, Pope Benedict XVI finds authorization for heterosexual monogamy: "Adam is a seeker, who 'abandons his mother and father' in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become 'one flesh'. . . . Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God, is monogamous marriage" (Benedict XVI 2006: 15; para. 11). Apart from the fact that Adam didn't have a mother and father (and so here we must presume that 'Adam" stands for all other men - including the pope? - and the "woman" he seeks for all women), and the fact that the claimed correspondence between monotheism and monogamy is hardly biblical, we may think this a fairly standard ecclesial reading against the grain of Scripture and experience. But turn the page and we find something much queerer. Benedict reminds us that Christ gives himself to be eaten in the Eucharist, and that this is a "previously inconceivable" realization of the "marriage between God and Israel," so that the consumption of Christ's flesh becomes a matrimonial act; a lovers' intimacy. Moreover, in joining with Christ we are united "with all those to whom he gives himself. . . . We become 'one body', completely joined in a single existence" (Benedict XVI 2006: 16-17; paras. 13-14). Thus the marriage practice that corresponds to the one God turns out not to be monogamy after all, but polygamy. This of course better suits Scripture if not the pope's (mis)reading of Genesis. It is as if the pope can think thoughts at the level of the Christian symbolic that he would otherwise find unpalatable.

2 "John, who reclined familiarly on the glorious breast [gloriosum pectus] of the Most High; God gave you to his mother as her son in place of himself when he left her at bodily death. To you, blessed one, so loving and so loved of God, this little man who is accused of God appeals with prayers, so that by the intercession of one so loved he may turn from himself the threat of the wrath of God" (Anselm 1973: 157; First Prayer to Saint John the Evangelist, lines 8-15).

3 For John as sponsa Christi see Hamburger 2001: 301. Ephrem of Syria (c. 306-73) - in a hymn on the nativity of Christ (16.10) - was one of the first to describe Mary as Christ's bride (Ephrem of Syria 1989: 150; Gambero 1999: 117-19; see also Tina Beattie's chapter below - chapter 20). Peter Chrysologus (c. 380-c. 450) - who found Mary to be the "enclosed garden" of the Song of Songs (4.12) - married her to Christ as "God's spouse," taking care to note that this union did not impair her marriage with Joseph. For the two marriages, as Luigi Gambero puts it, took place on "different levels," the eternal and the temporal, the spiritual and the material (Gambero 1989: 297). And yet is there not something adulterous or bigamous in the arrangement? For later twelfth-century developments of this trope - when Mary became Christ's seducer and lover -see Balthasar (1988-98: III, 309).

4 This is to map the Pauline terms - malakos (1 Corinthians 6.9) and arsenokoites (1 Timothy 1.10) - onto the earlier "classical" ones and so understand them as respectively referring to the "passive" and "active" parties in pederastic relationships. This is of course disputable - see John Boswell (1980: 106-7; 335-53) - but here I more or less follow Martti Nissinen (1998: 113-18), who allows for this interpretation while pointing up the obscurity of the terms. It is unlikely that we will ever really know what Paul and pseudo-Paul intended.

5 If one likes - and pace Dan Brown (2003) - it is not Mary Magdalene as John who appears in Leonardo da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper, but John as the Virgin Mary, as "bride" of Christ. Leonardo's predilection for androgynous figures suits the traditionally feminized John, and Leonardo's John, with his downcast eyes, resembles Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks (commissioned 1483), and so figures the tradition of the sponsa Christi. In a strange way the picture of the Last Supper also reminds us of the Andachtsbilder, the devotional images of Christ and St John, in having John lean away from Christ, his body recalling their intimacy even as it presages their rupture, at the moment when Christ reveals his impending sacrifice.

6 It is appropriate to think of English mystics in this regard, because the Admont illustrator may well have been English, or copying an English model. Though the "Admont miniature is Salzburg work, yet the text it illustrates is from the pen of an Italian who was an English archbishop" (Pacht 1956: 79).

7 For just such immobility in Karl Barth and John Paul II see Loughlin (1998a).

8 It should be noted that there might be more reason to describe the friendship between Jonathan and David as homoerotic than I allow in this article. See further Olyan (2006).

9 This is nicely evidenced in the difficulty of explaining how the marriage of Joseph and Mary was complete but not sexual. Thomas Aquinas responded by understanding the perfection of marriage as twofold, as between its form and operation. The form is the "inseparable union of souls . . . a bond of affection that cannot be sundered," while its operation is the begetting and rearing of children. Thus the union of Joseph and Mary was complete in its form, and almost in its carnal operation, since Jesus was reared though not begotten by Joseph and Mary (Summa Theologiae, IIIa.29.2 responsio). So even Thomas had to admit that their marriage was not fully consummated. Elsewhere, Thomas allows that the lack of carnal intercourse allows a spouse to leave the married state for the religious. "Before marital intercourse there is only a spiritual bond between husband and wife, but afterwards there is a carnal bond between them. Wherefore, just as after marital intercourse marriage is dissolved by carnal death, so by entering religion the bond which exists before the consummation of the marriage is dissolved, because religious life is a kind of spiritual death, whereby a man dies to the world and lives to God" (Summa Theologiae, Supplement 61.3 responsio).

10 Note how Benedict makes "union" the primary meaning of marriage. And of course it is not possible to do otherwise when the primordial marriage is between Christ and the Church. From this it follows that Christian "procreation" is always spiritual before it is biological, with the latter a figure for the former.

11 And we might as well note that this eucharistie "sex" is "oral sex" and so "contraceptive," and yet no less fecund for that. "[I]n spiritual marriage there are two kinds of birth, and thus two kinds of offspring, though not opposite. For spiritual persons, like holy mothers, may bring souls to birth by preaching, or may give birth to spiritual insights by meditation. . . . The soul is affected in one way when it is made fruitful by the Word, in another when it enjoys the Word: in the one it is considering the needs of its neighbor; in the other it is allured by the sweetness of the Word. A mother is happy in her child; a bride is even happier in her bridegroom's embrace" (Bernard of Clairvaux 1980: 209; 85.13). At the heart of the Christian symbolic we find the very reversal of the Church's modern obsession with heterosexual procreation.

12 God's being is indubitable because the world's being is not: it might not have been. Why is there existence rather than nothing?

13 "Gays in the military threaten to undo masculinity only because this masculinity is made of repudiated homosexuality" (J. Butler 1997: 143).

14 See, for example, the ravings of the late Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.

15 Eckhart knew and borrowed from Porete's work (see Turner 1995a: 138).

16 This theme - which identifies the "nothingness" of God and self - is most extreme in Porete and may have led, along with her refusal to desist from publishing The Mirror of Simple Souls, to her death by burning in 1310. If so, she was misunderstood; being orthodox rather than heterodox - as Denys Turner (1995a: 139-40) argues.

17 The disappearance of masculinity is perhaps better discussed in French, where masculinité is a feminine noun.

18 The story goes that when present, the SRY gene on the Y chromosome tells the developing embryo to become a male. When this gene is absent the embryo develops into a female by default. But now it would seem that the story has to be somewhat more complex; that the SRY gene helps to fulfill an earlier negotiation within the developing embryo towards a male sex. See further Roughgarden (2004: 196-206).

19 It should be needless to say that queer theology does not oppose God's creation, and so does not seek an argument for or against homosexuality. But queer theology does seek to understand the development and deployment of the term "queer," and the interests its usage serves.

20 Here we may recall the similar retreat from a radically queer theology that Virginia Burrus finds in John Milbank's reading of Gregory of Nyssa.

21 How shameful is it that a President of the United States of America can oppose same-sex marriage but defend the use of torture? How is it that Christian values can be so inverted?

Part I

Queer Lives

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