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The Saints and Sexual Desire

Yearning for God must be purified of sexual desire. Rose seems to be at war with herself. Every reader ought to wonder, what kind of God is this What kind of dysfunctional love dominates Rose What kind of sexual sickness Ought not every attempt to justify her suffering fail Christ's fully human flesh appears to Rose in his helpless afflictions on the cross, suffering embodiment in the host, and as an infant under the care of his mother (Alphonsus 1982 276, 290). Jesus asks for Rose's hand in marriage from his mother's arms. These visions are not incidental they are key to the meaning of Rose's trials of the flesh. Rose does not endure the wrath of a divine judge, and she is not called to hate the body in order to unite with a spirit-savior. Rose's torment is not punishment or a turning away from human embodiment. She is called by a savior who needs maternal love and her protection. Rose scorns sexual desire and surface appearances of beauty inasmuch as they cloud and inhibit a broader...

The black body sex sexuality and sexual orientation

The black political subject is an embodied subject. Since the days of the transatlantic slave trade, the bodies of African and African-descended women and men have been sites of political, economic, and sexual desire. European and European American representative esthetics further scaled these black bodies as primitive, lascivious, repugnant. This evaluation was at once religious and moral. It reflected white Western Christianity's ambivalence toward the body, sex, and sexuality. Yet Stuart Hall reminds us of the agency and creativity of the black political subject in using the body as a canvas on which to counter degrading definition and representation, to express oppositional aesthetics, and to mediate resistance and elegance (Hall 1992 2 7).

Dont Tell Me What To Do with My Body Sexual Control and Church Decline

Most of these changes directly contradicted church teaching, both Catholic and Protestant. The contradiction became more evident as many churches, including the Roman Catholic, began to reiterate and even intensify their defense of a traditional sexual ethic in the later twentieth century. As Western societies became increasingly subjectivized in their approach to sexuality, so Christianity retained or even intensified its attempts to regulate sex, and in doing so alienated the large numbers of baby boomers who identified with the causes of the sexual revolution. In this rebellion, issues of sex and gender would often be hard to distinguish, particularly for women, given that their identity as women had become so closely associated with their sex - or rather with their sexlessness and lack of sexual desire. Thus the subjective turn for a woman would be likely to involve attributing more value to her own appetites and emotions, and treating them as more authoritative in the living of...

David Matzko McCarthy

Kapur's Elizabeth offers an apt starting point for a consideration of saints and desire. The setting for her story is not so much sixteenth-century England or the monarchy, but her body As the plot unfolds, she is told that her body is no longer her own, and in the end, she will give herself over to others, married to England as the Virgin Queen. I will use Kapur's Elizabeth as an exemplary story of the modern sexual self and as a site for inquiry about the relation between hagiography and the saints. Elizabeth will be juxtaposed with the story of St Rose of Lima. St Rose (1586-1617) presents a difficult case. Like Elizabeth, her body tells a story, but unlike Kapur's modern image of the Queen, Rose's flight from sexual desire will strike most readers as appalling. Her desire for God appears to set her against her own body. Rose seems to convey a story of oppression and violence, which are so thoroughly internalized in her as victim that she is the most formidable instrument of her...

The Project of Historical Christianity

As the President of the Greek republic Konstantinos Karamanlis stated 'The nation and Orthodoxy have become in the Greek conscience virtually synonymous' (in Clogg 1983 208). The young individual grows up under the constant exposure to such a ritualistic mentality, which is bound to its self-awareness by the physical growth of its body and the emergence of sexuality. The whole ceremonial mentality is thus reinforced by the tension of sexual desire, which leads to its projection on the actual service and therefore to the libidinization of the sacred space itself to this day most Greeks (even of the anti-Church left parties) prefer a religious wedding for reasons not simply related to the grandiosity of rituals. The ritual itself safeguards sexual tension and fecundity it represents the most efficient manner of instigating sexual desire.

Spiritual Slavery and Somatic Metaphors

In the Acts of Thomas, the apostle looks with compassion at a band of slaves who carry the litter of a wealthy woman who desires to hear him speak. He notes that the slaves are heavy laden, treated by their owner as beasts of burden. He insists that God does not distinguish according to status, slave or free. He then tells them what God requires of them to abstain from murder, theft, avarice, and other vices. He reserves his strongest language for his warning against sexual activity, which he represents as a vice which has the power to enslave.113 The passage moves from the opening recognition of the physical burdens of the enslaved litter bearers, carrying their owner on their backs, to its climactic insistence that the worst slavery is the bondage of sexual desire.

Fecundity and the Social Body

I have argued that sex is a means of social reproduction, and in the dominant economy of desire, the social reproduction of desire must be concealed. Sexual desire appears as natural and a self-validating end-in-itself, so that the economy of desire is justified, it seems, by the needs of the unencumbered self. Sex offers liminal moments of pleasure, but it can never be satisfied as a matter of course, in the everyday world. Everyday we want to want more. This is a basic principle of life in the restless growth economy of late capitalism. Desire is enlivened by dissatisfaction, and sex is known to be gratifying when it reproduces more unsatisfied desire. The needs and mandates of reproductive desire present a critical challenge to any discussion of marriage and family, and particularly theological accounts of sex. As reproduced within the dominant social economy, sexual desire is undomesticated, that is, both natural and wild, pre-social and nomadic. The theology of marriage attempts...

Jesus Sex and Jesus Gender

Numerous even when there is an abundance of evidence. There is little or no evidence about Jesus' sexual desires in the canonical Gospels.11 So while it is helpful to rethink the Gospel narratives without the assumption that Jesus was heterosexual, it is very wise not to attempt to prove that he was homosexual. In any case, the point here is precisely not to inaugurate a quest for the historical Jesus' sexuality. The point is to notice the consequences of how Christian traditions have distinguished Jesus' sex from Jesus' gender. Recall again the contrast between silence on sex and stridency on gender. When canonical theologians have considered Jesus' sex, they have refused to allow it what might be considered ordinary sexual operations. Reasoning from hypotheses about genitals in Eden before the fall, and from rules about the right use of sex, they have suggested, for example, that Jesus never had an erection. Erections in Eden would have been voluntary Adam would have chosen to have...

Kristevas Kenotic Economy

We can legitimately develop Balthasar's work through Kristeva's because they share so much. Let me briefly point to four fundamental parallels. First, there is a common appeal to the primacy of love as an anthropological root. Balthasar develops this through his notion of the imago dei and divine eros, based upon his work on Gregory of Nyssa. Kristeva develops this from the attention given by psychoanalysis to sexual desire and, more specifically, Freud's discussion of narcissism and the Oedipal triangle. Secondly, for both of them the relationship of mother and child acts as the locus for a metaphysical analysis of living towards transcendence. Balthasar begins his exploration of the wonder of Being and the awareness of our radical contingency with relation to this transcendent horizon. Kristeva explores the nature of the unfathomable and the mystery of identity beginning with the mother child unity. Thirdly, they share an understanding of selfhood as caught up in and constituted by...

The Conjugal Catacomb

It is this questioning of the status quo - whether of the law or of the conventions of the Greco-Roman household - that is forsaken in the modern incarceration of erotic practices. Paul does not compartmentalize eroticism but establishes it within a wider economy of desire, whether for power, status or mammon. Consequently, later on in the same chapter of his epistle, he suggests that the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and he is divided (1 Corinthians 7.33-4). This bold assertion leads Kurt Niederwimmer to propose that the Pauline uneasiness with conjugal relations, based on a disavowal of their immanent ends, results in an identification of the married person as halfChristian (Niederwimmer 1975 114 cited in Brown 1988 56). This is not an ethos that the moralistic Christian churches of late modernity would want to embrace. Yet the central thematic that is interrogated in Paul's discussion of the problematic status of marriage is that of the end...

Controlling the Female Christian Body

It is testimony to the power of both the negative and positive modes of Christian sexual control over women's bodies that their influence persisted so long, even after the decline of the art and fiction that helped sustain it. As will be mentioned below, it is still alive and well in more conservative wings of the Christian churches. Even more remarkable has been its continuing influence within Western culture more generally, in Europe and especially the USA, right up to the 1970s. I can personally testify to the way in which it shaped my own upbringing in a largely secular English household in the 1970s, and how decisive it was in shaping the ethos of the girl's Catholic school I attended, and where I was trained in the gentle arts of sewing, domestic science, and good manners and exhorted to safeguard my modesty in order to protect my reputation and make a good marriage. Less anecdotal evidence comes from a source which is in some ways the more revealing because of its blindness to...

Family and Social Reproduction

Consider an example from a prominent writer (and Catholic-cultural icon) in the United States of America. Andrew Greeley, in cooperation with his sister, Mary Greeley Durkin, provides a good inter-subjective description of falling victim to love. While developing the idea that sex is a sacramental experience, Greeley and Durkin hold that falling in love is a humanizing encounter. We feel a call to move beyond ourselves. Our beloved becomes the focus of our attention. Our self-complacency is shattered. Our independence is threatened. Yet we make no effort to resist the attraction (Greeley and Durkin 1984 115 see also Durkin 1983). Such passion moves us beyond reason, beyond our principles of autonomy, and beyond our need for security. Sexual desire moves two to become one flesh. We delight in the discovery of this other person and experience a desire to be with her or him for the rest of our lives. With this natural movement, sex and our sexual relationship become sacramental. Though...

The Economy of Matrimony

More seriously, however, the moral evaluation of sexual desire neglects the kind of subjects that we have become, a failing that it shares with the type of sacrificial economy that capital itself has acquired. Late-modern subjects inhabit the limbo that is situated between the moral and the sacrificial, between the absolutely secured subject and the wholly annihilated self. Capital and the church provide the (necessarily) incongruous backdrops for this vapid drama in a perverse symbiosis that engenders debt and guilt in equal measure. There

The Mystery of Mary the Mother of Jesus

Ex baffles us. it always has. it is the most pleasurable of human physical activities but also the most confusing. It takes very little to awaken sexual desire but it is extremely difficult to sustain a long sexual relationship. Sex offers us the most rewarding of human intimacies but the demands that such intimacy places upon our personality are so insistent that frequently the intimacy dissolves or settles down to mutual coexistence. We cannot couple without personal involvement as animals do such sexual activity may temporarily lower physical tension but it does not satisfy the interpersonal needs and emotions which we can exclude from our sex life only with very great difficulty. Since we are meaning-seeking creatures, we must find meaning in our sex-

The Source of Desire

Theology must address the multifaceted relationship of sexual desire to desire for God in order to speak to those who, having felt the full force of the challenge queerness presents to traditional Christian doctrine, still sense (or are at least open to the possibility) that sexual practice can lead us towards God. The fluidity, gender crossing, and affinity with male homosexuality which shapes John's desire for God contributes, I have suggested, to a contemporary harnessing of homoerotic desire towards theological and spiritual ends. Although there is a risk here of confusing sexual desire with desire for God, St John directs us towards practices of discipline and discernment which, in correctly aligning the two, prepare us for their fulfillment in intimacy with God. desire (or more specifically homosexual desire) comes from is one generally avoided within queer theory, both in order to move away from essentialist conceptions of sexual orientation and because inquiries into the...

Queer Church

The chapters in the second part of the book remain with the church, and consider how Christian thought queers accepted notions of sexual desire, difference, and fecundity. For as the authors show, Christianity's eschatological orientation changes the way these things are thought. The point is not to queer the tradition, but to let its orientation queer us. In many ways, Elizabeth Stuart's chapter is programmatic for this book certainly for the argument of this introduction. For Stuart highlights two ways in which queer theology ends sex in the sense of overcoming sex as an untruthful, oppressive regime, and in showing the telos of sex to be other than reproduction. The first of these has been accomplished by queer theory, but the second is the gift of theology, and it shows how we can evade the melancholy that Judith Butler finds in sexual desire and identity. For Butler, our (sexual) identities are hard won through the repudiation of other possible identities, and these repudiations...

The Risk of Desire

Given that institutional Christianity represents for many queer individuals the most visible source of oppression, asserting the potential godliness of gay sex from within a Christian framework fulfills a crucial theological and pastoral role. On the other hand, from the far left wing of Christianity and within a more spiritually ambiguous queer popular culture, the association of sex and transcendence has (in the interest of pro-gay apologetics) been made so strongly and so frequently as to become cliched. We have been told too often that sex is sacred for the force of the claim any longer to influence either our sexual or religious lives. In addition to obscuring the more damaging aspects of sex, this repetition thus risks undermining the effectiveness of the association and, worse even, trivializing the sacred completely. We consider in this section St John's focus on distinguishing divine desire (desire for God) from sexual desire, a necessary condition both for responding to...

The Language of Love

In the pre-philosophical Greek cosmogonies, theories of the generation or birth of the cosmos, Eros appears as a uniting force. Hesiod, the great eighth-century-BCE poet next to Homer, presents Eros as one of the first to emerge from the dark abyss of Chaos, and then as the one who draws everything together, the creative, uniting force. Eros is ''the most beautiful of the immortal gods, who in every man and every god softens the sinews and overpowers the prudent purpose of the mind.'' Ancient Greek literature portrays Eros as a violent, crafty god whose arrows drive people into torment and passion for the first person seen after they are struck. In the later Greek myths, Eros is the personification of love as sexual desire. The image of love as an ascent motivated by a hierarchy of increasing value for the lover is graphically displayed in the long art history of images of the ladder to heaven. The best known of these innumerable artistic renditions relate, in the Byzantine world, to...

Amy Hollywood

Bynum makes many contentious (and, not surprisingly, vehemently anti-Freudian) assumptions about sexuality and erotic desire - most crucially, that erotic desire can be clearly distinguished from suffering, the maternal, and identification - yet as Rambuss suggests, perhaps the most salient point of Bynum's interpretation is her refusal to see same-sex desire as potentially sexual. If Christ's body is feminized (and so becomes a point of identification for women), Bynum assumes it cannot also be the locus of female sexual desire (or even of a desire for the divine analogous to sexual desire). Her insistence on the femi-nization of Christ serves two functions, then, both providing a locus for female identification with the divine and protecting the divine-human relationship from even metaphorical sex-ualization. Religious desire and sexual desire are not the same, as Bennett usefully reminds us, but if religion makes available a language of ecstasy, a horizon of significance within...

Keepin Ya Draws Up

But what really bothered me about the no-sex mandate was the principle of the matter. God had created me male and with a sex drive. It seemed sadistic of Him to give it to me only to tell me that I couldn't use it. I really wasn't sure I would be able to give this area of my life over to Him. I was thankful He didn't give up on ya boy. At the church I was attending I began to learn about God's plan for marriage and sex. I was surprised to hear that He had one for sex, I mean. I guess because of how people treated sex as I was growing up, I always thought that God had nothing to do with sex.

Trinity

But how are we shown the coming about of this supreme event Is it simply that God first appeared in beauty as human and elicited our desire which was first of all exhibited as lack No, it was rather shown that God became Incarnate through the desire of a woman to give rise to the god-like in humanity, through a desire for emergence. In the case of Mary, uniquely, the divine coincidence of desire as bond and as emergence is shown in humanity Mary desired the bridegroom, the Logos, and from this desire the Logos emerged from the enclosure of her womb. So she desired the Father of her baby as the baby and the baby as its Father, since this Father was indeed eternally a Son. Mary's human sexual desire was not canceled but rather optimally exhibited in the Virgin Birth from which her divine lover emerged.

Queering Modernity

If nothing else, Shaw's history of the church in the modern period shows that the so-called traditional values of heterosexual complementarity and marriage are modern aberrations when viewed against earlier Christian traditions. And these ideas were being developed at the same time as ideas about homosexuality and heterosexuality were also being constructed, and with them an understanding of sexuality as determined solely by the sex of a desired person. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick remarks, i t is a rather amazing fact that, of the very many dimensions along which the genital activity of one person can be differentiated from that of another. . . precisely one, the gender of object choice, emerged from the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century, and has remained, as the dimension denoted by the now ubiquitous category of 'sexual orientation' (Sedgwick 1990 8). The Christian churches have too easily bought into this modern heterosexualizing of the body and its desires, and so not...

Grace M Jantzen

Yet the refusal of such universals entails more than the simple observation that their content varies with time and circumstances it entails wondering about the conditions that make it possible, according to the rules of truth-telling, to recognize a subject as mentally ill or to cause subjects to recognize the most essential part of themselves in the modality of their sexual desire (Florence 1994 317).

Queering Tradition

Christopher Hinkle traces the queer erotics of the Christian mystical tradition into the early modern period with a consideration of St John of the Cross (1542-91). John's reworking of the Song of Songs in his poetry and commentaries is an example of how the language of carnal desire provides a language for spiritual ascent. But at the same time Hinkle is also concerned with the dangers in eliding the erotic with the spiritual. For while queer theology is always more celebratory than condemnatory of sexual desire, one cannot ignore the cunning of the latter to disorder spiritual longing. Jacobus de Voragine witnesses to the intimacy of these desires since in the stories he rejects that name Mary Magdalene as the betrothed of John the Beloved, she is said to have turned to voluptuousness when John ran off with Jesus, and when she repented of that and had to forgo the heights of carnal enjoyment, Jesus filled her with the most intense spiritual delight, which consists in the love of God...

The Shape of Desire

The popularity of St John's poetry testifies to the power then as now of communicating religious truths in the language of erotic love. Throughout his prose writings as well John seeks to evoke the more demanding desire for God by employing imagery which stimulates and attracts.5 This linking of sexual desire and desire for God is not for John a mere technique. Rather John insists that this is the intended significance of sexual desire. In directing us towards desire for God and in readying us for that supreme intimacy, sexual desire achieves its true purpose. John's rhetoric of penetration and subordination resonates, I suggest, with Halperin's description of a pederastic6 model, one in which desire depends upon and draws attention to differences in power and status, and in which obedience is exchanged for other rewards. God's preparation and eventual possession of the soul confirm the vast difference between God and humanity. The soul's passivity derives from appropriate submission...

Sex without Ends

The subjective structure of sex is complemented with a modern conviction that each of us is, inescapably, a desiring subject. Sex and sexual desire point to a truth about us. We are sexual beings. As such, we communicate who we are, sexually, through a variety of interchanges some overtly sexual, others not, some casual, others profound, some whimsical, others dutiful. Sexual activity need not fulfill any purpose other than the ends determined by the persons who engage in the activity (e.g., physical pleasure, emotional intimacy, love, mutual conquest, or procreation). Sex is defined by the willful making of our subjectivity. If, in ages past, the desired product of sexual activity was children and a display of social position and hierarchy, the desired outcome, in recent times, is both self-determination and a display of the sexual self. If Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans worried about producing progeny and reproducing the social body, modern Americans worry about themselves. In this...

Christopher Hinkle

I have written elsewhere on the value of John of the Cross's experience-based episte-mology for conceptualizing and defending pro-gay religious convictions.3 In this chapter I address an audience less confident in and concerning God's presence. Queer sexual desire has been claimed by many as a critical point of access to God, an important clue as to what God may be, and John of the Cross both confirms and gives theological context for this experience. But theological accounts of sex should not ignore that sex also, where it is self-involved, shame-driven, or lacking in charity, can be a rejection of God, a point too often obscured for both straight and gay Christians by the church's single-minded focus on the gender of sexual partners. Drawing on John of the Cross, I advocate here a theological perspective in which sexual desire is known as both means to God and obstacle, a perspective which, with John, celebrates the connection between erotic desire and desire for God without...

Sexual Martyr

Kapur's rejuvenation of Elizabeth is a narrative of sexual desire. He tells his story of the Virgin Queen with heavy emphasis on the queen's virginity, which she accepts as a grim political necessity, given that she is not, nor is inclined to be, a virgin. Sex is not a subplot of the film it is a primary conveyance of the plot and, more importantly, of character. Mary, Typically, the modern sexual comedy moves from inhibition and social constraints to sexual discovery. In the process, the protagonists of this tale find themselves. They awaken from a long sleep as they are enlivened by sexual desire, as desire frees the true self. Elizabeth's story retains the same construction of the sexual self, but reverses the plot. Her story begins with the true sexual self, and ends with the martyred Virgin Queen. The narrative first establishes her as a free and true sexual self, and then makes sense of her sexless future and her self-denial.

Dying for It

This vision of a death transfigured leads us to a Christian eroticism that is adequate to the challenges of the present and the demands of that which is remembered - the Passion of the Christ. Thomas's reflection on the status of pleasure as delightful desire (delectatio), a desire that has no specific end or anchor and is outside measurable duration offers a clue to the status and temporality of such an erotic practice (Summa Theologiae 1a2ae31.2). Pleasure, in Thomas's account, is more akin to an experience that is kairological than anything that is possible in either historical or post-historical time. Pleasure is immune to economies of value or price because it is given as an experience and therefore is invaluable. Pleasure, as an apprehension of transcendence, is radically mundane. Pleasure is outside morality. True pleasure does not pursue, at any cost, the empty illusion of a righteous economy of sexual desire. Rather, this experience exceeds time and matter in the messianic...

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