Interaction: God, Science, Sex, Gender – An Interdisciplinary Approach to Christian Ethics (3)

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This will be a continuing dialogue as I read through this book. (Part 1 and Part 2)

The final section, Sexual Diversity and Christian Moral Theology, attempts to draw together theological reflection from the preceding essays, concluding with a commentary on the Ethiopian Eunuch as well as a conclusion which neatly summarizes the discussion thus far. With the breakthroughs in the second section, the third section especially Fennell’s contribution, seemed to be the back end of the peak, but that is, perhaps, purposed.

Stephen J. Pope‘s essay takes Roughgarden, Grande and other contributors plays them off one another while engaging the sexual ethics espoused by Pope John Paul II while attempting to force the interaction between the late pontiff and Feminist Catholic theologian, ]], who he considers as standing ‘within the Catholic Christian tradition’ but ‘represents a signification modification of it.’ They are posed in opposition to one another, but their arguments are developed in such a way as to give merit and flesh to each one of their points. Reading the essay seems to be a give and take between Farley and the late pontiff in such a way, as if the reader was in the room with the two. Pope focuses on love as the Christian ethic missing from these debates and once again returns to the what McCarthy pointed out, that sexuality and gender, the consummate ‘other’, as a means to render hospitality.

The only essay to not fit into the book is ]]’s work on Hopkins’s “Pied Beauty.” While fellow professor of literature, Pamela L. Caughie’s essay contributed to the overall understanding of how ‘the clothes make the man’ mentality, Fennell’s take is simply to focus on a poem, which concerns diversity, but adds nothing that I can see to the ultimate conservation. This is not the case for Susan Ross’ essay about the diversity of views when one ‘tweaks’ the image of Christ on the Cross. This is an essay which must be read to be enjoyed, and may be a subject of later reflection by myself, but in it, Ross tackles the “Bridgegroom-Bride” theological metaphor in recent Roman Catholic theology, seemingly ignoring the history of such a metaphor, even pre-Christian history. Her’s is not merely about depictions of that metaphor in art, or even the Crucifixion in art, but the idea that if certain things were reversed in the audience’s mind, they bring about a startling shift in attitudes about women. She gives the example of the art piece of ‘Christa’ a feminine portrayal of Christ which brought about immediate emotional responses from her students. It is an essay not for the weak, but for those wishing to encounter the idea of gender and theology, especially in dealing with ordained clergy or the all-male priesthood.

Roughgarden returns to the work along with an editor of the series, Patricia Beattie Jung, to pen a commentary of sorts on Acts 8, trying to force the story of the Eunuch into a gender-bending tale of early Christian gender-fluidity. In attempting to ‘retrieve’ for their discussion Acts 8, they fall into the trap so many have before, of making the Scriptures match up to their viewpoints as well as demanding that Scripture answers to science. Very little attention is paid to actual biblical studies, instead jumping off cliffs where other authors only looked over. The highlight of the essay is the solidly packed reinterpretation of patristics in which they bring in both old and new arguments that gender roles inside the early Church were not as strict as many have them now, although I think they go just far enough in some areas to raise a  few eyebrows.

In the conclusion, Aana Marie Vigen, begins by defining Christians ethics as something profound –

Christian social ethics, is never content merely with asking “Who am I?” It always addresses the question of: “Who ought I be?”

Going on, she ask, in relation to the community “Who are we and who ought we to become?” These questions shape Vigen’s conclusion as well as provide an overarching synopsis of the essay’s.

In my full review, I will try to give more time to Vigen’s conclusion. In the end, I think her questions are answered by McCarthy and Pope as well as Calcagno.

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