Bjork-James, “Training the Porous Body”

Bjork-James, Sophie. 2018. “Training the Porous Body: Evangelicals and the Ex-Gay Movement.” American Anthropologist. 120(4): 647-658

In this article, I examine how US evangelical opposition to LGBT rights stems from a unique understanding of sexuality and the person. As my respondents explained to me in over sixteen months of field research, evangelical rejection of LGBT individuals and practices is rooted not simply in prejudice but also in a culturally specific notion of personhood that requires Christian bodies to orient themselves to the divine. In evangelical Christianity, the body, along with its capacity to feel and communicate, is understood as a porous vessel receptive to communication with God. In contrast to a dominant idea that sexual orientations shape individual identities, sexuality within this religious world instead facilitates the movement of moral forces across individual bodies and geographic scales. Sexual desires and sexual acts are broadly understood in evangelical cosmology as communicative mediums for supernatural forces. This understanding of sexuality as a central component of moral agency shapes widespread practices of ostracism of people who identify as LGBT within evangelicalism and often leads to anti‐LGBT political positions. Claiming an LGBT identity is seen as making one a distinct kind of person incommensurate with evangelical porosity.

Heywood, “Agreeing to disagree”

Heywood, Paolo.  2015. Agreeing to disagree: LGBTQ activism and the church in Italy.  Hau 5(2): 59-78.

Abstract: In 2012 the Bologna chapter of We Are Church, a group of lay liberal Catholics who lobby the Vatican to adopt a more progressive position on various issues, including homosexuality, sought to pursue a dialogue with the city’s LGBTQ community. The relative success of those conversations depended upon We Are Church persuading their anticlerical interlocutors, whose antipathy toward the Vatican runs deep, that they were an entirely different entity to the Catholic “hierarchy.” But in prevailing in this endeavor, they created a further obstacle for themselves: the more convincingly they distinguished themselves from orthodox Catholicism, the less convincing was their eponymous declaration of “We Are Church”; the further they traveled toward the positions held by their LGBTQ activist counterparts, the more likely they were to be dismissed as unrepresentative of Catholicism, and thus irrelevant. Thus in this case ethics across borders depends not only upon finding affinities and sustaining differences but also upon finding affinities over how to sustain differences. Similarly, I suggest that debates in anthropology surrounding radical difference may benefit from attending to the ways in which such difference itself can be the subject of agreement or disagreement.

Sumerau, et. al, “Resurrecting Patriarchy in an LGBT Christian Church”

Sumerau, J. Edward, Irene Padavic, and Douglas P. Schrock. 2015. “Little Girls Unwilling to do What’s Best for Them”: Resurrecting Patriarchy in an LGBT Christian Church. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 44(3): 306-334.

Abstract: This paper examines how a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Christians resurrected patriarchal patterns of gender inequality in their local church. On the basis of more than 450 hours of fieldwork, we analyze how a group of lesbian and gay members collaborated with a new pastor to transform an egalitarian, inclusive, and democratic organization into one characterized by the elevation of men and the subordination of women via restricting leadership to men, instituting a gendered division of labor, and discrediting women dissidents. In so doing, the pastor and his supporters, regardless of their intentions, collaboratively reproduced patriarchal practices that facilitated the subordination of women. We conclude by suggesting that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between gains for LGBT organizations and gains for women, and we outline implications for understanding how retrenchment from egalitarian practice can undo gender-equality gains.

Barton, ‘Pray the Gay Away’

Barton, Bernadette C.  2012.  Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays.  New York: NYU Press.

Publisher’s Description:

In the Bible Belt, it’s common to see bumper stickers that claim One Man + One Woman = Marriage, church billboards that command one to “Get right with Jesus,” letters to the editor comparing gay marriage to marrying one’s dog, and nightly news about homophobic attacks from the Family Foundation. While some areas of the Unites States have made tremendous progress in securing rights for gay people, Bible Belt states lag behind. Not only do most Bible Belt gays lack domestic partner benefits, lesbians and gay men can still be fired from some places of employment in many regions of the Bible Belt for being a homosexual.
In Pray the Gay Away, Bernadette Barton argues that conventions of small town life, rules which govern Southern manners, and the power wielded by Christian institutions serve as a foundation for both passive and active homophobia in the Bible Belt. She explores how conservative Christian ideology reproduces homophobic attitudes and shares how Bible Belt gays negotiate these attitudes in their daily lives. Drawing on the remarkable stories of Bible Belt gays, Barton brings to the fore their thoughts, experiences and hard-won insights to explore the front lines of our national culture war over marriage, family, hate crimes, and equal rights. Pray the Gay Away illuminates their lives as both foot soldiers and casualties in the battle for gay rights.