Between a Man and a Woman?

Why Conservatives Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

Ludger H. Viefhues-Bailey

Columbia University Press

Between a Man and a Woman?

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Pub Date: September 2010

ISBN: 9780231156202

192 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $45.00£33.00

Pub Date: September 2010

ISBN: 9780231521017

192 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $44.99£33.00

Between a Man and a Woman?

Why Conservatives Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

Ludger H. Viefhues-Bailey

Columbia University Press

Through a probing investigation of conservative Christianity and its response to an issue that, according to the statistics of conservative Christian groups, affects only a small number of Americans, Ludger Viefhues-Bailey alights on a profound theological conundrum: in today's conservative Christian movement, both sexes are called upon to be at once assertive and submissive, masculine and feminine, not only within the home but also within the church, society, and the state. Therefore the arguments of conservative Christians against same-sex marriage involve more than literal readings of the Bible or nostalgia for simple gender roles.

Focusing primarily on texts produced by Focus on the Family, a leading media and ministry organization informing conservative Christian culture, Viefhues-Bailey identifies two distinct ideas of male homosexuality: gender-disturbed and passive; and oversexed, strongly masculine, and aggressive. These homosexualities enable a complex ideal of Christian masculinity in which men are encouraged to be assertive toward the world while also being submissive toward God and family. This web of sexual contradiction influences the flow of power between the sexes and within the state. It joins notions of sexual equality to claims of "natural" difference, establishing a fraught basis for respectable romantic marriage. Heterosexual union is then treated as emblematic of, if not essential to, the success of American political life—yet far from creating gender stability, these tensions produce an endless striving for balance. Viefhues-Bailey's final, brilliant move is to connect the desire for stability to the conservative Christian movement's strategies of political power.

To understand Christian rhetoric around sexuality, you have to listen through the clanging speeches without falling under their compulsions to repeat. Ludger Viefhues-Bailey can do this and then some. Between a Man and a Woman? is both astute and original as it proposes interreligious comparisons, analyzes implied rhetorical narratives, and traces the conceptual instabilities of gender to deeper Christian paradoxes of grace and incarnation. Viefhues-Bailey gives hope for Christian speech beyond aggrieved repetition.

Mark D. Jordan, Harvard Divinity School

Viefhues-Bailey does, however, very effectively clarify some crucial points in frequently enlightening ways, and the book constitutes a useful and significant intervention into this most confounding political impasse of our time.

Whitney Strub, H-HistSex

...Viefhues-Bailey's book participates in a reserved yet powerful undermining of homophobia in general...

Books and Ideas
Author's Note
Acknowledgments
1. Introduction
Who Are the Conservative Christians, by and Why the Focus on Focus on the Family?
Connection to Previous Research
Structure of the Book
Theoretical Considerations and Methodological Consequences
2. Religious Interests Between Bible and Politics
Love Between Gays or Lesbians Is Wrong, by Because the Bible Tells Me So?
A Confluence of Forces: Religion and Politics
3. America and the State of Respectable Christian Romance
Same-Sex Couples and the Moral and Spiritual Stamina of the Nation
Theologies of Christian Marriage
American (Christian) Marriage: A History of Change
Protecting the Body Politic: A Political Analysis
Conclusion: Religion, by Respectability
4. Same-Sex Love and the Impossibility of Christian Femininity and Masculinity
Gays and Feminists: From Logic to Rhetoric
Christian Masculinity as Crisis
Submission and the Crisis of Christian Womanhood
Complicated Flows of Power in Ordinary Family Life
5. A Political and Sexual Theology of Crisis
Beyond Functionalism
Struggling for the Christian Life
A Political and Sexual Theology of Crisis
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Ludger Viefhues-Bailey is associate professor for methods and theory in the study of religion at Yale University and the author of Beyond the Philosopher's Fears: A Cavellian Reading of Gender, Religion, and Origins in Modern Skepticism. His teaching and research concerns the intersection of globalization, gender, epistemology, and the theory of religion.