Theological April Foolery

Aside from my own offering, there have been a number of very entertaining April 1st theoblogs today. I’m sure I’ve missed several, and would be glad to hear of them in the comments. I was not the only one to find discussions about gender in American evangelicalism to be just too inviting a target to be resisted. John Stackhouse’s revelation of the grand plot was not likely to take anyone in, but is beautifully done – Bell & Driscoll in matching T-shirts the crowning touch. Rachel Held Evans offered eleven spoofs for the price of one in a pastiche version of her regular ‘Sunday Superlatives’ feature; not all were on gender debates, but the condemnation of pastel ties as unduly effeminate stood out for me… International Christian College in Glasgow have clearly taken my recent posts on theological education to heart in their announcement of a supermarket partnership; I am glad to see that this blog is as influential as I had assumed! Sojourners announce with heavy heart that their founder, Jim Wallis, has joined the Tea Party. Bosco Peters offered a shock announcement concerning virtual sacraments, complete with Latin quotations from Augustine and a passing notice that the next Archbishop of Canterbury will be whichever bishop has the most Twitter followers. Not theological, but our own University Press Office had a delightful announcement of how our exam diet is to engage with our six hundredth anniversary celebrations. They cast the idea that orals would last until examiners were no longer interested in what candidates had to say as a threat of lengthy exams – I can’t help wondering whether the effect might be rather different in at least some cases… Thank you to all – you brightened my...

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Hyper-masculinity and the development of a queer consciousness: the surprising contribution of conservative evangelicalism

There is an interesting article under this title in the online American Journal of Explorations in Culture and Sexuality (AJECS). It argues, in effect, that preachers such as Pastor Mark Driscoll are – unintentionally, of course – promoting the development of a post-heterosexual culture in the USA. The essay suggests first that the emergence of a mainstream LGBT, or ‘queer,’ culture in American society has repeatedly drawn on gay men’s adoptions of  intentional parodies of a tradition of American cultural masculinities. The author argues that these parodies contribute to the subversion of traditional narratives of masculinity by rendering them ridiculous, and so promote the creation of a queer consciousness. In support of this thesis, there is extensive analysis of 1970s gay club culture; this is fascinating, and an area of research that was totally new to me, but the author helpfully indicates that the point at which such parodic masculinities entered popular consciousness was with the pastiche representations of classic icons of American masculinity by the Village People. S/he (the author unsurprisingly models the queer practice of refusing to be labeled with any gender identity) notes that there was an intentionality about these parodies, but then suggests that there is a strand within contemporary US conservative evangelical culture that unconsciously and unintentionally presents parodic representations of hyper-masculinity in its gender analysis. These unintentional parodies, it is argued,  will inevitably tend to the same end. Several preachers who have modelled parodic hyper-masculinity are discussed; the only one who has achieved any notice this side of the Atlantic, I think, is Driscoll. This construction of an unintentionally parodic hyper-masculinity within the evangelical subculture will, the essay argues, hasten the collapse of support for traditional gender roles within the American church, and promote the development of a post-herterosexist queer consciousness, in which experimental gender orientations will be celebrated as experiences of God’s grace. As I say, I don’t know any of the other preachers referenced, and it seems to me that the article is repeatedly unfair in its interpretation of Driscoll. That said, the cultural analysis of seventies gay culture is very interesting, and the parallels drawn between the Village People and leading figures within conservative evangelicalism are actually surprisingly – worryingly, to an evangelical like me – suggestive at certain points. It’s worth a read, and the article can be read open access...

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