Mark Jordan, professor of divinity at Harvard Divinity School, writes at Religion Dispatches about how he has answered journalists’ questions when they call him for a quote about sexuality issues in the church. He often found the journalists to be dumbfounded because, even though the journalists might be progressive themselves, they had, to a man, bought the conservative line that the conservative version was the authoritative version of the biblical narrative. He would say,
“I support ordaining openly lesbian and gay candidates because that’s where I’m led when I study scripture and pray.”
“My belief in incarnation pushes me toward the blessing of same-sex unions.”
The reaction was mostly awkward silence. I could hear the typing stop at the other end of the line.
So I decided to attack the assumed familiar plot directly—to go after the division, enshrined by Steinfels, between tradition and innovation. I began to tell reporters what I fully believe: no present church position on sexuality would be recognizable to Christian writers of two hundred years ago—much less two millennia ago. Part of the reason is that the basic terms and psychological models have changed astonishingly in the last century. All Christian writers, even the most “traditional,” assume the existence of things (like “sexuality”) and mechanisms (like the unconscious) that are neither scriptural nor traditional. But the more striking difference is the scope contemporary “traditionalists” give to sexual pleasure in marriage. Evangelical writers famous for attacking homosexuality write pillow books for Christian newlyweds advocating sexual techniques that church traditions classify as unchaste and unnatural—indeed, as acts of sodomy.