A Feminist Religion Professor’s Valentine’s Weekend

A Feminist Religion Professor’s Valentine’s Weekend February 12, 2015

File:You Have My Heart, Sweet Valentine Love (4351548677).jpgWhat’s a great way to spend a heteronormative greeting-card holiday? At conference for gay and lesbian college student activists? Yesss! A couple of years ago, it so happened that I was teaching an essay by bell hooks on the patriarchal construct of romantic love on February 14. A key idea in “Romance: Sweet Love” is that the phrase “falling in love” is a big part of the problem. It seemed pretty appropriate for gender and women’s studies students to consider the statement in which hooks quotes Toni Morrison suggesting that we see

“the idea of romantic love as one ‘of the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.’ Its destructiveness resides in the notion that we come to love with no will and no capacity to choose. This illusion, perpetuated by so much romantic lore, stands in the way of learning how to love. To sustain our fantasy we substitute romance for love.”

Nothing like a cheery critique of patriarchal gender binary hetero-love lore to perk up a crowd of young people. This week I’m thinking more broadly about love and about how what might seem to be a strange way for a 40-something married woman to spend a Valentine’s Day is pretty perfect. I will be at Illinois State University for the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference with a group of students from Illinois College. Everyone is excited to see and hear keynote speaker Laverne Cox, as well as attend sessions and workshops designed to bring campus activists together, to educate and equip them to work for justice and inclusion on their campuses and in their local communities.

My feminist self loves an event that empowers people to work toward equality, creates a safe space for young people who don’t feel that in their daily lives, and features marginalized voices and creates connections among activists.

My professor self loves to see young people realize their passion, to watch them “get it,” and to be even a small part of someone’s transformative work of figuring their place in the world.

005My theologian self loves to debunk conventional wisdom about religion and the bible, which is why the workshop I’m presenting is titled “The Bible Does NOT Say That: Empowered to Respond to Religious Homophobia.” The theme for the overall conference is “Narrating a New Normal” (it’s taking place in Normal, Illinois … get it?!):

“The theme for MBLGTACC 2015 is Narrating a New Normal. The term “normal” is a common joke here in Normal, IL. This year, we really want to address how being Queer is more accepted and ‘normal’ in our society today. We see more and more representations of the LGBTQIA community in popular media. There are more and more famous people ‘coming out’ and our push for equality and rights is gaining momentum. We are attempting to show a correlation between change and normalcy. That with changing ideals, attitudes, and perceptions of our community, identifying LGBTQIA is beginning to feel, well … more normal.”

I would love it if someday it wouldn’t be normal to use the bible to justify hate and exclusion. It shouldn’t be. And yet it is. Hopefully, with a little bit of information, a crash course on textual history and methods of interpretation, young people can be confident in responding to any person or politician who seeks to demean and discriminate against them using one literalist interpretation of a complex sacred text.

So that’s a feminist religion professor’s Valentine’s weekend. Something for each part of my self to love. Incidentally, I will also make time to visit a local microbrewery with my husband because … well, there’s that kind of love too.  

Image via wikimedia commons.


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