Monday, December 15, 2014

Just Love?

... reading a lot about sex lately. Well, about sexuality. A lot.

Our congregation is grappling with questions about our response and attitude toward LGBT Christians. I'm grasping for whatever handholds
might help us negotiate this pass with grace, justice, and fidelity.

One volume that's come into my hands is Margaret Farley's Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.

JL does not take Christian LGBT sex ethics as its sole or even primary focus. Instead Farley takes on sexuality broadly.

I found the first three chs quite helpful. Farley provides a very readable yet in depth introduction to the last century of discourse surrounding sexuality. She next provides a historical overview of sex from the preSocrarics to Freud and beyond. Chapter 3 views sexuality cross culturally (though with the colonial character of our gaze always in mind). This introductory helpfully offers, at the least, one way of coming to grips with questions surrounding sexuality.

One hundred fifty pages further into JL's constructive project, I find Farley less helpful and less than compelling.

It's not that I disagree with key components of her framework. In fact, I find it hard to imagine an adequate ethics   that does not include like Do no unjust harm, Free consent of partners, Mutualiy, Equality, Commitment, Fruitfulness, Social justice.

For Farley these components grow from the twin core assumptions of autonomy and relationality. Again, this core resonates with something in my gut about the appropriate starting point for sex ethics.

But... But that's where JL loses its persuasive and illuminating power for me. Farley fails to develop here, even in thumbnail scale, any justification for the basic-ness of autonomy and relationality, either on philosophical or theological grounds. In reading JL I'm left with the reasonable suspicion that my cultural prejudices are being valorized as ethically basic, that my 21st century, USAmerican, middle class gut is somehow tuned most basically to justice.

I wish and hope that's the case (at least in these terms), but I need some further explanation to show me why it might be. So far JL has not mustered this sort of argument. But we'll see what develops in the final hundred or so pages.

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