On March 29th I attended the Biennial Boston College Conference on History of Religion and presented a paper that tried, for the first time, to offer up some analysis regarding my current project. A big thanks to the conference coordinators for a great experience!
This project is, broadly, exploring the ways in which the Christian left negotiated sex, sexuality, and gender during the thirty year period between 1960 and 1980. Narrowly, for this paper, I looked at a ten-year period of the Methodist publication motive for clues regarding mainline Protestant conceptions of gender and sexuality. As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I’m particularly interested in what the magazine had to say about sexuality because after breaking with the church, the publication’s final two issues focused on the topics of gay liberation and lesbian/feminism (their terminology). Rather than seeing this break as a natural, inevitable conflict between a traditionalist anti-gay church and more radical youth activists, I am asking why Christian left theology ultimately failed to provide a hospitable atmosphere for meaningful, nuanced discussion about queer sexual morality.
At least, that’s what I’m fumbling my way toward asking. I’m not sure how close this one conference paper gets to that goal — but it is a start. So for those who’ve been following my research this past year, I offer this work-in-progress as a reward.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to my two excellent and inspiring co-panelists, Trevor Burrows (Purdue University) and Casey Bohlen (Harvard University), both of whom are working on aspects of Christian faith and political action during what we might term the “long Sixties” — looking back into the 1950s and forward toward the 1980s. I look forward to watching their progress as scholars and writers in the field.