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Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology

Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer TheologyRadical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology by Patrick S. Cheng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cheng contends that "Christian theology is fundamentally a queer enterprise" what with doctrines like the Trinity, incarnation, etc. More than a simple overview or introduction to queer theologies, the book itself is a survey of all the traditional major doctrines of systematic theology around the organizing theme of radical love. He defines this as "a love so extreme that it dissolves our existing boundaries." Cheng writes that "Christian theology can be understood as a three-part drama about radical love." For example the Trinity is understood as an internal community of radical love, Jesus as the bearer of radical love, the church as the external community of radical love, etc. I appreciate some of these formulations and will incorporate them into my own rhetoric.

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Call Me By Your Name--the novel

Call Me by Your NameCall Me by Your Name by André Aciman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually prefer the movie. James Ivory did an incredible job of turning this story into a different, even better story. One marvels at how he sometimes turned a few sentences into rich scenes.

This novel is enjoyably erotic and there are layers of complexity in Elio not present in the movie. I enjoyed some of that in the first two, lusty, sections. And I enjoyed that Oliver was a richer character than in the film. But I didn't care for some of Elio's back and forth that were dispensed with for the film, particularly his regret after the first time they have sex. Also the supporting characters are more richly drawn in the film.

One thing I'm curious about is the change of setting from the coast in the novel to the countryside in the movie. And from Rome to a smaller town for the final trip.

One good comment I read about the film in a review was that there was no attempt to deal with orientation or coming out, it was just a love story. But those elements are in the novel, and I wished they hadn't been. Though they are more realistic. It made me realize how much the film is a fairy tale.

I really didn't like the third section when they take their trip. In the novel it is to Rome and they spend all this time at a party with sophisticated people and I kept rushing through that section trying to get to one-on-one time that was missing.

And in the fourth section I missed the emotion of the film. And the scenes from 15 and 20 years later hold some interest but I'm glad the filmmakers thought them unnecessary (I really don't want them to turn it into a trilogy as they have discussed).

But the final paragraph is superb.

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After the Wrath of God

After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American ReligionAfter the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion by Anthony M. Petro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best written non-fiction books I've read. This is the author's first book, so I look forward to reading what he writes in the future. According to his bio at Boston University his next two book projects look equally as interesting.

This book is about the religious rhetoric used during the early years of the AIDS crisis and how that rhetoric shaped public policy. This is a fascinating study exploring how left, right, and center developed moral language to grapple with the crisis. The study refutes any reductionistic notions of religious conservatives versus secular leftists.

The final two chapters discuss Cardinal O'Connor and ACT UP's confrontation of him. Reading those chapters made me very angry at the Cardinal.

In the final section the author explores how AIDS and gay activists developed their own religious and moral language, but he left me wanting more. I hope that comes in subsequent books.

Also, while he does treat of progressive Christian responses, they don't get as much discussion as conservative responses. This is probably because conservative responses dominated much of the public health debates at the time.

Petro is a keen intellect and engaging writer.

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Gotta Have Faith

GeorgeMichaelFaithAlbumcover

Practice was over and everyone was in the locker room getting undressed in order to shower.  Most awkward when you are in eighth grade.  Moreso if you are a nascent gay boy around lots of unruly jocks.  Suddenly organ music was playing, and I was confused.

One of my classmates had a giant jam box on the bench where he was changing clothes.  The jam box was the source of the organ music.  Had organ music suddenly become popular, I wondered?  I was a dorky, religious and intellectual kid who had no sense of popular trends.  Then, suddenly, the organ gave way to the beats of one of the most popular songs of the moment.

This was the first time I ever heard the album Faith by George Michael (as opposed to the hit single, and ultimately singles, on the radio).

I was raised a Southern Baptist.  We were always on guard for religious faith to be mocked in popular culture.  We were particularly alarmed whenever spirituality and sexuality were intertwined (Madonna freaked Evangelicals out).  So all these impulses and passions were at war when I listened to such popular music.  

The decades bring further reflection  upon the enjoyable ironies of moment.  Here in the most homoerotic of heterosexual spaces--the junior high locker room--I always felt manifestly uncomfortable and most different from my classmates.  Playing this sexually charged popular music made me feel even more different.  Yet, the cool, popular straight guys were listening to George Michael sing erotic songs.  George Michael who later came out as gay.


The Angel of History

The Angel of HistoryThe Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I heard an interview with the author on All Things Considered and ordered the book immediately. Our church's Advent theme is remember and dream and the interview was about the roles of remembering and forgetting (represented in the novel by the characters of Satan and Death). The book is an imaginative exploration of the AIDS era with Satan, Death, and 14 Christian Saints appearing as characters helping the main character Jacob cope with his grief.

I found the story compelling. Some of the writing is beautiful while some of the sentence and paragraph structures must have survived only by long arguments with editors, as many don't follow anything like the standard rules. The closing pages are quite lovely.

I wasn't sure that all the anecdotes are necessary. I also felt that some plots and characters needed more story than they received.

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