Customer Review

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read but with a few cautions, 28 April 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People In Western Europe From The Beginning Of The Christian Era To The Fourteenth Century: Gay ... of the Christian Era to the 14th Century (Paperback)
Boswell's books are like a breath of fresh air. To get the most out of them you need to read it as a history book (which is what it is). What in my view he does prove vey convincingly is that the Church has not consistently been anti-gay; there have been wildly varying degrees of tolerance and persecution which have usually correlated with persecution of other groups as well, and at its height tolerance of homosexuality included gay people being open about their gayness and accepted even in ecclesiastic positions.
This much, I think, is proven.
On the negative side he appears to state that scripture had nothing to do with anti-gay sentiment. I think it is important to open up the interpretation of the key verses as he does but I tend to think that there is a constellation of values (celibacy, chastity and virginity for example) as well as a number of homonegative verses (even if a more thorough analysis does not lead logically to the exclusion of gays) did in fact contribute to the severe curtailment of homosexuality and bisexualiy which had been more broadly tolerated in the Greco-Roman world (ie as pederasty).
The one proviso here is that these early reference seem to have in their view age structured homosexuality (references include giving up boys for sodomy, do not corrupt young boys etc and Paul's division of homosexuality into malakos and arsenekoites also implies a dividion of labour not seen in egalitarian - ie modern - homosexuality.
The extensive analysis of scripture does show that it has not consistently been understood as being homonegative in church history, though in my view it probably did play this role in the early christian communities, especially as hey were living under an apocalyptic expectation of the end of the world. Its just that thereafter Church history displays a wide variety of differing attitudes.
It shows that acceptance of gay people within the church is not a new phenomenon and that this has been a constant and often positive theme throughout the history of the church.
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