Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

Theology and Ethics is not new to Queer Theory, but Theology and Ethics is long overdue for a text that introduces Queer Theology in a praxis oriented way. Certainly, Theology and Ethics is in need for a Queer Theory that is uniquely and decidedly Christian, and one that privileges the unvoiced voices within the postcolony. Cheng achieves this in Radical Love. Patrick S. Cheng, author of Radical Love, is currently the Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also an ordained minister in the Metropolitan Community Church whose Queer Asian body administers the Sacraments of the Church. Cheng writes in a decidedly Christian and Theological vein. This text indeed fills a gap for those wishing to have an introduction to Queer Theology, written from the queer “inside” for the “inside.” Cheng’s book is a much needed contribution to the work in Systematic Theology that creates room for Queer Theology. This book is also a text that is read against the dominant framework of Christian Theology. To that end, this text becomes a helpful resource for those considering a postcolonial queer theory that is rooted in a theological paradigm. It is a book listed in Theology and Sexuality, but the scope of the book seeks to give time and space to the subaltern within and without the Church. This text gives a queer tone to the postcolony.

In a world where culture (defined broadly) not only has an inclination but audacity to make everything queer, Cheng invites his readers to imagine the possibility that queer is something quite particular, and perhaps radically related to Christian Theology in systematic ways. Cheng’s “queer” is both universally applicable and particularly located in the doing of Christian Theology. What does Queerness have to do with Theology, you might ask? “Everything!,” he suggests! Theology, indeed,is a Queer enterprise! Christian Theology is a queer enterprise insofar that Christianity disrupts and interrogates the binaries of fixed norms and realities, seen mostly in life and death, the beginning and end of things, what is divine and human, togetherness and dispossessed, and what is infinite and finite. Certainly, Christianity Theology disrupts and dissolves what is seemingly fixed binaries and categories–they are challenged and collapse into something other.

Cheng’s text begins with the question: What is Queer Theology? Following a a genealogy of the term Queer, Cheng explores the question of Queer Theology. By using this genealogy of queer, Queer Theology becomes something of its own discipline, a particular expression of blurring multiple boundaries within both Queer Theory and theology.

By using the four traditional sources of Theology (Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience), Cheng invites his readers to consider how Queer Theology disrupts these traditional categories by inviting a queer disposition and subjectivity to these categories. A queer positionality also becomes an element within the queering of theology. An example of this is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where a queer reading of this story is concerning the sin of inhospitality. As such, hospitality becomes a virtue of Queer Theory and Theology, a transgressive and intentional act of bringing in the margins into a different center in hospitable and loving ways and, radically so. The “doing” of Queer Theology for Cheng is a radical act (something which is rooted) in the four sources of Theology: Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience. These four sources create an intersection to “do” theology queerly.

After situating both the term Queer and Queer Theology, Cheng provides a genealogy of Queer Theology. The creativity of Cheng’s work are the ways in which he puts varying methodologies and theories of theology into conversation to elucidate Queer Theology. These methods and theories of Queer Theology are apologetic theology, liberation theology, relational theology, and queer theology. Each of these methods provide a way of envisioning the creativity of Queer Theology as a paradigm of Christian Theology. It is in the matrix of the “four” strands of theology that Queer Theology becomes and is “done.” By providing a genealogy of the term “queer” and highlighting the strands of Queer Theology, Cheng invites the reader to expand her understanding of both queer and theology and envision a newness in theological method and inquiry that is uniquely and radically queer and decidedly Christian.

Following the historical and genealogical work (which at heart is methodological), Cheng takes queer into the realm of systematic theology. To suggest that he systematizes queer theology would be limiting the scope of his work. Cheng carefully takes the central and dominant doctrines of the Christian faith and imbues them with a queer sensibility, a methodological choice of radicalizing his love for the Christian faith, a move of refusing to pick one particular stable and essential method in interrogating the doctrines of the Christian faith. Cheng folds each of these doctrines into a Creedesque narrative by situating the three persons of the Trinity: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as sacramental fonts bringing forth radical love. For the reader, this is both a formative and performative, likely liturgical, move that Cheng accomplishes. It is in the queering of creedal elements that Cheng invites his readers to continue to imagine a queer theology in the elements of the substantive Christian Doctrines. Additionally, Cheng provides study questions and resources for further study at the end of each chapter. It is clear that this text is meant to probe even the most well versed scholar in the field of theology, as well as those who are members of a Christian Church and even those skeptical of the Christian Church.

This text de-institutionalizes Christian Theology by putting flesh on it as a queer theology, a paradigm that is methodologically rich with particularities and epistemological implications. What we knew of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and of ourselves are now blurred and complicated by our new knowledge, our queer knowledge. God, indeed, is, has sent, and continues to send radical love. Jesus Christ recovers love rooted in brokenness and difficulty, and the Holy Spirit continues to renew a love so radical for self and other.

This book is about Queer Theology, and it is about something that is lovely. Queer Theology is mediated by a love rooted in both the boundaries of the theories and thought of the Church and Queerness, and intentionally guided by the disruption that the tools of Queer Theory give us. This book has the capacity, perhaps, to become the Queen of the Sciences when considering Queer Theology.

Robyn Henderson-Espinoza | Ph.D. Candidate | Jointly @ The University of Denver-Iliff School of Theology | Denver, CO | Social Networking:  twitter.com/irobyn | Academic Site:  www.iEspinoza.com

 

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