Sarah Coakley's theology of desire

Source : Rupert Shortt. God's Advocates: Christian Thinkers in Conversation. London: Dartman, Longman and Todd, 2005, pp. 77 ff. (interview).

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Previous [...] (especially when celebrating in the east-facing tradition…[in instances where] the altar cannot be moved) kneeling on behalf of the laity – and thus qua ‘feminine’ in the terms of the traditional nuptial heart of the eucharist (see Ephesians 5:21ff.) – and so representing the Church. But then when one turns to bless or absolve or to offer the elements to the people, one’s crossing the liminal boundary to the divine side of things: now one is standing in the realm of Christ as the divine lover, qua ‘masculine’. One is symbolically moving from one theological gender pole to another, and so implicitly ‘destabilising’ these poles at the same time.

What I think it shows us is that the tradition in the Church of the eucharistic act as itself ‘nuptial’, indeed the tradition in the Church that represents the whole Christian life as that of coming to be the lover of Christ – all this points to the deep heart of incarnational doctrine. It tells us about how gender both has to be played with and, at the same time, renegotiated in the light of the erotic embrace of Christ. It puts gender under the judgement, if you like, of Christic transformation. In other words, I think there’s something about the hypostatic union which is itself a transgression of the view that so-called masculinity can be safely tidied up into the divine arena; the incarnation itself questions the stereotpyical view of the gender binary.

So far, in trying out this argument, I’ve been told by many heterosexual male priests that they have no idea what I’m talking about. But I’ve also been told by virtually every gay priest that I’ve talked to that they know exactly what I’m talking about. It would seem that the very idea of gender ‘fluidity’ causes some straight men a good deal of anxiety – no surprises here.

…What I’m saying is vitally different from Butler in the sense that one isn’t performing this liturgical act as a ‘queer protest’ to sanction various forms of previously unacceptable pleasure. Rather, what’s happening here is a transformation of the self within the realm of God’s desire. So this is the basic idea: that in co-operating with the fundamental logic of God’s desire, one is following Christ, as it were, into this stepping backwards and forwards across the bride/bridegroom duality.

The layperson is vital here precisely because this view of what’s going on [...] Next

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