Two new must-read books on theology and sexuality

I just wanted to give a shout-out to two important new books which everyone interested in the area of theology and sexuality should strongly consider checking out (and not just because they reference my work!)

The first is the forthcoming book with Blackwell by my friend, and erstwhile supervisor, Adrian Thatcher, entitled God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction. This is due for release in April but a limited preview is already viewable at This book will be especially valuable for use by undergraduate students of theology, philosophy and religious studies, but Adrian has aimed to make it accessible and readable for those who have less familiarity with theological terminology too. He summarizes the aims of the book like this:
"1. To introduce students and general readers to the exhilaration of thinking theologically about sex, sexuality, sexual relationships, and gender roles.
2. To introduce students and general readers to a comprehensive and consistent theological understanding of sexuality and gender, which is broad, contemporary, undogmatic, questioning, inclusive, and relevant to readers' interests, needs, and experience.
3. To offer to university and college lecturers a comprehensive core text that will provide them with an indispensable basis for undergraduate and postgraduate courses and modules in and around the topics of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender."
The book is split into five parts: the first explores the ways in which sex, sexuality and gender have been understood in biblical and contemporary contexts. The second analyzes desire and marriage in theological perspective. Part 3 addresses gender - both the gender of God in the theological tradition, and the implications for the significance of how we understand human gender too (and I'm delighted that, right from the start of the book, Adrian has given space to considering how intersex and transgender fit in here, since this is still so rare in theological treatments of the area). Part 4 provides a useful overview of theological responses to homosexuality, both in terms of textual analysis, and in terms of tradition, reason and natural law. The final part covers issues such as virginity and celibacy, contraception, and sex before marriage (in a reprisal of Adrian's fascinating work on the theme of betrothal, which I've found really helpful in my own work in terms of a theologically imaginative basis for broadening our understanding of "marriage").

All in all, the book will be a rich resource for those studying and teaching sex, gender and sexuality in theological perspective. Adrian's conversational style, with questions addressed directly to the reader, makes this book a valuable prompt for rethinking what sexuality means both for individuals and communities of faith.

The second book to which I want to point, which is already receiving rave reviews, is Patrick S. Cheng's Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology. This is already published in the US edition and will be available in Britain in the next month or two.

Unfortunately, Patrick's book is appearing too late for me to have referenced it in my own forthcoming book, Controversies in Queer Theology, which has been with my publisher for several months now (though I was glad to draw extensively on earlier work of Patrick's, and was grateful to receive his comments on one draft chapter in particular). The fact that the two books are coming out in such quick succession means, I hope, that people will read them together and comment on how they compare and contrast (especially given the contrast between us as authors - Patrick identifies as a queer theologian and a gay man, as well as a Queer Asian Pacific American, is an ordained minister of the Metropolitan Community Church, and works at a theological seminary in the USA; I am a straight white lay woman who works in a secular Department of Theology and Religion at a British university. I don't call myself a queer theologian per se, because I suspect people would feel I were annexing their experience if I did - although other people have applied the term to me).

The book is deeply Trinitarian, examining queer theology first in general terms, and then, in subsequent sections, through the lens of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit in turn. Patrick suggests that, far from being something alien or peripheral to the Christian tradition, queer theology echoes something profound that is right at theology's centre: love as the separation of boundaries, both those between human beings, and those between human beings and God. Patrick's use of the trope of love is so important here, since it's something that often gets missed out of discussions of queer theology and queer Christianity (which, sadly, have often been about anger, violence, exclusion and hurt).

Those who know anything at all about queer theology will realize that it is a vast field containing layers and layers of theory, complexity and apparent contradiction (hence my new book). Patrick notes,
"To date there have not been many easily accessible introductions or surveys of the field for individuals who are not familiar with queer theory, on the one hand, or the traditional doctrines of queer theology, on the other. This book seeks to fill that gap in the discourse. It also provides study questions and suggested resources for further study at the end of each main section, which makes it ideal for self-study, for religious studies, theology, and queer studies classes, or for adult education in parishes and congregations."
Patrick's book provides a useful overview of other work in queer theology and in earlier lesbian and gay theology, which makes it a valuable starting point for those new to the field - but it is also far more than a literature review. It's a theologically robust and creative treatment of an area which is still coming into flower, and whose fully-developed fruits are still yet to appear.

I hope both these books will become widely-read and widely-used. They both testify to the creative and exciting field that is the study of theology and sexuality, and make clear that sex and religion, far from being hidden away as taboo topics of conversation, should both be understood as sites of generative and nascent expansions of how we understand ourselves - and are even more exciting (and sometimes volatile) when mixed.


  1. glad i found this site. been reading "Sexuality and the Sacred". dont agree with everything, but some of the insights are priceless.

  2. Hi Susannah,
    Just wanted to alert you to my new blog on objective queer Bible criticism. Hope you like a bit of satire mixed in with your queerying of the discipline!
    I'll link to your blog from mine.

  3. Hi Kaamos. Is that the new edition of Sexuality and the Sacred? What did you take issue with in particular? I thought the coverage of intersex was quite disappointing and didn't really engage much with newer scholarship.

    BW16, thanks for the heads-up. I'll check out the blog once I'm home from Greenbelt. All the very best.


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