Overview Advisory: Some of the views put forth in this book challenge the traditionally accepted teachings on the issue of homosexuality and the Christian faith. The place of gay men and women in the community of faith has become one of the most divisive debates in the church today. Writer and activist Richard Cleaver takes a fresh approach to this issue by examining the struggles of gay men and lesbians in the church through the lens of liberation theology. He offers a "gay" reading of scripture, but one that is also spiritually challenging to all readers. Cleaver weaves biblical reflections with historical, social, political, and personal commentary. He discusses personal identity issues and "coming out," the development of class consciousness as members of the oppressed group and solidarity with other oppressed groups. This provocative book brings a new voice to the debate about the place of gays and lesbians in our churches.
The place of gay men and women in the community of faith has become one of the most divisive debates in the church today. Writer and activist Richard Cleaver takes a fresh approach to this issue by examining the struggles of gay men and lesbians in the church through the lens of liberation theology. He offers a "gay" reading of scripture, but one that is also spiritually challenging to all readers.
Cleaver interweaves biblical reflections with historical, social, political, and personal commentary. He discusses personal identity issues and "coming out," the development of class consciousness as members of an oppressed group, and solidarity with other oppressed groups. This provocative book brings a new voice to the debate about the place of gays and lesbians in our churches.
Citations And Professional Reviews Know My Name by Cleaver has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Library Journal - 05/01/1995 page 104
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Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.01" Height: 0.54" Weight: 0.6 lbs.
Release Date Dec 1, 2004
Publisher Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN 0664255760 ISBN13 9780664255763
Reviews - What do customers think about Know My Name?
As evil as Liberation theology Dec 24, 2005
What happens when a man ignores his nagging freudian conscience? He packs up and starts his own little church. Talk about recreating God into the image of man! As an John Paul II Roman Catholic I can already see the gears of "the new evangelization" begining to turn in our new pope. AMEN!! A smaller purer RC church is just what the doctor ordered. Now if we could just get all of the other dissentors to rush off and start their own little "mission" churches! But of course when you can stand the heat...just make up your own church.
Liberated viewpoints Jul 22, 2003
Why not be totally changed into fire?
Perhaps this one line near the end of the book sums up much of Cleaver's call -- throughout the text he seems to be issuing a call to action, a call to identity, a call to community. Through these various calls he hopes that change will take place for the actors and the society in general that leads to a greater liberation and 'communion' together.
In the Introduction, Cleaver asks about the relevance of the concept of 'good', stating that Jesus never insisted upon 'goodness'. Using an updated version of the parable of the Good Samaritan (which actually is a little too politicised for my taste -- I think the subtlety of Jesus parable works more than the explicit version Cleaver uses), he demonstrates the differences between competing ideas of goodness.
He then proceeds to give examples of liberation theology from Latin America, countering claims that liberation theology doesn't take scripture seriously by asserting that scripture is taken seriously, only used in a different way. He emphasises also the importance of experience: 'Jesus we encounter in scripture is not only a teacher.... We have to look at the life Jesus led--in other words, at Jesus' practice.' (p. 13) Cleaver sets his tasks as providing information and tools for doing liberation theology work, again emphasising the role of experience with statements such as 'building on the twin foundations of lesbian and gay male American history and the story of the exodus...' (p. 15).
In the first chapter, Cleaver examines briefly the history of homosexuality, with much of the same material as we have covered in other texts. Perhaps the most important statements Cleaver makes in this chapter are that there must be a community/social aspect, not simply a personal salvation, and highlighting the models (one of which he declares obsolete) of dialog.
He uses the story of Moses, as one who passes for being an Egyptian, as an analogy to gays and lesbians of today; he highlights different aspects (such as the longing for Egypt/acceptance of the status quo; and lessons of the desert/community building) that makes sense to him as being of primary importance when looking at the gay community as a community, an oppressed people, rather than a collection of sinful and sinning individuals.
In the second chapter, Cleaver discusses the power of naming, and talks about issues of coming out: 'Without this stage, it is difficult to move from a consciousness of oneself as "different" to a consciousness of oneself as "oppressed".' (p. 45) He is suspicious of the church's ability to deal with people who claim the power to name and proclaim themselves on two counts: first, that there is a tendency to 'subordinate the commandment of love to the demands of heterosexist culture' (p. 48) and that it hopes to maintain a position of privilege if not power by giving into the status quo and silencing gays and lesbians.
In Chapter 3, Cleaver talks about the image of God and the creation story, demonstrating that we were created in community, and that aspects of the creation story were not meant to be normative or morally instructive or permissive of only that which was explicit in the story. He again uses the story of Moses, as well as the stories of Esther and Rahab, to demonstrate communal aspects of salvation, and the power of the outcast. (On a side note, it is interesting that he describes Vashti, a more heroic figure in Comstock, as being 'uppity'.) He proceeds to describe the Jesus movement in terms of defining a new family, not bound by blood or marriage, demonstrating that the idea of 'family values' being rooted in the gospels is not apparent, equating 'family values' with idolatry which gives members of the church the right to be caring and compassionate only to their own (however that is defined personally).
In the fourth chapter, Cleaver uses the experiences of conversions of the Gentiles and the proclamation of all foods being clean (kosher) as a possible vehicle for Christian acceptance of gay and lesbian members. He gets into a discussion of capitalist/authoritarian issues and complacency as they relate to the gospel, and says, 'Accepting the norms of society in place of the promises of the gospel has deprived religion of any "messianic future".' (p. 94). He also mentions class structure and hierarchy that proceeds to make many outcast groups (of whom the early church was primarily built) into second-tier members: 'The pews are open to all; the ministry is open only to the pure, the clean, the respectable.' (p. 94)
Cleaver proceeds to talk about the importance of recognising the limits of 'respectability', and calls on the outcast to claim the power of the stranger, the impure, to effect change in the theology of the church. Chapters 5 & 6 are closely related, using imagery of Eucharist for community and inclusion. Cleaver insists on the building up of a community, a solidarity, a self-aware class of people, but to beware of sectarianism and separatism which can be self-destructive as well as not making right relationships with the larger Christian community. Coming from a Roman Catholic background, liturgical practice is of central importance to Cleaver, but he sees it as needing to adapt to 'popular piety' to help restore a balance to the theology done exclusively 'by the ordained and the degreed.' (p. 117) He emphasises the importance of relationships without labels of 'homosexual' or 'heterosexuality' due to the implication of sexual activity.
Jesus does not build the community for us. Building it is our part of the liturgy.