The Monk and the Skeptic: Dialogues on Sex, Faith, and Religion
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In his new book The Monk and the Skeptic, Browning examines the intersection of sexuality and religion through the framework of conversations between the author and a gay priest to discuss the nature of secular and spiritual friendship; religious thought on same-sex marriage; the relation of the body to God; the mission of charity enacted by the drag troop Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; the biblical prohibitions on improper pleasures of the body; and the history of how the church has viewed the body and desire. Browning manages to bring in a host of influences to his discussion: Descartes, Locke, Greek Myth, Christian Myth, Buddhist myth, Harry Potter, St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as modern writers like Jeanette Winterson, John Boswell, and Daniel Mendelsohn. The result is an engaging, timely, and very modern discourse on how the self and sexuality has been interpreted throughout the ages.
modern idea of being “gay.” For the most part they have been raised in working-class families—often in the rough Quartieri Spagnoli—who early on perceived that their little boys, sometimes as young as three or four, were not simply boys. One of the femmenielli I spoke to carried a full set of male equipment but had been raised in girls’ dresses by her parents and married off at age fifteen to a rugged fisherman who was completely straight. They’d been “married” by a local priest and appeared to
sense of being excluded, generally, as a same-sexer. My tendency to reflux arrives from the gas of anachronistic displacement; the ritual as commonly codified speaks to an era in which we, homo or hetero, do not live, and the manner by which we do live nowadays bears little if any relation to the terms of the legal contract. Brother Peter, again, proved himself helpful in understanding my discomfiture. Hardly surprising, he is adamantly and unyieldingly opposed to granting the seal of marriage
marriage: i. The priest shall place the holy Gospel on the Gospel stand and they that are to be joined together [hoi adelphoi] place their
sanctified with thy spiritual benediction, we beseech Thee, O Lord. That their love [agape] abide without offense or scandal all the days of their lives, we beseech Thee, O Lord. That they be granted all things needed for salvation and godly enjoyment of life everlasting, we beseech Thee, O Lord. That the Lord God grant unto them unashamed faithfulness [pistin akataiskhynton]
departure had not come from doubt but to test himself against the certainty of his initial decision to join the order. The brothers with whom he had undertaken his religious studies encouraged him to go away and reflect. “They wanted me to be certain that I understood what my decision meant: that I would no longer control the decisions of my life, that the community would tell me what sort of work I would do, that it would not necessarily be what I had studied for, that when you take on a