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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Jana Kristin Hoffmann

The Sexualization of Religion - Discourses on Sexuality, Family and Gender in the Methodist Church, 1950-1990

Religion and sexuality have a remarkable but also tense relationship when it comes down to conceptualize religious communities and their exclusivity, to define ideas of family, gender and relationships, to regulate reproduction, and to negotiate norms and value systems. This close relationship can especially be seen in religious discourses on sexuality within the US American society during the second half of the twentieth century. Looking at the United Methodist Church as one of the major representatives of American mainline Protestantism helps to understand how this close relationship worked and will answer the question of how discourses on sexuality shaped religious ideas of family and gender roles in the context of social, political and cultural changes during the second half of the twentieth century. The intensified involvement of mainline Protestants in this period can be seen as a reaction to the striking processes of liberalization, democratization, and pluralization on the one side, and a conservative backlash on the other - processes which had a significant impact on family and gender ideas. Analytically the project will focus on three main fields concerning religion and sexuality: sexual education, reproduction, and homosexuality. It can be assumed that the religion-sexuality nexus played an important role in the discursive production of gender. Therefore, the dissertation will also discuss the question of how the United Methodist Church on the one hand conceptualized masculinity and femininity and their relationship to each other through sexuality as a complex of meaning (Bedeutungskomplex), and on the other hand how they used gender concepts to justify family ideals, societal order and well-being, as well as community life.

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