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September 16, 2002

Jordan looks at questions raised by same-sex unions

By Michael Terrazas

Mark Jordan, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion, will speak on “Finding Christianity in the Quarrels Over Same-Sex Unions” as he delivers the 2002 Decalogue Lecture, sponsored by the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion (CISR), on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 12:15 p.m. in Tull Auditorium.

Jordan, a research fellow in CISR’s two-year “Sex, Marriage and Family” project, said his lecture will serve as the first preview for a book he is writing on the fundamental questions that should be raised, but aren’t, in the discussions of same-sex unions—questions that reach far beyond issues of homosexuality.

“The real question is what same-sex unions can teach us about Christian marriage in general,” Jordan said. “I don’t see it as ‘making an exception’ to get them under the big white umbrella of Christian marriage; I see same-sex unions as raising really old, unresolved questions: What’s the relationship between a church blessing and the state? Why should those two be the same thing? Why should Christian ministers be allowed to function as state officials in making legal marriages?”

It is these questions and more—including the nature of the relationship between marriage and having children, and whether one necessarily implies the other—that Jordan has been exploring through his participation in the CISR project, which has drawn together an interdisciplinary group of faculty to explore one of the most fundamental institutions in human civilization.

“The ‘Sex, Marriage and Family’ project has sought to summon the wisdom of the great traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam for their enduring insights into the norms and habits of marriage and family life,” said John Witte, Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and CISR director. “The project also has sought to work reconstructively and critically with these traditional resources and to draw them into greater conversation with the health and human sciences.

“Professor Jordan has made sterling contributions to both dimensions,” Witte continued. “He has been particularly effective in pressing the group to sharpen its rhetorical and historical analysis.”

For his part, Jordan said his exposure to other scholarly disciplines through the project has been quite informative. “It’s been great,” he said. “It gives us a rare opportunity to talk to each other as colleagues and to just sit down and read some text together. The learning has been incredible, about any number of things, from history of marriage before Christianity to contemporary legal problems and so on.”

The Decalogue Lecture was created in 2000 in memory of the late Paul Kuntz, professor of philosophy emeritus. The inaugural lecture was delivered by John Noonan, who returns to campus this semester as the McDonald Professor of Jesus and Culture and a distinguished visiting professor of the Law and Religion Program, which Witte also directs.

Jordan’s lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call 404-712-8710.