Book Review: Epistemology of the Closet

“Epistemology of the Closet”, by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

For much of my adult life, I have felt a special burden for ministry to homosexuals. To better equip myself for ministry to this people group, I have committed myself to reading books in the field of “queer theory”, in the hopes of coming to a better understanding of a point of view that is foreign to my own. This book, published in 1990, has been considered a landmark book in this field of study, and so I purchased it for my own study.

Within the first few pages, I quickly realized two things: First, that the reading level for this book is higher than I’m used to. I read a lot of books, but it’s been a long time since I had to look up the meaning of so many words! This is a book written for Academia, and I’m not fluent in that language. Second, that much of this book presumes that the reader has already read several other books which are referenced frequently. Since I have not read those books, there was much that I failed to comprehend as fully as i would have liked.

Still, this was eye-opening in many ways. While Sedgwick’s conclusions (and presuppositional world view) are quite different from my own, there is surprisingly much on which we agree, and much that I have learned from her. For instance, Sedwick makes the case that there are two views that guide our views of sexuality and identity. A minoritizing view tends to portray those identifying as gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender as somehow “lesser” than those who are in the heterosexual majority. A universalizing view affirms that all persons are of equal worth, though they may differ in many ways, and that an understanding of homosexuality is important for people of all sexual persuasions. These two views can also be applied to divisions of people based on gender, skin color, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socio-economic status, and so forth.

As Christians, I believe this is important for us to understand. We must avoid “minoritizing” those who are different from us in these areas. All people are of equal worth, because all are created in the image of God. In God’s eyes, there have only ever been two categories of people on this Earth: Sinners, and Jesus Christ. With this understanding, we can hold a “universalizing” view of all people and people groups, because apart from grace, we all have equal standing.

While these are not the conclusions drawn by the author (who is not a Christian), I feel that they are a practical application of some of her thoughts that fit within both a Biblical framework and within the canon of queer theory. It is this sort of common ground from which, I hope, the Church can begin to make progress ministering to a people group we’ve avoided and excluded for far too long. Buy this book here.

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