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Recruiting Young Love

How Christians Talk about Homosexuality

In the view of many Christians, the teenage years are simultaneously the most dangerous and the most promising. At the very moment when teens are trying to establish a sense of identity and belonging, they are beset by temptation on all sides—from the pressure of their peers to the nihilism and materialism of popular culture. Add the specter of homosexuality to the mix, and you’ve got a situation ripe for worry, sermonizing, and exploitation.

In Recruiting Young Love, Mark D. Jordan explores more than a half century of American church debate about homosexuality to show that even as the main lesson—homosexuality is bad, teens are vulnerable—has remained constant, the arguments and assumptions have changed remarkably. At the time of the first Kinsey Report, in 1948, homosexuality was simultaneously condemned and little discussed—a teen struggling with same-sex desire would have found little specific guidance. Sixty years later, church rhetoric has undergone a radical shift, as silence has given way to frequent, public, detailed discussion of homosexuality and its perceived dangers. Along the way, churches have quietly adopted much of the language and ideas of modern sexology, psychiatry, and social reformers—deploying it, for example, to buttress the credentials of anti-gay “deprogramming” centers and traditional gender roles.

Jordan tells this story through a wide variety of sources, including oral histories, interviews, memoirs, and even pulp novels; the result is a fascinating window onto the never-ending battle for the teenage soul.

296 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Religion: American Religions, Christianity


"A professor of divinity writing about the key terms in the American Christian controversy over male homosexuality would seem to promise dull reading. But by steering clear of all jargon except the terms he focuses on—terms used in public, not academic, debate—and by critiquing many important pamphlets and books about homosexuality, Jordan produces an absorbing book. . . . Dense with information, bristling with provocative perspectives, Jordan’s effort is a vital supplement to the political and social histories of the long struggle for gay rights."


“The anti-LGBTQ industry invented a theology of self-loathing and oppression in order to gain power at the expense of queer people’s lives.  Mark Jordan has captured this history and offers deep, but practical analysis of its rhetorical frames. I am sure I will turn to it again and again as a pastor and activist seeking to do God’s justice in a dangerous world.”

Harry Knox, director, Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign Foundation

Recruiting Young Love is quite special. Jordan has once again written a compelling, concise, exciting, and important contribution to the study of sexuality and religion, which will most certainly shape scholarly work and cultural debates for years to come. Jordan confirms his reputation as one of the leading voices in the study of religion and sexuality.”

Michael Cobb, author of God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence

Table of Contents

Introduction: Sexual Characters

1  Degenerating Youth
2  First Reports of Hidden Worlds
3  A Social Problem
4  Spirit of the Homophile Race
5  Meeting Face to Face
6  Churchly Liberations
7  Saving Their Children
8  Coming Out of Homosexuality
9  Polemic in a Time of Plague
10  In Search of New Youth

Conclusion: How Not To Talk about Sex in Church
Works Cited


The Publishing Triangle: Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction

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