Love, Sex and Gender in the World Religions Essay

Decent Essays
Love, Sex and Gender in the World Religions

Edited by Joseph Runzo and Nancy Martin


Two forces which gathered strength in the last half of the twentieth century now dominate the world religions at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The first is the globalization of religions and their resulting encounter with each other, and the second is the need to redefine attitudes toward gender as women have stepped forward to insist that their full humanity be acknowledged in the religious as well as the social realm.

In a process begun in the nineteenth century and accelerated in the twentieth, the great religions of the world became truly global in the geographic distribution of their adherents and so
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The Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu was internationally prominent in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, even as the Hindu Mahatma Gandhi had been at the beginning of the century in South Africa and then in the Indian independence struggle, and so on. World religions became part of the social-political-economic global fabric in a way that now has made it increasingly hard to practice religion in isolation from global concerns, and even intellectually dishonest to do so without some global perspective and without taking other religious traditions into account.

The second great force at the turn of the century is itself global: the emergence of women in the public sphere, including the public face of religion. This is in part a function of women's growing economic and political power, but also a result of religion itself coming into the public sphere in new ways. Many aspects of religion have long been considered private and relegated largely to the context of home and family, where women have often been the primary practitioners, though men might dominate in institutional leadership positions. As both religion and women move out of the private into the public sphere, new challenges arise. For example, central facets of family and home – particularly love and sex – which have more traditionally been the purview of women and of religion have entered the realm
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