Through his provocative and influential work, most notably The Culture of Desire and A Queer Geography, Frank Browning has proven himself to be an erudite and intellectual writer with deep insights into the fusion of culture and identity.
In his new book The Monk and the Skeptic, Browning examines the intersection of sexuality and religion through the framework of conversations between the author and a gay priest to discuss the nature of secular and spiritual friendship; religious thought on same-sex marriage; the relation of the body to God; the mission of charity enacted by the drag troop Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; the biblical prohibitions on improper pleasures of the body; and the history of how the church has viewed the body and desire. Browning manages to bring in a host of influences to his discussion: Descartes, Locke, Greek Myth, Christian Myth, Buddhist myth, Harry Potter, St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as modern writers like Jeanette Winterson, John Boswell, and Daniel Mendelsohn. The result is an engaging, timely, and very modern discourse on how the self and sexuality has been interpreted throughout the ages.
These chats dovetail with introspective dialogue on men and masculinity, arguments for and against gay marriage, the artfulness of pornography and how Peter’s own spiritual revelations brought him to the church... [A] compelling discourse chronicling the ’dual dictates of devotion and desire.
No easy conclusions are reached, but Browning, through his friendship with the perhaps-fictional ’Father Peter,’ acknowledges the complexities of gay Christian lives... A fascinating, rangily structured, and intelligently written book on faith, the self, and sexuality, likely to be of intense interest to gay and lesbian Christians and their supporters.
Perhaps most useful is the model the book offers of individuals coming together for dialogue, despite entrenched differences.