Dr. Virginia Burrus, professor of early Christianity at Drew University Theological School, delivered the second annual John E. Boswell Lecture, entitled “What’s Queer about Christian Couples? Engaging Augustine’s Theology of Marriage” in the Badè museum on April 29. The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry co-sponsored the event with the GTU Women and Religion program.
Burrus took listeners through a lesson in historical theology, re-examining classic works of Saint Augustine, which are the foundation of the Christian theology of marriage, in ways that have implications for debates over same-sex marriage today. Burrus said that despite the current portrayals of Christian marriage—in which the institution is portrayed as a having a continuous, unchanging theology from the biblical era to the present—early Christianity was, in fact, highly ambivalent about the practice. “The earliest Christians showed spectacularly little interest in developing a theology of marriage: it was, rather, anti-marital asceticism that captured their erotic imaginations,” Burrus said.