In Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology, Patrick S. Cheng develops an introduction to the study of queer theology, as well as provide a commentary of resources for further study. Queer theology is based on his notion of radical love, which is a “love so extreme that it dissolves our existing boundaries,” (Introduction, Location 124). Radical love is connection that allows interaction between queer theory and Christian theology, that questions the boundaries of gender and sexual identity as a socially constructed, and not theological constructed system.
In the first chapter, Cheng provides an introduction to the word queer and the methods and sources for a queer theology. Using a Trinitarian format to define queer, it refers to 1) the collective LGBTI who identify with non-normative sexualites and/or gender identities (3), 2) a “self-conscious embrace of all that is transgressive of societal norms, particularly in the context of sexuality and gender identity” (6), and 3) “erasing or deconstructing of boundaries, particularly with respect to the essentialist or fixed binary categories of sexuality and gender” (8). Queer theology, therefore, takes on the discussion about God from these three perspectives. Queer theology grabs its sources from scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. However, although similar to other theologies, it uses alternative readings from queer perspectives to interpret positively and constructively.
The second chapter reviews the development of queer theology from apologetic, liberation, and relational theologies to produce what is now queer theology. The first role was to show how LGBT persons can be true christians who live integral lives without the need to render their sexuality. In liberative theology, the goal was to show how liberation from homophobia, heterosexism and the freedom to be one’s own self was at the center of christian theology and the gospel message (30). Relational theology “focused not so much on issues of acceptance or liberation, but rather finding God in the midst of the erotic—that is, mutual relationship— with another person.”(33).
In chapters three through five, Cheng focuses on the theological doctrine of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as the sending forth, the recovery, and the return to, radical love. Radical love is the motivating factor that break through the boundaries of social constructions in the realm of sexuality and gender. Radical love has the extreme, superlative terms which reach deeper and wider than what our theological doctrines have imagined.
Cheng’s work in queer theology is a sympathetic yet powerful text that engages Queer theory and Christian theology through the work of radical love as the provision of wealth and abundance. Cheng is correct to acknowledge that a persons ontology is not determined solely by their genetalia or their sexual preference.
Questions for further study: How does queer theory relate to other christian theories within itself so that it remains inclusive? In other words, if radical love is the factor to understanding queer theology, how does radical love hold in tension other notions of theology that may reject queer theology? How does radical love redeem the two?