Unspeakable no more

The refreshingly accessible Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk About Homosexuality, Harvard Divinity School professor Mark D. Jordan’s book on the language used by Christians to discuss sexual orientation, relies on public discourse rather than scholarly works to make its point. Beginning more than 50 years ago, Jordan shows how the language used to describe variance from the heterosexual “norm” has changed over time among Christians: an unmentionable vice; “inversion”; “perversion”; and eventually, “homosexuality.” Despite the changes in the terms used, the message from conservative Christians has remained the same: Gay is bad, and young people are susceptible. This use of language and argument has also led to the “ex-gay” movement and the insistence among the “traditional values” churches that gay people can be “cured.” Jordan skillfully shows that language is at the root of the debate over gay equality: For some Christians, homosexuality is an act; for others, it’s an identity.