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Title: Queering death : a theological analysis of the reconnection of desire and immortality in the shadow of AIDS
Author: Sollis, David William
ISNI:       0000 0001 3470 3183
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Winchester
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis aims to test the theory of the evangelical theologian. Michael Vasey, that AIDS would prompt gay Dien to articulate a new cultural voice for death in Britain. Vasey believed that this would involve the expression of a tragic rather than a natural understanding of death and an embrace of the ancient Christian connection between desire and immortality which would be expressed in funerals which gay men themselves , would take control of. Using the model of practical theology devised by Riet Bons-Storm and developed by Melanie Shelton Morrison Vasey's theory is tested against a variety of different bodies of evidence. Chapter two employs liturgical theology to analyse a variety of Christian denominations' teaching on death and the afterlife. It is demonstrated that Vasey was correct in his assertion that contempormy Churches in the UK. teach a natural understanding of death and make no explicit connection between desire and immortality. Chapter three analyses those theologies which claim to speak out of the experience of lesbian and gay people and those living with HIV. By using a historical theological approach it is established that theologians rarely engaged with AIDS as a theological issue which raised questions about death and the afterlife. In chapters four and five nine interviews with gay Christian men living with HIV and twenty-two interviews with those who had in various capacities supported gay men to their deaths with AIDS are analysed. The analysis reveals that lesbian and gay theology did not reflect the experiences of those it claimed to for gay men were deeply concemed about issues around death and immortality though some articulated their concerns in anthropocentric understandings of the afterlife rather than in the theocentric model adopted by Vasey. The interviews provide ample evidence of gay men taking control of their own funerals in which they often articulate a non-natural understanding of death and furthermore often engage in a performance of gay identity which is so extreme as to point to a reality beyond it This evidence is reinforced in chapter six by the liturgical theological analysis of a number of funeral liturgies constructed for AIDS funerals and further substantiated by the theological reading of six, films about AIDS in chapter seven. Using Clive Marsh's theology of negotiation to engage with the films it is demonstrated that some gay filmmakers showed a willingness to face without flinching the tragedy of death, combined with clear articulations of hope for life beyond death which is imaged in both anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric term.s. In the final chapter the conclusion is drawn that Vasey's theory has been proven (although it is argued that gay men articulated a postmodern rather than a new cultural voice for death , ,and that anthropocentric as well as theocentric visions of the afterlife demonstrate a reconnection being made between desire and immortality among that group) but is not reflected in any relevant contemporary theological reflection. Using Radical Orthodoxy to reflect upon the findings of the project, the thesis concludes that gay men living with AIDS have held ancient traditions concerning death and the afterlife alive whilst the Church as a whole as largely lost sight of them.
Supervisor: Stuart, Elizabeth ; Smith, Carol Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available