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College course teaches students about ‘queering the Bible’

Class ‘destabilizes long held assumptions’ about what’s in the Bible; university refuses to comment

Swarthmore College is offering a course next year that will survey “queer and trans* readings of biblical texts” by using “queer and trans* theoretical approaches,” with faculty staying silent on the specifics of the course material.

“Queering the Bible” is set to launch next fall and will be instructed by Gwynn Kessler, an associate professor of religion, according to Swarthmore’s course catalog.

The course, which is being offered through Swarthmore’s Religion Department, promises to “[introduce] students to the complexity of constructions of sex, gender, and identity in one of the most influential literary works produced in ancient times.”

“By reading the Bible with the methods of queer and trans* theoretical approaches,” the catalog advertises, “this class destabilizes long held assumptions about what the bible–and religion–says about gender and sexuality.”

It appears that the Swarthmore Religion Department will offer no other Bible-centric courses next fall apart from this one. Out of around ten listed courses that explicitly involve Bible study at Swarthmore, “Queering the Bible” appears to be the only one taking place in fall of 2018. Only one other Bible-related course, a class teaching the grammar and vocabulary necessary to read the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, is offered during that time.

Repeated attempts by The College Fix to learn more about the course, and whether or not any additional Bible courses would be offered at Swarthmore next year, were met with silence. Multiple emails to Gwynn Kessler and the Swarthmore Religion Department, as well as phone calls to both, were not returned.

According to her faculty profile, Kessler’s research focuses in part on “rabbinic constructions of gender and identity.” Her work is also “situated within, and suffused with, postmodern, feminist, and queer theoretical approaches.”

In addition to “Queering the Bible,” Swarthmore College’s religion department also offers “Queering God: Feminist and Queer Theology,” a course that “examines feminist and queer writings about God, explores the tensions between feminist and queer theology, and seeks to stretch the limits of gendering-and sexing-the divine.”

“If we can point out places in traditional writings where God is nurturing, forgiving, and loving,” the course description asks, “does that mean that God is feminine, or female?”

MORE: After professors tell student to stop reading his Bible, university launches probe

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