Ok, Milbank obviously rejoices in being esoteric. Like all the time. But, there seems to be a serious about-face that has taken place in his thought regarding sexuality. Consider this recent article on Milbank’s current theological-political work:
He urged the movement’s followers to “grasp the hands of labour unions, feminists, gay and lesbian activists”, and warned that “if they remain content, as I fear some of them do, to carp and posture before gatherings of the anointed, then the movement will become at best a beloved clique and at worst another academic vaudeville show”.
The groups mentioned may not want to shake Milbank’s hand: he opposes gay marriage (“I don’t want to get into the situation where we deny there is something special about being attracted to the opposite sex”).
He says he is concerned about working-class women being left to raise children alone, “in part – alongside economic factors – because of the collapse of the male ethos of supporting the woman”, and has written most stridently in opposition to in vitro fertilisation treatment for single women.
Or again, the somewhat older piece from The Other Journal:
So by supporting the total disjuncture of sex and procreation, the left is really supporting a new mode of fascism. ‘Women’ are lined up with science and choice in order to produce a new kind of ideal human subjectivity—male and autonomous and yet pliant in ‘female’ manner. The newly envisaged female body is the final site of the coming together of scientific objectivity and absolute freedom of choice. Perhaps one could even speak here of a new racism of the human race as such—it’s to be made the object of an endless ‘objective’ improvement and expression of a will to freedom/will to power. Of course this also means that the specific phenomenology of the female body is destroyed. It’s denied that this body is inherently linked both to the male body (as also vice-versa) and to another body that is itself and yet becomes not itself—the baby. Having denied the link of babies to men and also to women save as objects of their (‘male’) choice, babies thereby become pure consumer objects and all human personhood is abandoned.
Now, this is a pretty conservative framing of Christian sexual ethics coming from Milbank. Žižek, in a brief conversation mentioned to me that he believes that the reason for Milbank’s current trend against gay marriage and toward a broadly Roman Catholic theology of the family stems from recently falling under the influence of Pope Benedict. Perhaps so.
However, no matter what the reason, the anti-liberal Red Tory Milbank is a far cry from the Milbank of Being Reconciled with its talk of the “trancendental homosexuality” of angels. Its not every day you see high-profile theologians getting more conservative on sexual issues these days. Any idea why Milbank is swinging that way?