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Unhappily ever-after: How a promise of future happiness is used to regulate desire and behaviour in Protestant Evangelical Christianity
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 18:12 authored by Rosie Clare Shorter
In this thesis, I consider how Protestant Evangelical Christian teaching on sexuality and marriage interacts with the marriage narratives and happiness discourse which pervade popular culture and promote the wedding day as the happiest day of one’s life. In doing so, I follow Sara Ahmed (2010) who, through a study of film, literature and common speech acts, argues that attaching a promise of future happiness to certain objects, such as marriage and family, allows happiness to function as an “orientation device” (p54) which regulates behaviour. I argue that we must also ask how happiness, specifically an idea of happiness-via-marriage, functions in Protestant Evangelical discourse on sexuality and marriage. It is widely acknowledged that Protestant Evangelical churches teach and maintain normative views on sexuality and marriage. It is assumed this teaching is due exclusively to biblical imperative. Rarely though is it explicitly asked what role extra-biblical sources or cultural narratives play in legitimising this teaching. I argue that within Protestant Evangelical discourse, ideas and understanding of happiness, salvation, and marriage easily merge. This conceptual merging creates a dangerous dichotomy: A happy marriage becomes a sign of salvation and right expression of faith, whereas, the Christian identity and sexuality of the unmarried or unhappy believer is considered suspect.