Tough Love

Sexuality, Compassion, and the Christian Right

By Cynthia Burack

Subjects: Political Science, Religion And Politics, Queer Studies, Political Sociology
Series: SUNY series in Queer Politics and Cultures
Paperback : 9781438449869, 257 pages, February 2014
Hardcover : 9781438449876, 257 pages, February 2014

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Table of contents

Introduction: The Christian Right’s Compassionate Conservatism
Left, Right, Left: Forward March
The Faces of Compassion
Different Rhetorics for Different Folks
Fixing Moral Boundaries
“The Politics of Yuck”
A Word about Words, and So On
1. Let’s Both Agree That You’re Really Sinful: Compassion in the Ex-Gay Movement
Reparative Therapies
The Narrative of Development
Out of Bondage
The Compassionate Gaze
Leaving Homosexuality
Taking the Ex-Gay Challenge
2. What about the Women? Compassion in Postabortion Ministries
From Abomination to Compassion
It’s about the Women, Stupid
Postabortion Sydrome
Compassion before Abortion
Helping Hurting Women
Sorting Out Compassion
3. Christian Right Compassion: What Would Hannah Arendt Do?
Identity in Politics
Caution: Hazardous Compassion Ahead
The Miserable Ones
Love among the Outcasts
A World of Others
Revisiting Compassion Campaigns
Arendt and Christian Love
4. Just Deserts: The Compassion of Ayn Rand
Who Is John Galt?
Rand, Sex, and Gender
Objectiv(ist) Compassion
Ayn Rand Always with Us
5. Drawing the Compassionate Line: Love, Guilt, and Melanie Klein
The Psychoanalytic Turn
More Narratives of Development
Making Good
Bad Group!
Being Reparative
Can “Compassion” Harm?
Compassionate Warriors
Afterword: Compassion, Where Is Thy Victory?
Whence Compassion?
A Last Word on Theory
Feeling(s) and Knowing

Exposes how ex-gay and post-abortion ministries operate on a shared system of thought and analyzes their social implications.


A staple of the culture wars, the struggle between Christian conservatives and progressives over sexuality and reproductive rights continues. Focusing on ex-gay ministries geared to helping same-sex attracted people resist their sexuality and postabortion ministries dedicated to leading women who have had an abortion to repent that decision, Cynthia Burack argues that both are motivated and characterized by a strain of compassion that is particular to Christian conservatism rather than a bias and hatred toward sexual minorities and sexually active women. This compassion reproduces the sexual ideology of the Christian right and absolves Christian conservatives from responsibility for stigma and other forms of harm to postabortive and same-sex attracted people. Using the democratic theory of Hannah Arendt, the popular fiction of Ayn Rand, and the psychoanalytic thought of Melanie Klein, Burack studies the social and political effects of Christian conservative compassion.

Cynthia Burack is Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Ohio State University. She is the coeditor (with Jyl J. Josephson) of Fundamental Differences: Feminists Talk Back to Social Conservatives,, and the author of several books, including Healing Identities: Black Feminist Thought and the Politics of Groups and Sin, Sex, and Democracy: Antigay Rhetoric and the Christian Right, also published by SUNY Press.


"…[a] tightly woven analysis … Reasoned and measured, this volume succeeds in its wide-ranging explication of its topic." — CHOICE