The article “Conversion, Sex, and Segregation: Jews and Christians in Medieval Spain” deals with the connection between sexuality and religion, and how Christianity has affixed many different metaphors and rules to the sexuality of anyone who is a member of the Church. The article seeks to educate its readers about these issues in terms of a specific time and place, Medieval Spain, and how the religious beliefs regarding sexuality led to issues between Jews and Christians.
The author takes the position that because of the way the Christians felt about sexuality, mainly that it was closely linked to their relationship with God and that having sex with a non-Christian was a sin, they were to accept the Jews who converted as true Christians because they still could not condone sex between a once Jew and a Christian. The author writes that distinguishing between Jews and recent converts became such a problem that King Joan I of Aragon had to stipulate rules to make it easier to recognize the “natural Christians” from the converted Jews.
In fact, the author uses examples of prostitutes refusing to have sex with Jews and Muslims because they were not Christian, and goes on to describe how some of the more influential people in the Church during the 1300-1400s had to urge “women to not only associate with the converts but also to marry them”, using the Christian view that Christians are related to each other through their faith in Jesus Christ (Nirenberg). The author’s main point is that the religious ideas about sex made it hard for Christians to accept converts from other faiths as equals in terms of their sexuality.
The author makes some controversial points in his article, but is able to support them with evidence of documented stories that relate to the topic at hand and writing from St. Vincent and others who wrote sermons about the situation happening between the Jews and Christians in Spain. In this article we find out about how serious this was taken, so much so that Jews were told to wear certain clothing and marks to distinguish themselves from converts. The entire idea of this is very reminiscent of the way Jews were treated during World War II.
The author’s use of primary and secondary sources help to pain an accurate picture of the way sex and marriage was viewed by Christian in Medieval times. The article raises important points about how society views sexuality and what the root causes of some of our country’s own discriminations have developed over time. The true nature of sex is something that is not defined by religion or race, but according to this article sex has become defined in such a way because of the religious symbolism given to it by the early Church.
Sex became a metaphor for something spiritual, not simply carnal, so it has developed a completely different meaning to people. The author sums up his argument well by saying that “the walls with which societies divide themselves need rebuilding by each generation’s hands”.
Nirenberg, David, “Conversion, Sex, and Segregation: Jews and Christians in Medieval Spain”. The American Historical Review 107. 4 (2002): 54 pars. 11 Feb. 2007 <http://www. historycooperative. org/journals/ahr/107. 4/ah0402001065. html>.