, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 327-349

Emotion Language and Social Power: Homosexuality and Narratives of Pain in Church

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This paper examines the narratives of pain in two religious groups to explore how the everyday concept of emotional pain can work to obscure differences between opposing sides. It shows how these narratives can effectively help to reproduce social hierarchies, even as actors seek to challenge them. Specifically, by examining church debates about homosexuality, it shows how putatively heterosexual actors on both sides use languages of pain to justify welcoming gays into the church, albeit on very different terms, while creating particular feeling rules for gay men and lesbians (Hochschild 1979, 1983). By comparing these two sides we see how narratives of pain (and the shared assumptions behind them) effectively help to reproduce the sexual hierarchy some members seek to subvert.