Review: Authors on same-sex attraction, faith
HOW CAN CHRISTIANS relate to those with whom they disagree — without compromising the truth? Read the complete series, including “Homosexuality and the church,” online. Do the homosexuals in your church and community know how much you love them? How have you proven it to them?
Are you sure they appreciate the way you love them?
Those questions, posed at a conference I attended titled, “For God So Loved the World …,” challenged me to rethink my assumptions about how my church and I minister to those struggling with same-sex attraction or even living a secret homosexual lifestyle.
I have been in ministry for more than 30 years, serving churches in sparsely populated rural areas, a medium-sized industrial town and now in Atlanta. Homosexuality was and is present in all of these communities and churches in which I have served.
With 13 years of experience ministering to men and women young and old who are struggling with same-sex attraction or homosexuality, I was interested to read three recent books written by people of faith who have also experienced this struggle.
Sally Gary. Loves God, Likes Girls: A Memoir.
Abilene, Texas: Leafwood Publishers, 2013. 240 pages. $14.99.
The authors all offer valuable insights to Christians but differ in lifestyle and conclusions about homosexuality and faith.
Sally Gary excelled as a trial lawyer, teacher of debate, and a professor at Abilene Christian University. But it was while on the faculty at ACU and a member of the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, that she came forward with her secret struggle: same-sex attraction.
This brave public disclosure was met with warmth, love, support and opportunity in the ACU community. She founded and directs CenterPeace, a ministry that facilitates safe conversations about faith and homosexuality for individuals, families, churches, schools and communities. In “Loves God, Likes Girls: A Memoir,”
Gary offers vignettes that vividly draw the reader into her life and journey with same-sex attraction. She opens up about her family, school and church. She shares her isolation, embarrassment, humiliation, fear, determination and ultimately her faith.
She tells about the devastating effect of her father’s rage in their home, and then the journey through openness and counseling that led them from painful isolation to loving embrace. But she shares all this without defaulting to a general statement connecting fathering flaws to same-sex attraction.
Her honesty can give others a vision for what healing can look like in a family — and within the body of Christ. I recommend this book to families, churches and anyone struggling with the inner secrets they long to get out.
Justin Lee. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate.
Nashville, Tenn.: Jericho Books, 2012. 272 pages. $15.A more prominent voice in the Christian-gay debate is Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network, described as a “nonprofit, interdenominational organization working to increase dialogue between gays and Christians and support people on both sides wrestling with related issues.” His recent book, “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate,”
expresses deep love for the church and even for people who vehemently disagree with Lee’s conclusions.
Lee’s seven suggestions in the final chapter provide a meaningful structure that can improve how the church interacts with this subject and, more importantly, with those who are gay. Although I do not agree with the way he states all seven of them, they are still a valuable starting point.
Some readers will be impressed by his approach, while others will be critical of his questionable exegesis. Because Lee believes the Bible is not definitive in rejecting committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships, he argues for acceptance in the body of Christ of gays who are choosing celibacy and those who are in committed, monogamous relationships.
This book will ignite emotions and thoughts and will hopefully inspire readers to dig deeper on their own, no matter where they start or end up in their beliefs about homosexuality and the Bible.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith.
Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant, 2012. 154 pages. $12.Like the other books, “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith”
is directly related to the author’s struggle with homosexuality and living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield was a tenured professor of English at Syracuse University. An open lesbian and gay activist, she was doing research for a book she was writing about the “religious right,” when she met a Christian minister who began to turn her thoughts and heart toward Christ. She describes her conversion as a “train wreck” that destroyed her life as she knew it. Butterfield’s entrancing writing style and relatable experiences offer the reader many ways to connect with her story. She relentlessly stresses the cost of discipleship. She writes, “I learned the first rule of repentance is that it requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin.”
As she writes a few decades after her conversion, she is now a Christian mother, and the wife of a minister.
There are some minor detractions for me in the book. She speaks derisively, by name, of a few other Christian authors by singling out a small component of their entire body of work with which she disagrees, which seems unnecessary to her overall point.
All three authors share their stories with love, grace, humility and great vulnerability. The reader will not agree with all the conclusions of any of them, just as the three authors do not agree on all the issues either. However, these books are enlightening, engaging, and helpful in this vital conversation for churches and families.