I know this may be hard to believe but I really try not to overwhelm people with things that I share. I do read pretty prodigiously, mostly before I fall asleep, and, despite my past insistence that I pretty much only read young adult dystopian novels, I actually haven’t read any fiction in a few months. This faith deconstruction has me looking in lots of different places and so I thought I’d do some blogs about interesting books that I’m currently working through.
I heard Matthew Vines on a podcast a few months ago and he popped up again so I thought I’d better ready his book, God and the Gay Christian.
Growing up, I absorbed the typical evangelical narratives around homosexuality- living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin. I absorbed those beliefs and never studied Scripture for myself. I just assumed that, if everyone around me believed it, it was probably true. I landed, what I thought was compassionately, on “Gay people can be Christians but they can’t be practicing homosexuals” and stayed there for quite some time. If I’m being truly honest, part of my feelings about homosexuality stemmed from being uncomfortable with sexuality in general. It was a known joke in my youth group that if someone mentioned the word “sex”, I would run out of the room screaming. For whatever reason, I associated lots of shame and embarrassment with the topic.
So much so that my lack of understanding of human sexuality reached the highest level when, AS A SOPHOMORE IN COLLEGE, I had to call my mom because the professor and other students IN MY COLLEGE HEALTH CLASS were talking about “anal sex” and I had literally no idea what that was and I couldn’t even use my imagination to envision what it would be. I sure as hell didn’t want to google it, so 20-year-old Beth called her mom and we had that super fun conversation that went down in the annals of history (PUN INTENDED, FRIENDS).
I had a few friends come out after high school, but I wasn’t in close proximity to gay people until we moved to Dallas. And, like proximity always seems to do, being friends with gay people deeply challenged my established beliefs. One incident in particular stands out in my mind. The woman who saved Alex from near death when he rode his bike a million miles in August in Dallas with very little water also happened to be a realtor and so when we decided to start looking for a house, we called her up. At our first meeting, she said, “I just wanted to let you know up front that I’m gay. I know you’re Christians and that might be a deal breaker so I thought I’d let you find out now.” I mean, this woman had saved Alex’s life, for the love, and so she could have said, “Just wanted to let you know- every 15 minutes, I turn into a sweet potato with a dragon head” and we still would have said, “Okay! No problem!”
But that interaction stuck with me because I thought how horribly, horribly sad that she even felt like she had to do that and I hated that I belonged to a group (and participated in those beliefs) that made her feel like she had to do that.
It was the beginning of the end for my evangelical beliefs about homosexuality that I had simply absorbed as a kid. I didn’t want to hold beliefs, or identify with a group, that hurt people like that.
All that to say, I have been, in the past, one of the “non-affirming Christians” that Matthew Vines addresses in his book and so I can identify lots of the things that he says about how most evangelicals think about homosexuality.
Now, I know that this is a polarizing issue and that I might have already lost some people BUT, I want you to know two things about Matthew Vines before you write this book off for good:
- Matthew Vines is a gay Christian. He actually holds a very high view of Scripture which, in his words, “That means I believe all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life” (page 2).
- This just in: Matthew Vines likely has a higher view of scripture than I do. And he makes good on that claim. I’m only about halfway through the book, but I find that he doesn’t try to avoid the “problem passages” but instead confronts them head on. I don’t think get the feeling that he’s trying to twist Scripture in a way that benefits him. I believe that he genuinely tried to look at Scripture to see what it had to say about this issue.
- Maybe you don’t believe all of that above. Maybe, to you, “gay Christian” is an oxymoron. Well, Matthew makes a plea at the beginning of the book and just that one plea has deeply affected the way that I view others.
- ” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that if someone makes you go one mile, go with him two miles (see Matthew 5:41). Whoever you are, and whatever experiences or doubts you bring to this discussion, will you walk with me as I share the evidence that changed my dad’s mind?… I ask as a brother in Christ– one who has sometimes been hurt by others’ unwillingness to listen, and who continues to see fresh wounds open up in the body of Christ. Perhaps you are convinced your views will not change. Perhaps you hope they will.Either way, I invite you to join me for the journey” (page 20).
I mean, how can you not go that second mile with him? That metaphor will bounce around in my brain for a while because I had never considered it in the context of “I know you might not agree with me, but I need you to hear me anyway”. Think of the far-reaching implications that has regarding people that are different from us.
Anyway, like I said, I’m only halfway through the book but it’s a fairly easy read and, if it was about any other topic, I probably wouldn’t read it because it has lots of “Bible talk” which isn’t my jam right now, but I know it’s lots of other people’s jam which is why I think it’s an important book. He is speaking the evangelical language to explain his position about an issue that (obviously) deeply affects him. And, if organizing has drilled anything into me, it’s that directly-affected people should be leading the charge for change. Matthew’s voice and story are an important one that I think the American Church should listen to.
If you pick it up, will you let me know what you think?