Spiritual Friendship recently announced the publication of “A War of Loves” by David Bennett,” the account of how a gay atheist teen came to Christ and chose celibacy as a young man.
I want to say I enjoyed reading this book. David’s belief was formed in a non-liturgical and charismatic church. Since the liturgy has been very important to me in my faith and finding an identity in Christ, I have been wanting to read accounts of LGBT people who experienced other influences in forming a Christian identity. So it was very refreshing to read his account. I am not sure how his account of his journey to Christ will relate to others since he often felt he had personal communications from God. But his discussion of why and how he envisions living his life for Christ is excellent and applicable to pastoral ministry with LGBT people.
He did an especially good job of explaining why he identifies as “gay Christian.” Probably his most effective statement here was a simple sentence in one brief paragraph. He said “Both sides (the progressive and the conservatives who balk at the phrase ‘gay Christian’) make our sexual lives the most important reality rather than focusing on eternal realities and how those impact our walk with Christ.” I really think this is very true. Those like Denny Burke and the signers of the Nashville statement who spend so much time harping about the use of the word “gay” are really focusing the discussion on sex far more than on Christ. A lot of time an effort is wasted that could better be spent on helping people find an identity in Christ and discussions of how such an identity is formed.
There is one issue that worries me, however. And it is not an issue with the book itself. Several autobiographies have been released over the last few years from people who grew up essentially outside the Church, came to Christ and then changed their mind about sexuality. Some examples of such people include Bennet, Eve Thushnet and Rosaria Butterfield. But there is a significant difference between someone who was outside the Church and heard what Christians say about LGBT people vs those who heard the same things from within the Church. In the first case, they heard obnoxious statements from people they did not really like nor respect. But when you grow up in the Church you hear those statements from people whom you do like and respect greatly, who have a significant hand in your self identity and the formation of your faith. I would hate for pastors, on the basis of these particular examples, to see ministry to LGBT people as primarily evangelism. In reality, the biggest fact of ministry to LGBT people at this time is remorse and repentance. The Church has to be willing to face the way in which Christians have done active damage to the faith of those who have grown up in her walls. And that is a significantly larger task. I once heard a story of a pastor counseling a couple who felt they had married “the wrong person.” His answer was, “of course you married the wrong person. We are all sinners and therefore wrong for each other. It is not a matter of who you married but whether you are becoming the right person for your spouse.” Ministry to LGBT people is not merely a task of winning people to the “right” side but the Church admitting that we have often been in the wrong in the way we have treated kids. It is a matter of Christians becoming the people we should be and learning to truly treat LGBT people with respect, kindness and mercy and, most of all offer Christ while repenting of our own evil and seeking forgiveness. Learning to say “we are sorry” is all a much bigger task than evangelism could ever be. And maybe this is why, as I read this book, I found myself asking “but what were the Christians doing?” A lot of his journey seemed to come as a result of his experience of direct communication from God. Christians did not seem to play much of a part, at least in the early stages, and appeared more as a barrier. Perhaps that lack of loving activity on the part of Christians should be a message to us that we need to do better.
Over all an enjoyable and informative read.