Published by Convergent Books on April 22, 2014
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books for review consideration.
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As a young Christian man, Matthew Vines harbored the same basic hopes of most young people: to some-day share his life with someone, to build a family of his own, to give and receive love. But when he realized he was gay, those hopes were called into question. The Bible, he’d been taught, condemned gay relationships.
Feeling the tension between his understanding of the Bible and the reality of his same-sex orientation, Vines devoted years of intensive research into what the Bible says about homosexuality. With care and precision, Vines asked questions such as:
• Do biblical teachings on the marriage covenant preclude same-sex marriage or not? • How should we apply the teachings of Jesus to the gay debate? • What does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah really say about human relationships? • Can celibacy be a calling when it is mandated, not chosen? • What did Paul have in mind when he warned against same-sex relations?
Unique in its affirmation of both an orthodox faith and sexual diversity, God and the Gay Christian is likely to spark heated debate, sincere soul search¬ing, even widespread cultural change. Not only is it a compelling interpretation of key biblical texts about same-sex relations, it is also the story of a young man navigating relationships with his family, his hometown church, and the Christian church at large as he expresses what it means to be a faithful gay Christian.
When I hear the words “gay Christian,” I think “theologically liberal.” I’m not sure I personally know any conservative evangelicals who are supportive of same-sex relationships. So I was completely surprised when I started reading God and the Gay Christian and discovered it is written from a theologically conservative point of view!
Matthew Vines takes a much more literal view of the Bible than, say, a progressive Christian would. This becomes the book’s greatest strength, because Vines had to be especially meticulous in his research, which is demonstrated throughout the book, complete with plenty of notes. He believes “our understanding of Scripture can be wrong,” that “our fallibility as human interpreters is precisely why” we need “to study the issue more closely” (page 14). His reasoning is solid; his approach is thoughtful and kind. He chooses to use the terms “affirming” and “non-affirming” rather than pro-gay or anti-gay, in order to respect those who believe differently. Not once does he resort to snark or petty jabs, which is so refreshing when reading a book on such a hot-button issue as this.
It’s worth mentioning a reminder that transgender people are the “T” in the LGBT umbrella, even if they are straight, so some transfolk may find God and the Gay Christian a bit lacking. They are mentioned in only a few brief paragraphs toward the end of the book (through Kathy Baldock‘s story). However, Vines does point out that “few groups are more misunderstood, mistreated, or unwelcome in the church today” (page 167).
Regardless, God and the Gay Christian is inspiring and fosters healthy discussion among all Christians. Affirming Christians will find confidence in Vines’s optimism and arguments. He encourages people to question the whole “the Bible is very clear” attitude that tends to perpetuate non-affirming stances. Even though the topic of this particular book is same-sex relationships, I got the feeling that Vines would encourage us never to be afraid to take our own thorough, researched, closer look into any faith-related issue.
Let’s face it, plenty of people are going to hate this book because of its title alone, without ever opening it. Hopefully, non-affirming Christians won’t read this with the intent to tear apart each and every argument, but instead, with the intent to understand and respect a different interpretation among fellow Christians.