On the second Thursday of each month, I would like to share my thoughts about some of the books I have read recently that have impacted my life in meaningful ways. This week’s book is actually two books! Torn by Justin Lee and Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill are essential reading for every Christian who knows someone who experiences same-sex attraction. These books can also help non-Christians understand the different viewpoints Christians have. You can purchase them here:
One of the most volatile issues facing the church today is same-sex attraction. When the topic comes up, walls go up almost as quickly. People who hold to the traditional understanding of the Bible and teaching of the church are adamant that homosexuality is a sin that must be purged from the church and from society. On the other side are people who think we should accept all people regardless of sexual preferences because the Bible is an outdated document and we know more now about biology than we did then.
People on either side often are intolerant; not only of people on the other side, but also of people who find themselves somewhere between these two extremes. However, the middle is where the majority of people reside (my opinion). And it is from this position of being in the middle that leads to so much doubt and confusion, especially for people in the church: how do we respond to people whose orientation is such that we have been taught they are sinful? How do maintain our scriptural integrity while still following the command to love others?
What’s more, this is a huge issue for straight people in the church. But what about for Christian men and women who experience same-sex attraction? How difficult is this journey for them? That is where these two books come. I highly recommend both Torn and Washed and Waiting. Both are personal memoirs the authors share; Torn is written more like a “traditional” book (beginning, middle, end) while Washed and Waiting is a little more choppy (though still put together in an excellent manner).
There are three lessons from each book that are vital for all Christians to acknowledge as we learn how to better interact with our brothers and sisters experiencing same-sex attraction:
- Orientation is not a choice.
This is huge. Orientation is NOT behavior. Both Lee and Hill share their journeys and pour out their hearts about nights spent in prayerful yearning for God to change what they felt, who they were attracted to, and how their lives were to be lived.
Hill describes it this way: “There was a time in my struggle with homosexuality when I felt that the world was caving in on me.” He goes on to say he sometimes felt as if his struggle was a “mindless, unobserved string of random disappointments.”
Lee says this: “It was, I thought, the worst secret in the world. It was the deepest, darkest secret I could ever imagine having, one that I could never tell anyone, not even my parents or best friends. It was the secret I would take to the grave…. I waited patiently to grow out of this phase.”
Both authors talk about sleepless nights, tears shed, prayers uttered, and a search for someone-anyone-they could share their struggle with. Reading both of their stories illustrates how their orientation is anything but a choice.
This is a difficult concept for many in the church to grasp. Orientation and behavior are not the same thing. The Bible says absolutely nothing about orientation, although it does address behavior.
Lee expresses in his book how he heard a lot about the church’s response to homosexuality, but he never actually knew anyone who was gay. I think that is indicative of the issue many Christians have today: we view same-attraction as an issue instead of viewing the people that are affected.
- Sharing one’s story is powerful.
The best part of both books is the vulnerability shared by both authors. I am a huge fan of sharing one’s story. I believe confession within community is sorely lacking in our churches. I believe that with too many issues we have dehumanized the topic and argued about who was right instead of making sure people were loved.
Lee writes, “I believe our goal should be truth, not ideology, and that we must have the humility to admit that we still don’t have all the answers.” Hill explains how he learned from his friends that sharing his story with them made them realized they were loved.
We think we do not know people who are struggling with same-sex attraction. I suggest the issue is we have not been open to listening to people’s stories. Both of these authors are exhibiting bravery by talking about their same-sex attraction so openly and publicly.
- Not everyone agrees.
I suggest reading these two books together. Both are valuable stories. Both authors have websites that serve as great resources. Both authors talk plainly about how orientation is not a choice.
But there is one area which they fall on different sides: Justin Lee believes it is biblically acceptable for same-sex attracted people to enter into committed, monogamous relationships. Hill believes the Bible teaches same-sex behavior is always wrong; therefore individuals experiencing same-sex attraction must commit to a life of celibacy.
(Sarcasm alert.) How can two gay men disagree? Aren’t all people with same-sex attraction committed to some subversive agenda to make everyone accept their lifestyle?
In many churches, “homosexuals” have been lumped into one camp. And that camp is outside the walls of the church. What these two books illustrate is that there is no one “gay lifestyle.” Both men are intelligent. Both men are Godly. Both men are trying to live out their spiritual lives as God is leading them. Yet they disagree on this issue of same-sex behavior.
I encourage you to read both books and keep an open mind as you read each one. Neither comes across as trying to justify their position. Both have spent time in study and in community. Both have approached this prayerfully. They have set an example for how all Christians should approach this, or any, issue.
I cannot recommend these two books highly enough. I hope all of you will read them. If you have questions about this topic or these books, please reply to this post. Or email me privately. This is a conversation that we must have.
Justin Lee’s website: http://www.gaychristian.net/
Wesley Hill’s website: http://spiritualfriendship.org/