Religious movements often build on a variety of texts: key scriptures, treatises, tales of pioneers and heroes. For gay Christians, the time has come to fill in a few gaps, and publishers are eager to contribute.
Recent and forthcoming releases help develop what have been seen, at least in gay circles, as categories needing further exploration. The trend equips readers to wrestle anew with questions of scriptural interpretation, biblical authority, and what it means to love one’s neighbor.
Some of the season’s biggest authors in this subject area aren’t gay. An emotional memoir comes from Jimmy Creech, a former Methodist minister turned gay rights activist. Adam’s Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays (Duke Univ. Press, Mar.; reviewed in this issue) tells how a conversation with a gay parishioner set Creech on an advocacy path in the 1980s and ‘90s that led to national attention, a wrenching church trial, and loss of his ordained standing.
Jay Bakker, the 35-year-old son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye, blends a straight man’s memoir with a theological case for affirming gay relationships. In Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society (FaithWords, Jan.), Bakker mixes anecdotes with Bible verses, especially from Romans and Galatians, to show how grace--or “unmerited favor”--offers freedom from endless finger-wagging. Bakker told RBL he expects to find readers in the so-called Emergent Church movement and among fans of Rob Bell, whose Love Wins (HarperOne, Mar.) recently landed him on the cover of Time magazine.
Every successful movement strives to know its foes. Evangelical opposition to homosexuality has become an academic research topic, and Harvard professor Mark D. Jordan is going mainstream with what he’s learned. Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk about Homosexuality (Univ.Chicago Press, April) explores how strategies for keeping teens away from homosexuality have changed dramatically since the 1940s.
Church Publishing, official publisher of the Episcopal Church, has put out approximately a dozen books about gays and faith over the past decade. “Our Episcopal heritage demands that we help the church examine all contemporary issues of religion,” said Church Publishing spokesman William Falvey. He added that the organization has no explicit goals to influence church or society on issues related to homosexuality.
Two new ones from Church Publishing aim to codify and build on what’s been done thus far in gay theology. Patrick S. Cheng’s Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology (Church Publishing/Seabury, Mar.) aims to be the field’s first introductory textbook, chock full of citations and provocative study questions, such as: “How do you respond to the bisexual or Bi/Christ?” In Keep Your Courage: A Radical Christian Feminist Speaks (Church Publishing/Seabury, Jan.), author Carter Heyward denounces “the Bible’s hetero/sexism” as she writes: “We’re going to argue about this, because you--our friend, the Bible--are wrong about it.”
G. Jeffrey MacDonald is an independent journalist and author of Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul (Basic Books, 2010).