One of the most popular LGBT religion books to be published recently is Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian. A young evangelical author, Vines’ received wide attention for his work both in the religious and secular press. It appeared just as a movement seems to be growing in the evangelical church for greater acceptance of LGBT people–a movement which has some important lessons for Catholics who work for LGBT equality.
Bondings 2.0’s Bob Shine reviewed Vines’ book for The National Catholic Reporter, and he noted the importance of the work for Catholic advocates:
“God and the Gay Christian has value for the literate scholar of LGBT issues, the parent struggling to accept their newly out gay child, and the Christian striving to reconcile belief in Scripture with a desire to accept LGBT people. Vines’ writing is scholarly without being prohibitively academic.
“Catholics will find it beneficial to further understand how homosexuality relates to Scripture in an affirming way, though Vines’ engagement with the Catholic tradition is understandably marginal. Parish-based LGBT ministries would do well to study this work, and church justice advocates might even ship a copy to their local bishop.”
Shine notes that Vines’ book is not only analytic, but personal, and provides an important message for all Christians, not just evangelicals:
‘The book is the product of Vines’ own family’s struggle to accept him as a gay Christian, which comes after the author and his father concluded a yearlong study of homosexuality through their theologically conservative and scripturally based perspective. His conclusion is clear: Same-sex relationships are not only permissible within a conservative Christian paradigm, but must be affirmed as blessed and intended by God. Further, marriage equality is the pro-family, pro-God belief.”
And there is one lesson that Shine notes in Vines’ book that is one that we all need to keep re-learning every day:
“. . .[O]ne senses a secondary mission in God and the Gay Christian: the reconciliation of affirming and non-affirming Christians, which is the terminology Vines uses for proponents and opponents of same-sex relationships.”
Change in the religious world on LGBT issues would also have an important impact on the rest of the world:
“. . . Vines offers one final, important thought: The stakes are high when it comes to God and the gay Christian. Religious rejection inflicts tremendous suffering on LGBT people, including alarming rates of self-harm and suicide among youth. He writes in the conclusion:
‘When we tell people that their every desire for intimate, sexual bonding is shame- ful and disordered, we encourage them to hate a core part of who they are. And when we reject the desire of gay Christians to express their sexuality within a life- long covenant, we separate them from our covenantal God, and we tarnish their ability to bear his image.’
“. . . .Given the power that both evangelical Christianity and Catholicism possess to influence global culture and politics, I pray many will read God and the Gay Christian — particularly those who struggle to accept same-sex relationships. Vines lays the foundation for Christians to create inclusive church communities where all are welcomed as made in God’s image.”
You can read Bob Shine’s entire book review by clicking here. A Religion News Service story about Vines’ ministry project can be found by clicking here. A sampling of evangelical reaction to Vines’ ministry can be found by clicking here and here.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry