– Why is this book worth reading? Because LGBT+ communities in the church is still a live issue –
(NB: I have agreed to act as a reviewer for the Speakeasy website (thespeakeasy.com). Hence, I received the book I am reviewing free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the US Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)
When I read books like this one, I begin to think, ‘Do we need the same old message trotted out again?’
If I take even a cursory glance at the Amazon page, I can buy or access numerous books on the place of sexual and gender minority (SGM) persons within religion. Older books are bring updated, newer books are being added, new information concerning archaeological research is being shared – and some books are still proclaiming the old message that SGM persons, especially gay men, cannot be in the Church and ‘cling to their sinful desires’ (I still wonder why there is this disproportionate emphasis on gay men).
That is why books like this one still need to be published. This is still very much a ‘live issue’. With every story of a pastor or minister who has had a change of heart, or even a change of gender; with every televangelist who speaks a word of condemnation, however lovingly they may coach it; with every congregation, or denomination, which goes through painful conversations, arguments, even a schism – I am reminded, as we all should be, that sexuality in the church is still a ‘live issue’.
Indeed, it will NEVER be a dead issue. Just as we are reminded in the Torah and the Gospel that there will always be poverty and need (Deut. 15:11; Mark 14:7), there will always be minorities, including sexual and gender minorities. The existence of minorities is a litmus test for us who are in the cultural and religious majority. Do societies and churches have economic room for the poor, so they have enough to live – not the same as everyone else, but enough? Do we have room for people of differing ethnic and racial groups, so that everyone will have equality of opportunity and treatment, and that people’s unique backgrounds can be celebrated? And, in the case of SGM persons, do our societies and churches have room to allow everyone to express their unique identity, and to love whom they wish in a mature, honest way? Even now, there is lots of evidence that we fail miserably at this.
That is why we still need books like Dr O’Reilly’s. Even if we already know the arguments from scripture and sexuality studies which she brings out, even if we can make the legal arguments she makes concerning marriage equality, we have to remember that people of a different persuasion are still out there, some of whom wish to reverse the rights people have fought so hard to have recognized in law. Conversations still need to be had, and if Dr O’Reilly’s book can help those conversations to happen, then I say ‘Hallelujah’.
Nonetheless, there is one area Dr O’Reilly has not included which I believe merits inclusion. She would have done well to address the fact of the many nations in the world – my native nation of Canada included – which have enshrined marriage equality into law. None of these nations have, to date, fallen apart. There are no marauding armies of homosexual zealots seeking to ‘convert’ unsuspecting youths to take up a homosexual lifestyle. Any problems these nations experience have nothing to do with enshrining marriage equality. As it is, this book is very US-centered, and she may have intended it to be this way. However, taking a more international view would have strengthened her presentation.
This book is an important contribution to an ongoing debate which is not going away anytime soon. Other books will be published, re-iterating much of the same evidence, and hopefully adding new evidence and stories from people’s experiences. As long as this issue is not resolved, these and other publications like it will be needed.