An even quicker than average review of “Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians”

Bulletproof faith(The book can be found here, though it’s also available through inter-library loan at the Sacramento County Public Library)

Like most Americans, I have colleagues, friends and family who are gay or in same-sex relationships.  Most of these are explicitly non-Christian, though a vague spirituality is much more common than overt atheism.  Ever since doing a project on the Metropolitan Community Church as an undergrad, I’ve been fascinated by the gay-Christian movement, and I was initially attracted to this book after seeing a review in the Huffington Post (“why homosexuals should never argue scripture“). To her credit, Chellew-Hodge does an excellent job of providing means of “bullet-proofing” GLBT Christians. Many of the conservative individuals she has encountered clearly don’t deserve a response: someone shouting “dykes go to hell!” obviously doesn’t need a response so much as a restraining order. When it comes to discussing the issue “can I be a good Christian and a good homosexual,” her record is much more mixed. She has has a plan for developing a thick skin, but not a deep faith. When encountering someone who reasonably and calmly disagrees on God’s view of homosexuality and really tries to understand her, her advice boils down to repeatedly asserting “I don’t agree” and moving along when the other person becomes shrill or tires out. She clearly thinks that finding common ground with her opponents is best, but it is also obvious that “common ground” is small indeed: “we all agree that Jesus doesn’t like haters” (and that’s it). True, even thoughtful conservative Christians I know can agree with this, but little else. I suppose this is a recipe for civil peace, but not for policy or communion (in or out of churches).

From a theological perspective, Chellew-Hodge has drunk deeply both of post-modernism and higher criticism. Something is true because she knows in her heart it’s true (something Mormons, ironically, would agree with). Questions are asked because questioning is good, not because we actually want answers (many 3-year olds would agree). Biblical arguments (such as Romans 1) are dealt with by deconstruction: St. Paul was just a guy, not a very bright one, and we can disregard him at our leisure. Christians no longer approve of slavery and oppression of women, and this is the same (no argument necessary, since the victim is always right). Conservatives want us to repudiate our sexuality, while not repudiating their own heterosexuality (though the more thoughtful ones insist that Jesus DOES want heteros to do this, e.g. Mark 8:34-37 and/or Mt 5:27-30); if you’d like to disagree with Jesus, fine, it’s a free country, but no one appreciates being misrepresented. SUMMARY STATEMENT: if you’re gay and Christian good luck with that, and be thankful you’re not Muslim. Chellew-Hodge can help you deflect superficial criticism, but if you’re hoping any cognitive dissonance you have when talking with thoughtful, educated, conservative Christians will go away, you’ll be disappointed. She does have a thoughtful bibliography and recommended websites, however. I am going there next.

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