As a gay man that Jesus recently saved, I have been having a very difficult time reconciling my lifestyle for the last 30 years to my new Christian faith. It's been a struggle to find any literature that puts my doubts at ease and lets me know I'm not alone in this struggle but with Wesley Hill's book Washed and Waiting, I've finally found what I needed. Knowing I am not alone in these struggles makes me feel better. Seeing others living faithfully while remaining celibate gives me hope that if they can do it, so can I. I have one minor complaint, that the site sent me a slightly imperfect copy but I love this book so it doesn't matter! Five stars!!!
I do not like the term, "gay Christian", which is a term that the author uses in the book. Even though he argues that those with same-sex attractions, have to remain celibate, I do not consider the term, gay "Christian" as appropriate! I am a person who struggles with same-sex attractions, but I am not gay! When I say that I would recommend this product to a friend, it would depend on what sort of friend they are, and most likely, with a disclaimer. There are two major organizations that assist people with ssa, and neither one, has come out and endorsed the book, which I find to be interesting, and a little, dis concerning. It is not the first book I would recommend to someone with same-sex attractions.
I found this small volume on the book table at an Anglican church we visited in London. My impression, not backed up with statistics or anything, is that books mentioning homosexuality and Christianity often say things like:
1. My church rejected me as soon as I told them I was gay -or-
2. The Scriptures commonly used to condemn homosexual behavior are either
* misinterpreted [they're really about idolatry, lack of hospitality, promiscuity, etc] or
* outdated (like the prohibitions against eating bacon and shrimp, wearing braids/jewelry, etc]
and in either case irrelevant; -or-
3. I prayed this prayer [or went through this process] and was cured of my homosexuality [and you too can be cured if you're willing to...]
What don't I like about these things? The first thing is that they side-track attention from what I might call The Real Problem, or rather the Remaining Problem:
1. complains about the lack of real acceptance in our congregations; this is a real issue too, but even if the congregation (both clergy and laity) fully accept people like Hill who have homosexual feelings, problems do not thereby all go away.
2. tries to explain away "troublesome" Scriptures, but many Christians can't believe either the "really talking about idolatry..." explanation nor the "bacon and shrimp" one (indeed, as http://bit.ly/nBJOcl indicates, some gay Christians find such explanations specious).
3. is no more satisfying to an un-"cured" person with homosexual feelings than a "faith healing" testimonial would be to someone paralyzed in all four limbs.
No, what I mean by The Remaining Problem is this: suppose Joe Christian experiences homosexual feelings; when he tells his pastors and church friends about the feelings, they pray with and for him, accept him as he is, listen and speak to him with compassion and understanding. Suppose further that as Joe reads and studies the Scriptures, he remains unconvinced that they condone any sexual relationship other than marriage between one man and one woman. And suppose that in spite of much praying and fasting and seeking healing, Joe continues to be attracted only to other men.
What then? The Remaining Problem is: what do we say to gay Christians about their desires -- not just sexual desires, but the desire to belong with and to another, the desire to know and be known, intimately, by a life partner? Do we say it's all right to disobey the Scriptures (you relativists out there can read this as "disobey the Scriptures as they understand them")? That seems like a really bad idea.
How do our brothers and sisters live when they
* have homosexual urges;
* feel no attraction to members of the opposite sex;
* believe the Scriptures that tell us the only acceptable sexual relationship is in a marriage between one man and one woman;
* earnestly desire to trust, obey, honor, serve Christ; and
* yearn for love and intimacy and acceptance just like the rest of us?
How do we encourage them to live for Christ in the midst of unfulfilled and possibly unfulfillable desires?
Hill's book addresses these questions with compassion, integrity, poignancy. He tells his own story, and also describes some struggles endured by Gerard Manley Hopkins and by Henri Nouwen, both of whom had homosexual urges but did not act upon them. Hill points out that he has the same unfulfilled desires as many fellow believers who remain single, but not by their own choice. An excerpt from the introduction:
[T]his book is neither about how to live faithfully as a practicing homosexual person nor about how to live faithfully as a fully healed or former homosexual man or woman. J. I. Packer, commenting on Paul's hopeful word for sexual sinners in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, writes, "With some of the Corinthian Christians, Paul was celebrating the moral empowering of the Holy Spirit in heterosexual terms; with others of the Corinthians, today's homosexuals are called to prove, live out, and celebrate the moral empowering of the Holy Spirit in homosexual terms"â€ This book is about what it means to do thatâ€”how, practically, a non-practicing but still-desiring homosexual can "prove, live out, and celebrate" the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in homosexual terms.
This book is written mainly for those gay Christians who are already convinced that their discipleship to Jesus necessarily commits them to the demanding, costly obedience of choosing not to nurture their homosexual desires....
â€ J. I. Packer, "Why I Walked," Christianity Today 47 (January 20, 2003) 46.
Washed and Waiting p.16
Hill does a terrific job in this small, readable volume; every church leader should read it.
Homosexuality. The word stirs many reactions today. Many Christians remain puzzled and scared by this term. Many suspect the word does not picture a reality, only an intentional perversion of God's created order. Pat answers are easy, and when it comes to homosexuality a simple Bible-based condemnation seems all that is in order. It is easier and more convenient for us to file the word, and whatever reality it represents, away into a tidy corner -- far away from our experience.
But in today's world, we can no longer afford to ignore homosexuality. It is all around us, and if we open our eyes, we'll see it is affecting people we rub shoulders with at work, it's in our children's schools, and even has entered our churches. In fact there is a secret battle being waged in countless hearts around us. A battle to believe in Jesus despite personal homosexual attractions.
When the church takes a vocal, aggressive stance against homosexuality and perceived encroaches on the church's favored family ideal, we inadvertently make it hard for those among us struggling with identity questions of their own. On the other hand, when churches change their message, dismissing Biblical statements condemning homosexuality outright, or else employing inventive "exegesis"-- the core of Gospel truth is betrayed. What is needed is a careful balance between a Scriptural approach to homosexual practice as sin, and a gracious acceptance of sinners who are struggling to follow Jesus.
That balance is hard to achieve and frankly, quite rare today. Consider the words of an anonymous Christian who struggles with homosexuality:
"What if the church were full of people who were loving and safe, willing to walk alongside people who struggle? What if there were people in the church who kept confidences, who took the time to be Jesus to those who struggle with homosexuality? What if the church were what God intended it to be?" (pg. 113)
This perspective may be new to many of us. When is the last time that you or I have known someone struggling with homosexuality? What would it be like to be a Christian struggling with this? Can you even be a Christian if you experience homosexual desires? Isn't Jesus supposed to miraculously heal you of such a warped perspective?
In a new book from Zondervan, Wesley Hill bravely steps forward to share his own journey with us. In "Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality", Hill tells the story of his life-long struggle with homosexuality. He shares the hopes and struggles, the loneliness and longing, the despair and perplexity that is life for homosexual Christians. What Hill has to say needs to be heard throughout the church today. His honesty and candor, and his gospel-centered, graceful, hopeful perspective make the book a joy to read. He offers hope for all who struggle against sin this side of the resurrection.
The book is well-written and captivating. Hill finds the right balance in conveying what it is like to think like he does, and feel like he feels, without dragging the book down into a cesspool. He keeps the story moving and intersperses reflections on the testimony of other self-professed Christians who struggled with homosexual desires.
Hill grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school and went to a Christian college (Wheaton). He even pursued Christian ministry. He would appear a typical conservative-minded Christian from a loving home. But he learned as a young teenager that something was different with him. He had no sexual attraction for women, at all. Instead, his feelings were directed toward the other sex for apparently no reason that he has yet been able to discover. One story he tells captures his reality well. He was attending a dance at a friend's wedding. A friend, set him up to dance with a gorgeous girl. And yet even in close quarter with this stunning beauty, he felt no attraction. Instead his eyes were wandering against his will to a man across the room who he couldn't help but notice.
Hill realizes that some homosexual Christians do experience a healing of their broken desires. But many do not. He writes for "homosexual persons who have tried -- and are trying -- to `become heterosexual' and are not succeeding and wonder, for the umpteenth time, what exactly it is that God wants them to do." (pg. 19)
Hill's testimony of the struggle and perplexity that surrounds homosexuality, helps explain the attraction of homosexual accommodation by the Church. It's surely easier to remain connected with one "soul-mate" than to struggle against one's natural impulses. Hill observes:
"Occasionally it strikes me again how strange it is to talk about the gospel -- Christianity's "good news" -- demanding anything that would squelch my happiness, much less demanding abstinence from homosexual partnerships and homoerotic passions and activities. If the gospel really is full of hope and promise, surely it must endorse -- or at least not oppose -- people entering into loving, erotically expressive same-sex relationships. How could the gospel be opposed to love?" (pg. 56)
Hill goes on to challenge this "easy way out." He explains how and why abstinence from forbidden pleasures is essential to upholding the true Gospel. "One of the hardest-to-swallow, most countercultural, counterintuitive implications of the gospel is that bearing up under a difficult burden with patient perseverance is a good thing." (pg. 71).
Hill's struggles bring alive the hidden suffering of Christians struggling with this sin. There is an intense loneliness. First, it is hard to share with other Christians that you struggle with this issue. Second, if you agree that abstinence is God's will, you will pull back from non-sexual relationships with others of the same sex for fear of temptation or rejection (if they knew the real you). Finally, for those who cannot just "switch" their inbred sense of attraction, for those who cannot just "become heterosexual", or those who through long years of effort find they cannot, these are faced with a lonely future with no possibility of waking up next to the one you love and sharing life together. Hill shared some of his personal diary notes on this point: "And don't you think we're wired (Genesis 2!) to want the kind of companionship that can only come through marriage?" (pg. 106).
An even more devastating point comes in Hill's discussion of lust:
"For me and other gay people, even when we're not willfully cultivating desire, we know that when attraction does come -- most of the time, it could be as unlooked for and unwanted as it was for me that day on the dance floor at my friends' wedding reception -- it will be attraction to someone of the same sex. And in those moments, it feels as though there is no desire that isn't lust, no attraction that isn't illicit. I never have the moment ... when I can thank God that he made me to be attracted to women... Every attraction I experience, before I ever get to intentional, willful, indulgent desire, seems bent, broken, misshapen. I think this grieves [God], but I can't seem to help it." (pg. 136-137)
This experience of brokenness and uncontrollable desires is not uncommon. Hill speaks for many when he writes these words. Hill quotes Martin Hallett of True Freedom Trust, "There are probably nearly as many Christians with homosexual feelings who do not believe that homosexual sex is right for Christians as there are those who are advocating its acceptance." (pg. 16)
The beauty of this book is that Hill not only describes the struggle, he also explains how he has found peace with the burden. His "life as a homosexual Christian... has simply been learning how to wait, to be patient, to endure, to bear up under an unwelcome burden for the long haul." (pg. 50). Rather than seeing his struggles and shortcomings as "confirmations of [his] rank corruption and hypocrisy", Hill has gradually learned to view his journey "of struggle, failure, repentance, restoration, renewal in joy, and persevering, agonized obedience -- as what it looks like for the Holy Spirit to be transforming me on the basis of Christ's cross and his Easter morning triumph over death." (pg. 144).
I found Hill's honesty and frank discussion of his wrestlings against the sinful pull of his soul, inspiring and hope-giving even for broken heterosexuals like me. We could learn a lot from listening to homosexual Christians who are fighting to follow Jesus with a pure heart.
Hill encourages others struggling with this sin to be open about their struggles with others, to seek help, and find a church community to be a part of. Hill's message also challenges churches today to be a community of Christ-loving people who minister with His gracious hands and loving heart to all those in need around them.
This book packs quite the punch for 160 short pages. It has opened up the struggle of what it means to be homosexual to me in a new way. It gives me hope and confidence that the Gospel of Jesus Christ does work, even for those with such a burden to bear. I pray and trust this book will make a wide impact among churches of all kinds, but especially the more conservative churches.
My one small reservation with this book is Hill's lack of nuance in detailing both a Roman Catholic's and a Greek Orthodox's struggle on this issue. He gives no caution about the deficient theology of those churches. There may be genuine Christians who are RC or Orthodox, but they are the exception not the rule. As a Protestant, I fear the Gospel can be at stake in so easily recommending Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy with their denial of justification by faith alone.
Nevertheless, I recommend this book highly.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Zondervan for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
I was given this book by a friend, and was really impressed with it. It is a terrific resource for someone personally dealing with same-sex attractions and all that goes with it, but also is a good book for someone to read who knows someone who is dealing with those issues. One of the best on the subject I have read.