Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 10/14/2010 by John Bird.
Recommended. A kind, comprehensive approach to dealing with homosexuality in a Christlike way.
The Christian conversation on homosexuality is often marked by a lack of humility, compassion, and understanding. In his new book, Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends, Mark A. Yarhouse reminds the church that "real, hurting people—Christians and non believers alike—are...struggling with the issue." And he introduces a new way to look at the topic. In fact, he says that his goal is "to do nothing less than change the entire conversation."
When talking about homosexuality, Yarhouse uses a three-tier distinction: attraction, orientation, and identity. One may experience an isolated or occasional attraction to the same sex without having a same-sex orientation. One may have a same-sex orientation, yet choose not to accept a gay identity. Yarhouse argues that neither of these first two tiers is the result of choice. The last tier is where choice comes in. How does one respond to sexual desire? And what, or who, should a Christian place at the center of their identity?
The "gay script" tells sexual minorities that "same-sex attractions are at the core of who [they] are as a person." Therefore, those with same-sex attractions should form their identity around their homosexuality. This includes engaging in same-sex behavior. But there's an alternative for the Christian. Instead of basing an identity upon sexual desire, a Christian's identity is "in Christ." Same-sex attraction doesn't define a person. Rather, it is one part of human experience. Part of the human experience that, because of the fall, is "not the way it's supposed to be."
In part one of his book, Yarhouse addresses the obvious questions: what does God think about homosexuality, and what causes homosexuality? In answering the first question, Yarhouse looks at what the Bible says about sexuality as a whole instead of addressing the few passages that deal specifically with homosexual behavior. In considering the second question, what causes homosexuality, Yarhouse reviews the most common suspects: biology, childhood experiences, environmental influences, and adult experiences. After weighing each one, he concludes: "We don't know what causes homosexuality."
Part two deals directly with those who are, or who have family members who are, attracted to the same sex. There are chapters for parents as well as spouses of those who "announce a gay identity." Part three addresses a broader audience—the Christian community. Yarhouse says that the message most sexual minorities hear from the churches today is "God hates you. You need to change."
But there is another way. Without compromising its position on the issue of same-sex behavior, the church can recognize that Christians who are sexual minorities are our people, and we can speak to them...We need to do less preaching against homosexuality and more equipping of all believers to grow in a curriculum of Christlikeness.
Yarhouse succeeds in presenting a new perspective on the issue of homosexuality and the church. He is able to be faithful to orthodox Christian beliefs and values while also being open-minded and sensitive. Though he doesn't continuously quote Scripture (he even warns against proof-texting), his arguments are centered on a biblical understanding and worldview. That, combined with his scientific research and years of experience as a Christian counselor, makes for a compelling book.
We would all benefit from a better understanding of the struggles that some of our brothers and sisters deal with. If they don't find love and support from fellow believers, where do they turn? It's time that the church reaches out to this marginalized group rather than pushing them away. This book is a step in the right direction.