The ‘gay agenda’ is a familar phrase to anyone who has imbibed their fair share of Christian radio. A 29 minute video produced in 1992 (entitled The G...moreThe ‘gay agenda’ is a familar phrase to anyone who has imbibed their fair share of Christian radio. A 29 minute video produced in 1992 (entitled The Gay Agenda) fueled fear that homosexuals comprised an organized movement determined to undermine the values of society. The original video used footage from gay pride parades as evidence of the subversive nature of homosexuality. It helped fuel homophobia among conservatives for decades. In God’s Gay Agenda, Sandra Turnbull argues for a different sort of gay agenda–God’s agenda for homosexuals.
Sandras Turnbull is a pastor with evangelical and charismatic commitments. She speaks of the authority of the Bible and the reality of spiritual gifts and prophecy for today. She also happens to be gay. She came out twenty-five years ago when she met her life partner through YWAM in Amsterdam. Like all such stories of LGBT people from conservative religious backgrounds, she struggled with her sexual identity and tried to go straight. When she reconnected with the woman she fell in love with a couple years later, they both studied the Bible and came to the conclusion that homosexuality was not a sin but a God given identity.
In the pages of God’s Gay Agenda she shares some of her own journey,discusses relevant passages from the Bible and argues for the full inclusion and acceptance of homosexuals in the church. She has an extended discussion of eunuchs and describes herself as ‘natural-born eunuchs.’ While I did not find Turnbull’s exegesis compelling, this is an intelligent and passionate defense of homosexual inclusion. It is a worthwhile read. Too many pro-gay theologies undercut scriptural authority. Whether or not you buy Turnbull’s interpretation of particular passages, it is refreshing to see the care she takes in trying to understand these passages in their ancient context.
Whenever I review a book like this, I run the risk of alienating my readers. I have friends all across the theological spectrum and this is a divisive issue. Conservative friends will not buy Turnbull’s thesis and may wonder why I would read this book. My more liberal friends will wonder why I do not endorse this book in every respect. I think my conservative friends would benefit from reading this book if only to hear Turnbull’s story and know that there are gay Christians sincere in their efforts to live faithfully to the gospel.
But I do think some of her Biblical explanations are overblown. Linking all the homosexual prohibitions to idolatrous practices (i.e. temple prostitutes) is not a new approach, but I don’t think it does justice to the evidence. Other times, Turnbull’s word studies turn up suggestive approaches, but they remain inconclusive. On the other hand, I think her discussion of the sin of Sodom not being about homosexuality, so much as inhospitality and rape is fundamentally correct.
I give this a three-and-a-half star review. Books like this are important and I think Turnbull does an admirable job of articulating her views in an irenic manner. With marriage equality as a hot political issue, this is not a discussion that is going away anytime soon and I think knowing how different Christians approach the Bible on this issue is important. Turnbull writes:
Wherever you are with the issue of homosexuality, I would like for us to begin by agreeing on one foundational truth about the Gospel. Is it not true that anyone who comes to Christ Jesus and believes in their heart and confesses with their mouth that Jesus rose from the dead and is Lord a recipient of God’s grace? After all, isn’t God’s love inclusive of all people and for the “whosoever?” (6)
Wherever we stand on the issue of homosexuality (sin, orientation, viable option), there are issues more fundamental to the gospel and Turnbull points the way to a more gracious discussion.
I recieved this book from the publisher via Speakeasy in exchange for my honest review.(less)
This is the third book of this type I read. A.J. Jacobs A Year of Biblical Living seems to have started a genre of people publishing books about 'wh...moreThis is the third book of this type I read. A.J. Jacobs A Year of Biblical Living seems to have started a genre of people publishing books about 'what if they took the Bible seriously' Jacobs, a self declared secular Jew, wrote in part to showcase the selectivity even among the most ardent biblical literalists. Ed Dobson wrote A Year of Living Like Jesus as an experiment of following Jesus more closely. An aging minister, Dobson has Lou Gehrig's diseaes and had to make some adjustments to his yearly program for the sake of his health. However it remains an interesting and challenging book.
And now: A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Rachel Held Evans, blogger extraordinaire and astute critic of all things Neo-Reformed, wrote this book to explore what the Bible really says about womanhood. She delves into feminine virtues, explores the Proverbs 31 woman, and even practices the Levitical purity rites (living in a tent during her period and avoiding contact with her Husband).
This book is written with verve and wit and Evans is gracious with those she critiques. Ultimately she does learn things from her year, but I don't think her lessons are particularly gendered (i.e. she explores silence because women are to learn in silence, and delves deepr into contemplative prayer).
Gender bending textual criticism made Junia, the apostle mentioned by Paul in Romans 16, a man named Junias. There was not a single instance of the ma...moreGender bending textual criticism made Junia, the apostle mentioned by Paul in Romans 16, a man named Junias. There was not a single instance of the male name Junias in the ancient world. The sex change was because the Apostles were definitely not women.
In this brief essay (27 pages) McKnight argues that not only was Junia a woman apostle, but she is one of many women in the Bible who exercise authority to teach, preach and prophesy.
This book is too brief to convince the die-hard biblical complementarian but Mcknight makes some cogent points. (less)
The issue of gay equality had divided the nation politically and socially. And when you look at the church, the Christian community is divided on this...moreThe issue of gay equality had divided the nation politically and socially. And when you look at the church, the Christian community is divided on this issue. Some denominations and faith communities are firmly opposed to gay marriage, and the homosexual lifestyle based on their reading of the Biblical text. Other congregations describe themselves as welcome and affirming. There is not a lot of middle ground with each side accusing the other of failing to be faithful to the words of Jesus.
I first heard of Mel White when I read Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace? Mel White was Yancey’s writer/minister friend who had ghost written for much of the Religious Right before he came out as a practicing homosexual ( White describes his own coming out story in his own book, Stranger At the Gate). In Holy Terror, White takes aim at Christian fundamentalism and their anti-gay agenda. He discusses his relationship with his former friends in the religious right (Francis Schaeffer, W.A. Crisswell, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) and others who have rallied against gay marriage and gay equality (Jim Dobson and D. James Kennedy). and the ‘secret meeting’ (Glen Eyrie)where conservative Christians laid out a strategy to defeat homosexuality in a cultural war. He also lays out the ‘heresies of fundamentalism,’ namely the idolatry of the bible nation and family and the tendency of conservative Christians to use authoritarian and fascist means to achieve their goals. Lastly White discusses a strategy for progressives to advance their values in the public sphere.
This book was first published in 2006 (Magnus Books edition was released this year). There is little that changed in this edition (other than a preface which examines the Tea Party and its relationship to what was the Religious Right). Occasionally the book feels dated (i.e. Dobson is still at the helm of Focus on the Family and D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell are talked about as though they are still alive).
This is a book which would likely not convince anyone to shed their convictions on the matter of homosexuality. Progressives will hear confirmation about their suspicions of how conservatives manipulate the media for their own twisted, hateful agenda. White’s exposé on the Religious Right accuses them of using junk science, trumped-up experts and intentionally manipulating the facts around homosexual practice. Conservatives will be bothered by the way in which White paints fundamentalists as judgmental and hell-bent on destroying homosexuals. This is not a non-biased account but impassioned argument.
I fancy myself a moderate but I am much more conservative than Mel White. My own reading of the Bible is that homosexuality is a sin. I am also a member (and pursuing ministry) in a denomination which is welcoming but not affirming of the homosexual lifestyle. On the other hand, homophobia and ways in which some on the right have hurt people and have perpetuated hate, is abhorrent. White’s writing is emotional and at times, not really fair to the people he describes. But someone who has experienced all that he has is understandably angry.
As I said this is a controversial issue without a lot of middle ground, but I think that for those (like me) who are more conservative on the issue, reading a book like this may be good. Some of White’s criticisms of the Right seem right on track (i.e. the way homosexuality has been politicized, unethical tactics, the idolatry of family/nation). Certainly I think he overstates his case and isn’t always fair to the men he critiques, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a grain of truth to it. I think this is a complicated issue and we need to learn to listen. Where White is at his best, he urges us to diffuse the cycle of mutual labeling and dismissal.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book 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 Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.
Pornography is a real problem. Consider these statistics:
25% of search engine requests are for pornography – 68 million per day.
70% of the hits on...morePornography is a real problem. Consider these statistics:
25% of search engine requests are for pornography – 68 million per day.
70% of the hits on Internet sex sites occur between 9-5 on business computers.
Over 50 percent of evangelical pastors report they viewed pornography last year.
Over 70% of Christian men report viewing pornography in the last year.
And I would say, that as a whole Christians have responded rather poorly to what amounts to a sin epidemic in our culture. So I am happy to recommend a book which gets at the heart of some of the issues which are tangled up with pornography. Michael John Cusick is an ordained minister, licensed professional counselor and spiritual director. He is also is a recovering sex addict (living in freedom) who had an addiction to pornography, strip clubs, masturbation and prostitution. He sees the bankruptcy of a life in bondage, but he also knows that men act out in sexual sins because they are broken and wounded.
But before I tell you about this book, let me briefly tell you where I think other Christian approaches get this wrong. One popular Christian book seems to say:
Objectifying other women is wrong, just objectify your wife. She is there primarily for your sexual pleasure(based on a reading of Job's famous 'covenant with his eyes in Job 31).
Women who are not your spouse are sources of temptation and should be avoided at all costs.
You should also avoid places like parks, the beach, roads that women jog on, supermarkets, hair salons and shopping malls.
The problem with this advice is that it basically gets guys to modify their behavior, but does not touch the wounding and longing that led them to a pornography addiction in the first place (although to be fair, this approach takes serious the idea of sexual sin and the need for accountability). It is also unrealistic. Only stay-at-home dads can avoid women, who are increasingly colleagues and men's bosses in all walks of life.
Cusicks approach is much more holistic. He sees pornography and other sexual sins as sympomatic of the deep longing for connection and reality (and yes, ultimately God). By sharing the story of his own struggle (and victory), he addresses the root issues of pornography, the empty promises and real idolatry, personal brokenness and the cycle of shame, but also the real freedom that is ours in Christ and transformation that is possible and the disciplines which care for your soul. He is also attentive to a very real, spiritual dimension to this struggle and the dynamics of temptation (and its relationship to idolatry). His advice for those lost in sexual temptation online is to unplug, pay attention to your desires and cravings to find out what is happening in your heart, and to practice solitude and centering prayer. Ultimately he wants people to journey from their self medicating numbness, to a relationship with God where desires are rightly ordered and they are attentive to their own soul care (in community, of course).
Nevertheless I think this book has two limitations which I think are significant:
It treats sexual sin and pornography as a personal, individual sin. This needs to be addressed but he never addresses the other side of the equation. Men who go to prostitutes victimize women; men who view pornography, go to strip clubs and seek out adult entertainment, have participated in an unjust system which truncates the humanity of women (and men) and causes tremendous psychological, physical and sociological damage. I applaud Cusick's efforts to address the ways sin and acting out come from personal brokenness. I just want him also to address the significant justice issue that is wrapped up with this.
This book is also limited in terms of audience. This is a book written by a man for men, and speaks most meaningfully to men who are married. Single guys can read this profitably while making adjustments in a couple of places; however, I have friends who are women who also struggle with an addiction to pornography. While much of this advice is applicable to them (solitude and centering prayer, the need to pray through and address woundedness and idolatry), they will find themselves unaddressed by Cusick. When you consider the real shame that comes with sexual sin and that pornography is considered by many Christians a 'man's sin, the cycle of shame is compounded for women who are stuck in addiction to porn and sex. This book could have easily been inclusive of both genders in addressing a real struggle which affects both sexes.
But for the particular niche of 'men who struggle' working through their own personal issues, I think this book is one of the best. This is a book I would use pastorally and found a lot of it personally helpful. So it gets a solid recommendation from me.
Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review. (less)
This is a good, popular level book which wrestles with the ways the God of the Hebrew bible is maligned in both popular Christianity and by its critic...moreThis is a good, popular level book which wrestles with the ways the God of the Hebrew bible is maligned in both popular Christianity and by its critics. Lamb produces a compelling vision of the God of love, who is not rigid, angry or sexist. He does this by wrestling with difficult texts (i.e. gang rapes and genocide). Sometimes he offers alternative readings of texts, more often he places these texts with in a wider and more generous view of the God of the Old Testament, offering a hermenuetic for reading difficult passages in the context of the whole.
Much of the information in this book is stuff that I wrestled with in several classes in seminary, but I can't always recommend my seminary texts to 'normal people' because they wouldn't read it or know what it says. This is an accessible and engaging volume which tackles many of the issues and helps ordinary readers regard the Old Testament as scripture.(less)
I haven't read any Franky Schaeffer since he abandoned his youthful evangelicalism in favor of the ineffable God of Orthodoxy. He has since repented f...moreI haven't read any Franky Schaeffer since he abandoned his youthful evangelicalism in favor of the ineffable God of Orthodoxy. He has since repented from his part in creating the religious right (with his dad and others).
This book repeats intimate details of the Schaeffer house. If you want to know about Francis and Edith's sex life, the time little Franky put his *ahem* franky into an ice sculpture, the physical and verbal abuse that Francis inflicted on Edith, and the time Edith almost left with another man. I think it is impossible to read this book and maintain uncritical respect for any of the Schaeffers.
But it isn't a smear campaign. Frank speaks warmly of both parents, especially his mother, of where their practice was better than their theology.
Frank thinks that the God-of-the-Bible promotes misogynistic tendencies and unhealthy sexuality. He is critiquing a version of biblical literalism which is worth critiquing, but is not really fair to the Bible.
Enjoyed the book for the most part, but there is enough here that is kinda ugh. (less)
[Women are] the one groups whose loyalty the church can least afford to lose. The people who for the most part run the church, attend church and pray and serve at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts. Women(23).
Henderson wants to see women given more opportunities to lead and serve than they have in many churches. Women are who run the church they just aren't able to lead the church and yet most women are happy with what their church teaches about gender (according to the Barna Group). Henderson wants more. He wants women to feel the freedom to use whatever gifts God has given them in whatever sphere He calls them. As may tell from this photo, Henderson, is a man and therefore incompetent when it comes providing a comprehensive understanding of the fairer sex. He compensates for this by utilizing a qualitative approach, interviewing women about their 'resignation' from church. As an evangelical pastor type, Henderson can't help but engage in tripartite wordplay with the term 'resigned'. When he says resigned, he means the following:
In speaking to women from fundamentalist and conservative evangelical backgrounds Henderson discovers women who happily toe the line regarding the hierarchical gender roles. They are not allowed to teach or have any authority over a man. They need to submit, and they are 'resigned to' their secondary role in the church. Some of these women never really gave the gender inequity in their church much thought (why would they want to be a pastor anyway?); others see men as bringing the appropriate competencies to spiritual leadership in church and society.
On the other side are women who quit the church, in part, because they have more opportunities EVERYWHERE ELSE BUT THE CHURCH. Many conservative denominations do not ordain women, so if women want to actually have responsibility or get paid for leadership, they have to do it elsewhere. Other denominations affirm women in ministry, but women pastors rarely get hired (especially as senior pastor). Henderson talked to accomplished professional women who disengaged from their church culture because of this gender inequity. A couple of the women he spoke with, left the faith altogether.
By 're-signing' Henderson has in mind women who despite the risks, limitations and the church's slowness to change, re-engage, lead and affect influence from within the church. The women Henderson speaks to in this section all have strong leadership gifts, which have sometimes been stymied by patriarchy in the church. But they have pressed through and are finding a way to fulfill God's call in their life.
Along the way, Henderson combines his interviews with evaluative comments and combines his qualitative approach with the quantitative approach of Barna Group. Statistical data peppers each section and he includes Barna survey data at the end.
What I appreciated most about the book was encouraging tone. Henderson wants women to feel like they can pursue where God's calling Henderson speaks to a number of women with an array of different views on gender roles. He manages to be respectful and affable with each person and their position, though I think he does seem to reserve his hard biblical questions for the rank complementarians. I loved that Henderson engaged with a variety of women with varying views on the subject of gender roles in the church. Even some of the 're-signers' are theological complementarians but long for and work for greater equality in ministry.
I do not fault Henderson for using and integrating the Barna data with his own findings (it is after all a Barna Group publication); however I didn't find the data particularly helpful or illuminating. Most of the data is probably accurate, but I am suspicious and would have preferred data from Gallup or Baylor (Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson are quite critical of some Barna findings). But Henderson uses these stats to augment his own research rather than to substantiate it, so I think he used it well.
I would recommend this book for women who feel slighted by their church's views about gender, women who never really thought about it and Christian guys who just don't understand women (this book may not help you, but hey you need all the help you can get). There are no discussion questions provided in the book, but it might be a useful catalyst for a small group or ministry team wrestling with this issue.
Thanks to Tyndale for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.
I had to read this small booklet for a denominational class (Evangelical Covenant) and think it does a great job of making the case for the ordination...moreI had to read this small booklet for a denominational class (Evangelical Covenant) and think it does a great job of making the case for the ordination of women. Certainly there are fuller works which hash out the issues in a more complete fashion, but I really liked Phelan's outline:
Chapter 1 The Challenge of Biblical Interpretation--here Phelan discusses the issues in interpreting the Bible well (a sort of brief primer on hermeneutics.
Chapter 2--Women in Greco Roman and Jewish Worlds--Phelan shows the rather dismal view held by women in the ancient world and the ways that the gospel is truly counter culture
Chapter 3, 4, 5-- look at the prophets (mostly Isaiah), Jesus and Paul to show the thrust towards liberation and inclusion in the gospel and the ways in which Jesus and Paul included women
Chapter 6--Draws the biblical material together and makes the case for women's full inclusion in ministry.
Phelan upholds a Biblical egalitarian position and makes his case well, especially for a brief, popular level book. (less)
I hesitate to poo-poo this book because some may find it helpful (hence I gave it two stars rather than one). This is a Christian-self help book which...moreI hesitate to poo-poo this book because some may find it helpful (hence I gave it two stars rather than one). This is a Christian-self help book which endevors to aide men overcome sexual temptation by training their eyes away from women (other than their wives). Beyond not being particularly realistic, this book lacks an overarching theological view of human sexuality. Being able to quote a few Bible verses and say "if Job can train his eyes so can you" does not amount to a thoughtful reflection of God's purpose and design for human sexuality. I do think that there are somethings that this book says which would be good medicine for some men, but it says somethings badly and doesn't say somethings enough.(less)