Jeff Erno's Reviews > The God Box

The God Box by Alex Sanchez
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Sep 06, 10

bookshelves: gay-themed-young-adult
Read on August 21, 2010

Paul is a high school senior in a small Texas town, and he is devoutly religious. Everything in his life is right on track. He’s an outstanding student, he’s sustained a longstanding relationship with his girlfriend Angie, and he is very active in his high school and church. Both Paul and Angie are committed Christians, and they love their church, their school, and their country.

When a transfer student named Manuel arrives at their high school, he threatens to completely derail Paul’s “on-track” life plan. Manuel is openly gay, and everyone knows that homosexuality is a sin. Yet Manuel claims that he’s a Christian. When he begins attending the student Bible study group, he really makes some waves. The entire student body is split, because there are many who find Manuel’s frank openness to be patently offensive.

Paul’s girlfriend Angie is not among the group who is offended by Manuel, and she is quick to voice her support of the new student. She and a sympathetic friend join forces to create a Gay-Straight Alliance group in the school. Paul is dismayed, for he doesn’t really want to be associated with this avowed homosexual. He’s afraid of how it may taint his reputation. He’s afraid that people will start to question his Christianity. Worst of all, he’s afraid that his true identity will be discovered.

As Paul begins to come to terms with his sexual orientation, he goes through a process of grieving. He denies the significance of his same sex attractions. They must be just a phase. It is perhaps just a test of his faith. He can’t really be gay. He then goes through a period of horrific depression where he loathes himself and feels like a complete fraud and a hypocrite. He tries bargaining with God, begging Him to take away the sinful desires. Finally… he accepts his identity.

During this period of self discovery, Paul begins to examine his belief system. He becomes hungry for the truth, and he leaves no stone unturned as he seeks answers to his questions. As he and Manuel begin to build a friendship, an awakening occurs and Paul starts to see things in a whole new light.

As with many gay-themed books that deal with religious issues, The God Box was heavily steeped in religious jargon and doctrinal precepts. The author appeared to have painstakingly researched the theological arguments which he presented through the voice of Manuel. Although I understood the importance of this tactic, I was at times a little bit flabbergasted that a boy the age of Manuel would be so well-spoken and knowledgeable of such weighty topics. He seemed to be educated well beyond his years.

Thematically I felt that the story made the case that Christianity and homosexuality do not have to be mutually exclusive. There is no valid biblical argument which would prevent a gay person from being able to remain a practicing Christian. Each of the scriptural passages which are commonly used to condemn homosexuality were examined, and logical arguments were presented to counter the vitriolic language that is frequently used by fundamentalists in their condemnations.

This book does contain a very touching love story that develops between Paul and Manuel, and it is this beautiful relationship that is the foundation of the book. The way the boys warm to one another, share their first kiss, and ultimately fall in love was sweet and heartrending. This love was a far more convincing argument to me than was the biblical analysis.

The external relationships were quite beautiful as well. I loved the way that Paul’s abuelita (grandma) was presented. I also felt that the character Angie was remarkable. These platonic male-female relationships were representative of the meaningful connections that gay men so frequently have with the significant females in their lives. The manner in which these characters were fleshed out was nearly as poignant as was the romantic relationship of Paul and Manuel. In a word, the characterization within the story was magnificent.

The most significant element of the story for me is the existence of a secret prayer box that Paul keeps in his room. This is Paul’s private mode of communication to God. He writes down his most personal issues and turns them over to God by placing these requests in the box. Ultimately Paul realizes that the box symbolizes more than what he originally had intended. God doesn’t fit in a box, and sometimes no matter how fervently we pray, God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want or expect.

The God Box is an amazing story. I wish that I could get it into the hands of every youth pastor in the country. It contains a beautiful and romantic coming of age story which deals very openly with a controversial topic. It is well-written and edited, and obviously comes straight from the heart.
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