I hesitate to write about this book–God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines. I don’t hesitate on my own account, but the issue of gay marriage and same-sex relationships is a topic/idea that very well might divide my family. A.) I have a cousin who is both gay and Christian and who is in a monogamous, loving same-sex relationship and I support and love him without reservation, and I want my family to do the same. B.) I have a lot of Christian family members who believe that same-sex relationships are sinful. Yet that is the purpose of Vine’s book: to start a dialogue between affirming and non-affirming Christians. Despite my anxiety and fear of offending people I love dearly, I do want to share my thoughts about Vines’ book (and hopefully open up the door to a deeper conversation about homosexuality and Christianity).
At the beginning of his book, Vines writes that, “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships” (Pg 3). I could not agree more. Reading Vines’ book finally gave me the depth of knowledge in Scripture and tradition and reason and experience (yes, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral) to understand my beliefs in support of same-sex relationships.
Being there for my cousin as he ‘came out’ was heartbreaking, not because I thought he was sinning, but because of the reaction of those around him. I was so angry that other Christians had caused my cousin to question whether or not God loved him. He thought that he was evil and could not be loved by God because he was created evil. How is that ok to do to anybody? I love what Vines’ writes near the end of his book:
“It isn’t gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is the church that is sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships. But if the church were to bless committed same-sex unions for gay Christians, we would advance God’s sanctifying purpose for their lives. Until then, we are distorting the image of God, not only in the lives of gay Christians, but in the church as a whole” (Pg 162).
Throughout the book, Vines looks at six key Scripture passages that non-affirming Christians use to condemn gay Christians. He looks at those passages in context and shows that the Bible is in fact not clear on same-sex relationships at all (and before you want to argue about this idea, read his book and then argue). He writes, “I want you to see how sexual orientation and deeply held beliefs are at odds in ways that injure those we love. This debate is not simply about beliefs and rights; it’s about people who are created in God’s image” (Pg 9). I think that some people forget that this is an argument about human beings, not ideas.
To my non-Christian friends, they can’t understand how same-sex relationships is even an issue. I am at the same place. How is this an issue? We are all human. We are all made to be in relationships. I cannot see the benefit of putting limitations on marriage based solely on gender. I just don’t get it. Again, I think that Vines says it better: “If the essence of marriage involves a covenant-keeping relationship of mutual self-giving, then two men and two women can fulfill that purpose as well as a man and a woman can” (Pg 137).
I have chosen to be part of a faith community that celebrates marriage for all and sees all people as God’s image-bearers. Again, I love what Vines has to say at the end of his book: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people have inestimable dignity and worth. So how could the suffering they endure when their families and church don’t affirm them express God’s intentions toward his creation? Affirming same-sex relationships wouldn’t change the Bible’s core truths about sin, repentance, and redemption. In fact, given that same-sex orientation is consistent with God’s image, affirming same-sex relationships is the only way to defend those truths with clarity, coherence, and persuasiveness” (Pg 161).
For me, it’s a closed case. I know where I stand and I know why I stand there. Now, I’m just hoping and praying that my family has a change of heart. If not for the nameless LGBT Christians, then at the very least for my wonderful, strong, and brave cousin. And maybe they will pick up Matthew Vines’ book, because, after all, his two hopes for his book are these: “My prayer is that it opens up a conversation in the Christian community that is truly in the spirit of Jesus. The fiercest objections to LGBT equality—those based on religious beliefs—can begin to fall away” (Pg 3) and “it [the book] is, I pray, an instrument God will use to help bring healing, reconciliation, and hope to many who need them most” (Pg 4).
“Saying that the only intimate relationships that can reflect God’s image are those between a man and a woman misses the Bible’s bigger picture of what his image encompasses”(Matthew Vines, Pg 153).
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).