It’s really hard to talk about sexual identity, same-sex marriage and other LGBT topics within the church.
People can have even more polarized opinions on this subject than politics, with stances ranging from extreme condemnation to radical acceptance. We all know people in both camps. Even so-called religious leaders on the national stage are divided. Take people like Rob Bell or Jen Hatmaker, for example. These two figures have now been ostracized from traditional, evangelical circles – and for good reason – because of their claims about biblical stances toward things like sexual temptations, desires and orientations.
In fact, when I first picked up Melissa Fisher’s book, The Way of Hope: A Fresh Perspective on Sexual Identity, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Church, my first question was whether she though like Bell and Hatmaker. It’s sad, but the truth of the matter is that more so-called “liberal Christians” are speaking out on this subject than conservative Christians, and that has made the conversations all the more confusing.
That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with Melissa Fisher’s approach to the life and struggles of LGBT persons.
In many ways, her book is an autobiography. Each chapter shares a part of her story from childhood to adulthood in chronological fashion, and Fisher intentionally takes her time at describing the moments of pain and confusion, abuse and abandonment in each. The whole book is really written in a stream-of-conscious form; the stories are sometimes abstract, sometimes full of details; opinions and distractions are peppered throughout – not in a way that makes the tone of the book feel judgmental or cynical, but rather like Fisher is sitting across the table from you, speaking her story aloud, while kids run around and you’re trying to boil some noodles. One of Fisher’s main objectives, I think, is just for you to know her journey and to journey with her. It’s important for her to explain how she got on the path of same-sex attraction, what that path was like, and also how she left that path. This makes her book both real and personal.
I think what makes sets this book apart from other books that I’ve read in the past is that it’s not “preachy”.
Fisher is quite honest about how the church “burned her”, the pains that she experienced as a lesbian in the church, the rejection, the judgment and the lack of love. But she’s also honest about how she found a home in Gateway Church (Austin, TX) and how the Christians there were different, how they loved her for who she was, while also pointing her to the Gospel. Fisher is quite witty too. She talks about the P.B.Ms (Potter Barn Moms) and the GGBG (Godly Guys Business Group). For me, these stories really made you reflect about the relationship between the church and the LGBT community, how Christians can sound to those struggling with same-sex attraction, what approaches work and what approaches don’t.
This book is absolutely about how the church should love all peoples while bringing them to the Gospel.
This is, in a nutshell, what Fisher means by “the way of hope”. We should present Christ to people within same-sex marriages in a way that is neither extreme condemnation nor radical condoning. Fisher remains biblical and she uses Scripture throughout her book to support her ideas as she argues that we should always seek first to show people Christ, to show them the path to God, and then to trust that God will make their paths straight. Things to think about, for sure.
You can read the book here: The Way of Hope: A Fresh Perspective on Sexual Identity, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Church
This post is part of a series of book reviews on The Art of Taleh. For others like this, click here.
Have questions? Have you read the book? Share your ideas in the comments below.