article by Christopher Benson in Christianity Today. There are several nice moments here–I especially liked this bit:
[Wesley] Hill quotes philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’” It’s this prior question that gets ignored in the debate on homosexuality because the church has mistakenly given primacy to ethics over the narrative functions of doctrine and ministry.
The only book I’ve read, of the three he reviews, is Wesley Hill’s book, which I super extra recommend to all of you! It’s probably the best Gay Christian Whatnot book I’ve read.
I do wish pieces like this, which talk about how “heterosexual” and “homosexual” are recently manmade labels (I agree with that!–in fact Benson quotes me agreeing with it), would give some sense of what it means for straight people to get beyond those labels. Otherwise you end up sounding like only gay people have to change how we relate to the Church. It can sound very “I don’t see race,” which is one of those things white people say. Like, good for you, you ignore a huge part of other people’s lives, community, history, and struggle?
Benson’s piece has some tics–even a brief swipe at the “victim mentality” of gay activists will always make me want to defend them!–and I don’t know that I actually understand his criticism of me. I think he is worried that I’m placing the gay/queer experience on a pedestal, saying that queer Christians have a kind of gnostic, in-group insight into the Gospel which makes us better Christians than mere bourgeois burghers and their wives. (Mmm… burghers.)
That isn’t what I’m saying, but I do want to stand up for the belief that queer experiences can provide insight into universal Christian truths. Think of it this way: I’m especially interested in how the Gospel looks from prison. If you tell me your essay or blog post or sermon is by a prisoner or draws on prison experience, I am 100% more likely to read or listen with care and excitement, because I think I am likely to learn something. This belief is based on my prior experience learning a lot from prisoners’ words. Does that place prisoners on a pedestal? I don’t think it does. It suggests that they have had experiences which give them unique insights into the truths of the Gospel.
I think I stated my position pretty well here.
Anyway, Benson’s article, and Christianity Today‘s decision to publish it, are I think very hopeful signs. The fact that I’ve spent most of this post fussin’ shouldn’t overshadow that. Disagreement and a wild diversity of voices are part of how we move forward. (…Aaaaand I sound like a hippie. How about, “I love everyone, just like Saint Jerome did!”–does that work?)