By Laura Thierry
Every now and then God gives to his Church people called and gifted to bring a fitting word ‘for such a time as this’. David Bennett’s A War of Loves: The Unexpected story of a Gay Actives Discovering Jesus is just such a book. To a Church in angst as to how to respond to the questions raised by those who belong to the LGBTQI community, Bennett gifts an incredibly precious gift: his own story of how God’s dogged and divine love broke in upon the world of a 19 year old gay activist. In all its painful, aching goodness, of wrestling with God and truth and this broken world, Bennett’s story presents the Church with a beautiful vision of faithfulness, costly discipleship, and eschatological hope.
Several elements make this book particularly helpful and timely:
Firstly, Bennett’s honesty gifts the church with empathy. As a gifted writer, Bennett walks a mean between wisdom and vulnerability so as to craft his story in such a way that enables those who have not walked in his shoes to feel the reality, the pain, and the struggle of being a gay celibate Christian. This gift gently but powerfully pushes back against the fearful ‘us against them’ tone that often (sadly) characterizes conversations on LGBTQI topics within many parts of the Church.
Secondly, Bennett’s mix of deep intellectual searching and charismatic experience puts forth a vision that places the discipleship of LGBTQI people neither exclusively within the ground of a set ethical rule, nor a charismatic ‘healing’ experience, but rather sees the work of Spirit through the communion of saints in all its messy, rational, relational, and holistic reality.
Thirdly, Bennett’s passionate commitment to God as the end of all love levels a much-needed prophetic critique to the Evangelical world that too often makes the gospel a message of marriage rather than a message of Christ. His insight into the reality that all human sexuality is ultimately only a sign that points us to our ultimate end of union with Christ as his bride lays an uncomfortable but necessary critique on the Church’s idolatry of marriage. But the reproach is made with winsome love.Finally, in insisting that the telos and purpose of all human love is found in Christ, Bennett puts the homosexuality question into an infinitely larger struggle; one in which every human, no matter their sexual orientation, stands equally to answer. That is: whom will we ultimately worship? “Will we receive this free gift of salvation but insist on controlling our own lives? Or will we follow Jesus wherever he takes us and allow him to define our choices? This is the ultimate war of loves. It is a war for our trust and for our worship.” (235)
The Church needs voices like Bennett so much today, not only to give us empathy into the lived reality of same-sex attraction and life in the LGBTIQ community, but also to remind us that each follower of Christ is called to take up our cross. We all, no matter our sexual orientation, need to surrender our sexuality, and indeed full selves, to the consuming love of our Heavenly Bridegroom. Bennett’s story will stimulate your intellect, stir your affections, and ignite your imagination to this end. Thus I highly recommend that you lay your hands on a copy of this excellent book.
Laura Thierry a PhD student at Ridley College, researching medieval hagiography, Christology, and theology of the body.