Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends
Author: Dr. Mark Yarhouse
Published by: Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2010.
Before I cracked open the book, I came with the preconceived idea that this might be another one of those knee-jerk reactionary books that Christians write against homosexuality; but after reading the first two chapters, I knew right away that Dr. Yarhouse is a professional who speaks out of the realities of his practice and interaction with his patients-clients. He is an evangelical who wants Christians, and the church, to respond with compassion and understanding concerning the challenges that go with having same-sex attractions and a homosexual orientation.
Author, Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse, Professor of Psychology at Regent University, and director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity, also has a practice in the Virginia Beach, VA area. Therefore, this book is not just all theory, but is based on his knowledge that comes out of his practice and research.
This is the first book that I’ve read that challenges Christians to take a real close look at research and deal with facts rather than only Scripture. We all know what Scripture says so the author doesn’t bother going through all that; knowledge of scripture is assumed. But what most evangelical Christians tend to lack is a proper understanding of the real inner struggles that LGBT experience in society.
This book is divided into three parts. The first part, in four chapters, discusses a lot of research; a three-tiered understanding of homosexuality; and the struggles that come with SSA and homosexual orientation; and also, if change is possible. The second part, in three chapters, discusses practical solutions in handling if your child/teen, adult child, or spouse, announces a gay/lesbian identity. Part three discusses how we are to respond to homosexuality.
I am glad that I have read this book. It has opened my eyes to a new way of approaching homosexuality with this three-tiered framework. For most evangelical and traditional Christians, we have been presented with only two options: 1) that homosexuality is wrong and we must reject it outright because it is nurtured; 2 that a person with same-sex attraction (SSA) and/or homosexual orientation was born with it (nature), and so we must accept their orientation. This nurture vs. nature dichotomy is polarizing and is bound to create heated debates. Churches are increasingly pushed into this debate, including mine.
Dr. Yarhouse distinguishes homosexuality into three tiers and it allows us to approach homosexuality with the focus on identity rather than on sexuality orientation. After being enlightened with this innovative framework, I feel much more comfortable with my current understanding of homosexuality, and that I don’t have to compromise my convictions. However, Yarhouse’s approach does cause one to reconsider whether same-sex attractions are nurtured. The author does not believe a person can be nurtured into a homosexual orientation, which is also what I personally believe. Moreover, Dr. Yarhouse says that research has not found any real evidence that there is a cause to homosexuality. Research has not proven that it can be created or nurtured, but as far as I can see, he does not state that it comes from nature either.
In the past, the Christian community have been forced to listen to, what Dr. Yarhouse, calls the “gay script”. In western society, the “gay script” has been forced upon everyone. It typically says that SSA is natural and God-designed; it is who you really are as a person and is the core of who you are; one’s behavior is merely an extension of that core; and that self-actualization of one’s sexual identity is crucial for one’s fulfillment. As Christians, we must reject this typical “gay script” and present an alternative script that is compassionate but yet realistic to the facts of SSA.
What I have gained from this eye-opening book is an innovative approach to homosexual orientation using this three-tiered framework. Personally, I have rejected the nurture vs. nature debate because it is fruitless and only leads to never-ending debate. However, with this new framework, I feel more empowered in dealing with this polarizing issue within the Church. This is the most balanced approach I have seen. I believe it will help all Christians, gay or straight, to deal with same-sex attractions and homosexual orientation. Most importantly, it also challenges Christians to deal with one’s identity, which should be focused on Christ, rather focused on one’s sexual orientation. This is a principle of being stewards of what God has given us, including our sexuality.
This is an excellent book full of nuggets of gold. After reading this, the reader can no longer hide one’s head in the sand. The reader will be forced to look at real research and the realities of SSA. I cannot recommend this book more highly to the entire Christian community. If I had to pick one, this would be it. If any Christian is dealing with same-sex attractions, or if a Christian knows someone who is, this will help you gain the knowledge necessary to deal with it.
And thanks from friends at Bethany House for sending me this copy to review.