Once, I saw two protest groups while I was at a stoplight. On the right side, there were signs that said: God Hates Fags, God Hates You, Homosexuals are Demons, Read Leviticus 20:13. On the left side, there were signs that said: Equal Love, Love has no Gender, God Loves All, Read Timothy 4:4. On both sides I saw signs that said Read Romans 1:18.
When I got home, I looked up the issue of homosexuality in the Bible. I read lots of different things. One book kept popping up: Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian, published in April this year. The book argues that the Bible doesn’t have any actual negative concerns over modern homosexuality. Vines proves this by sharing his personal experiences, along with a deep analysis of the history behind the relevant passages in the Bible.
Matthew Vines establishes his credibility by giving detailed background about himself. He mentions the struggle he has undergone most of his life knowing that he was gay, and also informs us that he is a devoted Christian with a “high view” of the Bible. He uses scripture in his life as a Christian and doesn’t choose to neglect any passages that may go against his sexual orientation. He even openly shared the moment when he came out to his conservative parents. The author leaves no gray area and in doing so presents a voice that is both human and realistic. Along with his personal background, he adds stories of his friends who struggled being gay Christians. There is a powerful story about a friend who made a vow of abstinence, since that is what is recommended for gay Christians, and tried to maintain a relationship with his partner who was also sticking to a vow of abstinence.
Vines’ analysis of the passages in the Bible regarding homosexuality and the history behind them is where the book lacks logic. I came across an assortment of negative criticism about this aspect of the book. Most of these negative criticisms came hand in hand with Bible passages as a rebuttal. Obviously there are many Christians Vines hasn’t convinced with his analysis of the Bible, but what does Vines do wrong, exactly?
He produces great arguments and introduces some fresh ideas into the debate, but presents the analysis to himself, rather than to the audience. He mentions that it is gender roles that made homosexuality a shunned activity in Bible days, because a man taking the role of a female was dishonorable since men were of “higher value” than women. It is merely an assumption that this was a concern when constructing the Bible. The gender equality issue is a whole separate debate.
Vines also uses the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate that God meted out a punishment — not because of the homosexual request, but because of the nature of the request. This is one of the best and most critical points Vines makes, because it is supported by multiple Bible passages that discuss the issue. (Although he makes a mistake by simultaneously presenting a perspective created by his lifestyle and beliefs.)
Vines even tears apart the book of Romans, which is commonly used in this debate. He looks closely at the words “natural” and “unnatural” and concludes that Paul was only using words that his culture created to explain gender roles. He asserts that to be “unnatural” was to stray away from your gender, and supports his argument with passages from the first book of Corinthians which reveal that Paul did believe in gender roles. Vines then says that such a view is more degrading to woman and shouldn’t be taken into account in our modern world. This argument is interesting, but requires support of the issue to even accept it. However, I believe that Vines is looking at an aspect of the debate that isn’t commonly explored, and does introduce fresh ideas on the topic. He succeeds in consistently showing his commitment and knowledge of the Bible.
I personally enjoyed Matthew Vines’ book and found myself thinking over the issue for days afterward with a new perspective. After the first few chapters, I stopped reading the book as a lecture explaining why the Bible has good news for gay Christians, and read it instead as why the Bible had good news for the author. By doing this I was able to see how the gay community can live with God in their lives while acknowledging the Bible.
A book showing how a gay Christian can justify his or her lifestyle through the Bible can offer the Christian and homosexual community an inviting look into this argument. However, I don’t believe this book necessarily proves that the Bible supports gay practices; but it offers gay Christians the chance to believe that it could.
Max Gutierrez from Colton, California, is a junior at La Sierra University majoring in Communication and English with an emphasis in writing.