Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian is a profoundly significant contribution to the conversation surrounding how the church feels about same-sex relationships. Its sole purpose is not to change the mind of the reader. Rather “exploring what the Bible actually says – and doesn’t say – about same-sex relationships” (back cover). Then, letting the reader draw their own conclusions.
In the argument about same-sex relationships and the Bible, there is often discussion centered around clobber verses. Seven bible verses used at face value to condemn members of the LGBTQ community. In his book Vine writes:
My core argument in this book is not simply that some Bible passages have been misinterpreted and others have been given undue weight. My larger argument is this: Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships. Instead of accepting the divide between more progressive Christians who support marriage equality and conservative Christians who oppose it, this book envisions a future in which all Christians come to embrace and affirm their LGBT brothers and sisters- without undermining their commitment to the authority of the Bible” (p. 3).
Vines goes on to discuss how the Bible was written in a way that every man could understand its teachings. He uses the example of how in Psalms, it reads that “The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved” (Psalm 93:1). And how, based on the story of creation, early Christians believed that because humans were central to God’s most important work, the earth must also be the center of the universe. It wasn’t until Galileo proved otherwise with the invention of his telescope that they accepted the sun as the center of the universe. Galileo argued,
“The Bible used figurative language when describing the heavens so that the text would be ‘accommodated to the understanding of every man.’ From our perspective, the earth seems to stay still while the sun and stars seem to move. Scripture used the same approach, Gallilleo argued, but that did not mean it contradicted his findings. The biblical authors never intended to take a position on matters of astronomy, he said. They simply aimed to communicate effectively.” (p. 23)
When we are given new information, Vines argues, we develop new viewpoints. The authors of the Bible weren’t condemning committed monogamous relationships with those clobber verses. They were condoning relationships we wouldn’t approve of even today, no matter the sexual orientation. Masters and young slave boys. Relationships of sexual power and excess. Prostitution. Gang rape.
What has changed is the interpretation of the original writing to the current translation. Vines explores each story, detailing how the story is interpreted. Next, he shares what the Old Testament views and evidence are. Then he goes on to present evidence from other ancient Jewish literature. In doing so, he shows how the writings were relevant to the culture of the time. Then, he presents any New Testament references to the same story. Finally, he goes on to discuss what the shift in the story is, and how it might have happened.
From start to finish, Vines holds the reader captive, challenging preconceived notions and long-held belief systems. In the book, he shares the story of his father. A devout Christian who changes his understanding of those clobber verses and their historical context. As a result, his father decides he can no longer be a member of a national organization for Christian lawyers.
If you have ever questioned how to support your LGBTQ+ child and hold firm to your faith, this is a must-read book. Do you want to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, but don’t understand how to reconcile that with being a Christian? This book is for you. If you are looking to understand how we can have a both/and relationship with God and the LGBTQ+ community, here is your answer.
At ten chapters and 178 pages, God and the Gay Christian is a book you can read in just a few days. However, the depth and richness of the text will have you pouring over each page, highlighting, and taking notes. This is a book you will return to and refer back to.