28 October 2011
Miner, Jeff and John Connoley. The Children are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationsihps. Indianapolis: Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, 2002.
This book is divided into several sections. The first part of the book examines the seven "clobber" passages that are typically quoted as proof that the Bible condemns homosexuality. The next part of the book examines passages that could be interpreted as including homosexuals, and the third section attempts to answer a question I've had for a long time: of the 613 rules listed in the Old Testament, how do we know which rules we are supposed to follow and which we can ignore?
This book is an invaluable resource for Christians who are members of the GLBT community as well as those who want to understand how a person can reconcile Christianity and homosexuality. I checked this book out of a library, but I will be purchasing a copy to place on my shelves.
26 October 2011
Sanchez, Alex. The God Box. New York: Simon Pulse, 2007.
Paul attends a very conservative public school in an equally conservative small town. His friends are all Christians, many of them attending the same church as Paul and participating in after school Bible studies. Then Manuel moves to town. Manuel is the first openly gay teen in Paul's school, and Manual also is a Christian. Paul and his friends have to wrestle with what they have been taught is truth and what Manuel is saying is truth. Manuel's very presence rips the Christian group in two, with those who accept Manuel on one side and those who condemn him on the other. Paul feels the effects of this debate very personally, as he is wrestling with his own demons of homosexuality. His friendship with Manuel causes him to evaluate what he thinks and believes as well. When Manuel is savagely beaten for his orientation, Paul must take a side once and for all and stand for what he believes in.
This book interested me for obvious reasons. I can completely relate to Paul's struggle with his orientation as well as his concern for what the Bible says about homosexuality. I have listened to and argued on both sides of the homosexuality debate and know how personal and heated these discussions can get. Parts of this book, I will admit, read a lot like many of the websites about what the Bible says about homosexuality. It almost seemed as if the author was attempting to turn one of those websites into novel form, perhaps in the hopes that more people would read the novel. In any case, I was glad for Paul's decisions toward the end of the novel, and I appreciated that the author made this struggle seem real and the characters real as well. This story does not make for easy reading, but it is definitely worth it.
22 October 2011
Putney, M. J. Dark Mirror. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. 2011.
Tory is growing up in a world where magic is reviled by the aristocracy just as it is revered by the lower classes. Highborn children who show magical ability are sent away to school to "cure" them of this problem. When Tory chooses to use her abilities to save the life of her nephew, her family has no choice but to send her away for treatment. At school, Tory discovers an underground network of people who still believe that magic is good and who want to use their abilities to help others. Tory must decide what is most important to her.
I enjoyed this story. It has some fun twists and turns that kept me reading. The romantic subplot could have been left undone, but other than that, this was an interesting and well-written story with a new twist on the idea of being born with magical abilities.
20 October 2011
Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999.
Charlie is a wallflower. As such, he notices things that others don't. He overhears things others miss. He sees with different eyes. This book is a series of letters Charlie writes to a friend explaining things he's seen or experienced. This perspective makes the book seem much more personal than a simple first-person perspective would be. We follow Charlie through his year at school and the ups and downs of his relationships with those around him. We get to watch Charlie grow up as he discovers who he is and what is really important to him.
This book was interesting, although it was much different from other books I've read. This book doesn't have a definite, obvious plot to follow, there's no conflict aside from the ins and outs of normal life, so the action isn't as gripping as it could be in another book. But I still looked forward to reading each of Charlie's letters and seeing what he had learned and discovered in his adventures.
16 October 2011
Shore, John. I'm Okay - You're Not: The Message We're Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop. Colorado Springs, CO: Nav Press, 2007.
John Shore's message is a fairly simple one: we've been focusing on the wrong thing. For far too long, Christians have focused most of their time and energy on the Great Commission - telling others about Christ in the hopes that they will accept His gift of salvation, and not enough time on the Great Commandment - Christ's command to us that we love God and love our neighbors. Shore's logic works like this: most people, especially people in the United States, have already heard about Jesus. The average person on the street has been exposed to the message of the gospel at some point in his/her life, and has chosen to reject it. Think of it this way: if a follower of Islam or a Jewish person or a Mormon came up to you and told you that everything you ever thought and believed was wrong and that you needed to think like they do in order to attain heaven, what would you think?
Because most people have already heard and chosen to reject this message, Christians need to take their focus off of spreading the gospel and put it on showing Christ's love to their neighbors. Nonchristians know what we believe, have rejected it, and are frustrated by our continual focus on changing their minds about something that, as rational, intelligent adults, they have already decided. So rather than pushing them away with our preaching and continual plea for a decision, we should focus on loving them as fellow human beings, loving them without an agenda.
Shore is not saying that we should stop witnessing; far from it. There are some people who haven't heard the gospel, or some who have heard and are now questioning their own faith. Churches and Billy Graham crusades and other places of worship where people can choose to attend and learn should still be places where God's Word is preached. But on the street, on a day to day basis, we should be focusing on loving our neighbors, because that's what Jesus said we should do. Our love for our neighbors will open the door to the message Jesus has for them, much more than our words have done.
13 October 2011
Agell, Charlotte. Shift. New York: Henry Holt, 2008.
Adrian lives in a world where church and state are not separated. The United Christian States arose after an apocolyptic event as the world attempted to restore order to the chaos. Religion is now mandated through the state, with televised chapel services and vacation Bible school required for graduation. Rumors have spread of a great shift when Jesus is supposed to return and all unbelievers will be condemned. Adrian isn't sure what he believes anymore, but he is sure he isn't being told the whole truth.
Okay, so this plot line was really, really obvious, and actually rather offensive. This novel took the idea of religious control to an extreme I have not seen before. While I understand the underlying theme that it is best to be accepting of all people, regardless of their faith, and that state mandated religion can easily become corrupt, I didn't like the additional unspoken message that Christianity itself is corrupt and ridiculous. I read this story closely and carefully for the first several chapters, hoping that this Giver-esque world would also yield a Giver-esque ending, but I will admit I skimmed the last portion of the book when things became predictible and, well, boring. Don't bother with this one, folks.
11 October 2011
October 11th has been designated by the Human Rights Campaign as National Coming Out Day. It is a day to spread awareness and for straight allies to support their LGBT friends.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while may have noticed an interesting trend. Although I have written extensively about many other issues related to the church and to my exit from the fundamentalist movement, I have been rather silent on the issues regarding homosexuality and the church. Also, until recently my book reviews covered quite a range of books, but never books that discussed homosexuality or featured protagonists who were members of the LGBT community. Then, in what may have seemed to be a sudden change, I started posting reviews of both fiction and non-fiction books about the LGBT community in general and its relationship with the church specifically. Possibly some of you are wondering, "Why the change?"
I am going to quote something A'isha Marbach, who has guest posted on John Shore's blog, wrote. I don't share all of her life experiences or understand everything she's going through, but we have more in common than might be expected:
“God, please make me pure. Take these feelings from me and make it so I can like boys instead of girls. Amen.” This is the prayer I prayed so many times I lost count. Throughout high school my one goal was to live a life pleasing to God. I’m not sure exactly where I got the message that it wasn’t okay to be a lesbian, that God didn’t approve, but that is the message I got loud and clear. So I pushed all those crushes, all those tingly feelings I got when I saw a pretty woman, deep inside me, and pretended to like boys. I needed to be accepted by people around me, and I wanted God to approve of my life.Like A'isha, I realized early on that I was a lesbian. Like A'isha, I also realized that the Christianity I saw practiced around me didn't allow for members of the LGBT community to also be Christians. If you watch the video the Gay Christian Network has produced, you will hear the same story echoed over and over again: many gay Christians, when faced with a choice between their faith and their orientation, have chosen to squash their orientation in order to please God.
The decision to be "out and proud" as a gay person is especially complicated when the only thing one ever hears in church is how awful it is to be gay, how much God hates homosexuality, and stories of gay people who have gone through ex-gay ministries and experienced some sort of recovery. So gay Christians traditionally have ended up with two choices: keep their faith and attempt "recovery" from their orientation, or embrace their orientation and deny their faith. Until recently I didn't know there was a third option.
The Christian community has for so long excluded gays and lesbians that it is very difficult for any LGBT person to come to the realization that God loves them and wants a relationship with them. Even if not every Christian spouts, “God hates fags,” like Fred Phelps does, that is indeed the message we get, as long as every Christian doesn’t stand up and say, “No, that’s not true. God loves you.”
Because of this history between LGBT people and many Christians, it’s very difficult to meet gays and lesbians who are also Christians. Honestly, why should any of us choose to be part of a group that condemns us? Fortunately there are many like me that are coming to realize that it’s God’s followers who mistakenly condemn us, and not God himself. (Emphasis mine; the rest of A'isha's post can be read here.)
My faith is very important to me. My orientation is, too, and it wasn't until recently that I was able to allow the two to coexist peacefully. I was reading in Matthew 8 where Jesus heals a man who has leprosy. The first three verses say, "When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!"' I cannot even begin to count the number of times I said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me straight." Always before God was silent on the issue. For the first time I ever, I finally heard Him speak. He said, "My precious child, you are not sick. I don't fix what isn't broken. I love you just as you are."
If you have questions about the idea of being gay and Christian, I strongly recommend you visit the Gay Christian Network's website or watch their videos on YouTube. Of course, you are also more than welcome to email me with any questions you may have. And I'd also recommend visiting John Shore's website and the Canyon Walker Connections site, as both have more information than I can possibly fit in one blog post. I will certainly be writing follow-up posts in the weeks ahead; check back periodically for updates or become one of my faithful blog followers.
09 October 2011
Bennett, Cherie and Jeff Gottesfeld. Anne Frank and Me. New York: Putnam, 2001.
If you have read The Devil's Arithmetic, then you have the general idea of the plot of this novel. The main character, Nicole, is learning about the Holocaust and is less than enthusiastic about this study. An unusual accident at a museum causes Nicole to believe she has been transported back to France during the second world war and is now part of a fairly rich Jewish family. Nicole's family faces the difficulties of being Jewish in German-occupied France, and eventually Nicole is taken to a concentration camp. She chooses to go to the gas chamber with her sister rather than abandon her to die alone, and as she "dies" in the past, Nicole wakes up in the present with an increased appreciation for what others have endured.
I appreciated this novel and I did enjoy the story, but this novel is not unique. Perhaps, though, it was time for a reinterpretation of an old story.
07 October 2011
Bechard, Margaret. Hanging on to Max. Brookfield, Connecticut: Roaring Brook Press, 2002.
Sam is a high school junior. During the day he goes to school, and at night he picks his son up from day care and takes him home to care for him. Caring for a toddler while also juggling academics and decisions about his future has become difficult, but Sam is sure that keeping Max was the right thing to do. Or was it?
This book was interesting; never before have I heard of a book about a teen single father. Sam faced many struggles and found it difficult to relate to his peers and struggled with ideas of college and the realities of caring for his son. The ending of this book was both happy and sad. I will admit: this book made me cry.
05 October 2011
Auseon, Andrew. Freak Magnet. New York: Harper Teen, 2010.
Charlie charts the movements of the stars in a small black journal while he takes care of his mother who is slowly dying of Huntington's disease. To the rest of the world, Charlie is a freak; he speaks his mind and doesn't understand social conventions. Charlie is a freak, and Gloria is a freak magnet. Gloria keeps a notebook of all the freaks who follow her; her notebook is her one grip on sanity in an increasingly crazy world. Her brother has been dead for a year and no one else seems to be mourning his death. Freak and freak magnet collide in this fascinating and entertaining novel.
This book is told from both Charlie's and Gloria's perspectives, so it was neat for me to see the story from two different angles. I did enjoy this story, and it had a satisfying ending; however, it isn't going to end up on my top ten list this year.
03 October 2011
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2007.
Junior is trying to navigate the world of the Indian reservation through a host of medical issues and a severe lack of resources. He is extremely intelligent but still constantly picked on by people twice his size and twice his age. One of his teachers challenges him to go to school off the reservation. Junior then must balance between his life on the reservation, where he is looked down on for deserting his people, and his life at school, where he is being challenged in his classes and accepted by his classmates. Trying to keep the best of both worlds and bridge a gap of misunderstanding is a task much larger than most high school freshman would face, but Junior is up to the challenge.
I loved this book. I loved Junior's sense of humor and his cartoons and illustrations throughout this book. The first-person perspective allowed me to gain greater understanding of life on a reservation and the difficulty Junior must have faced when he began attending the all-white school. If I still had a classroom, this book would be on my shelf.