Category Archives: Books and other resources

Book List

(All links are to Amazon, UK).


Aldrich Robert Colonialism and Homosexuality Routledge, 2002

Alexander, Marilyn Bennett, and James Preston. We Were Baptized Too: Claiming God’s Grace for Lesbians and Gays (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press).

Alison, James: Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay(Darton Longman Todd, 2001) 239 pages*

Alison, James: On Being Liked (Darton Longman Todd, 2003) 168 pages*

Alison, James:  Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-in (Darton Longman Todd, 2005)*

Alison, James: Broken Hearts New Creations: Intimations of a Great Reversal(Darton Longman Todd)*

Althaus – Reid, Marcella: Liberation Theology and Sexuality (Reclaiming Liberation Theology) ( Ashgate Publishing Limited)

Althaus – Reid, Marcella: Indecent Theology (Routledge)

Althaus – Reid, Marcella: The Queer God (God the Homosexual) (Routledge)

Althaus-Reid, Marcella From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology SCM 2004

Althaus-Reid, Marcella and Isherwood, Lisa The Sexual Theologian: A Primer in Radical Sex and Queer Theology T&T Clark, 2005

Althaus-Reid, Marcella  Controversies in Body Theology (Controversies in Contextual Theology) 

Althaus-Reid, Marcella, and Lisa Isherwood (eds). 2009. Trans/formations  (Controversies in Contextual Theology) London: SCM Press. (Review by Sarah Jane Jones)*


Beattie, Tina, The New Catholic Feminisim Theology, Gender Theory and Dialogue  (Review by Grahan Ward)

Beattie, Tina, God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate:a gynocentric refiguration of Marian symbolism in engagement with Luce Irigaray, CCSRG Monograph Series 3, Dept of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol, 1999.

Beattie, Tina, Rediscovering MaryInsights from the Gospels Burns & Oates, 1995.

Beattie, Tina, Eve’s Pilgrimage: a Woman’s Quest for the City of God. Burns & Oates/Continuum 2002

Beattie, Tina The Last Supper According to Martha and Mary Continuum/ Burns & Oates 2001

Beattie Jung, Patricia (ed): Sexual Diversity and Catholicism: Toward the Development of Moral Theology  (The Liturgical Press, 2002)

Bohache, Thomas: Christology from the Margins(SCM Press, 2009)*

Boisvert, Donald: Sanctity And Male Desire: A Gay Reading Of Saints

Boisvert, Donald: Out on Holy Ground: Meditations on Gay Men’s Spirituality (Pilgrim Press, 2001) 148 pages

Boisvert, Donald L., and Jay Emerson Johnson: Queer Religion (Praeger).

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century  (University of Chicago Press, 1980) 424 pages

Boswell, John: The Marriage of Likeness: Same-sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe (Harper-Collins, 1994) 412 pages

Bouhdiba, Abdelwahab:  Sexuality in Islam, Saqi Books, 1998.

Bouldrey, Brian: Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men(Riverhead Books)

Brawley, Robert (ed), Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture, John Knox Press, 1996.

Browne, Kath:  Queer Spiritual Spaces

Burrus, Virginia: Sex Lives of Saints: An Erotics of Ancient Hagiography U of Pennsylvania 200


Carden, Michael. Sodomy: A History of a Christian Biblical Myth  (Bibleworld) (Equinox)

Chellew-Hodge, Candace: Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians 192 pages

Cheng, Patrick S. Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology (Seabury Books)

Cherry, Kittredge: Jesus in Love

Cherry, Kittredge:  Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More (AndroGyne Press, 2007) 100 pages

Cherry, Kittredge, and Zalmon O. Sherwood: Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations(Westminster/John Knox Press).

Clark, J. Michael: A Defiant Celebration: Theological Ethics and Gay Sexuality (Tangelwüld Press).

Clark, J. Michael: Defying the Darkness: Gay Theology in the Shadows (Resource Publications)

Clark, J. Michael. Beyond Our Ghettos: Gay Theology in Ecological Perspective (Pilgrim Press)

Clark, J. Michael. A Place to Start: Toward and Unapologetic Gay Liberation Theology (Monument Press)

Cleaver, Richard: Know My Name: Gay Liberation Theology (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995) 161 pages

Coleman, Gerald: Homosexuality: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice(Paulist Press, 1995) 207 pages

Collins, Raymond F: Sexual Ethics and the New Testament: Behaviour and Belie  (Crossroads, 2000 )

Comstock, Gary David, &Henking, Susan E. Que(e)rying Religious Studies: A Critical Anthology (Continuum, 1999) 552 pages 

Comstock, Gary David: Unrepentant, Self-affirming, Practicing: Lesbian/Bisexual/Gay People within Organised Religion

Comstock, Gary David: Gay Theology Without Apology

Comstock, Gary David: Whosever Church: Welcoming Gays and Lesbians Into African American Congregations

Gary D Comstock: The Work of a Gay College Chaplain: Becoming Ourselves in the Company of Others

Cornwall, Susannah. Controversies in Queer Theology (SCM)

Cornwall, Susannah: Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology

Cotter, Jim: Pleasure, Pain & Passion: Some Perspectives on Sexuality and Spirituality (Cairns Publications, 1988)1993

Coulton, Nicholas, (ed) The Bible, the Church and Homosexuality(Darton Longman Todd, 2005)

Countryman, L.William: Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today (Fortress Press 2007 (revised edition) 290 pages)

Countryman, William and Ritter, Kathleen:  Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church

Curoe, Carol: Are There Closets in Heaven?; A Catholic Father and Lesbian Daughter Share their Story

Crompton, Louis: Homosexuality and Civilization


De La Torre, Miguel A(ed): Out of the Shadows, into the Light: Christianity and Homosexuality (Chalice Press)

Drinkwater, GreggJoshua Lesser, and David Shneer. Torah Queeries Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible (New York University Press)

Duffy, Eamonn: Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes

Duncan, Geoffrey: Courage to Love: Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (Pilgrim Press)

Dzmura, Noach: Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community (North Atlantic Books)


Edwards, George R. Gay/Lesbian Liberation: A Biblical Perspective (Pilgrim Press).

Ellison, Marvin Mahan, and Kelly Brown Douglas, editors. Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection 2nd ed. (Westminster John Knox Press)


Farley, Margaret: Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics

Fletcher,  Lynne Y: The First Gay Pope and Other Records

Ford, Michael: Disclosures: Conversations Gay and Spiritual (Darton Longman Todd, 2004, 216 pages)

Fortunato, John E. Embracing the Exile: Healing Journeys of Gay Christians (Harper & Row) G

Gearhart, Sally Miller, and William Reagan Johnson. Loving women/loving men;: Gay liberation and the church (Glide Publications)

Gentilini, Joseph:  Hounded by God: A Gay Man’s Journey to Self-Acceptance, Love, and Relationship

Glaser, Chris: As My Own Soul: The Blessing of Same-Gender Marriage (Seabury Books)

Glaser, Chris: Coming Out to God: Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends (John Knox Press, 1991) 168 pages

Glaser, Chris:  Coming out As Sacrament

Glaser, Chris:  Come Home!: Reclaiming Spirituality and Community As Gay Men and Lesbians (Chi Rho Press).

Glaser, Chris:  The Word is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Glaser, Chris: Uncommon Calling: Gay Christian’s Struggle to Serve the Church

Godfrey, Donal: Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish (Lexington Books, 2007, 195 pages)

Goss, Robert:  Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto (Harper & Row, 1993) 240 pages

Goss, Robert: Queering Christ: Beyond JESUS ACTED UP

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word – A Queer Reading of the Bible

Gramick, Jeannine Furey, Pat (eds):The Vatican and Homosexuality : Reactions to the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of Homosexual PersonsCrossroad, 1988

Gramick, Jeannine &Nugent, Robert: Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church  Twenty Third Publications, 1992

Gramick, Jeannine: Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Gay & Lesbian Issues Centre for Homophobia Education, 1995

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache,(eds)The Queer Bible CommentaryLondon: SCM.


Haldeman, S. “A Queer Fidelity: Reinventing Christian Marriage.” Theology and Sexuality 13.2: 137–52.

Hanigan, James: Homosexuality: Test Case for Christian Sexual Ethics  (Theological Inquiries) (Paulist Press, 1988)

Hanks, Tom: The Subversive Gospel: A New Testament Commentary of Liberation (Pilgrim Press)

Hanvey, John Michael: Prayed Out: God in Dark Places

Hasbany, Richard: Homosexuality and Religion (Haworth Press, 1990) 231 pages

Heacock, Anthony:  Jonathan Loved David: Manly Love in the Bible and the Hermeneutics of Sex (Sheffield Phoenix Press)

Helminiak,Daniel: What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality
(Alamo Square Press, 1994 ) 149 pages

Helminiak,Daniel:  Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth
(Harrington Park Press, 2006) 235 pages

Henson, John: The Gay Disciple: Jesus’ Friend Tells It His Own Way (O Books, 2007)

Heyward, Carter:  Speaking of Christ: A Lesbian Feminist Voice Edited by Ellen C. Davis. (Pilgrim Press)

Heyward, Carter:    Saving Jesus From Those Who Are Right

Heyward, Carter:   Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God

Horner, Tom: Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times

Hubble, Christopher: Lord Given Lovers:the Holy Union of David & Jonathan (Hubble Books, 2003).

Hunt, Mary: Fierce Tenderness: Feminist Theology of Friendship (Crossroad, 1991)


Isherwood, Lisa & Stuart, Elisabeth Introducing Body Theology (Sheffield academic Press, 1998)

Isherwood, Lisa, and Mark D. Jordan, editors. Dancing Theology in Fetish Boots: Essays in Honour of Marcella Althaus-Reid (SCM Press)

Isherwood, Lisa, and Marcella Althaus-Reid. Trans/Formations  (SCM Press)

Isherwood, Lisa: The Power of Erotic Celibacy: Queering Heterosexuality  (T & T Clark

Isherwood, Lisa. The Sexual Theologian: A Primer in Radical Sex and Queer Theology


Jennings, Theodore W. Jacob’s Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel (Continuum)

Jennings, Theodore W. Plato or Paul?: The Origins of Western Homophobia

Jennings, Theodore W. The Man Jesus Loved (Pilgrim Press)

Jennings, Theodore W. Transforming Atonement: A Political Theology of the Cross

Jonson, Toby: Gay Perspective: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us About the Nature of God and the Universe

Jonson, Toby: Gay Spirituality: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness (White Crane )

Jordan, Mark: The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology  (University of Chicago Press, 1997)

Jordan, Mark:  The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism (University of Chicago Press, 2000)

Jordan, Mark:  Blessing Same-sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage(Univ of Chicago Press)

Jordan, Mark: Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk About Homosexuality . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jordan, Mark D.Meghan T. Sweeney, and David M. Mellott, editors.Authorizing Marriage?: Canon, Tradition, and Critique in the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Jordan, Mark D: Telling Truths in Church: Scandal, Flesh, and Christian Speech


Kamitsuka, Margaret D: The Embrace of Eros: Bodies, Desires, and Sexuality in Christianityy Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Karslake, DanielHelen Mendoza, and Nancy Kennedy. For The Bible Tells Me So [DVD]  New York: First Run Features. (film)

Keenan, James(ed): Catholic Ethicists on HIV/AIDS Prevention (Continuum, 2000)

Keenan, James:  History of Catholic Moral Theology in the Twentieth Century: From Confessing Sins to Liberating Consciences

Kelly, Kevin: New Directions in Sexual Ethics: Moral Theology and the Challenge of AIDS (Geoffrey Chapman, 1998)

Kelly, Kevin: From a Parish Base: Essays in Moral and Pastoral Theology (DLT, 1999)

Kelly, Michael B: Seduced by Grace: Contemporary spirituality, Gay experience and Christian faith

Knust, Jennifer Wright. Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and DesireNew York: HarperOne.

Kuefler, Mathew (ed.) The Boswell Thesis: Essays on Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality ‘ University of Chicago Press, 2006 

Kundtz, David, and Bernard Sloan Schlager: Ministry Among God’s Queer Folk: LGBT Pastoral Care (Pilgrim Press)


L’Empereur, James: Spiritual Direction & The Gay Person (Geoffrey Chapman, 1998)

Lamp, Walter: Biblical Sex, What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say About Sex and MarriageLings, K. Renato: Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible

Lopata, Mary Ellen:  Fortunate Families: Catholic families with lesbian daughters and gay sons (Trafford Publishin, 2006) 180 pages

Loughlin, Gerard, (ed)Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body
.  Malden, Mass: Blackwell Pub

 Lynch, Bernard: A Priest on Trial Bloomsbury, 1993

Lynch, Bernard: If it Wasn’t Love: Sex, Death and God


Macourt, Malcolm. Towards a Theology of Gay Liberation. London: SCM.

Macwilliam, Stuart. Queer Theory and the Prophetic Marriage Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible (BibleWorld) . Sheffield, U.K.: Equinox.

Marshall, Paul Victor. Same-Sex Unions: Stories and Rites Church Pub.

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Saviour: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation annotated Edition by Martin, Dale B. published by Westminster/John Knox Press,U.S. (2006)
Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

McGinley, DuganActs of Faith, Acts of Love: Gay Catholic Autobiographies as Sacred Texts
(Continuum, 2004)

McNaught, Brian: On Being Gay: Thoughts on Family, Faith, and Love (Stonewall Inn Editions)
 (St Martin’s Press, 1988)

McNaught, Brian: “Sex Camp”

McNeill, John: The Church and the Homosexual
(new ed) Beacon Press, 1996

McNeill, John: Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life For Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else
 (Beacon Press, 1995)

McNeill, JohnBoth Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey

McNeill, John: Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians and Their Lovers, Families and Friends Beacon Press, 1988, 1996

McNeill, John: Sex As God Intended  Lethe Press, 2008 

Michaelson, Jay. God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equalityy Beacon Press.

Miner, Jeff, and John Tyler Connoley. The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships (LifeJourney Press)

Mollenknott, Virginia Ramey Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach

Monette, Maurice: Confessions of a Gay Married Priest: A Spiritual Journey

Moore, Gareth OP:  The Body in Context: Sex and Catholicism
(Continuum Books, 2001)

Moore, Gareth OP: A Question of Truth : Christianity & Homosexuality
(Continuum Books, 2003) (Scripture, Theology, Sexuality)

Moore, Stephen D.  God’s Beauty Parlor: And Other Queer Spaces in and Around the Bible  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


Naphy, William G: Born to Be Gay: A History of Homosexuality

Nelson, James B:  Crossing Over: Liberating the Transgendered Christian Pilgrim Press.

Nelson, James B., and Sandra P. Longfellow, editors. Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection

Nissenen, Marti Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: An Historical Perspective

Noort, Edward, and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar. Sodom’s Sin: Genesis 18-19 and Its Interpretations  Brill.

Nyland, Ann. Study New Testament For Lesbians, Gays, Bi, And Transgender (Smith and Stirling).


O’Brien, Glen:Praying from the Margins: Biblical Reflections of a Gay Man
(The Columbia Press, Dublin. 2001)

O’Neill, Craig, and Kathleen Ritter. Coming Out within: Stages of Spiritual Awakening for Lesbians and Gay Men San Francisco, CA: Harper SanFrancisco.

O’Neill, Dennis Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive Peoples


Patterson, Linda J. Hate Thy Neighbor: How the Bible is Misused to Condemn Homosexuality

Peddicord, Richard: Gay and Lesbian Rights: A Question–Sexual Ethics or Social Justice? (Sheed & Ward, 1996)

Perry, Troy, with Charles L. Lucas.The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay: The Autobiography of the Reverend Troy D. Perry Nash Publishing.

Pomfrett, Scott:  Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir
(Arcade Publishing, 2008)


Quattrocchi, Angelo:  The Pope is Not Gay!

R Ramer, Andrew. Queering the Text: Biblical, Medieval, and Modern Jewish Stories. Lethe Press.

Ramer, Andrew: Gay Soul: Finding the heart of gay spirit and nature

Ramer, Andrew: Two Flutes Playing: A Spiritual Journeybook for Gay Men (White Crane )

Robinson, Geoffrey: Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus (The Columba Press, 2007)

Rogers, Eugene F. Sexuality and the Christian Body: Their Way into the Triune God. Oxford: Blackwell

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church
Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Rudy, Kathy: Sex and the Church: Gender, Homosexuality and the Transformation of Christian Ethics


Scanzoni, Letha, and Virginia R. Mollenkott. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?? Revised and Updated: Positive Christian Response, A (Updated and revised in 1994.)

Schinnick, Maurice: This Remarkable Gift: Being Gay and Catholic
(Allen & Unwin, 1998)

Scroggs, Robin: The New Testament and Homosexuality (Augsburg Fortress, 1984)

Sharpe, Keith.  The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People O-Books. 

Shelton,David W.  The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity & The Homosexual Reconciled: Christianity & the Homosexual Reconciled  

Siker, Jeffrey L: Homosexuality and Religion: An Encyclopedia Smith, Richard: AIDS, Gays, And the American Catholic Church The Pilgrim Press, 1994

Sphero, M.W. The Gay Faith: Christ, Scripture, and Sexuality Herms Press.

Spong, John Shelby. Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality Harper & Row.

Stevenson, Thomas B:  Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men

Stone, Ken, editor. Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible (Library Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies) Pilgrim Press.

Stone, Ken: Practicing Safer Texts: Food, Sex, and Bible in Queer Perspective   T & T Clark International.

Stone, Ken. Sex, Honor and Power in the Deuteronomistic History JSOT Press.

Storey, William: A Book of Prayer: for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Crossroads, 2002 )

Stuart, Elisabeth: Daring to Speak Love’s Name: Celebration of Friendship Hamish Hamilton, 1992

Stuart, Elisabeth:Just Good Friends: Towards a Lesbian and Gay Theology of Relationships (Mowbray, 1995)

Stuart, Elisabeth: Christian Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender (Gracewing, 1995 )

Stuart, Elisabeth: People of Passion: What the Churches Teach About SexCo-authored with Thatcher, Adrian] (Mowbray, 1997)

Stuart, Elisabeth:Religion is a Queer Thing: Guide to the Christian Faith for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered People (Cassell, 1997)

Stuart, Elisabeth:Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference

Sullivan, Andrew: Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality (Picador, 1995)

Sullivan, Andrew: Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival(Chatto & Windus, 1998)

Sullivan, Andrew: Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con

P. Sweasey: From Queer to Eternity: Spirituality in the Lives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People 


Tanis, Justin Edward.  Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith . Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press.

Tigert, Leanne McCall, and Maren C. Tirabassi.  All Whom God Has Joined: Resources for Clergy and Same-Gender Loving Couples  Pilgrim Press.

Tigert, Leanne McCall, and Maren C. Tirabassi. Transgendering Faith: Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality  Pilgrim Press.


Vasey, M: Strangers and Friends: New Exploration of Homosexuality and the Bible

Via, Dan Otto, and Robert A. J. Gagnon. Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views Fortress Press.


White, Mel. Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America New York: Plume.

Wilson, Nancy L. Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible (Updated and revised in 2000.)

Wink, Walter, editor. Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for Churches Augsburg Fortress.

Woods, Richard: Another Kind of Love: Homosexuality and Spirituality  (St Thomas More Press, 1988)   (Page updated July 2012)



“Amours”: A Supportive Reading of Aquinas

This book by an eminent theologian and expert on Aquinas caught my attention last year. Aquinas’ presentation of natural law theory is widely used as one of the cornerstones of traditional Catholic opposition to homosexuality, but in this book, Oliva finds a supportive reading. He notes that while Aquinas is clearly against same-sex genital acts in general, he does accept that for some people, an attraction to others of the same sex is entirely natural. Being a natural part of who they are, concludes Oliva, it is also natural, and acceptable, that they should express this in sexual love. This is not the first time the point has been made: John Boswell drew attention to it in his own discussion of Aquinas in “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality”, and Gareth Moore also touched on it in “A Question of Truth”. However, this is the first extended presentation, and the first by such a distinguished specialist on Thomas.
Oliva Amours

Continue reading “Amours”: A Supportive Reading of Aquinas

“Sacramental” Same-Sex Unions?

In recent years, it’s been notable how Christian responses to committed same-sex relationships have evolved, from universal hostility half a century ago, to a diversity of responses that range from  full-blooded acceptance of same-sex marriage, in church, and openly gay church leaders, to a more cautious “hate the sin, love the sinner”.

Even in the Catholic church, there have been signs of some acceptance that committed same-sex unions may be sacramental, and deserving of formal blessings by the church, just as they were once done many centuries ago. This has been seriously proposed by many individual priests and theologians, and has even been formally discussed by the German bishops. (It’s entirely possible that with Pope Francis’ new emphasis on a more decentralized church, that such blessings in Germany will now continue, with at least tacit approval from the bishops, as long as they are “private”).

A recent book by Adriano Oliva OP, a distinguished theologian and specialist on Aquinas, a specialist in the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas, has provided sound theological support for the principle. In  Amours : L’Eglise, les divorcés remariés, les couples homosexuels”  he argues that contrary to the popular presentations, the great Thomas’ celebrated theory of Natural Law in fact supports committed relationships between same-sex couples with a natural orientation to the same sex.

The main thrust of his argument is that based on Aquinas’ teaching, we should accept that:

  • for some people, homosexual orientation is entirely natural
  • that for such people, loving same-sex relationships are good, and in accordance with divine plan
  • that their relationships should include sexual expression
  • that although being non-procreative, their unions can not be equated with marriage, they have intrinsic sacramental value of their own
  • and so, they deserve church blessings.

Among other delights, he quotes Aquinas using both Adam and Eve and the Holy Family to show that marriage is not all about procreation – and then uses Humanae Vitae, of all things, to make the same point himself.

Watch this space. Even with my limited French, with the help of the Google ebook edition and  Google translate, I’m finding a huge amount to treasure. As I work my way through it, I’ll have much more to share from this valuable new insight.

“God and the Gay Christian”: WHY Religious Conservatives Are Running Scared.

In my previous post, I noted the furious and frenzied response by some conservative Christians to Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian”, suggested that the reason for the extraordinary strength of this reaction was that they are “running scared”.  I had barely published that piece, when my speculation was confirmed, by the reactionaries themselves, in the book they have rushed out to counter Vines’ argument:

God and the Gay Christian, response to Vines

Right up front, on the first page of the first chapter of the book, they concede directly that they (the anti – gay defenders of prejudice) are the last outpost of anti-gay religious discrimination and prejudice (except that naturally enough, they don’t call it anti- gay prejudice, preferring to claim that theirs is adherence to biblical truth). R Albert Mohler Jnr. writes:

Evangelical Christians in the United States now face an inevitable moment of decision. While Christians in other movements and in other nations face similar questions, the question of homosexuality now presents evangelicals in the United States with a decision that cannot be avoided. Within a very short time, we will know where everyone stands on this question. There will be no place to hide, and there will be no way to remain silent. To be silent will answer the question. The question is whether evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over 2,000 years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage.

They have good reason to be worried. There is now abundant evidence from social surveys that in Europe and the America’s, the tide is turning rapidly in favour of gay marriage, especially among the young. In many countries of the world, Pew Research has found that a majority do not believe that homosexuality is morally unacceptable – and that includes many Christians.

Several denominations no longer exclude gay men or lesbians from ministry, others permit either church weddings or church blessings for same – sex couples. Vines’ critics argue that this is diluting or ignoring biblical truth to accommodate Western liberal, secular values, but what this ignores, is that in every denomination which has changed its regulations, the change has been preceded by extensive study, prayer, listening and discussion among members of the church. This question of study is important. Writing about the conservative response to Vines, Owen Strachan noted that unlike his critics, Vines is not a scholar – but immediately gives away the weakness in his own scholarship. In attempting to refute Vines’ observation that neither homosexual practice nor what could be called homosexual “orientation” is approved of or legitimated in biblical doctrine, Strachan quotes from his chapter on the historical perspective, in which he refers to the fourth century writings of Ambrose and John Chrysostom.

These, however, are commentaries on scripture, their interpretations of the biblical words, and not found in the Good Book itself. Vines claim is absolutely accurate. Strachan’s references to Ambrose and John Chrysostom are telling: his need to quote from fourth century writers, because there are no biblical texts to support him, reveals a fundamental weakness in their entire case. It is simply not true that there exists, as they claim. an “unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over 2,000 years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage”.

As a scholar claiming to know something of the history of church teaching on the subject, Strachan should know, as Renato Lings, Theodore Jennings and others have shown, that the fourth century iinterpretations by Ambrose and Chrysostom differed from those of the first century when the texts were written, heavily influenced by non-Christian writers. Similarly, it is now well – established that the familiar identification of the modern word “sodomy” with the original “sin of Sodom” was a medieval invention, and the many changes in Christian understandings of marriage are too numerous to go into here.

The fact is, that the conservatives arguing against full LGBT inclusion in church rest their case on shaky ground, and they know it. Just as David Cameron declared his support for gay marriage not in spite of being a Conservative, but because he is a Conservative, many Christians are now declaring their support for full LGBT inclusion in church not in spite of being Christian – but because, as Christians, they believe that their faith demands it.

This applies also among Evangelicals, In the USA, there is now a majority of Evangelical millenials in support of full marriage equality, and additional support of legal recognition for civil unions.without the name of marriage. They know, from deep within their hearts or from the experience of their peers, and from the findings of science, that a same – sex affectional orientation is entirely natural, God-given and non-pathological. They also know from experience, their own or their friends’, that attempting to deny this basic truth in accordance with traditional church teaching and regulations gives rise to immense psychological, emotional and spiritual harm, seeming to contradict what they also know of God’s unconditional love for all.

One of the most useful passages in God and the Gay Christian is Vines reflection on the biblical verse, “by their fruits you shall know them”. In his own life, and that of others he was able to observe, he noted that for naturally gay and lesbian people, the fruits of acknowledging honestly the truth of their natural orientation was positive, leading to what in natural law is termed “human flourishing” – and the fruits of denial, for example in the attempts of ex-gay organisations at conversion therapy, were frequently downright tragic.  (Jeremy Marks, who once led an ex-gay ministry in the United Kingdom, aptly described this with another apt biblical phrase, “Exchanging God’s Truth for a Lie”).

Before the publication of this book, Vines had already attracted substantial public attention with his widely viewed Youtube video on the subject, which forms the heart of the book’s content. With the launch of his follow – up Reformation Project, he has an extensive, established base of followers to promote the book, and its ideas.


Recommended Books

Countryman, L.WilliamDirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today .

Glaser, Chris: The Word Is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache, (eds)The Queer Bible Commentary

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality

Jennings, Theodore: Plato or Paul?: The Origins of Western Homophobia

Jordan, Mark: The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology

Lings, Renato: Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible

Marks, Jeremy: Exchanging the Truth of God for a Lie

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Sharpe, Keith. The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People.


“God and the Gay Christian”: Religious Conservatives Are Running Scared.

Within days of its publication, Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian” has evoked a flurry of angry denunciation from a wide range of Christian bloggers and scholars, with news headlines like “Pro-gay book ‘exceedingly dangerous’”, “Pro-gay book departs from Christian tradition”, “Should Christians Use the Term “Gay Christian”?” (the writer thinks not), “Haven’t You Read? Answering a modern-day Pharisee”, “Some Honest Questions for Professing ‘Gay Christians’”, “A shameful day in evangelical Christian publishing” and“Deception: Christian publisher sells soul for mammon”

God and the Gay Christian

The extent of this reaction is remarkable. “God and the Gay Christian” is hardly the first book to challenge conservative Christian conventional wisdom on the subject, and not even the first from a conservative, Evangelical perspective. The Anglican Canon Derrek Sherwen Bailey began the reassessment of the biblical evidence almost sixty years ago, and has since been followed by a wide range of scholars and other writers, from the full range of Christian faith traditions, including Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and more.

Nor is it necessarily the best, by any standard – certainly not in terms of scholarship. One of the interesting responses to the book is a newly published e-book by faculty from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,  “God and the Gay Christian? a response to Matthew Vines. Writing about this at Patheos, Owen Strachan notes

Vines’s book is not dense in terms of scholarship. Hamilton and Burk catch numerous exegetical flaws and errors in his argumentation that their facility with their original languages allows. Indeed, one sees the strength of a program of scholarship in comparing the two books. Vines is a smart person, but he has no formal theological credentials. Hamilton and Burk are able to offer numerous critiques that Vines’s book cannot treat.

– “Thoughtlife”, Patheos blogs

In my own review, I found that although the book has much to recommend it, I had some quibbles of my own: there is some arrogance in seeing himself as a unique trailblazer, and an uncomfortable blending of form: biblical commentary bookended by the story of his personal journey of discovery.

If it’s not the first, or the best, of its kind – why has it provoked such a strong response from his critics?

The answer, I suspect, is that they are running scared. Public assessments of same – sex relationships is changing rapidly, even among evangelical Christians, and the defenders of continued discrimination and exclusion know it.

Quite why (in my view) these conservatives should be “running scared”, I leave for my next post.

Recommended Books

Vines, Matthew: God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships

Countryman, L.WilliamDirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today .

Glaser, Chris: The Word Is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache, (eds)The Queer Bible Commentary

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Sharpe, Keith. The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People.

 “God and the Gay Christian” (Matthew Vines)

For over half a century, since the pioneering work of Canon Sherwen Derrek Bailey, bible scholars have been reassessing what was one a commonly accepted view that the bible strongly and obviously condemned homosexuality. By the twenty first century, what was once a trickle of revisionist books on the subject has become a torrent: a book search on Amazon with the terms “bible” and “homosexuality” will turn up many more titles which either reject the traditional biblical view, or accept that there is room for disagreement, than those still insisting that the biblical view is hostile.

These reassessments, applying particularly to the six “clobber texts” take many different forms, varying from scholar to scholar and from verse to verse.  Some follow Bailey in pointing to internal Biblical evidence that contradicts the idea that the destruction of Sodom was because of same – sex practices. Others, notably William Countryman, show that the Levitical prohibition was part of the Jewish purity code, and so is not applicable to Christians, just as compulsory male circumcision and kosher dietary laws are not. Boswell and others deal with Paul’s complaint in Romans about men who act “against nature” with other males, by reminding us that for those with an inherently same – sex orientation, it is heterosexual, intercourse that is truly unnatural – and so the apparent prohibition does not apply. Still others have examined problems of translation and mistranslation or argued that the problem lies not in understanding or interpreting the texts, but in applying them to modern conditions and understandings of sexuality.

God and the Gay Christian

Some of these new books becoming available are aimed at the general reader, summarizing and presenting the range of scholarly material in more accessible forms, others present fresh, independent scholarship for an academic or specialist audience. I’ve been reading two very different new books, one from each of these perspectives. Each offers something new to what is already available, and each can be recommended, for its own intended market. I begin with Matthew Vines “God and the Gay Christian”, firmly in the former category and easily accessible by an interested general reader. I will get to the scholarly work of Renato Lings tomorrow.

If “Love Lost in Translation” is an academic work of scholarship, possibly intimidating to non – specialists, then Matthew Vines “God and the Gay Christian” is the reverse – primarily a summary account of familiar, existing work on the half dozen most notorious clobber texts. Those coming to the subject for the first time will find the book valuable for its clarity of exposition. Vines has shown previously (on – tube) that he is a gifted communicator in speech, and he shows similar skill in managing text. Those who are already familiar with the extensive corpus already published by trailblazing scholars and other popularizers may find the treatment of these key bible verses useful as clear summary, but with little new to offer.

What made the book particularly interesting to me though, was not these central chapters, but the opening and closing chapters which book – end it, and justify its sub-title, “The Biblical Case in Support of Same – Sex Relationships”.  Vines is a young man from a conservative Protestant background, raised by deeply religious parents who, together with the rest of their Presbyterian congregation in Kansas, shared in the traditional views that Christianity were bitterly unhappy when the majority of their denomination took decisions that led to the ordination of openly gay, partnered  clergy. They shared the traditional view, that is, until Vines began to realise that he too was gay, and the day that he came out to his father was described as the “worst day of my dad’s life”. In the opening chapters, which I found to be the most absorbing part of the book, he discusses his personal journey of biblical exploration and discovery. Unable either to reject the Bible or to renounce his sexual orientation, he took a year out of college for intensive study of the Biblical sources, and other relevant material. I found that these opening chapters left me with some notable and useful new insights, especially some extracts he quotes from Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body.  These assure us that celibacy is difficult and a gift, not a command, and so is not required of all. Those for who have not been given the gift of voluntary celibacy, says John Paul, should marry. Noting that for inherently gay people, heterosexual marriage is not an option, Vines’ conclusion is that this necessarily means same – sex marriage. I cannot fault the logic, but never expected to find an endorsement of gay marriage, even indirectly, from Pope John Paul!

He returns to this subject in the closing chapters, putting the case for same – sex marriage, including blessing and affirmation of same – sex covenanted relationships in church. Finally, he closes with a chapter called “Seeds of a Modern Reformation”, seemingly a reference to his fascinating program for evangelising LGBT inclusion in church, “The Reformation Project”. In fact, he gives not too much about his own project, but does profile three other notable activists for LGBT inclusion, Kathy Baldock (renowned for her work as a straight ally, and her “straight apologies” at Pride parades), Justin Lee (founder of the Gay Christian Network website and conferences and author ofTorn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate), and Dr James Brownson, father of a gay son and author of Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships

I have some quibbles. I was left with an uneasy feeling that this should really have been two books, one on defences against textual abuse of the Bible, and another combining his opening and closing chapters – covering more of his personal journey, the affirmative texts he presents, and how the biblical case for affirming our relationships, and the development and plans for his Reformation Project.

Although his presentation of the defensive chapters is clearly presented, generally reliable and backed by extensive reading, there are weaknesses. His discussion of Sodom and Genesis 19 accepts without question the standard translation of the key verse, “Let them come out, so that we can have sex with them” – even though his own analysis of all the other Biblical references to Sodom make it clear that there is no sexual association at all (not even as male rape).

Much of his argument is based on the contrast in understanding of sexuality between classical times, when there was no conception of homosexual people, or orientation, and modern understanding, in which people are understood to be either heterosexual or homosexual, with no possibility of a change in orientation. He’s right, but the treatment is simplistic: he completely ignores the possibility of bisexuality, for instance, and oversimplifies the Roman position.

I was also somewhat irritated by what comes across at times as a degree of youthful arrogance. He presents his “third way” in reconciling biblical authority with sexual integrity by reinterpreting the texts for modern conditions, as something new and original, which it is not. Others have been doing it for decades, as he well knows (he has drawn heavily on their work). In celebrating his allies on the Reformation Project, he completely ignores the extensive similar work that others have been doing since before he was born, including many in his own denomination.

But these are quibbles. Anyone coming to the subject for the first time, will find a readable, clearly presented response to the half dozen problematic texts, and those already familiar with those will find a moving story of a young man confronting the challenge of being both gay and Evangelical Christian, and supported by his father, finding a way to reconcile both, with integrity

Recommended Books

Countryman, L.WilliamDirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today .

Glaser, Chris: The Word Is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache, (eds)The Queer Bible Commentary

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Sharpe, Keith. The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People.

The Distorted Christian Tradition of the Sodomy Myth (2)

The remarkable thing about the Christian tradition that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was because of the sin of homoerotic sex, is that this was never part of the Jewish tradition: not in the Hebrew Bible (First, or Old Testament), not in the Apocrypha, not in the Pseudepigrapha, and not in the Rabbinic tradition that followed. The obvious question that follows, is quite how did the Christian theologians get it so wrong, using a strong condemnation against oppression, injustice and lack of hospitality to strangers, to justify their own persecution, oppression, and explicit refusal of hospitality in Church to sexual and gender minorities?


In tracing the historical development of what is clearly a distorted tradition, Renato Lings draws on the commentaries of the story from each historical tradition – and simultaneously describes how changes in language over those centuries meant that later commentators, up to the medieval scholastics, were depending on texts which had been through multiple translations, losing some of the subtlety and nuance of the original, and also had suffered corruption from copying errors.

A long church tradition may have led to errors of misinterpretation end errors of translation, some of which continue to affect todays versions of the Bible. Since the issues addresses by the Hebrew prophets are idolatry, pride, social injustice and oppression, it is indeed remarkable that today’s scholarly consensus emphasizes sexual violence.

Continue reading The Distorted Christian Tradition of the Sodomy Myth (2)

Joseph Gentilini – Hounded by Heaven

I first came across the phrase, “The Hound of Heaven” when it was used by my religion teacher, an O.M.I. priest, at secondary school in Johannesburg, many years ago. At first I had difficulty understanding the concept, unable to grasp the idea of God as a dog. But then, I did not yet appreciate the difference in sense between “dog”, as any canine (in my experience, always a household pet), and “hound” – as a working dog, chasing down the object of its pursuit. Once I did finally get the point, it became a vivid metaphor that has never left me.  An explanation at the Neumann Book of Verse, quoted on Wikipedia, conveys the sense of the metaphor:

 The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood. As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.

The Neumann Press Book of Verse, 1988[2]

Hound of Heaven

Joseph Gentilini, whom I referred to earlier this week for his long ministry of writing to the American bishops about matters of gay inclusion in church, has used the image in the title of a forthcoming autobiography, “Hounded by God”. This image is entirely appropriate, as a description of how for years he felt tormented by a perceived conflict between what he knew to be his natural affectional and sexual orientation, and the formal, proclaimed sexual doctrines of the church  – conflict which led nightly, to thoughts of suicide. Many Catholic gay men and lesbians will have no difficulty recognising this experience, as one that they too have endured.

In Hounded by God, the author writes about his struggle to integrate his homosexuality with his personality and his Catholic-Christian spirituality. He grew up in the late ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s when homosexuality was considered either a mental illness or a major sin. In 1968, he had his first homosexual experience. Feeling shame and trying to repress his feelings, he spent over six years in therapy.

Raised a strict Roman Catholic, Joseph confessed his many “sins” to a priest and attended Mass daily. He felt hopeless in accepting his homosexuality and living happily as a gay man, repeating nightly, “If it gets too bad, I can always kill myself.” By 1974, he knew that therapy was not changing his sexual orientation and felt desperate.

Some older Catholic, but perhaps rather fewer younger people will also recognize the resolution of the conflict – that while the institutional church may appear to reject us, that is never true of God, who like a hound will follow us relentlessly, as God did in pursuit of Joseph, until we are able to recognize and accept God’s unconditional love for us all – no exceptions.

Joseph experienced God as hounding him to accept his gay identity and to believe that God loves him as he is. His autobiographical journal reveals his gradual awakening to live his vocation, not only as a gay man in relationship with his partner and with God, but also as someone willing to share his journey with those who struggle with their homosexuality and their faith.

The two passages quoted above are from a summary of the book that I received yesterday by email, together with  two reviews, in advance of publication later this year.  These gay Catholic biographies are important. Dugan McGinley  has written an entire critical analysis of the  genre “Acts of Faith, Acts of Love”, which he has  sub-titled “Gay Catholic Autobiographies as Sacred Texts”. To call them “sacred” texts may appear to many to be a step too far, but I think the description is entirely appropriate. These stories, if they are honest and sufficiently reflective on the writer’s life of struggle and resolution, can help us all in a similar predicament to find illumination and support in our own search for reconciliation, with God and the Church.

This could be particularly true of this book. Whether we know it yet or not, it will certainly be true that whatever our response to the Church, whatever our perceptions of its doctrines or pastoral practice, whatever our decision or strategies in our lives so far, to deal with and attempt to reconcile the conflicts that we, like Joseph, probably felt or perhaps still feel about our sexuality and our faith – God is constantly chasing us down, hound – like.

I look forward to reading this book once it has been published. I hope you will look out for it, too. Meanwhile, to whet your appetites, I include two short reviews, but theologian John  McNeill, and by Mark Matson, a former president of Dignity USA,

St. Augustine put it beautifully into words: “You made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our- hearts will never rest until they rest in you.” Most of us go through life covering over that yearning at the heart of every human, distracting ourselves with the desires of this world. Not so Joseph Gentilini. God gave Joseph an extraordinary awareness of that call to union with God.

In his autobiographical journal, Joe spells out his painful journey as an active gay man, from revolt against that voice of God to final acceptance with God’s grace of his gay identity given to him by God—a remarkable journey which brings hope to all of us that God’s call to union is to the authentic self. God dwells within us, and the only way to union with that God is through the authentic self.

John McNeill, theologian, former Jesuit priest and author


Anyone who has had their sexuality shamed by their religious tradition should relate to Joe’s story of staying connected to his Catholicism while rejecting the teaching of Catholic Bishops on homosexuality and replacing it with a truly authentic spiritual connection with his Creator. He give the reader access to his most intimate thoughts, fears, and experiences—all of which provide the fuel for a seminal work in LGBT spirituality.

Mark Matson, former president of Dignity USA


John McNeill:

The Church and the HomosexualTaking a Chance on God;

Freedom, Glorious Freedom;

and My Spiritual Journey: Both Feet Planted In Midair

Sex as God Intended

The Gay Closet as a Place of Sin

My colleague Advocatus Diaboli sent me a link some days ago to a post at Jesus in Love, about a new book (“Dark Knowledge“, by Kenneth Low) which argues that Jesus was homosexual and sexually active, but closeted – and that was the reason for his trial and execution. AD asked me for my opinion. Before getting to my response, I share some key extracts from Kittredge’s post:

Dark Knowledge” by Kenneth Low uses rational arguments to disprove much of the conventional wisdom about Christ. According to Low, Jesus was not heterosexual, not celibate, and not happy with his own identity.

Low presents evidence that Jesus must have been homosexual because he was an unmarried man who surrounded himself with men, including John, his beloved male disciple and sexual partner.

-Jesus in Love

Kittredge quotes from Low directly:

In His childhood, Jesus Christ came into His awareness of being the Son of God. His magical authority and other attributes were given to Him as His birthright. As He came into sexual awareness, He discovered Himself to be a homosexual. His awareness of being the Son of God precluded any possibility of denying His sexuality out of some external concern and He began to be sexually active. He was evidently discovered to be a homosexual by people in His hometown and He must have been sharply rebuked and ostracized. He left Galilee and wandered on an endless soulful sojourn seeking a reconciliation of His divinity with His homosexuality. (p. 276)

-Jesus in Love

Toby Johnson, the author of Gay Spirituality and Gay Perspective and a former editor of the “White Crane” journal of gay spirituality, has also written about Dark Knowledge. He summarizes the thesis proposed by Dark Knowledge:

When Low considers Jesus as homosexual, it is as secretive, shamed and closeted, what a homosexual would have thought of himself in an intensely and threateningly homophobic and misogynistic society. His townsfolk would have ignored his teachings because they knew too much about him. He’d have been an embarrassment to his family. The Apostles would have been reluctant to admit they knew him if this fact came out. In this reading of the story, Jesus’s homosexuality isn’t an item of pride, but rather the source of a spiritual crisis that forces him to develop an interpretation of virtue and goodness that isn’t just conformity with Jewish Law, since he himself can’t conform.

(In his review, Johnson praises the originality of the presentation and the  manner  in which Low re-imagines the life of Christ. He concludes by noting that he is sceptical of Low’s conclusion, but finds the book stimulating, and a good read nevertheless).

I stress that I have not read the book, and will not even attempt an assessment. However, I was interested in my own strong reaction to the book’s conclusion as presented in Kittredge’s review, and where that response led me. That reaction was  to the whole concept, that Jesus might have been actively “homosexual” – but closeted. We have virtually no real evidence on Christ’s orientation or sexual practice. There are reasonable arguments that he may have been (in modern terms) homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or asexual in orientation, and it is possible to believe that he was sexually active, or celibate. We may speculate, but we just don’t know. I’m comfortable with any of the possibilities – homosexual and sexually active, heterosexual and sexually active – or entirely celibate. I don’t believe that it really matters. But the one possibility that I have not considered before, and immediately rejected out of hand in an instinctive, visceral reaction, is the one presented by Low: that Jesus was both homosexually active, closeted and ashamed. Why did I react so instinctively?

Somewhat surprised by the intensity of my response, I tried to dissect it. My conclusion came fairly rapidly: Low’s idea flatly contradicts a core belief of standard Christology, that although fully human, Jesus Christ was without sin. If he was without sin, what could he have to be ashamed of?

And that was where assessing my own response became really interesting to me. In going from a standard, conventional belief, that Jesus was without sin, to my conclusion, that this makes it impossible for him to have been a closeted, sexually active gay man, I had made an automatic assumption, that I was previously unaware of. That assumption, was that to be closeted and sexually active, is inherently sinful. But where is the sin? I have made it clear in numerous posts that I do not believe that homosexuality in itself is inherently sinful ( but some forms of inappropriate use of it may be). So if there is sin implied by the assumption, it must lie in the proposition that Jesus was closeted, and ashamed.

Is that a sound assumption? My short answer, which I present before the full reasoning, is yes – the closet is a place of sin (but with an important qualification, which I will get to later).

Before getting to a full consideration of just why I felt so strongly that the closet is a place of sin, I first reflected a little more on the nature of Christ. I have shared before, how my Religious Education classes at school included a lengthy period locating and memorizing Biblical texts on the theme of “God is….” (examples being “God is love”, “God is mercy”, “God is justice”, “God is light”, “God is life”, and more). A key one here, was “God is truth”.  If God is truth, and the closet is (by definition) a lie, then God/ Jesus in the closet is a logical impossibility. That doesn’t necessarily imply that there is sin in the closet, but the idea prepared the way for more, after some thought on the nature of sin.

My understanding of sin, is it is that which turns us away from God, keeps us from being the best that we can be. As John McNeill regularly reminds us in his books, St Ireneaus taught that “The glory of God is humans fully alive” – and by extension, I see sin as that which keeps us (or by our agency, others) from that glory, of being fully alive.  There is abundant evidence from academic literature, from anecdotal evidence, and from my own experience, that coming out is a process of growth, of becoming more fully alive . Remaining in the closet obstructs that growth, denying that process of growth. The closet keeps us from that – hiding us from that full glory of God.

If God / Jesus is truth, the closet is a lie. By hiding our own truth, we are denying the example of Christ.

God is love. Where is the love in the closet? “Love your neighbour as yourself” is the familiar text, but that implies that we must, indeed, love ourselves. Can we truly love ourselves, accept ourselves in all that we are, while denying an important part of who we are?

God is justice. Is there justice in the closet? Is there justice, in a situation where the 80 or 90% of adults are able to rejoice publicly in their loves, and invite friends, family and parishioners to celebrate an affirmation of those loves in church weddings – and some of us feel constrained to hide our loves, or even to avoid love altogether, out of fear?

I could go on, but you get the idea. As I explored my understanding of God, and of sin, it seemed to me clear that the closet restricts our approach to God, in these various aspects. Impeding our access to God, the closet is a place of sin.

But this was a troubling thought. I have often argued for the value of coming out, in church and in the world, but with an important qualification. This must always be only as far as we are able.  Sometimes, for personal reasons or by reason of external circumstances, we may not be able.  If the closet is a place of sin, as I concluded, what does this say of those who, for whatever reason, find that they are not able to come out?

That led me to some further thoughts on the nature of sin.

First, we must consider the particular circumstances and motivations of someone who is closeted. To take an extreme example, for most Catholic priests, coming out would be reckless, endangering their careers and ministry as priests. In such circumstances, staying within the closet in pursuit of a greater good is morally acceptable, and not sinful.

Next, we must consider that there exists both personal and social sin. If it is true that the closet is a place of sin, that does not necessarily imply that a closeted person is in a state of sin – the sin could lie in the social circumstances (of church doctrine and law, for instance, or the possibility of real and severe penalties). In that case, the sin could be social, not personal.

Now,  a little disclosure. The trigger that led to all of the above was in an email from AD, which by chance I read at 3 am one morning (no, that’s not my usual time for correspondence). The thoughts I have shared above, were buzzing around in my head for some hours later. They are based on perceptions, and half – remembered school lessons, not any deep knowledge or training in the relevant theology. The argument needs further testing and thought, but I have shared the ideas simply because they have substantially shaken me up. I am certain there will be flaws, in either the assumptions, or reasoning. I welcome responses from any one willing to pick holes in my thesis.

Coming Out as Spiritual Experience

Over 40 years since Stonewall, it has become commonplace to recognise the value of coming out as a growth experience, bringing benefits to mental health, self-esteem and personal integrity. Less widely recognised is the value of coming out as spiritual growth. This idea, which well deserves to be better known, gets extensive treatment in Daniel Helminiak’s book, Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth

(Helminiak is an openly gay Catholic priest with doctorates in both spirituality and psychology, who teaches spirituality in a faculty of psychology – so he is eminently well qualified to write on the subject. For more  on Daniel Helminiak, see his own website, “Visions of Daniel)

Sex and Sacred

In his preface, Helminiak notes that the arguments in the early days of the gay liberation movement were purely reactive & defensive, making the case that homosexuality is NOT a sin, NOT a sickness, and NOT a mental disorder.

Now, he says, we need to move on, and that is what he does. Throughout the book, he affirms that the state of homosexuality in itself inherently puts us on a quest for self-transcendence, which is what he defines as “spirituality”, whether  or not that includes a specifically religious or God-oriented element. If we move beyond the simple state of homosexuality to self-acceptance, coming out and authentically living in accordance with that identity, then, he says, we open ourselves to both emotional/human and spiritual development, to a degree that is greater than that of people who have not had to face such a journey. Although he begins his book by looking at “spirituality” from a nontheistic position independently of any religious consideration, he then moves on to elaborate the theme from within the Christian, and then specifically Catholic, traditions.

He does not pussyfoot around the matter of of the physical expression of sex. In Chapter 5 of the book, “Sexual Pathways to Spiritual Growth”, he describes the beneficial aspects of physical, sexual arousal and release on first the individual, then on the couple, on society as a whole, on the potential for “grasping the infinite”, and for the hope of union with God:

On the individual:

The experience of sexual arousal and orgasm has a physical healing effect.  It reduces stress and relaxes and calms the body. During sexual arousal, there occurs in the psyche the concomitant release of emotions, images and experiences…..a flood of powerful psychic material may flow out of psyche’s secret caverns…… It invites the healthy acceptance of your bodiliness.”

And (writing of Oriental practice):

“A natural human activity, sex, frees and opens the mind to experiences similar to those induced through other spiritual practices….. or induced chemically.  Sexual arousal becomes a doorway to profound psychic and spiritual experiences”

On the Couple:

“Such sharing, continued authentically with openness, honesty and love, is as much a spiritual discipline as any fasting, prayer, retreat, spiritual counselling, or vigil. “

“All the while thick bonds of sexual desire, physical and emotional, hold them entwined and force them to resolve their differences…..Thus organic and psychic sexual processes serve spiritual ends. Sexual togetherness serves interpersonal sharing and growth”

On society as a whole:

“Beyond the individual and the couple, sexual sharing involves the family and, indeed, the cosmos.  Inherent in the experience of sexual love is a movement beyond yourself….. Love opens our eys to a world of beauty beyond ourselves.  Loving another person opens you to identify with all people….Since authentic human love is an integrating experience, it leads you to identify with the whole human race.”

Of God:

“For the theist believer, sex is a gift of God……horniness, romance and caring… are inherent aspects of human life designed so by the creator. Therefore, they must be good and wholesome. Their authentic experience inserts us ever further into the ultimate Mystery of the unfolding universe.  God is the source and the sustenance – as well as the goal – of human sexual love.”

It may be wise to insert here a caution.  Helminiak clearly values and celebrates the authentic expression of human sexuality, including physical expression.  He does repeatedly warn though, of the parallel dangers of inauthentic and inappropriate expression. With the official teaching of the church on all matters so profoundly misguided, it is valuable to have the helpful guidance of a thoughtful and realistic commentary.  If I have ignored that part of the book here, it is only because it is quite a separatae theme, which will require quite a different post on another occasion.

Overall, this is a most useful book, worth returning to again and again.  I particularly recommended it to those of you who, like myself, have grown weary of endless defences against our critics.  Especially at this season of Pride, it is important to proclaim and affirm the positive value of who we are.

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