Monday, May 9, 2016

"Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor" by Glenn Stanton: A Review

Being universal, they most certainly apply to the topic we are exploring here and the people it involves on all sides of the issue. These six truths are:
  1. Everybody is a human person. No exceptions.
  2. Every human person is of inestimable worth and value, none more than another. No exceptions
  3. Everyone is deeply and passionately loved by God. No exceptions.
  4. Unfortunately everyone is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. No exceptions.
  5. All, as children of Adam, are tragically separated from God, but this does not diminish God's boundless love for us. But it does devastatingly hinder our relationship with Him. All of us, no exceptions.
  6. Therefore, everyone is in desperate need of repentance, healing, and a new life that comes only in surrender and submission to Christ. No exceptions. (15-16, italics original)
The rise of the LGBT (and its endless other abbreviations) has forced Christians to ask questions they had not considered possible for hundreds of years. One is hard press to imagine Christians considering the challenges we face today in the history of Christianity since Rome itself. As such, Christians must think again, practically, how to navigate through the world in which we live.

Scripture is clear we are called to love both our Maker and our neighbor. What that looks like has always been a matter of conversation, now more than ever. Given the sexual revolution and its confusion over gender, sexuality, and the rest, Christians are wanting to know what it means practically to love our LGBT neighbor. Thankfully, Glenn Stanton has written such a book appropriately titled Loving my (LGBT) neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth.

The parenthesis in the title is important. On the one hand, the book is simple: loving our LGBT neighbor, though a unique challenge, is no different than the age-old commission to love one's neighbor.

Though perhaps oversimplified, the book has two main divisions. The first is explanation, the second is application. In the explanation section, the author walks the reader through the issues. Stanton explores questions of orientation, the history of the movement, sexual and gender identity, etc. Such a section is not unusual in books like this, but I particularly enjoyed Stanton's tone and honesty.

Take for example his discussion of bigotry and perversion. Stanton calls on the reader to move beyond these inaccurate and unhelpful terms. Many in the religious community are quick to label LGBT as perverted or sex-crazed while many in the LGBT community are quick to label every person of faith as bigoted and phobic. He writes:
Only the other side, a widely held misperception - even by many evangelicals themselves - is that Christians who oppose same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting and such are motivated by bigotry and so-called homophobia. Major state and federal court decisions have said as much in support of their decisions, based purely on assumption. it has become a truism that those who oppose these things are haters, simply for the convictions they hold rather than any actual bigoted or hateful actions or words. Most cultural elites have uncritically accepted and contributed to this stereotyped script simply because they can imagine it being true based on Christians they have never met. Just like we can assume the child-molester charge about same-sex-attracted people we've never met. (79)
Later, Stanton adds:
Both sides on this issue have been guilty of uncivil and just plain mean behavior. But to be honest, as one who has paid very close attention to and participated in this issue for more than a decade. I am glad to say that there has been more calling out one's peers for correction and denunciation within the evangelical community than there has been within the LGBT community. That's just a fact that should be noted. (80)
I agree. Christians are certainly guilty of vile rhetoric and unloving actions, but no doubt the dominate anger and animosity, and dare I say "bigotry" is not from people of faith but from those who are actively pitting erotic liberty against religious liberty.

From there, Stanton deals with practical matters. I suspect this is the section that will garner the most attention. Stanton seeks to deal with the questions of attending a same-sex wedding ceremony, how do I live faithfully without being offensive, what about my gay child, what if my gay child invites their partner over, how should society handle the bathroom issue with transgenders, what about homosexuals in our congregations, etc.

One might be surprised by Stanton's answer regarding attending a same-sex wedding. Though he concludes that he would not attend under most circumstances, he does confess that there are a few instances in which he might. I would direct the reader to Stanton's reasoning before they offer any criticism.

Overall, I believe Stanton has offered a very helpful and timely book that is an invaluable tool for pastors and Christians alike. As a pastor, I have been asked many of the questions raised in this book and I am grateful for Stanton's voice and for this volume.

This book was given to me for free for the purpose of this review.
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