In an attempt to get a better grasp of how to correctly handle homosexuality in the church, I am sharing my thoughts on Wesley Hill’s newest book Washed & Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness & Homosexuality. To learn more about the reasons behind this project, see the introduction to this series here. (By clicking the following links you can also read part 2 & part 3)
This portion of my review covers two sections. The first is Part 2, Interlude: The Beautiful Incision. The second is Chapter 2: The End of Loneliness.
Part 2, Interlude
The Beautiful Incision (p. 83-93)
This portion discusses the influence of Henry Nouwen on Hill’s life. Discovered by Hill in high school and college, Hill drew much comfort from Nouwen’s writings. Nouwen, a gay but celibate Catholic priest, reflected deeply on his sexuality and his attraction to other men and struggled with how to cope with this issue. Hill discusses how Nouwen had to leave prestigious positions at both Harvard and Yale and begin working with mentally disabled people in order to find his place in the world and a proper metaphor for his struggles as a Christian.
From Nouwen, Hill learned that his struggles with loneliness and Christianity are directly related because he is gay. This loneliness is a key theme in this book and I believe it must be real. Again, as I read it I must fight my inclination to say “well, just don’t be gay anymore.” Who am I to say that though when I don’t even see that as a bibilical solution. I can say with authority not to participate in sinful activity such as homosexual contact, but to not even be tempted…I don’t know.
I do struggle with Hill, a man choosing celibacy as an act of contrition and honor to a glorious God, drawing so much inspiration from a man whose initial celibacy was based off of a man-made vow. There is a huge difference in someone making a decision in their life based upon what they find in scripture, and someone making a decision as part of a job-requirement. To me, this would be like the person who is wanting to be an elder in a church deciding not to drink much wine because that is their requirement to be an elder. The actuality is that the elder of the church is to not drink much wine BECAUSE they are a Christian, not so they can be an elder. I know that’s a weak analogy but I haven’t put much thought to it.
The End of Loneliness (p. 95-120)
Hill describes much of his experience with Christian fellowship as being on the outside of a glass door, looking in at a party but not being able to fully participate. Surrounded by heterosexual Christian couples, singles, and singles that are dating, Hill struggles (notice the present tense) with being alone and knowing that Biblically he will never have the sort of relationship that many of these people feel.
Are we wired as humans to seek relationships. The Bible seems to say so at times. We know that pop-culture places a huge emphasis on it. Other than hope that someday a homosexual will find someone of the opposite sex they are attracted to, what options for fulfillment in this area does the Christian community have to offer?
The option of just marrying a person of the opposite sex to do it seems less than viable. I discussed this with a work colleague yesterday and she had seen the results of this first-hand. It ended poorly as the relationship was less than fulfilling and was somewhat full of deception and dishonesty from the very onset. When I think about my own insecurities, I struggle enough with worrying what my wife thinks about people of my own gender, I can’t imagine what it would be like if it were both genders.
Another option is celibacy. This has been discussed at length in other portions of this review. Hill explains though that he often sees this option leading to a total turning away and describes it as “unbearable” at times. I would also like to applaud Hill’s courage and honesty when he describes the homosexual desires as “disordered” in this section. To me this further verifies Hill’s commitment to remaining in line with scripture. As I think about how we live in a modern church where even teaching about man’s sinfulness as shown in the Bible is frowned upon by many, much could be learned from Hill here.
I did struggle to follow Hill’s logic when he compares God’s desire for relationship with mankind as the sexual desire between humans. I don’t necessarily read it that way and I believe the scripture he uses to support his thoughts on this refer more to a father-son, and giving relationship than a purely sexual one.
Hill points out that the need for community and relationship is real in humans. Knowing, as we all do, that there is a segment of the population out there, homosexuals, who, if living to please Christ, will never have hope for intimate relational companionship, what is to be the church’s response to those people? His answer is amazing and shouldn’t seem so novel. We embrace them, not to be liberal, but because we recognize what is going on in their life and we desire to have a Christian relationship with them. Of course, to do this, we must embrace the neglected Biblical doctrine about our own sinfulness and realize that just as the homosexual is tempted by the opposite sex, that is only one temptation and that we all have many, succumbing at times. Let us not forget, as Hill points out, that the New Testament presents for mankind THE CHURCH, not marriage, as the place where human love is best expressed and experienced. Yeah, I know. That one hurt me too.