Here’s a guest post and book review from Jonathan Storment, pulpit minister of the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. Check out Jonathan’s blog, Stormented.
“Vulnerability is the first thing I look for in others and the last thing I want others to see in me.” -Brene Brown
I hadn’t planned on staying up until the middle of the night to finish Sally Gary’s new book “Loves God, Likes Girls” I had planned on reading just enough to encourage her and tell her how much I appreciated her. But that was before I started reading.
It’s been estimated that 85% of American young adults see Church and Christians an Homophobic and against Homosexual people. But that is not anywhere near the Christian story.
I’m not even talking about how such a disproportional amount of church conversation is on homosexuality (in comparison to the very small amount of times it is mentioned in Scripture). I’m talking about the fact that Christians are not seen as being opposed to homosexuality, or any kind of sexual immorality…we are largely seen as opposed to gay people.
And to be honest that’s kind of our own fault.
But the Christian story, if it trying to say anything, is saying that gay people…or any kind of person, is not the enemy. The enemy is the spiritual principalities and powers and sin in all the forms that it takes. And when we don’t get that we can really, really hurt people.
That’s why I stayed up all night reading Sally’s book.
The Best Stories Have But’s
It’s incredibly hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Because most of the time it’s so hard to get out of our own. But Sally’s disarming way of telling her own story makes you realize how much all of our stories have in common.
They say the best stories don’t use and as much as the word but, I think that’s right. The Godfather was evil but he did it for family. Steve Jobs changed the world but he was often a jerk. The best and the worst of us, are filled with the best and the worst. And Sally’s story is filled with but’s.
Her dad would go into fits of emotionally abusive rage but he also learned sign language to communicate to the deaf kid at church. Her mother was incredibly nurturing but often overprotective. Sally dated and liked some boys but….
Sally is incredibly honest and truthful about how great and hard life with her parents and church have been for her. She’s honest about her shortcomings and painfully honest about what life was like for a girl growing up sexually confused in a time when those kind of things weren’t spoken about.
But this book isn’t just about homosexuality and church, as the Father of two little girls I was convicted over and over again. She let me see how important being a daddy was for any little girl, and how important it was to be an intentional communicator to your kids.
She’s also honest about all her phobias and the quirky way she saw the world and learned how to cope with it (she’s actually afraid of the water) but as I read her book the same thought kept coming back to me…
For someone who talks about being afraid so much, she sure is brave.
Because Sally, for the past 15 years, has been willing to do what almost nobody else in the world will do. She’s being willing to be vulnerable to the entire world for the sake of the people who are out there like her.
Church and Gay People
That’s why she wrote the book, and it’s why she runs the ministry CenterPeace. Because she wants churches to know that there are people in our churches who are struggling with sexual orientation. They are our friends and our family and they’ve worked so hard to keep it secret because we’ve told them how we feel about their struggle…we just didn’t know we were talking about them.
Sally has been invited to speak to churches from all over the spectrum of Churches of Christ (and beyond). She’s spoken at our most conservative and our more progressive schools and churches because we’re waking up to the realization that this matters. And Sally’s gentle but brutally honest story helps you hear her wisdom:
Sexuality is complex and we haven’t fully explored all the possible variable that enter into this equation. Biology sets a foundation, but the impact of what we experience throughout life continues to shape and re-shape us. The dynamic interplay between chemistry, neurology and our perception of life experiences over the course of a lifetime remains to be investigated. Mix in individual temperaments, largely a biological construct, and you quickly realize there are no cut and dried explanations as to how sexuality takes shape in us. All we really know, is that we have much to learn. And at the very least, our lack of understanding should move us to greater compassion.
And that’s why everyone needs to read this book. Because Sally doesn’t try to make anyone feel guilty, she just lets you see through her eyes for a few hours. And what you see will change the way you love the people around you.
I’m proud to say that Sally is a member and leader at the Church that I work at, but I’m even more proud to say that she’s a part of our Restoration Vision. Centerpeace is one of the 3 non-profits that our campaign last year went to support…and after reading her book I’m incredibly grateful that we can play a very small role in what she’s doing in the world.
Sally’s dream is to help churches learn how to be a safe place for people to be honest. And she did that by going first.
So thanks Sally. You love God, and you’ve taught us how much he loves everyone.”
Jonathan, I hope Sally would be welcome as ammember and leader at your church even if she had a companion, another woman, to spend her life with as her spouse. Openness to gays that requires them to go through life celibate and alone is just a kinder, gentler version of the old hostility. God himself said that it is not good for us to be alone. We know from Genesis 2 that God’s will is for each of us to have a “help” or mate or partner who is “meet” or suitable or appropriate for us. For a gay person that is necessarily a person of the same sex. No one in the Bible was ever required to live a life of celibacy. Churches of Christ in general are repeating the mistake made a generation or two ago of telling a sizeable portion of the population that they have no right to marry the person they love. Then it was divorced and remarried persons. Now it’s gays. Celibacy as the solution didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Can’t we learn from our past mistakes?
I haven’t checked into your website for awhile and was excited to see your recommendations of Hill and Lee’s books. I currently just read both of them. Both give excellent points of conversation, but “Torn” is the one I related to most and is the one that I highly recommend to all who are invested in researching and understanding this topic. My journey is more parallel with Lee and what I love most about his book is his authentic, tireless research and his focus to offer opportunity for everyone to continue to fellowship together with open conversation even though we may all land on different view points because we are all seeking the Lord and it is going to take everyone pitching in their stories, insights, and prayers as we move forward. As I earnestly seek the Lord I have landed in a spot that is much different than where my church family has landed and I’m hopeful that with the love of the Lord we can continue to be in fellowship with each other.
Storment stated about you, “She’s being willing to be vulnerable to the entire world for the sake of the people who are out there like her.”
I have heard your story, Sally, several times and I believe that your story is one that can help many who are in the same situation as you have been. But I don’t find my story to be the same as your story at all, which gives more evidence of the sexuality continuum that people must face and consider.
I think it is great that you are putting your story out there, but it will be frustrating to many if we are put in the same box as you. You are a piece of the puzzle, Hill is a piece of the puzzle, Lee is a piece of the puzzle, I am a piece, and there are many others out there of all kinds who are just another piece of this puzzle and praise God we are all coming together. I believe there is more to learn and more to understand.
Thanks for allowing me to share.
Thanks for your thoughts, Josha. I completely agree that everyone’s story is different. That’s why it’s important that we’re careful to listen – to truly listen – and not just filter everything through our own experience, accepting only those things that we agree with as legitimate. Good to hear from you again – please stay in touch!
Thanks for This! Looking forward to reading this.
T. Scott Allen- Southeast Church of Christ