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People To Be Loved

As you have probably realised by now, at least if you’ve been reading the blog this week, I think Preston Sprinkle’s new book, People To Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just An Issue, is excellent. Having summarised the best arguments for an “affirming” position on Monday, and the best arguments for a “nonaffirming” position on Wednesday – both in Preston’s own words – today I simply want to add two reflections of my own, based on reading his book and seeing him discuss these issues in public.

The first is that Preston’s tone, as I’ve commented before, is wonderfully winsome. He begins the book by sharing his personal grief at the pain Christians have caused gay people, thanking a number of “affirming” gay writers and thinkers, and telling some powerful stories, both of hurt gays and oafish conservatives. He not only lists the best arguments against his position, but also gives them credit wherever it is due (and sometimes, as I’ve said before, arguably more credit than is due). He uses sensitive and careful language, and calls out those who do not. He asks the right questions, and asks them in the right order. He picks up pastoral hot potatoes as well as exegetical ones. He challenges us to love sinners and hate our own sin, not just (or even mostly) theirs. He is courteous to those with whom he disagrees, and has clearly built a wide range of friendships with LGBT people, both “affirming” and “nonaffirming” ones.

The second, though, is that people get very angry with him anyway. This is not Preston’s fault at all; it simply reflects the emotions at stake in this discussion, and the impossibility of taking any position at all without offending people. His public writings on the subject are a model of charity, yet he is continually called to apologise, backpedal, clarify and disavow his comments (if you follow his blog you’ll know what I mean, but the response to this tweet is a particularly silly example). We could draw one of two conclusions from this, presumably: either Preston is still not being careful enough, and needs to work even harder to avoid offending anybody, or – and it will probably not surprise readers to know that this is my view – there are a good many people who are simply offended by the theological position itself, irrespective of how sensitively it is expressed, and nothing short of a grovelling apology for Genesis, Leviticus, Paul and two thousand years of Christian theology will ever be good enough.

None of this is an attempt to get Preston to change his approach, or imply that it doesn’t do any good. Each has his gift from the Lord; one has this gift, another has that. For many who are unpersuaded, I’m sure his efforts are both helpful and much-needed, even if the unpersuadable remain furious about them. It is more an attempt to point out what those who have been paying attention probably noticed long ago: for all the benefits of being as winsome as we can be, there is an extent to which saying what the Bible says will make some people really, really angry, and there’s no getting around that.

Having said which: if you’re looking for something to give to someone who is open to discuss the issues, and wants the whole topic to be handled in a careful and thoughtful way – which I frequently am! – then you can’t do much better than this. Buy it.

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