Saturday, February 4, 2012

Book Review: Washed and Waiting

I've been meaning to write this review for a while. I got Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Homosexuality and Christian Faithfulness as part of my big Christmas book binge, and I read it in a couple of days immediately after it arrived. Wes is a celibate gay Christian, and his book looks at the reasons why a homosexual person would choose to accept the traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality, and then moves on to discuss what that actually looks like in practice. He draws on his own life, and also on the lives of Henri Nouwen and John Manley Hopkins to show the struggle, the loneliness, and also the tremendous grace that comes through the difficult life to which he has been called.

I loved this book, and would recommend it very highly – not just to people who are same-sex attracted. I think that if a lot more people in the conservative Christian crowd read this book it would massively enrich the quality of outreach to people with same-sex attractions. Although Wes doesn't shy away from the hard moral teachings (his approach is actually a lot more Biblically centred than my own, which isn't surprising – I camp out on Theology of the Body and lean a lot more on specifically Catholic teaching), he also does not shy away from the very real obstacles that present people who are trying to live out that teaching. Seeing a truly honest portrayal of the hardships that Christ demands of those who have exclusive same-sex attractions, and of the ways that God works in those lives, produces a sense of humility that is so often lacking in Christian preaching on homosexuality. It's the particular humility of recognizing that beneath the natural law arguments, and appeals to scripture, and the pat certainties that this is “The Truth,” we are asking people to shoulder a substantial Cross. As Wes makes clear, that doesn't mean that the Church should not make this demand of people, but rather that those who present that demand must be willing to actually give of themselves, to help carry the Cross along with their same-sex attracted brothers and sisters.

He also does a lovely job of discussing the role of the Church in the lives of Christians – not only Christians with same-sex attraction, but all of us. He points out that in the culture of the New Testament, marriage and the family are no longer the primary place in which human beings give, receive and exchange love. The Church is supposed to be truly One Body in One Lord, and the ambivalence with which Christ and St. Paul view marriage is placed in the context of the supremacy of the Body of Christ as the place where human beings encounter one another. Obviously, this highlights the need for Christian communities to truly function as places in which LGBTQ people can encounter this kind of love, a love which is emotional, spiritual and physical. A love sufficient to make life without a spouse bearable, and even joyful.

Finally, he conveys really powerfully what it is that LGBTQ people have to offer the Church. He shows that gay Christians are not merely dissidents, psychological wrecks or recovering addicts, that they are people with a deep spirituality that is relevant to the entire Church.

This is testimonial at its absolute best: not sentimental and formulaic, but realistic, tough and stunningly beautiful. It's a window into another person's experience, an icon of Divine Providence, and a work of marvelous hope.


  1. Melinda,

    I'm almost finished with your book which I love & I've already recommended it to several people already! I read Wesley's book last year and I highly recommend it as well. I'm a female in my mid 40's and I knew I was attracted to women as far back as kindegarten. I grew up in a Catholic home but due to the disinegration of my immediate family we were left to choose whatever spiritual path we wanted. Even as a little girl I deeply sensed God's presense and even when I went down a very dark path in jr high I knew He was always protecting me. I became a christian as a freshman in HS and began to attend protestant churches which is true to this day.

    To make a long story short I've remained celibate (did the ex-gay journey for about 10 yrs). Last year I almost ended remaining celibate. Mainly due to incredible loneliness, desperation, and watching a few of my christian friends who also struggled with same sex attractions finally decide to give up, find partners, and now most of them attend an evangelical church in my area that gives the total thumbs up to homosexual relationships. I too attended this same church for about 6 months but I no longer felt the Holy Spirit's presense in my life even as I considered pursuing a same sex relationship and tried to disregard what scripture says about homosexuality.

    Thankfully the Lord intervened in a miraculous way to bring me back to where I am now- celibate and still lonely but I now have the peace of God back in my heart and a new hope. I do believe a big reason as to why I strayed is because I felt so incredibly lonely at church because I'm not married, have no children, and I no longer try to date men. But because there is still so much shame & misinformation about homosexuality within the church, for years I had to hide my secret and watch cycle after cycle of friends marry and have children. Fortunately I now have a small fellowship of christians that I can be open & honest about my attractions which has made all the difference. My hope is to help educate christians about how hard it is to be in their ranks and continue as a celibate same sex attracted person.

    Wesely is absolutely correct that we do need the christian community to come along side us to walk out this journey. I can see why so many of my fellow christians who also struggle gave up the fight and found a group who I believe mean well but are being supportive in all the wrong ways, well at least that is what I found to be true for my experience. I do not want a church to sympathize and say, 'now, now no one should expect you to be celibate and is that really what the bible says about homosexuality?'. Those same words were spoken in the beginning by the serpent to Eve and I believe very much so this is happening with so much of the pro gay teaching particularly within the church. As a result I believe it's going to be harder and harder for individuals such as myself, Wesley, and others to continue on this path because so many mainline denominations are now changing their stance in regards to homosexual relationships.

    1. Beautiful comment. I salute your courage. Have you investigated Courage and the writings of Father John Harvey? Courage, the official Roman Catholic apostolate to those who struggle with same-sex attraction does not ask its members to change, but that they be chaste, knowing full well that this is a heavy cross, one that cannot be carried without grace, and in isolation. I believe you will find there the support and encouragement that you seek.

  2. Totally agree. Great book. Valuable for people who struggle with heterosexual sin as well. Brilliant consideration of Story as driver in life. Good review!

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