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A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus

A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus

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A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus

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4.5/5 (2 valoraciones)
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260 página
4 horas
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Publicado:
Nov 13, 2018
ISBN:
9780310538127
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

At 14, David Bennett came out to his parents.
At 19, he encountered Jesus Christ.
At that moment, his life changed forever.

As a young gay man, David Bennett saw Christianity as an enemy to freedom for LGBTQI people, and his early experiences with prejudice and homophobia led him to become a gay activist. But when Jesus came into his life in a highly unexpected way, he was led down a path he never would have predicted or imagined.

 

In A War of Loves, David recounts his dramatic story, from his early years exploring new age religions and French existentialism to his university experiences as an activist. Following supernatural encounters with God, he embarked on a journey not only of seeking to reconcile his faith and sexuality but also of discovering the higher call of Jesus Christ.

 

A War of Loves investigates what the Bible teaches about sexuality and demonstrates the profligate, unqualified grace of God for all people. David describes the joy and intimacy he found in following Jesus Christ and how love has taken on a radically new and far richer meaning for him.

Editorial:
Publicado:
Nov 13, 2018
ISBN:
9780310538127
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

David Bennett is from Sydney, Australia and is pursuing a DPhil (PhD) in theology at the University of Oxford. A founding member of the Church of England’s Archbishops’ college of evangelists, he holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from Oxford and a master’s degree in theology from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.  


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A War of Loves - David Bennett

Galatians

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Many of the stories I tell in this book are deeply personal, and so in most instances (except where permission has been given), to protect the privacy of those involved, I have altered names, places, and details while maintaining the storyline and events. The opinions in this book are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the organizations, churches, people, or groups mentioned.

FOREWORD BY N. T. WRIGHT

This is a brave and wise book. The territory into which it leads us—in shockingly clear detail—is perhaps the most contested moral, social, and cultural issue of our times: the question of same-sex desire and practice. None of the issues is shirked here; no soft answers are on offer, no easy fudge to let us slide around the problems. David Bennett has lived for several years at the heart of the questions—or perhaps we should say that the questions have lived in his heart, like a wasps’ nest buzzing angrily inside a room that ought to be a safe place. He has felt the pain of raging and unfulfilled desire, and also the pain of desire fulfilled but strangely unsatisfied. He has felt the anger of being patronized and dismissed by unthinking Christians, as well as the anger when, having discovered for himself the reality of Jesus as a living, loving, and challenging presence, he has often then been patronized and dismissed by the very people whose cause he had earlier, and loudly, advocated.

If all this sounds as though David Bennett will come across as an angry young man, nothing could be farther from the truth. David looks back not in anger but on anger—and sees it, names it, and deals with it. He understands and sympathizes with those who see no problem in acting upon their same-sex desires or the way of life they shape around them; he disagrees with them but is able to explain why. He understands and has learned to forgive those whose practice of Christian faith has made them simply point a finger labelled sin at anyone who doesn’t fit their stereotypes. The real heroes of his story, though, are quite different Christians who, with no loss of integrity or biblical wisdom, continued to love him and pray for him through some dark and stormy times.

David’s account of his meeting with Jesus, and the transformation that this produced in his life, his mind, his body, his imagination, and his hopes, is alone worth double the price of the book. His conversion story, like all true conversion stories, is more complex and interesting than such a phrase might suggest. I was struck, in particular, by the way that before his meeting with Jesus, David positively hated the Bible. Since I have spent most of my life in love with the Bible and hoping to instill this love in others, it was and is good for me to be confronted with the sharp reminder that that’s how your stuff makes some people feel. But for those of us who engage in areas of Christian work other than frontline evangelism, his whole story is a wonderful encouragement: not that we ever supposed the gospel could no longer change lives, but that it’s always good to hear fresh stories, vividly told, of how that change can happen despite the most unpromising starts.

There are, inevitably, places where we will agree to differ. David uses the language of LGBT and a few other initials as well; having lived in the world where those on the margins found a peer group with whom they could share sorrows and fears, he does not wish to turn his back on folk for whom that self-description is something of a lifeline. I have come to regard the list of initials LGBTQI as problematic, since each refers to quite different phenomena, sets of circumstances, assumptions, and challenges, and to lump them all together can, from the outside, look like a way of saying, We’re just going to live by whatever impulses we feel whenever we feel them. I stress from the outside: I greatly respect David’s insider viewpoint and will, I hope, continue to learn from him.

Above all, I respect and salute David’s resolute affirmation of chastity: of sexual fidelity in heterosexual marriage and sexual abstinence outside it. C. S. Lewis once remarked that when Charles Williams was lecturing in Oxford, the undergraduates were shocked because, having long supposed that the old rules about chastity were outdated, they were confronted with an author, literary critic, and lecturer who knew his texts like the back of his hand and was able to bring them gloriously to life, and who passionately believed in chastity. Hitherto they had supposed that anyone advocating sexual abstinence must have something wrong with them; now, suddenly, they discovered that the boot might be on the other foot. David Bennett’s compassionate intelligence, his forthright tell-it-like-it-is memoir, and his rich theological understanding mean that when he advocates chastity, as he does in this book, nobody will be able to dismiss him in the way they might dismiss elderly theologians like the present writer.

Of course, if people prefer to work out their morality having checked in their brains at the door—a charge that applies equally to the unthinking Christian and to the unthinking secularist—then David Bennett’s book will be a wake-up call. This is about thinking through what sexuality is really all about and what a wise and mature Christian reading of the Bible has got to do with it. If we can put thinking itself back on the agenda for these discussions, and then use that thinking to address in fresh ways the many-sided questions that force themselves upon us, we just might get somewhere. David Bennett’s book will help at every stage of that urgently necessary process.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am profoundly grateful for the support of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). The centre has become both my family and my professional community. Especially among them are Nancy Gifford, Amy and Frog Orr-Ewing, Mo Anderson, Michael Ramsden, Sanj and Kay Kalra, Sarah Davis, Karen and Joe Coffey, and Michael Suderman. Other friends I’d like to thank are my professor N. T. Wright, Dominic Steele, Hazel Thompson, Merrie Goddard, Anna Yearwood, Lauren Bolton, Ron Belgau, Simon Wenham, Coggin Galbreath, and Peter Hartwig, all of whom contributed to A War of Loves in different and important ways. I also credit so much to my aunt Helen, who helped me navigate church and so richly discipled me through this journey of faith. Finally, I would like to thank Wesley Hill, whose story was so pivotal to my story. I thank God for the vast multitude of often-hidden gay or same-sex-attracted Christians who faithfully follow Christ in this current climate. You are all an inspiration to me, and I hope this book will not just encourage you but also help to change the prejudices and pressures with which you bravely live.

PREFACE

As a nineteen-year-old atheist gay activist who felt rejected by Christianity, I had very little reason to believe in God. Then I encountered Jesus in a pub in the gay quarter of Sydney, Australia, and my life changed forever.

I wrote this book partly to help others navigate the tricky terrain of homosexuality and the Christian faith. However, my main reason for writing was simply to share how God’s love has impacted my life. Rather than attempt to answer every question about homosexuality, I hoped to provide in this book’s pages a clear picture of how I was reconciled to God. The gay and Christian communities are often seen as polar opposites: one a progressive, inclusive community, the other a community of oppressive, archaic laws. Having stood on both sides, I know the reality is far more complex.

My late colleague Nabeel Qureshi, author of the New York Times bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, inspired me to write. Nabeel was diagnosed with stomach cancer when I began this book, and passed away in mid-2017. One evening in Oxford, just down the road from the famous Eagle and Child pub, Nabeel turned to me and said, David, you will bless more people through a book than you ever will through speaking. It’s time to write your story. Soon after, I met a prominent Christian evangelist, who agreed. David, he told me, you are called for a time such as this. I am grateful to them both for encouraging me forward.

A War of Loves is the story of how I met Jesus Christ, directly opposing the lie that God does not love gay or same-sex-attracted people, or any of us for that matter. I do three things in these pages.

Describe my personal quest for truth as someone from the gay community who became a Christian.

Provide insight into two worlds that often misunderstand each other.

Discuss the universal questions of love that both communities—indeed, all people—ask.

My prayer is that this book will be a resource not only on sexuality but also on how to know and experience God’s love. None of us are below or beyond that love. I wish a book like this had existed when I first wrestled with the questions that prompted it. Within the book’s limitations, I can’t offer a systematic doctrinal solution to the questions that arise regarding same-sex desire. Yet I do attempt to point below the surface to share hard-fought truths I’ve discovered.

You have probably noticed that I call myself gay or same-sex attracted (SSA). By using these terms, I stand with the thousands of LGBTQI people around the world who suffer threats, hate crimes, imprisonment, internment or refugee camps, or even capital punishment. These terms are not an ultimate identity but a part of my personal reality preresurrection. I remember those who have deeply struggled or even committed suicide because they felt unable to reconcile their faith and sexuality. I stand too with my same-sex-attracted or gay Christian brothers and sisters who are living faithfully before Christ.

I call myself gay to remind broader groups that what I choose to do with my sexuality as a Christian is caught up in my worship of God, and that the fundamental human desire for intimacy is ultimately fulfilled in a relationship with Jesus and what he accomplished on the cross for us all.

I call myself celibate because I have chosen, by God’s grace, to give my sexuality to Jesus Christ. The scriptural teaching on sex is reasonably clear, but there is so much more to the experience of being a gay or same-sex-attracted person than language-games, prohibitions, or information.

This book is not essentially about being gay. It is about finding a greater identity in Jesus Christ and becoming a son of God. My ultimate identity is found in Jesus Christ, but the reality of my same-sex desires is an important part of that story. Amid all the confusion around issues of faith and sexuality, I feel much like C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands: I have no answers anymore . . . only the life I have lived.¹ In the following pages, I invite you to consider the message of the glorious gospel that has impacted my life through this, my story.

PART 1

THE SEARCH

CHAPTER 1

COMING OUT

You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.

—Psalm 30:3

It was the first Friday evening since moving to the Sydney harborside, and a day after my fourteenth birthday. From a high sandstone outcrop bordering the water, I watched the sun set over a small mooring of boats. The chiming of their sails rang out from the cove and over the peninsula. A blush of ochre tinted the sky. Sydney Harbour Bridge was hidden behind the eucalyptus trees, but the cityscape was in view on the horizon, iridescent with skyscrapers.

Such beauty made me ache for someone to share it with—another young man. Standing in my untucked school uniform, I peered over the ledge, where water lapped at oyster-laden rocks down below. The ferry glided on the incoming tide with its monotone growl. Tears welled up from what I knew was true. I feel light enough to jump over the edge. The crushing ocean seemed lighter than my unwanted desires, and my feet dared me to step over the edge of the cliff. I pulled back in sudden horror. My heart raced as I ran home and the dusk fell.

Not long after, I found myself at school. The recess bell rang throughout the school grounds, and the summer sun shone over the brick buildings. More than a thousand boys, each in the traditional uniform of red-lined navy blazers, white shirt, grey woolen trousers, black shoes, and a navy blue tie, poured through the grounds to the entrances of the Anglican chapel. It was a chaotic sight that somehow always managed to become orderly in minutes as everyone lined up to enter. We resembled an army regiment at attention, with just a few naughty soldiers out of formation.

Soon the sound of hundreds of adolescent boys singing awkwardly from hymnbooks filled the chapel. As I took my place among the pews, my vision blurred. I had fond memories of singing solos in the boys’ choir before my voice broke, and of my favorite soprano solo: Howard Goodall’s The Lord Is My Shepherd. But today I was silent, repulsed by the thought of singing to a God I knew didn’t exist, since his only response to my unspoken questions had been a deafening silence.

My hardworking agnostic parents had attained an upper middle class lifestyle. Life was good, but I was often unhappy and lonely, surrounded by the boredom and beauty of the suburbs. I dreamed about escaping to the city, which offered the liberty and sophistication I craved.

Our extended family had a wide range of religious beliefs and convictions. With my Christian relatives, I often heard strange terms used to describe homosexuality. Either it was a kind of spiritual oppression that needed to be prayed away, or it was a result of sexual abuse that required serious healing. None of these pseudotheories fit me.

For other Christians, homosexuality was the worst of sins and homosexuals were God’s enemies. This rhetoric missed the reality of what I was going through and closed me down to the honest confession and self-acceptance I deeply desired ever since I awoke at the onset of puberty to my attraction to men. The widely variant views of why people are homosexual—genetics? abuse? father issues? something else entirely?—bombarded me. I felt so confused.

On top of this, coming to terms with my attractions at the age of fourteen meant entering an ugly, polarized culture war that spanned the globe. All I wanted was a place where I could be honest. All I wanted was to find a boyfriend and escape the monotony, and ignorance I perceived in the people around me. Then I could finally be accepted and move on with my life.

One night I cried out, Take these attractions away! Nothing changed, and the silence drove me farther away from Christianity. The attractions I’d felt since age nine weren’t about a lifestyle I’d chosen. They were about who I was.

Since a young age, I’d understood that a person’s romantic attractions shape their humanity. Love makes us human, and without it, life is not worth living. I wanted all that life had to offer, so I knew I had to keep my distance from those Christians who were getting in my way. Still, the message that God didn’t approve of people like me gnawed at my conscience.

For a year, I tried to think of the opposite sex the way my peers did. Then I dismissed such thoughts as ridiculous. I didn’t believe in God, so why worry anymore? My growing interest in men’s bodies had only increased, and the nervousness I experienced around certain members of the same sex brought me to a place where I knew I was attracted exclusively to men. I even wrote a poetry anthology about my inner secret.

As the chapel service ended, I concluded I could no longer put off the reality of my attractions. The more I denied them, the more miserable I became.

SEARCHING THROUGH SCIENCE

Why was I gay? Shows like Queer as Folk or Will and Grace simply told me I was made or born this way. That wasn’t particularly specific.

I began searching for an answer. I read through nature versus nurture arguments in studies. I googled everything I could find.

Simon LeVay’s research in 1991 showed there was a substantial difference between the brains of gay and straight men in the hypothalamus.² Other studies found that gay men responded to the pheromones of men, not women.³ Studies on identical twins showed a genetic contribution to sexual orientation, but not a genetic determination.⁴ More recent studies had shown the potential influence of the hormonal environment of the womb.⁵ Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory for homosexual behavior linked same-sex attraction to parental relationships. Environment? Biology? Genetics? Nurture? Hormones? Conditioning? Nothing was conclusive. Little was clear or known about the why of it. And that almost crushed me. Understanding myself seemed completely out of reach.

A war developed in me about how to understand this part of my identity. The belief that we’re all born this way wasn’t the whole story. I was more confused than ever.

READING THROUGH RELIGION

Since science couldn’t tell me why I was gay, I decided to try religion—and didn’t make it far.

Even if there was a Christian God, I felt disqualified from a relationship with him because of who I wanted to love. Yet I longed for intimacy of the spirit as much as that of the body—perhaps more.

Why did the relationship between Christianity and homosexuality have to be so complex? I read different Christian perspectives, progressive to traditional. Eventually I accepted the view that the apostle Paul was obviously unaware of any faithful, monogamous relationships between two members of the same sex. I decided his writing was a cultural artifact that didn’t hold the authority orthodox Christians gave it.

Throughout my schooling, I had been exposed to Christianity through camps, youth groups, and church activities. I always felt unable to belong, especially when I heard their teachings on homosexuality. Being gay was explained as rooted in a bad relationship with my father or other masculine figures. Whenever I heard this explanation used to dismiss the gay community, my stomach twisted. I, like many others I spoke to online, had a great relationship with my father. I had never been abused. My Greek father was an ambitious software executive and a generous man. We were different from each other, but I always knew he loved me. Our relationship was quite good; the father-figure story didn’t fit, and there were many gay people who had great relationships with their same-sex parent.

I felt like Christians were explaining me away, not entering into my experience. That was bad enough, but their explanation wasn’t even any good! I found it frustratingly hypocritical that Christians, who worshiped a savior of transparency and truth, couldn’t deal with my being honest about my humanity. Their obvious prejudice toward gay people only pushed me farther away. I perceived that perhaps homosexuality unearthed deeper problems in the church, especially an obsession with sexual desire.

All I

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