Brad & Drew Harper, Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and his Gay Son (ZEAL Books, 2016)
Every so often you come across a book that you can’t believe you’ve missed, that you read cover to cover in an afternoon, and that you immediately want to recommend to everyone: Brad & Drew Harper’s Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and his Gay Son is such a rare example.
The conversation it records is a beautifully honest one. One in which the gay son (Drew) talks movingly (and humorously) about his experience growing up gay in an evangelical home and the damage caused him by attempts to ‘cure’ him as a teenager. Alongside all of this you hear from his theologian father (Brad) as he confesses to the confusion he felt as a parent and the mistakes that were made in seeking to care for his son. The warmth of their current relationship is felt page after page but that stops neither of them from being wonderfully candid about the past: there are confessions and apologies, alongside thanks and praise, from both father and son. I cried as I benefitted from their willingness to let other people learn from their experiences (with input from other family members too).
What I found most moving about the conversation was the clear love and respect they display for each other alongside their continuing disagreements over the ethics of same-sex sexual relationships.
What I found most moving about the conversation was the clear love and respect they display for each other alongside their continuing disagreements over the ethics of same-sex sexual relationships. Both have come to a point where they actively seek to expose the stereotyping and diminishing of opponents that takes place within the evangelical and LGBTQ+ communities. Their painfully earnt understanding of each other’s viewpoints helps them bridge the gaps there so often are between evangelical and LGBTQ+ family members. I especially loved the many moments when they pause to give practical advice to those in similar situations: the dad’s wisdom about how to welcome your son’s boyfriend and the son’s humility in urging respect for parents you disagree with.
At almost every Living Out event I am approached by an evangelical parent, sibling or child wanting to know how they can best continue to love and care for an LGBTQ+ loved one. All their obvious questions are touched on in this book and wonderfully (uniquely?) answered from both perspectives: you read a father’s concerns about staying with his gay son and boyfriend and then his son’s sensitivities about the same visit. This is a priceless book I will now be recommending wholeheartedly to all in similar situations for the insight and grace contained on every page – from both the evangelical theologian and his gay son.
Parents might also find this article helpful: How Should I Respond If My Child Comes Out to Me?