David Bennett, A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus (Zondervan, 2018)
Whatever stance we may take on issues of faith and sexuality, this book will challenge our thinking and provoke in us a desire to obey Jesus’ command to love one another. David allows us to join him on his journey through faith and belief as an atheist, an agnostic, and finally a devoted follower of Jesus, and we get to observe his changing stance on sexual expression, from an ‘out’ gay teenager, through gay activism, to a gay Christian and ultimately a celibate gay/SSA Christian.
Although David starts his journey on one or other side of several different ideological and cultural fences, his various life experiences have caused him to ‘switch sides’. In this book, he shares with us the thought processes that led him to change his thinking and join those on the ‘other side’. Experiencing and understanding the ideology and beliefs on both sides of the fence gives him a unique calling and ability to help us understand each other and each other’s point of view. He sets out clear challenges to each group, highlighting the idols of our various cultures, imploring us all to, like him, pull down the fences and be gracious to one another. If you let it, his story will challenge you, whichever group you are in, whether Christian or not, someone who holds to traditional views of marriage, family and sexuality, or someone who holds to our culture’s view that our desires should govern sexual behaviour. Whether you are someone who struggles with your sexuality or who never has, David’s story will help and challenge you.
Whether you are someone who struggles with your sexuality or who never has, David’s story will help and challenge you.
David’s search for truth, his thoughtful observations and helpful provocations are woven between delightful vignettes of the significant events, people and locations in his story. Voicing on the pages his heart’s cry, his doubts and fears, his thoughts and questions, his joy and excitement, even his despair, this is the story of David’s battle to find his true identity in Christ rather than in his sexuality or anything else, and it compels us all to do the same.
As this is an autobiography rather than a reference book, it is easy reading and David covers these issues broadly rather than going into technical detail. But he is by no means superficial; indeed, much of his thinking is profound. The book will therefore have a broad appeal to Christians who want to be provoked to think about these issues and who are not afraid of being presented with views that are different to their own. It will provide a challenge to all Christians, but perhaps particularly to church leaders. There’s challenge not just to be careful about what we say and how we speak on this topic, or just to seek to reverse the Church’s reputation regarding LGBT people, but also to smash our idol of marriage, to elevate celibacy and to seriously consider ways to integrate all single people into the family of God. For, as David says, ‘A weak culture of friendship and fellowship excludes LGBTQI people and forces them to look for intimacy in the wrong places. We need a community life like the one modelled in Acts, in which believers lived as a new family in the light of Jesus’ life and mission to the nations’ (p.231). I found myself chewing over many quotable lines and paragraphs like that.
As he explores and analyses the ideology and beliefs our western culture holds about love, relationships, romance, sex, and friendship, David warns us all, married or single, ‘Those who define themselves through eros are actually seeking the transcendence of union with God. But they will never find it in human relationships’ (p.165).
The book concludes with a discourse elevating celibacy as not just an adequate way to live, but one that has the potential to honour God, be spiritually fruitful, provide for physical needs, and be emotionally satisfying.
‘Celibacy is neither an easy gift nor a repressive burden. It’s an opportunity—an opportunity not that different from marriage, to trust in God’s capacity to provide for our need for intimacy’ (p.166).
In A War of Loves, David sets out for us a path of grace and truth between the opposing views on this contentious subject. As he states, ‘The church needs a new apologetic, a way of thought and life that neither demonizes nor elevates the same-sex desires facing many faithful Christians’ (p.209).
Gay or same-sex attracted believers will find much encouragement within the pages of this book. David finishes the last chapter, drawing parallels with the story of Abraham and Lot. He makes an appeal for us all to choose a walk of faith with God like Abraham and to reject the way of Lot, impacted by the customs and beliefs of the pagan place in which he chose to settle. This book will help us all to heed that appeal.