Published by Good Book Company on March 1, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Memoir
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As a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction, is it possible to live a life that's faithful and fulfiling? Rachel Gilson wants to show you that it is. Living as a Christian with same-sex attraction is not just a case of limping to the finish line—it's possible to run the race with joy.
In this powerful and personal book, she describes her own unexpected journey of coming out and coming to faith... and what came next. As she does so, she addresses many of the questions that Christians living with same-sex attraction are wrestling with: Am I consigned to a life of loneliness? How do I navigate my friendships? Will my desires ever change? Is there some greater purpose to all this? What comes next, and next, and next?
Drawing on insights from the Bible and the experiences of others, Born Again This Way provides assurance and encouragement for Christians with same-sex attraction, and paints a compelling picture of discipleship for every believer. Whatever your sexuality, this book is an inspiring testimony of how a life submitted to Jesus will be fulfilling and fruitful—but not always in the ways we might expect.
There is perhaps no bigger social and relational issue in the church right now than LGBTQ+ issues. It is imperative that our churches—pastors and laypeople—be able to define their theology of sexuality and gender identity, appropriately engage with people in the LGBTQ+ community, and lead them to begin or deepen their relationship with Christ.
To that end, I have taken a journey to educate myself. And the way in which I educate myself is by reading books. I’ve read scholarly studies and theological treatises, but I wanted to turn to the writings of those who have same-sex attraction but also believe acting on that to be sinful.
In this review, I don’t want to unpack my own theological position with all its nuances. Suffice it to say that I think if a person with same-sex attraction feels convicted in not acting on that attraction, I believe it is a conviction they should follow.
Born Again This Way is Rachel Gilson’s story of coming out, coming to faith, and figuring out those two things could come together in her life. While the book’s title and subtitle lends itself to memoir, the substance is more a didactic development of her beliefs regarding sexuality. Gilson’s focus in not really on coming out or coming to faith, but discovering how to reconcile her same-sex attraction with her conservative Christian belief that acting on that attraction would be sinful.
In her words: “I was mentally convinced of the what of my sexuality: to say no to same-gender lust and actions. I had no access, however, to the why.” (p. 22)
Born Again This Way is her answer to the “Why?”
The answer from chapter one is “Trust God’s ‘no’ even when you don’t understand why.” This is paired with “Seek to understand why” and I appreciate that. Too often the church’s teaching on sexuality has been “Do it this way. Don’t question it.” Being willing to question the why is a start.
The answer from chapter two comes in the form of God’s design for humanity and relationships, specifically the marriage relationship. Here’s where I don’t quite agree with Gilson. She seems to indicate that procreation should be a prominent part of a Christian marriage and that lacking such would be to lack the fruitfulness metaphor marriage has with the union of Christ and the church. Her theology of singleness is likewise contrived, saying that singleness has dignity because “a truer marriage is coming and they are willing to bet their life on it.”
Chapter three is probably the strongest chapter, in my opinion, because it recognizes that believing one should not act on same-sex attraction does not mean that same-sex attraction goes away. God does not call gay people to become straight, but to subordinate their sexual desires to his desire for holiness.
Chapter four follows this up to talk about how living this public life as a gay woman committed to same-sex celibacy can become a ministry of reminding others to place Christ supreme in their lives—and not their sexuality, their lusts, their desires, or any other thing.
Chapter five is a fairly non-controversial and non-remarkable chapter on same-sex friendships and the other kinds of relationships one can develop outside of a sexual relationship and those can be fulfilling. It sort of mitigates against the lessons of chapter two, which upholds the inviolability of the marriage metaphor, but is, I think, a more accurate assessment than chapter two presents.
Chapter six details her marriage: “In 2007, I married a man. But it wasn’t because I had fallen in love.” This sentence runs so counter to our Western minds (Christian and non-) that I really wish the entire book had been about this experience. Unfortunately, with only a chapter to devote to it, the reader is left with a lot of questions that never really get answered. The idea that marriage is about devotion and commitment—that it is “about love but not necessarily about romance” (p. 96)—is compelling and deserves a more robust discussion.
Chapter seven tells the opposite side of Gilson’s story, which is the story of those called to celibacy as a result of their exclusive same-sex attraction. The final chapters sort of tie all the threads together and end where the book started: human sexuality is to be placed under the authority of Christ.
Born Again This Way is very carefully written to be gentle and compassionate toward those with same-sex attraction. Gilson’s tone is caring and understanding. But at the same time, Gilson just sort of presents her position without much a discussion of the beliefs of those who believe otherwise. Her audience seems to be those who were like her: already convinced that acting on same-sex attraction was sinful, but not sure what that meant for them and their sexuality.
I wish that it would have leaned more toward memoir—life is story, after all—and I’m not necessarily in agreement with all of Gilson’s conclusions. But I do believe that she should live out her convictions all while showing love and grace to those who do not share those convictions. And she succeeds wonderfully here.