Brad Hambrick on Why Christians Should Have Gay Friends

ASKTELL-latest2Today I have a special blog post. Brad Hambrick is doing some of the best work in the field of Biblical Counseling right now. I have been deeply blessed and helped as both a counselor and a Christian by his work, his manuals, and his teaching. So, when I heard that he was writing a short book on the issue of Christians befriending their gay neighbors I was very excited.

In what follows Brad explains why he wrote the book. Check it out and look for his forthcoming Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends from Cruciform Press.

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Why Did I Write Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

It might be more helpful, at least at first, to explain why I didn’t write Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. I didn’t write this book because I believe homosexuality is the most important or pressing issue of our day. Actually, to the contrary, I wrote this book because it was my perception (accurate or inaccurate) that part of what complicates the subject is that only people who are very passionate about the subject have the courage-boldness-audacity (whatever you prefer to call) to speak or write on the subject.

It was my belief that someone who didn’t feel like history hinges on homosexuality needed to be part of the conversation. This is why in the opening chapter I try to help readers have an accurate feel for how I weigh the importance of this subject.

I do not consider homosexuality my “hill to die on” issue. I don’t believe the probability of experiencing the Third Great Awakening or whether America remains a geo-political superpower hinges on the moral-political issues surrounding homosexuality. Neither do I believe that gay rights are the logical extension of women’s suffrage or racial equality efforts.

If your position on homosexuality is approximated in the paragraph above, you may be uncomfortable with this book. When the subject is framed in either of these ways, the answer becomes so immediately “obvious” that only an idiotic or evil person could disagree with you. Even if this is where you are, I hope you’ll keep reading.

There is a second reason I wrote this book – I was asked to; both directly and indirectly. This book was not on my radar until a friend came to me and said, “Would you be willing to write a book on how conservative Christians can have gay friends without compromising their convictions? I think that kind of book is missing and it’s not something we do well. I think you have a tone in dealing with sensitive subjects that could navigate the topic well.”

My initial answer was, “No. Thank you for the encouragement, but I don’t think I’m passionate enough about the subject to write a book on it.” But the request was sticky and I began to listen a bit more closely to the debates in the Christian blogosphere. That is when I began to realize my non-passion for the subject might be an asset instead of a liability.

When I listened to the debate, my assessment was (feel free to disagree) that “conservatives” came across as if they had never cried with a friend who experienced same sex attraction and was wondering what this meant, and “liberals” came across as if the only way to be authentic was to embrace a gay identity; as if sexual attraction trumps every other aspect of personhood.

I couldn’t imagine experiencing same sex attraction and having to choose between these two polarized sources of guidance when I just wanted someone to help me think through my experience of same sex attraction.

Then I began to reflect on the number of pastoral counseling conversations I’ve had with individuals who experienced unwanted same sex attraction. I thought about one of the primary sticking points in these conversations: the absence of authentic friendships in which these individuals could be fully known (honest about their struggle) and fully loved (without placing a strain on their Christian friendships) without embracing a gay identity and joining the gay community.

Counseling provides relief, but only community can offer hope. As I say in chapter two of Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk, “Counseling without friendship is like being stranded in the ocean and given a raft for one hour a week but asked to swim the other 167 hours.” A counselor who cares without a church that understands was creating an impasse; there was hope (“God doesn’t hate me because I experience same sex attraction”) without direction (“I am still incredibly alone and the church doesn’t seem willing to help alleviate this significant part of my struggle”).

So I said yes and I began the process of writing Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. My enthusiasm for the value of the project has grown. But, honestly, I don’t look forward to the controversy it may bring. Who can write 100 pages on homosexuality and not upset some people? That grieves me. Not because I am thin-skinned and anxious about people not liking me, but because “debating the topic” usually means “missing the person” who is struggling.

My greatest prayer for this book would be that God would use this book to equip the church to build bridges of friendship to care well for Christians who experience unwanted same sex attraction and non-believers who did not find the fulfillment they hoped in embracing a gay identity. When those conversations are being had in living rooms and coffee shops, maybe it could even change the tone of conversation on social platforms and debate panels.

Regardless of whether that latter, lofty objective is achieved, I will be elated if Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk results in same sex attraction no longer feeling like a sentence of “solitary confinement” for individuals looking for hope and direction from the church, more specifically from individual Christian friends, in the midst of their experience of same sex attraction.

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