I am excited today to give some space to Brad Hambrick, as he promotes his forthcoming book on being good friends to those who experience and struggle with same-sex attraction. Having had the chance to read the rough draft of this book already I can assure you all it is worth your time. In this post Brad shares what you will learn from reading his work and I hope it will whet your appetite.
What Will I Learn in Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?
In the six paragraphs below I want to introduce you to the kind of questions that are addressed in the six chapters of my upcoming book Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. Through the content represented in the six chapter summaries below, I hope to equip the church to be a place where testimonies like the ones below become increasingly frequent.
- An individual who embraces a gay identity could say, “I have friends who are Christians and disagree with my chosen lifestyle but love me well. I believe they would gladly help me if I had a need.”
- A teenager who is beginning to experience SSA could say, “I have Christian friends who understand what I’m facing and care enough to help me think through this confusing experience.”
- Parents of a child who is experimenting with homosexual behaviors could say, “Our small group cared for us well and helped us think through how to love our son. It was surprising how safe we felt to wrestle with the questions we were facing.”
- An individual who was considering leaving the gay lifestyle could say, “The Christians that I knew while I was openly gay were a big part of the reason I may choose to pursue what I now believe to be God’s design for sexuality.”
If these statements represent the way you think conversations about homosexuality should be had in the church, I believe you’ll find Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk to be a helpful resource.
Chapter One: “Language, Stigma, and Expectations” What is the difference between the experience of same sex attraction, the engagement in homosexual behavior, and the embracing of a gay identity? How do these categories help Christians speak from a conservative sexual ethic without shutting down conversation? What are the terms and forms of logic that immediately designate us “unsafe” for those who experience SSA? What are healthy, realistic expectations in a voluntary conversation when two people have a vested interest in conflicting value systems? How can the church be a safe place for these conversations, so that “coming out” after 10+ years of silence is not the only way to let people know what you’re experiencing?
Chapter Two: “Being Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” Talking about sex is awkward enough. If we inadvertently believe that Romans 1 is the only road to homosexuality (i.e., progressive sexual depravity), then we respond to individuals who experience SSA as if they were the equivalent of sex addicts and pedophiles. Our ignorance of the SSA experience heightens the awkwardness of these conversations and increases the likelihood we will be inadvertently offensive. This chapter examines the common internal obstacles to being a mature, informed participant in conversations with friends or family members who experience SSA.
Chapter Three: “Getting to Know the Experience of SSA” What is it like to realize that your experience of romantic attraction is different from most people? What are the common markers in the journey of individuals who experience SSA and what emotions accompany them? What is it like to “know” that your attractions cannot be talked about “at church” but other people’s can? How would that dynamic influence your experience of Christianity and culture in general? An appreciation for these questions (not necessarily agreement with your friend’s conclusions) is vital to being a good friend.
Chapter Four: “Getting to Know the Person Experiencing SSA” An appreciation for chapter three does not constitute the knowledge of any given individual. Knowledge about a subject without knowledge of a person is debate-prep more than relationship; it aims at winning an argument more than influencing a person. This chapter will provide good questions to ask based upon the content of chapter three and give guidance on how not to reduce an individual to their sense of attraction as the subject comes to the forefront of conversation.
Chapter Five: “Winning an Argument vs. Influencing a Friend” A cliché or gotcha line never transformed anyone’s sexuality. They get applause from those who agree with you and disdain from those who don’t; they polarize. What should be our tone and emphasis when discussing biblical passages on homosexuality? How early in a relationship do I need to bring up these passages in order to be a faithful Christian? Is it profitable to discuss things like research biases in genetic findings related to homosexuality? If so, how, when, and for what purpose? At what point does protecting a friendship for the sake of influence become moral compromise?
Chapter Six: “Navigating Difficult Conversations” Would you go to my wedding? Should my parents allow me and my partner to come over for Christmas? Am I not supposed to be hurt by Christians who say things you deem to be true, but say them in attacking-demeaning ways? If I do not experience any, or very limited, opposite attraction do I have to remain celibate my entire life to be a Christian? These and other subjects are addressed through an annotated dialogue that helps the reader think through what it would be like to have conversations about what they’ve read with someone who experiences same sex attraction.