Protestants love a good conversion story. We especially love them when those conversations are dramatic and draw people out of the seemingly far corners of cultural sinfulness, like, for example, homosexuality. Jackie Hill Perry has one of those conversions stories, and she writes about it with brilliance and beauty. Yet, it is not the specifics of her past life as a lesbian which makes Jackie’s story so important for the church to read. Gay Girl, Good God describes conversion as both a painful and an ongoing process in Jackie’s life. It is because of those two elements that the modern church needs this book.
We often tells stories about conversion that make coming to Christ seem simple and happy. Like the realization of despair and the awakening to joy happen smoothly. Jackie describes her conversion quite a bit differently. Her story is far more akin to Rosaria Butterfield’s, another ex-lesbian who described her own conversion as a “train wreck.” Jackie’s story reminds us that coming to Christ does upend and destroy a world, even as it creates a path for new life. Jackie’s story is also significant in that it doesn’t stop at the moment of conversion, but moves on past her initial response to the gospel and shows just all that coming to Christ meant for her life. The modern church far too often settles for the initial point of conversion and fails to consider all that “taking up your cross and following” Jesus involves. Such valuable reminders makes Gay Girl, Good God worth the read.
The book is broken down into three parts. Parts one and two follow the traditional pattern of Christian testimony: Who I was (Part 1), and Who I Became (Part 2). Part three turns to specific issues related to Same-Sex Attraction. Part one focuses primarily on Jackie’s life of sin and explores God’s call upon her. The conversion story she tells is one of God taking everything she loved and calling her to turn from sin. At this point in the story, even as God is calling her, she views the Lord as an unwanted intruder. Her descriptions are important for they catalogue a type of conversion that is far more common than we might realize and give the average Christian a lens through which to view conversions that aren’t all pretty and pleasant.
Part two shifts focus to living life in light of God’s call upon her life. Conversion to God was not the end of the story for Jackie. There was much that she was going to have to continually adjust to, embrace, and deny. Her own lusts would have to be killed, but so too would her pride. She would need to understand the church, discipleship, and herself in light of God’s Word. She also details her learning to embrace dating, relationships, and marriage in a different light. These chapters help readers to see what ongoing conversion looks like. For those who have grown up in the church or who have been Christians a long time, it is tempting to forget how costly following Jesus is. It is tempting to forget how much of an upheaval of all of life is involved. These chapters help to give readers a testimony to the transition and sanctification that happens for many within those early months and years of conversion.
Part three focuses in on central questions for those Christians who struggle with a same-sex attraction. Jackie is less scholarly than other writers might be, but she presents compelling, accessible, and well-reasoned arguments here on issues related to identity, endurance, and heterosexuality. Her chapter on endurance is particularly fresh and important.
This is a wonderful book. I often found myself struck by the beauty of her prose. Jackie Hill Perry writes with grit, honesty, beauty, and brilliance. She can craft a sentence like few Christian writers, and she tells a story of grace that is both raw and amazing. I am grateful for her testimony, and I am grateful that she chose to share it with the church as a whole. We need the reminders that not every conversion is painless, and that often post-conversion there is a great deal of adjustment for new believers. Gay Girl, Good God is a great example of the kind of modern testimonies that many will have and that the broader church needs to understand.