Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James V. Brownson
After spending years hearing people glibly declare, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” or slinging around certain key “proof” texts from the Bible, I was longing for a book that would delve into the Bible’s complexity and actual ambiguity regarding LGBT individuals and relationships. The Bible study I undertook for myself in 2012 showed me that my own understanding of the Bible is steeped in assumptions about language, history, and context, and some of that has shifted since the original text was written. This is not to say that I cannot or should not view the Bible as an authoritative text in my life, but rather to ask how and why I read it a certain way and what sorts of assumptions I do make that lead to certain interpretations. James V. Brownson has certainly written such a book. It is rich, engaging, and thoroughly exhaustive in its research, and it is a terrific academic glimpse into the LGBT Christian debate.
Brownson is a theology professor at Western Theological Seminary in Michigan, and like many other allies, he became an ally when faced with the coming out of someone beloved—in his case, his own son. Brownson’s soul-search turned into a comprehensive academic search: what does the Bible actually say about marriage? About celibacy? He provides biblical and historical contexts, particularly when examining Hebrew and Greco-Roman societies, the times in which the Bible was written. His discussions regarding Paul are particularly helpful, since many of the bullets in the non-affirming gun come directly from the writings of Paul. I felt that I had a much clearer understanding of marriage and what was meant by same-sex relationships from other eras in contrast with our own.
This is a terrific book for someone who is academic and/or open-minded about becoming an affirming Christian. I already was an affirming Christian, but I felt that I understood the parameters of the debate more clearly, and I had sources to examine and study to comprehend non-affirming arguments better than I did. I am sure plenty of people will try to pull apart Brownson’s theology (particularly in my own faith, bless them), but I felt it was a robust argument for same-sex marriage affirmed within the Christian faith.