December 18, 2006

Book Review: "The Rainbow Kindgom: Christianity & the Homosexual Reconciled

There have been several books written in recent years with the purpose of reconciling homosexuality and Christianity, but if you want an easy-to-understand version that covers the basics, David W. Shelton’s “The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity and the Homosexual Reconciled” (129 pages, Lulu, $12.95) is an excellent choice.

Shelton, who has covered this topic extensively on his blog, “Skipping To The Piccolo, wrote in the preface of his book:

"This volume is not meant to be an exhaustive resource for the theological and Biblical study on the topic of homosexuality. It’s not even meant to replace other volumes that have covered this topic so well. Most of the book is based on my own life and studies of Scripture."

With this approach, Shelton delivers a book that contains a good depth of research but also reaches readers on a personal level, one where both straight and gay people alike can walk through the steps he lays out and understand how he reaches his conclusions. As I read it, I felt like I was taking that step-by-step walk with Shelton which made it easy to invest the time to read the book and also to buy in to his message.

Shelton is a pastor and gay man who lives in Tennessee, yet he is careful not to be defined by either label and cautions his GLBT brothers and sisters to avoid that pitfall. In what I found one of the more profound and moving passages in the book, Shelton wrote:

“Any part of our lives, whether it’s our job, our favorite food, our music, and our sexuality…..hetero or homo…..can be allowed to become something so important in our lives that it becomes the very thing that defines it.

I believe that when we start looking at those who have spoken such verbal violence toward us in recent decades with a kind of dismissive disdain that we start to judge them, then our sexuality has become a master. In other words, when our sexuality becomes so important that it’s the filter through which we judge others, then it’s exactly the kind of thing that we accuse “them” of doing."

I think this is a point that sometimes gets lost in the struggle for GLBT rights. I have run across a number of gay people who are so caught up in being gay and fighting the good fight that they lose track of everything else around them. I have a deep respect for the work that activists do, but everyone needs an anchor to reality—there is more to live than any one thing, even our sexuality.

“The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity and the Homosexual Reconciled” is broken up into two parts. In the first half, Shelton goes through the “clobber passages” of Scripture, giving a thorough analysis of the key verses. He does so in an easy to follow style, telling a story rather than writing a scholarly essay.

Shelton then systematically walks through the issues of context and the factors of society at the time Biblical events occurred that have been misinterpreted and misrepresented through the centuries and comes to the well-supported conclusion that these passages do NOT condemn homosexuality as sinful. He points out that there were many sinful acts committed by homosexuals, but they were actually cast in the same net as heterosexuals, a critical point many scholars and Christians have missed over the years.

Shelton starts the second half of the book by reviewing some of the pertinent Biblical stories, starting with David and Jonathan. He presents some very clear evidence to support the view that they had a homosexual relationship. Shelton points out that this relationship did not diminish the stature of either man in God’s eyes or that of the church.

The book concludes with Shelton’s thoughts on how a GLBT person should walk out this knowledge that he or she can reconcile their homosexuality and Christianity. He urges the community to rise up:

"It’s time for us to end our denial, come out of the closet, and to embrace our faith. We can reconcile. We can hope. We can live, dream, and love. We can worship, sing, pray, and yes, even have faith.

We can be gay. We MUST be gay. And we must be Christian. And most importantly, we must be OUT. In doing so, we can begin to show the world around us that we are not a contradiction at all. Instead, we’ll show that we are men and women of God who happen to be gay.

We need to reclaim the promises of Christ. As we leave the closet and reenter the Church, we do so with our heads held high and our hearts turned toward God. We should live as examples of stability, integrity, and honor."

I believe Shelton’s points here are critically important. I have written here time and again how no one can fully serve God and utilize the gifts He gave us if we don’t accept who we are. If you are gay, you must accept that to realize the full potential of the life that God wants you to have.

It is also important for gay Christians to set the example Shelton writes about to serve as a beacon of light to draw others from the darkness that life without Christ sentences them to. He emphasizes that point at the conclusion of the book:

"We can stand tall with confidence before the throne of grace, and before the judgements of others and know that God has not only called us, but empowered us. He called us to love, to show mercy, and to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to all nations.

That, dear friend, is how we should live in the Rainbow Kingdom."

David W. Shelton has painted a wonderful picture of the Rainbow Kingdom which is worth your time to check out. You can order a copy at the book's official website.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. And for your site. AND for the link to our church's site (Rainbow Cathedral, Yakima, WA)! :-)