May 13, 2007

Book Review: "Calling The Rainbow Nation Home"

As I read more books about homosexuality and Christianity, I have seen two primary methods of telling stories and teaching views of God’s word. Writers generally emphasize experiences along their own personal, and often bumpy, walk with the Lord, or they take a more scholarly approach in reviewing and explaining scripture.

In her book “Calling The Rainbow Nation Home” (2005, iUniverse, 200 pages), Elaine Sundby does an excellent job of mixing both methods. First, Rev. Sundby, the founder of Faith Full Gospel Church and, writes about her struggle with accepting the fact she was a lesbian. In the second half of the book, she explains how she reconciled that with her Christianity in a way that encourages other GLBT people to walk similar steps and reach the same destination.

During a difficult childhood, Rev. Sundby had a “come to Jesus” moment as a teenager, but that did not instantly turn her life around because she was still a girl living in a negative situation. Gradually, as she moved away from home and went to college, she began to find out who she was. Despite struggling scholastically in high school, she plowed her way through college and discovered that God had given her athletic gifts. She was coached in how to throw the javelin and became one of the best in the country and also won a national championship as a softball player.

During this time, she also began to understand that she was attracted to women. As with so many young Christians, it was drilled into her head that homosexuality was a deep, dark sin and a desire that could NEVER be acted upon. Rev. Sundby poured over her Bible and spent hour after hour in prayer asking for God to reveal His will to her. The answer came suddenly and clearly:

…..the Holy Spirit asked me a simple question: “Elaine, how is someone saved?”

“What?” I replied, “That’s not what I’m asking.”

Not to be deterred, the Holy Spirit gently asked again: “How are you saved?” At that moment, the famous passage in Scripture came to mind:

John 3:16 (NIV): For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The simplicity of the truth hit me. I had been asking the wrong question. The issue was not sin, but salvation! God had told us that “whosoever” (King James translation) believes in his son would not perish. “Whosoever” did not exclude anyone; instead, it included everyone. There was simply no group of people who would—or could—be excluded from accepting God’s salvation.

For Rev. Sundby, that resolved part one of a two-part issue. She was now clear that she would not be sentenced to Hell for being a lesbian, but would she be sinning if she allowed herself to develop a relationship with the woman she was strongly attracted to? Were homosexual relationships by their very nature a sin? Here’s how she answered that question.

It depends is my answer. Being gay or straight has nothing to do with it. The issue is really about the quality of the relationship we have with God, with others, and with ourselves. God simply asks us: “Is your relationship based on, and operating in, My love or not? Does it encourage both people to spiritually grow and deepen their union with God? Is it loving and healthy for both parties?” If your relationship encourages and enhances these things, then it most assuredly is not a sin.

Having that resolved, Rev. Sundby allowed herself to embrace the love of her life, Pam, and they are still happily together. She also answered the call to ministry and became the founding pastor at Faith Full Gospel Fellowship in San Leandro, California. She moved forward with Pam with this foundation:

God and sin simply cannot coexist together: it is impossible.

2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV): For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

Therefore, my personal conclusions about what sin was, and was not, really didn’t matter. If being with Pam was a sin, it would cause a separation between God and me.

I found this a particularly important section where Rev. Sundby explains her understanding of why GLBT people are ostracized by so many Christians.

Fear is not from the Lord; it operates in Satan’s kingdom (1 John 4:18; Rom. 8:15), yet we build complete belief systems around our fears and prejudices, and people fight change. There is no getting around the fact that it’s far easier to understand how one can be gay and Christian when one is gay and Christian.

I have also found it common for those who consider homosexuality an “abomination” to “prove” their cause by quoting every Scripture they can find pertaining to sexual sin and promiscuity. It is important to understand that Christians in the gay community are also adamantly against sexual sin. The difference lies in the fact that we do not believe God has singled out any particular community or nation of people as “evil” or “sinful,” believing instead that God’s edicts are applied without prejudice to all people and communities—homosexual and heterosexual alike.

Rev. Sundby also wrote a section titled “Remain in the State in which You Were Called.”

Like the Gentiles before us, God has never asked us to change who we are in order to receive his salvation or the spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 7:24 (Amplified): “So, brethren, in whatever station or state or condition of life each one was when he was called, there let him continue with and close to God.

In closing, Rev. Sundby has a message for how GLBT Christians needed to move forward:

Our priorities seem reversed at times. We seek first for acceptance, and then for fellowship. The problem is that protesting, picketing, and attacks through the press only serve to drive the two parties further apart. This is not the witness Christ wants us to be demonstrating to the world. Our humanism is on display rather than the character of Christ.

…..We need to focus first on reaching out to the lost within our own communities and then on building relationships with others within the Christian community. The best witness they have that God has accepted homosexuals—is us! But there can be no witness if there is no relationship.

I often criticize leaders from the religious right for trying to force their will on legislators and even as amendments to the United States Constitution. While I encourage GLBT advocacy in the public square, the approach Rev. Sundby is also very important and, I believe, severely under-utilized.

“Calling the Rainbow Nation Home” is a wonderful book that I highly recommend to all GLBT people and heterosexuals who are interested in understanding the difficult path a gay person has to walk to reach God, and how to reconcile that with what they have been previously been taught about the sinfulness of homosexuality.

No comments:

Post a Comment