September 17, 2007

Book Review: "Gay Christian 101"

Rick Brentlinger’s Gay Christian 101; by Rick Brentlinger, 390 pp., Salient Press, $22.95

The title of this book sets the tone for what one finds inside. It sounds like a textbook for a class and, like all 101 classes are in college, it teaches fundamental knowledge about a subject that is the foundation for further learning. Rick Brentlilnger’s book fills that role for the issue of, taking this from the cover of the book, “What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.”

The subtitle of the book is “Spiritual Self-Defense For Gay Christians,” but I think that actually sells it short. Rather than defending the whole idea of gay Christians, it makes a compelling case for biblical interpretations that not only don’t condemn homosexuals but actually demonstrate God’s blessings and approval.

I know simply by writing that sentence I am considered a heretic by right-wing fundamentalists, but at least I have good company with people like my church family and teachers like Rick Brentlinger.

Rev. Brentlinger is a Baptist (clearly not Southern Baptist) minister, a church planter, and a bible teacher. In Gay Christian 101, he also shows exceptional skills at research, exhaustively plowing through historical writings that are many centuries old. By doing this, Brentlinger shows not only the historic context of key scriptures but also that current anti-gay interpretations are often relatively recent, finding ancient writings that support a much more gay-friendly perspective.

On the back cover, Brentlinger tells readers what they can expect from his work:

The Bible never mentions homosexuals in Sodom
A key anti-gay writer admits that Sodom does not support anti-homosexual teaching
Proof the Levitical Holiness Code refers to pagan worship, not homosexuality
Presents five strong new analogies from Scripture which validate loving gay relationships
Proof that Jonathan and David had an intimate partnership
Shows where Jesus blessed two men in a gay relationship
Proof that Jesus Exempted gay people from the Adam and Eve marriage paradigm
Proof that the first chapter of Romans does not condemn gay partnerships
Proof that malakos & arsenokoites (two words in the original writings of the Bible) do not mean homosexual

These are very ambitious goals, but by and large I found that Brentlinger accomplished them. Where he may have come up short of absolutely proving a point, he at least made arguing against it seem silly, far-fetched, and uninformed.

Not only was his research exceptionally detailed and thorough, I was impressed that he did not limit the perspectives he presented to the ones he viewed (and supported) as correct. Far to the contrary, he at times almost overwhelms the reader with alternate viewpoints, considering all angles of the critical issues regarding homosexuality and the Bible. For example, Brentlinger presented 18 different interpretations of Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, explaining what type of people believe them, then sorting out and presenting what he believes the evidence shows.

I would caution readers that this book is not an easy read. After all, when is the last time you picked up a textbook and casually blew through it? Brentlinger obviously invested many, many hours into putting this work together, and it requires some effort and dedication to make it through a 390-page book of this density. I would suggest taking it a chapter at a time and allow some time for that information to sink in before tanking on the next chapter—the volume of information could start to run together otherwise.

You may even reach different conclusions—there is enough alternative information provided to make that possible—but he does such a good job of methodically making his points that disagreeing with his final conclusions would be very difficult.

The bottom line is that this book is worth the effort to read and study. I strongly recommend it for anyone who (1) is gay or lesbian, (2) has a gay or lesbian loved one, (3) is involved in GLBT ministry or advocacy, (4) wants a comprehensive study of views about what the Bible says about homosexuality that goes beyond the simple condemnation of right-wing fundamentalists.

I have what I call my “ministry book bag” that I carry around with me just in case I have some time to sit down and do some studying and/or writing. Along with my Bible, I carry some compact reference books. After finishing Gay Christian 101, that book now has a permanent resting place in my book bag.

I have never read a more comprehensive study of how homosexuality is and is not treated in the Bible than this book, and I suspect you haven’t either.

You can read more about this book and order it at You will also find more commentary and numerous additional resources for the gay Christian at this website, and I encourage you to check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Jim-

    What a blessing to see this wonderful review of my book.

    Thank you so much for posting this!

    Your brother in Christ,

    Rick Brentlinger