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David Bennett's biography A War of Loves will challenge every Christian who engages with it, argues Fraser Atkins
This book will probably make you uncomfortable: and that is exactly why you should read it.
By writing a brutally honest account of his personal story, David Bennett provides a timely insight into two worlds that have so often misunderstood each other - the Church and the LGBT community.
A War of Loves is more than an autobiography. It is a testament to the call and cost of being a disciple of Jesus. We find our truest belonging when we are in pursuit of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit, entering into deep, never-ending relationship with our creator father.
David shares openly about the challenges most people experience when they discover they do not fit into the heterosexual norm. He continues with courageous vulnerability and shares about his activism among the LGBT+ community, his unexpected encounter with Jesus, his being filled with the Spirit, and his wrestle before deciding to live openly as a gay, celibate Christian.
As he reflects on his journey, David presents four challenges for the Church:
1. The Church needs to listen
For too long, queer people have felt the Church has preferred to explain them away instead of entering into their experience. A lack of empathy has led to rejection, dismissal and ridicule. Reading David’s story will give insight into how indescribably difficult and exhausting it can be to navigate being gay - both inside and outside of the Church.
2. The Church needs to recognise the God-given value of its non-straight members
In conversations about sexuality, scripture is often used to condemn. David holds the tension of an orthodox reading of the Bible with an inclusion of passages that highlight that queer people of faith are also part of God’s benevolent, divine conspiracy to reveal his love to humanity.
3. The Church is meant to be a home
Jesus is a savior of transparency and truth, yet the Church is often the last place that people can be honest about their humanity. Everyone - whatever their gender or sexual orientation - desires a place to belong. The Church should be where we discover and pursue our greatest belonging: intimate relationship with our Creator God.
4. The Church is meant to be a family
The dawn of the early Church ushered in kingdom, non-nuclear families to fulfill human needs of intimacy. The Church has a responsibility to prioritise and revitalise this way of living if it is to call queer people to a life of celibacy.
I had one major concern before reading this book. In recent years, anything published on the subject of faith and sexuality by a member of the LGBT+ community has either been disregarded, discredited or - perhaps worse - used to reinforce unhelpful behaviours and positions on all sides of the argument. As a gay Christian, A War of Loves actually brought great comfort to me. Even more so, it reignited hope.
David has put himself at odds with two significant forces. Describing himself as gay will anger or confuse many in Church circles who have been unequipped to listen, dialogue and understand. Deciding to be celibate will equally anger or confuse many in the LGBT+ community who have fought hard for freedoms. By publishing this book, David has bravely shared his story and asked that we respect his decisions: a gracious act that actually disarms the divisiveness of disagreement.
In his opening acknowledgements, David writes that he hopes that A War of Loves will change the pressures and prejudices faced by the LGBT+ community. I am hopeful that it will do just that. It would be good if future editions could include stories from other members of the community - particularly from different ethnic backgrounds and genders - as this will only to strengthen the weight of David’s challenge to the individual and the Church.
In his foreword, NT Wright comments that David’s “account of meeting with Jesus...is alone worth double the price of the book.” I disagree. It is actually David’s account of following Jesus that makes this an invaluable read for every believer.
Fraser Atkins is a gay Christian who works in the charity sector and is based in London
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