Book Review: People to Be Loved

People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an IssuePeople to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sprinkle is one of those folks who thinks himself conservative, but is really a half step away from being a full-blown liberal. This mindset skews his entire approach. He thinks he is holding the line. The reality he is part of a rear-guard action that has retreated into the keep in hopes that the enemy will finally go away. But they won’t and surrender is inevitable. If the best you can say about a book is that at least he doesn’t think men should sleep with men, it isn’t a conservative book. He qualifies everything to death. He makes sure conservative Christians understand they are usually a much bigger problem than gays are. He isn’t even sure about excommunicating practicing homosexuals. Maybe, possibly, in a few select circumstances we could go this far. Sodom and Gomorrah has nothing to say to us about sodomy. Greedy, rich, coveting Christians are really the problem here, not gays. On and on it goes. The feeling one gets reading the book is that homosexual Christians have his sympathy while those who think sodomy and the desire for same-sex relationships are sin are more likely than not homophobic.

There are a few interesting sections in the book, including his part about mixed-orientation marriages. He gets some exegesis correct over and against some pro-homosexual folks. I did not disagree with him on everything. But on the whole the book is so condescending to the average, conservative Christian, contains so many qualifications, and gives up so much ground to the pro-homosexual groups that isn’t that helpful.

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A Distraction

I just finished reading Preston Sprinkle’s book  People to be Loved.  There were numerous flaws with the book. It reminded me of a man throwing a cup of water on a burning a house and claiming he is fighting the fire. If the best you can say about a book on this subject is at least he doesn’t believe men should have sex with men then it is not going to help fight the battle. My goal is to review various sections of the book. I want to begin with one of the more persistent lines you see from the gay Christian movement: same sex attraction is not just about sex.  Here is Sprinkle:

Being gay doesn’t mean you walk around want to have lots of gay sex any more than being straight means that you walk around wanting to have lots of straight sex. Have a same-sex orientation includes a wealth of other virtuous emotions and desires towards members of the same sex; it cannot be narrowly reduced to a volcanic hunger for sex. Same-sex orientation includes the desire for conversational intimacy, same-sex physical touch, emotional bonds, companionship, doing life together, and expressing mutual affection toward members of the same sex.  And if all of this sounds “gay” to you then David and Jonathan really were gay, since I am alluding to 1-2 Samuel.

He goes on to quote with approval lesbian Julie Rodgers

[same-sex attraction is] an overall draw toward someone of the same sex, which is usually a desire for a deeper level intimacy with those of the same sex. Just like a heterosexual orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for straight sex, a gay orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for gay sex. This longing for intimacy is usually experienced as a desire for nearness, for partnership, for close friendship, rich conversation, and an overall appreciation of beauty.

Again Sprinkle:

Most gay Christians I know say the same thing. Same-sex attraction is much broader than just a drooling desire for gay sex. Such attraction includes a virtuous desire to be intimate-in the David and Jonathan or Jesus and John sense of the phrase-with people of the same sex.

I would love to see quotes from Christians who think people who struggle with SSA walk around with a “drooling desire for gay sex.”  Sprinkle does this a lot in the book where he puts words in the mouths of conservative Christians (with no citations) that I have never heard a conservative Christian in the pew, from the pulpit, in an article, or in a book say. Perhaps he is thinking of Westboro and folks like that.  But conservative Christians distance themselves from groups like this over and over.

But besides the condescension towards conservative Christians, he repeats the mistake I often see in gay Christian literature: It isn’t about sex. We can see the problem with this proposition by asking a simple question: What separates SSA from the desire for close, intimate friendship with someone of the same sex? Right. Sex. If there is no sexual component then it isn’t SSA. A man can have a close intimate friendship with another man without it being sexual. Men have done this for thousands of years and Christian men have done this for just as long. They have kissed each other, embraced each other, wept with each other, spent nights together talking, slept in the same bed, swam naked, showered together, etc. without there being a sexual component. The desire for male physical affection and emotional intimacy does not make it same-sex attraction.

Same-sex attraction does not simply mean you have or desire close friendships with people of the same sex. It means the desire for closeness with a member of the same sex that includes a romantic/sexual component. Without that it is just a close friendship between people of the same sex, which all Christians should have and should work for. This is the reason why the sexual/erotic aspect of SSA should be front and center. It is what makes SSA, SSA. The friendship angle pushed by gay-Christian groups is a distraction.  Friendship is part of SSA, just as friendship is part of marriage. But that is not its central or defining trait. Without the sexual/romantic component it isn’t same-sex attraction.

Sexual Orientation or Sexual Temptation?

LGBTQ

I have been listening to Tim Bayly’s Shepherds’ Conference on ministering in a post-Obergefell World.  Tim has worked with homosexuals and lesbians in Bloomington for over 30 years. He is not speaking as someone who has read a book or two, watched a couple of Youtube videos, or had a homosexual friend in college. He speaks as a pastor who has prayed with and for sodomites, has loved them, preached to them, cried over them, and seen them repent. He has many stories about working with homosexuals as well as stories about compromise in evangelical circles. These add substance to what he is saying even if it makes him long winded at points.

He makes the suggestion that we drop the term “sexual orientation” and use sexual temptation instead.  So instead of saying “same-sex orientation” we would say, “same sex temptation.” I have thought about the term sexual orientation quite a bit lately as I read Preston Sprinkle’s book People to be Loved.  Terms and words matter. Sprinkle throughout his book nuances words to death. Every word is carefully chosen. He parses out why we shouldn’t use “homosexual,” “gay,” etc.  He knows words matter. Conservative Christians need to understand this as well. What words we use to describe things will often shape the entire discussion.  I like the suggestion of using temptation instead of orientation in connection with homosexuality for several reasons.

First, it will help us see sodomy as one type of the many sexual temptations we all face. Those who struggle with this sin are not worse than us nor better than us nor different than us. Tim talked about his own fornication and how when he got married his wife was pregnant. All of us struggle with sexual temptation of various kinds and to various degrees throughout our life. I saw my first porn magazine (yes real paper) when I was eleven years old. It lay beside the road. My friend from church said his dad, a deacon, had videos with more of that. We went back and watched porn on VHS. This struggled continued through Bible college and the early years of marriage until I was about 25 years old.  I am so grateful there was no Internet when I was young. Many of you I guess have similar stories. Some of you still watch porn on your phones during your lunch break or at night when your wife is asleep.  Some of you slept around in high school and don’t want any of your Christian friends to know. We could do this with any temptation not just sexual ones. The point here is if we label it temptation it puts that sin or the struggle with that sin on level with the sins all Christians struggle with. We are all sinners working, agonizing to fight the lusts which wage war against our souls (I Peter 2:11).  Continue reading

Surpassing the Love of Women

smoke-room

Note: The quotes and many ideas from this section sprang from the first chapter of Denny Burk and Heath Lambert’s book Transforming Homosexuality.

As the gay movement continues to blossom many positive aspects of relationships between people of the same sex are destroyed.  A good example of this is found in the APA’s definition of sexual orientation:

Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to men, women, or both sexes…

When I read this my question was, “Why is emotional attraction part of sexual orientation?”  I understand why “romantic and sexual attraction”  are included. Sexual orientation must include the erotic or it is not sexual. But I do not understand why they include emotional attraction. Can a man be emotionally attracted to another man and it not be sexual? Can a son love a father or a brother love a brother and it not be sexual? Can football players admire one another and it not be sexual? Of course  they can. And they have throughout all of history. The clearest Biblical example is David’s love for Jonathan. But we also have the disciple leaning on Jesus at the Last Supper. We have Paul’s love for Timothy. We have the church at Ephesus weeping when Paul left, which included men and elders. History is filled with men loving one another, admiring one another, praising one another’s virtues, and finding them emotionally attractive, without the relationship being sexual.

Lest you feel I am too picky notice that little word “or”  in the definition. Of course sexual attraction will include emotional attraction. But the word “or” indicates that emotional attraction can be the sole indicator of sexual orientation. Really? There can be no sexual component and yet it still be sexual? Wesley argues the same thing in his book Spiritual Friendship.  He says  that same sex attraction cannot be reduced to sex, but includes a desire for same-sex friendship and maybe even a preference of same sex companions. But this latter part has nothing to do with homosexuality. Men have often preferred the company of men to women without the relationship being erotic at all. In fact, one could argue that outside of bed and some social functions, most men throughout most of history have preferred the company of other men to women, even their wives, for work, play, and study.

It seems to me that if we are not sexually attracted to members of the same sex what type of attraction is left? Emotional attraction would be a good way to describe it. Most of the relationships between members of the same sex throughout history have been of this kind. What is admiration, but emotional attraction? What is the love of two soldiers who have endured war, but a type of emotional bond or attraction? What is the love of sister for sister, but a type of emotional attraction? Can a young boy admire a man and it not be latent sexual desires? I should hope so!

We see here again the sexualization of all relationships. I believe most men and perhaps women, feel that any admiration for someone of the same sex, any emotional joy at being in their presence, any delight in their company, must be evidence of some underlying sexual attraction. The push for the normalization of sodomy is destroying normal relationships between members of the same sex.  That is a terrible thing.

As Christians we must fight homosexuality on several fronts. But one of the least talked about is the need for men to learn to love men, and women love women, rightly. Emotional attraction is a huge part of this. We must be able to love each other , laugh with one another, weep with one another, prefer the company of someone of the same sex, praise each other, and that not be squished through the homosexual grid. A man can love another man and be emotionally attracted to him and it not be sexual. If we don’t believe that then I am not sure we can ever recover a Biblical view of relationships.

We Deny. We Do Not Affirm.

same-sex-marriageReading this previous post will expand on and clarify some of what I say below. 

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:9-11)

More and more professing Christians affirm homosexual relationships. Jen Hatmaker was the most recent high profile Christian to say that she thought same-sex relationships can be “holy.”  Following this train there have been some, while not affirming same-sex relationships themselves, say that sodomy and lesbianism are not issues worth dividing over. Sodomy may be wrong, but it does not put someone outside the kingdom of Christ. In other words you can affirm same-sex relationships and still be a Christian. Is this true? Is sodomy an issue where Christians can agree to disagree like baptism? The answer is no. Someone who is an active homosexual or lesbian has no inheritance in the kingdom of God.  Continue reading

Esolen on the Death of Male Friendship

Yesterday I wrote on the need for male physical affection. We long for this as men. A friend directed me to this Anthony Esolen essay, which covers a lot of the same ground though with more eloquence. He even uses the same phrase “half-man” that I used. Esolen is more pessimistic than I am about the ability to overcome the tragic loss of friendship among men. I believe the gospel can, with much time and work, resurrect true manly, friendship. But I feel what Esolen’s last paragraph says,

No doubt about this: If you are a modern man, a half-man, many such ideas [about friendship and male love] and loves have already died in you. For as much as you can admire them wistfully, from a half-understanding distance, you can be neither Frodo nor Sam, nor the man who created them. You dare not follow Agassiz, alone, to the Arctic. You will not weep for Jonathan. You once were acquainted with Enkidu, but that was all. Do not even mention John the Apostle.

I look back at my fathers and realize I am a “half-man” because I do not know how to create or participate in true male friendship. One of my regular prayers is that I can do this with my sons and my brothers at church. I commend the essay to you. Here are a few other quotes that struck me.

Friendship and the signs upon which it must subsist are in a bad way. I will focus on the friendships of men, since that is what I know about; many comparable things might be said about the friendships of women. We still have the word “friendship,” and we still have something of the reality, but it is distant, dilute, bloodless. For modern American men, friendship is no longer forged in the heat of battle, or in the dust of the plains as they drive their herds across half a continent, or in the choking air of a coalmine, or even in the cigar smoke of a debating club…

It [loss of male friendship] is but more of the devastation wrought by the sexual revolution. That we fail to see it as such is no surprise: Naturally, when we think of that recrudescence of paganism, we think first of its damage to the family and to relations between men and women. We think of divorce, pornography, unwed motherhood, abortion, and suicidally falling birthrates. But the sexual revolution has also nearly killed male friendship as devoted to anything beyond drinking and watching sports; and the homosexual movement, a logically inevitable result of forty years of heterosexual promiscuity and feminist folly, bids fair to finish it off and nail the coffin shut.

What is more, those who will suffer most from this movement are precisely those whom our society, stupidly considering them little more than pests or dolts, has ignored. I mean boys…

On three great bonds of love do all cultures depend: the love between man and woman in marriage; the love between a mother and her child; and the camaraderie among men, a bond that used to be strong enough to move mountains. The first two have suffered greatly; the third has almost ceased to exist.

The Need for Masculine Physical Affection

Male Affection 1

Sometimes ideas are so closely linked that it is hard to know which came first. One of the problems that has arisen with the normalization of sodomy is the death of intimate male friendship. Which came first? Sodomy and the sexualization of male friendship? Or male friendships being viewed with suspicion? Did the sexualization of all things lead to the death of male friendship or did male friendship die and that led to sodomy? Did fathers stop showing physical love and this lead to sodomy and sexual abuse? Or did the rise of sodomy and sexual abuse lead to the decline of male physical affection?

These questions are not easy to answer. But physical, intimate, male friendship is often viewed today with suspicion especially by conservatives. Deep male friendship is at best weird and at worst a threat. Feminism seeks to destroy male friendship by making sure  women are always around. Often conservative women do the same thing by again making sure a woman, in this case MOM is always around to keep the boys in check. Whatever the reasons, men showing affection physically is weird. Two men with their arms around each other in public is odd to us. Men who kiss each other on the cheeks are odd, unless you are from the Middle East. In an older movie, Mrs. Brown, numerous British soldiers swim naked. How would that be viewed today? The truth is that many men fear physical affection with other men. They fear they will be viewed as latent homosexuals or it will just be awkward. There are two major exceptions to this, war and sports. In war men form deep  bonds and expressions of physical love are frequent. In sports, slapping each other, hugging one another, jumping into each other’s arms, and weeping with one another are expressed without concern for what the world may think.  As women continue to mingle with men in these fields no doubt even the physical affection shown there between men will diminish.  Continue reading