Thursday, June 16, 2016

From Love to Acceptance

I began this blog six months ago with the idea that I would recommend a book (or other form of media) every other Thursday. I have done so without fail. I keep a very organized “calendar” of future reviews and know far in advance what will be reviewed and when. I hadn’t expected to review Risking Grace: Loving Our Gay Family and Friends Like Jesus by Dave Jackson for several months. I wanted to give the book a good and well thought out re-read before I tackled it here.

This week I was all set to look at family dysfunction, mystery, horror and mental illness in Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, but as I began putting the finishing touches on why we’re drawn to it in our fiction and movies, it simply didn’t feel right. I knew I had to change my cast-in-stone schedule. I would not be able to write about fictional horror when I couldn’t see the computer screen for my tears at the real horror
 we had just experienced in Orlando.

So, I rearranged my schedule. Today I am endorsing Risking Grace. Author, Dave Jackson also happens to be a friend of mine. This past Monday morning I bought the book. A number of months ago Dave had kindly sent me an early free copy to read, but for my blog here I have made it a habit to legitimately purchase every piece of media that I review. As an author it’s something I feel strongly about. Read the sidebar to the right for my full “review policy.”

So, I began going through the book again. And again, it gripped me to the core. Again, I could not put it down. Risking Grace is a Christian father’s journey as he and his wife moved from shock to confusion to love and finally to full acceptance of their gay daughter. Part memoir and part biblical study, Risking Grace is an important book and should be on the shelves of every church library.

If you are a reader of this blog, you know the importance I put on the first sentences in a book. The first page in this book begins with Dave and his wife 
getting a phone call from their 25 year old daughter where she read to them over the phone a carefully worded letter explaining that she was gay. 

He writes:

Time froze. At that moment, we would have given anything to turn back the clock, to un-hear what she’d just said. But the word rang in our ears like a gunshot.

It was like a gunshot, especially to someone like Dave and his wife Neta who in the 1980s co-authored a book about “overcoming homosexuality” for a major Christian publisher. At that time gayness was thought to be something you could change with enough prayer and something called “reparative therapy.” (Hint: it’s not.) But Jackson believed in then, and wrote about in hearty full sentences.

Risking Grace is their personal journey, but it also takes a careful look at the six scriptures in the Bible that are sometimes used to “prove” that homosexuality is a “sin.” Jackson efficiently walks through every one of these references, beginning with the extremely offensive, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” meme.  If you learn one thing from that book, it would be to vow to never say that out loud again. Once you quit saying it out loud, you might quit thinking it.

I won’t go into every scriptural argument here. My advice? Buy the book. Read it. In fact, go read it now. I'll wait.

He effectively interweaves apologetic passages with personal stories of gay Christians. Some are happy and triumphant and some are so awfully tragic. Saddest are the stories of children who are “disowned” by those parents who are in "Christian ministry.” Some are big names you would know. And yes, it happens. It’s not something that happened fifty years ago but now that we’ve learned better, we don’t do it any more. It happens today.

If you follow my blog, you also know that this is not simply a review blog. This is also my own personal journey with the books and media I write about. Scroll down through this blog to Breaking Pieces off Westboro Baptist Church where I recommend that you read Unfollow, the New Yorker article about how the sign-carrying, homo-phobic granddaughter of the late Fred Phelps completely changed her way of thinking.

My church had always taught that homosexuality was a “sin.” Unlike some of the more radical groups (I won’t call them churches), who say to shun and “cast out” the homosexual—some, believe it or not, say to kill them—my church was way more loving than that. We would love them, but not quite accept them. They could come and we would smile at them and serve them coffee after the service to make them feel welcome as we asked about their families and talked about the weather, but they would not be allowed to be a part of any church ministry until they changed. No singing in the choir, nope, not even helping in the nursery. They couldn't be members. It was our view that if they accepted Jesus, they could change. Either that or leave. Most left. That was my church.

But, what if we’re wrong about this? 

That’s what I wanted to ask the church elders. What if we have interpreted the Scripture all wrong? We’re certainly not immune to it. We’ve done so before, most notably with slavery. Prior to that there was the whole - earth being the center of the universe thing. For surely, that was proved in the Bible, right? The sun comes up and goes around the earth - that's a verse, right?

Could we be wrong about this, too?

This was the basic question Dave had when he decided to critically look at each passage. After ardent study, he came away fully accepting his gay daughter and her partner. In fact, the book is lovingly dedicated to his daughter and daughter-in-law.

I recommend Risking Grace to every parent of a gay child. I recommend Risking Grace to everyone with gay friends or acquaintances. Anyone, really  who desires to learn with an open heart about this issue, needs to read Dave's story. If you are in a church, go out and buy it for your church library.

As I think of the horror of last weekend, my thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with the victims and the families of the Orlando massacre.

In two weeks: It’s back to my schedule where I will be reviewing Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. We'll take a look at horror and family dysfunction and mental illness in fiction. If that name sounds familiar, she was the one who wrote Gone Girl.


  1. As the fully-accepting parent of my lesbian daughter, I cannot wait to read this book! Thanks for the review, Linda.

    1. Thank you Lisa. I know it will mean a lot to you.

  2. Linda, this is a great blog. I also have gay friends and a family member. My female gay friends would jump to the moon and back to help people. They gave me their story 22 years ago. Every July I give them an anniversary card...A few I had to make because they just aren't out there. A few people shunned them they told me one day, my response was," look at what they are missing in having you both as such good friends. I pray that this world turns around and love thy neighbour as themselves. Thank you for this post. Doris-Lee

    1. Thank you Doris for your long and thoughtful post. But it is surprising and so sad that so many people don't feel the way you do. I too, pray for our world that people would see people as people and not people with labels. Take care

  3. My heart is with yours Linda. The books sounds like an excellent addition to the library of anyone who is a Gay ally. I believe that this is the Civil Rights Movement of today for the church. I want to be ready and kindly courageous the next time there is an opening to speak up--to use my straight privilege on behalf of my Gay friends.

  4. Thank you so much Belinda, for adding your voice.

  5. i finally was able to read your blog...tho i haven't read this book (and i hope to) this review was terrific!