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Book Review: Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends by Mark A. Yarhouse, PsyD

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These days homosexual activists and a large segment of the evangelical church are on a collision course. Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends seeks to stave off the damage – perhaps even prevent the crash..

From the outset author/researcher/Professor of Psychology Mark A. Yarhouse lets us know that he favors the church’s traditional stance. He is by no means what he calls an “assertive advocate” – someone who is trying to get the church to change its position on homosexuality. But he does advocate for changes.

With clear logical writing he lays the groundwork for his thesis in the first section of chapters (“The Big Picture”). In the two following sections (“Honest Answers to Questions Facing Families” and “Questions for the Church”) he fleshes out the details, making the case for:

1. The evangelical community to start looking at same-sex attracted individuals as “our people” instead of giving them the message: “God hates you; you need to change” (p. 164).

2. Christian parents, pastors, teachers, and counselors to offer same-sex-attracted individuals an alternate to the “gay script” (which basically says, a same-sex attraction tells you who you really are and you need to explore this identity to be fulfilled as a person, p. 49 ). One way of counteracting this script, Yarhouse suggests, is by thinking about the topic in a new way, carefully separating “same-sex attraction” from a “gay identity.”

3. The evangelical community to shift their focus from trying to figure out why people are gay and how to get them to change, and concentrate instead on what is. Yarhouse says:

“…by focusing so much energy and attention on these two issues, the church has actually provided little by way of instruction or guidance or pastoral care to those Christians who are sexual minorities….

“If our only message is that through enough effort and faith they will become heterosexual, we are misleading them. We mislead them by setting the wrong standard for what counts as success.

Heterosexuality is not the measure of success for the Christian sexual minority. What matters is Christlikeness regardless of whether sexual attractions change significantly” (pages 164, 165).

Yarhouse’s hope, in the end, is that individual Christians and the church in general will move from debating issues for which there are no definitive answers and focus instead on issues of identity, sanctification, and stewardship.

I appreciated Yarhouse’s tempered tone and careful consideration of the various points of view within the church and the psychology community. His logical presentation made sense and was easy to follow. His bulleted list of “Take-home Points” at the end of each chapter helped me consolidate what I had just read. He was even able to explain tests and research projects in easy-to-understand language.

From this book I learned that dealing with homosexuality is not as simple as I had always thought. Yarhouse talks about the discovery of same-sex-attractions in different age groups and life situations in three chapters that speak specifically to parents of children and teens, parents of adult children, and adults whose spouses announce a gay identity. This breakdown helped me understand the complexities, challenges, and possible ways of handling the various scenarios (like the mother of a five-year-old, worried her son will be gay because of his interest in feminine things, or a wife, finding her husband’s same-sex pornography on the computer).

This thoughtful and thought-provoking book makes many excellent points. I think evangelical pastors, counselors, and teachers of any denomination will benefit from reading it. Additionally it will be of interest and help to parents, partners, friends, and siblings of same-sex-attracted youth and adults.

About Violet Nesdoly