Written by Gregg Brekke
Over the last several years, a steady stream of books have been released offering a theological or biblical defense for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) Christians. A new entry to this genre, "Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians" by the Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge of Garden of Grace UCC in Columbia, S.C., breaks the mold and provides a fresh perspective for GLBT Christians and their allies.
Rather than offering a verse-by-verse apologetic approach to defray attacks by those who believe homosexuality is biblically wrong, "Bulletproof Faith" attempts to help readers deflect criticism and thrive in their faith. With a mix of scripture, humor, pop-culture wisdom and spiritual exercises, Chellew-Hodge elicits an inner resolve that moves from defense to personal engagement.
"Those who consider themselves enemies will come at us, but we need to respond with kindness," she says. "In opening up a deeper dialog we may discover we have more common ground on GLBT issues that we had thought."
Drawing on references as diverse as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess, Chellew-Hodge insists that GLBT Christians and their allies will not prevail against their detractors by arguing biblical interpretation. "No one wins," she says, "and it only becomes a sore spot."
Chellew-Hodge argues that respectful dialog, no matter how vehement the attacks against her, was key to her spiritual development and ability to withstand assailants' barbs. "Real progress can happen only when we put our swords down and try to find where we may agree," she says.
Yet, it would be a mischaracterization of this work to leave it as an ode to non-violent response to GLBT criticism. Chellew-Hodge is clear that the "us/them" dichotomy of GLBT people on one side and "religious" people on the other is a cultural, and sometimes media driven, division.
These distinctions, Chellew-Hodge asserts, do not clearly represent the diversity of opinion on the topic of GLBT inclusion in the church. Not unlike issues of slavery or race-based civil rights, she says the broader Christian community has been "slower to catch up with how God is doing a new thing."
With much practical first-hand experience, recommended spiritual disciplines and end-of-chapter spiritual survival tips, "Bulletproof Faith" entices readers beyond the verse quoting mentality of interpretive defense and toward cultivation of a positive – faith and experience based – proposition of GLBT rights.
"Bulletproof Faith" will not replace the many fine books aimed at biblical defense of GLBT issues. That isn't its goal. Yet, it contains a good introduction to the biblical texts and provides enough information for those who want to given an answer, and a starting point for dialog, to those who question their backing of GLBT rights from a perspective of faith.
I find the subtitle to be a bit incomplete – this "survival guide" has much broader appeal than just GLBT Christians. Allies of the GLBT community, Open and Affirming churches (or those considering becoming Open and Affirming), study groups and even those who are still discovering their views on sexuality and gender identity as it relates to their religious convictions will find this a valuable resource.
"Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians," from Josey-Bass, October 2008. Cloth, $17.95, ISBN 978-0470279281.
Further resources, including a free study guide and booking information for the Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, are available at <bulletproofbook.com>.