(Read the Spirit Books, 2015)
The LGBT discussion is arguably the most divisive hot-button topic in the Church today. In Changing our Mind, Dr. David P. Gushee draws from 17 of his own previously published Baptist News Global articles written over LGBT issues and his own personal experience of becoming a Christian affirming of LGBT peoples to provide readers with a legitimate hermeneutical basis for understanding how Scripture and the Christian tradition are not odds with the LGBT community, lifestyle, and/or LGBT persons. Writing the book from such a perspective, the overall goal of Gushee’s book was not just to challenge his readers, but to also challenge the notion of the Church thinking about the LGBT discussion as disembodied individuals saying, “The issue is not whether some Christians as individuals change their minds, but whether the Church universal should change its mind together.”
Being a seasoned author, ordained minister, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, and one of the leading Evangelical Christian ethicists in the United States, Changing Our Mind is one of Gushee’s more pragmatic texts that he has written. Though it may not be as “academically oriented” as some of his previously written texts, his personal journey of becoming an affirming Christian combined with thoroughly explained exegetical arguments when dealing with “trouble passages” gives the text a potential to appeal to both laypeople, and individuals that have had formal theological training. In doing so, all throughout, the book not a stagnant text that sought to prove a superior hermeneutic, but rather a humbly enjoyable text that captured the beauty of the incarnation by combining personal narrative with incarnational experiences that ultimately played a major role in shaping Gushee’s theology, hermeneutical approach, and exegetical strategy.
Given that Gushee once held a hermeneutic that would be deemed as “non-affirming,” the first eight chapters of the book set up the initial basis for readers that may be new to the conversation, or may just desire to explore the conversation in greater detail. In a matter of 48 pages, Gushee discussed his personal experience with the LGBT discussion, explained to his readers that gay Christians do indeed exist, discussed six potential paths that churches commonly follow when the LGBT discussion makes its way into local churches, and then tastefully offered constructive advice in a chapter titled “If This Is Where You Get Off the Bus” to his readers that might not wish to continue entertaining such an idea.
But for readers that desired to read onward, he would then go on to discuss the hermeneutics behind his position on the matter for the next 6 chapters (43 pages in total). But before doing so, Gushee made it a point to discuss a “Traditionalist” hermeneutic when interpreting the Bible in light of the LGBT discussion, and how it differed from an “Affirming” hermeneutic. From there, Gushee discussed at large the historical/cultural implications regarding Levitical law and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the significance of the arguably ambiguous Greek words “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” in Scripture, the creation of both male and female in the Genesis account, and then briefly continued his discussion on hermeneutics dealing with creation that may better help readers understand how sexual orientation fits in with it all.
The final section of the book is primarily centered on Gushee calling the Church to consider covenantal sexual ethics as a solution compatible with the Christian tradition when dealing with LGBT persons. He then went on to mention transformative encounters with people from the LGBT community that he has engaged with, and eventually closed with a chapter that contained a speech he wrote for the 2014 Reformation Project conference in which talked about the danger of contemptuous thought and language used when discussing LGBT issues in both the familial context, and the Church.
All in all, “Changing Our Mind” is a compelling book that is readable and provides answers for those that seek them. Be they people that may not agree with an affirming hermeneutic but find themselves wondering how somebody could hold one, individuals that want to learn more about how a Christian can also be a member of the LGBT community, or people that welcome their LGBT sisters and brothers for who they are but do not know how to reconcile it with the Christian faith, I believe Changing Our Mind is a book that everybody can gain something from. Though the book is great to read as an individual, since it tackles a hot button cultural topic that may gain the interest of many people with its engagement with Scripture, I believe it would also make a great book to read in a small group that is open to having such a discussion. And as somebody that has already passed on a copy to one of my family members that is a part of the LGBT community that has felt exiled from the Church since she came out, I would say that the significance of reading a book like Gushee’s Changing Our Mind is especially true if you have a family member or close friend that is a part of the LGBT community.
With hopes of attending seminary, Bobby is a Senior Practical Theology Major at Howard Payne University. He enjoys skateboarding, playing music, and is a self-proclaimed Star Wars junkie.