Book Review: The Way of Hope

The Way of Hope: A Fresh Perspective on Sexual Identity, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Church

My Rating – Must Read

Level – quick, easy read; short

The book is broken into 10 chapters, each more or less representing different phases in Fisher’s life story. Mostly written as an autobiography of her life and journey from fundamentalist church, through homosexual relationships and considering a sex change operation, back to church and struggling to understand it all. Woven throughout the book are suggestions on our response as a church to same-sex marriage and identity issues, based on things she has seen go right and go wrong.

Outside of the 10 chapters that are the core of the book, there is the typical intro and then, at the end (obviously), there is an epilogue that consist of three brief interviews with her mom, her dad, and her ex-wife that are really just incredible. She ask her mom when she suspected she was gay, talks to her dad about her parent’s divorce, and discusses the pain of her own infidelities with her ex-wife.

My Thoughts
Probably the only critical thing I have to say about this book is that the subtitle is wrong. For me, there was nothing in this book that offered a ‘fresh perspective’ on any of her topics. However, her more intended audience might be more of the fundamentalist, don’t discuss sexuality type people she describes in her book that made up her church, family, and small town.

Other than that, the book is great. Her writing style is fantastic – fasted-paced and kind of erratic, funny, and very open and honest. While she does quote quite a bit of scripture and state clearly that homosexual activity is wrong, that isn’t really the point of the book. She isn’t trying to convince anyone to change or offering a theological and biblical defense of the viewpoint from scripture. With the book being mostly about her mixed with her personal writing style, you, instead, feel like to get to know her.

Even more importantly, you get to understand where she is coming from, and, to the extent you can, what she went through. I think this is really the strength of the book. Proximity to issues changes your view, or at least your reaction to them. Extremely conservative Christians in rural areas or small towns, might not have many opportunities to engage with gay people. So, it is easier to ostracize, from a distance. The way she writes this book, someone could read it and start to feel that proximity. Someone could put a face on an issue and at least try to understand.

It is easy to just say, being gay is wrong, and you should chose that. Reading her story (or hearing someone else’s), you see it isn’t that simple. I hope that more people that have that view will read it and see the struggle that gay Christians have. That instead of judging and condemning, we need to love them and help (if we can) them in their struggle.

Finally, those last three interviews at the end were just crazy to me. Obviously, her mom was one of the those people who would rather cut off contact with a gay daughter, but they have since reconciled. Her ex-wife has also made it back into a church, one connected with the one fisher attends. The interviews alone make this book worth the price, add in the personal tone of her spiritual and emotional journey and changes and this is definitely a must read book.

Book Review: Speaking of Homosexuality

Speaking of Homosexuality: Discussing the Issues with Kindness and Clarity – Joe Dallas

Rating – Must Read

Level – Medium length, reads quickly and easily

The book, as the title indicates, is about homosexuality in the church and the world today. Dallas covers a large swath of the topic, from how to talk  to people about it, to Greek meanings, to modern views. Broken into 13 chapters plus an intro and a conclusion (which is actually chapter 14), the book is four main points.

Chapters 1-3 (The Context of Our Conversation, To Whom Am I Speaking, Rules of Engagement) are the first point of the book, mainly how does the modern world view homosexuality? Who talks about it and how do we talk to them?

The next section, chapters 4 & 5 (Born Gay?, The “Change” Controversy) get into some of the biological and psychological aspects of homosexuality. There is also the issue of counseling and ‘therapy’ for homosexuals in the secular and church settings.

I grouped chapters 6-8 (Same-Sex Marriage; Homophobia, Hate, Hypocrisy, and Harm; Gay Christians) together, but they aren’t all that similar to each other. Chapter 6 is fairly self explanatory, chapter 7 deals with the responses or charges to the responses of Christians, and chapter 8 he gives us his thoughts on people who refer to themselves as Gay Christians.

The final section is the longest because it is basically, ‘What does the Bible say.’ Encompassing chapters 9-13 (Sodom, Homosexuality and Leviticus, What Jesus Did or Did Not Say, Paul and Romans, Paul and Arsenokoites), Dallas takes us through the Bible, including both Hebrew and Greek, the different interpretations today and throughout church history, covering every conceivable verse or story related to homosexuality.

Additionally, there are two helpful aspects about the way in which this book is written. First and probably most important, Dallas has written it like a conversation. He lays out and issue, then states what the ‘Revisionist’ claim, followed by the ‘Traditionalist’ responses. So, broadly speaking, something like – They say X, we respond Y and Z.

Second, he has a 10-point review at the end of each chapter that quickly summarizes the arguments of the chapter. This is a helpful reminded if you need to check back in the book. Or honestly, if you are not much of a reader, you could just read the points and then jump in deeper if something strikes you.

My Thoughts
I’ll be honest, I was skeptical of this book at first. Not entirely sure why. Maybe because of the reviews in the front cover. They were mostly from musicians or people I whose names I didn’t recognize. However, I was very impressed with this book. For one thing Dallas is a great writer. He is extremely, extremely accessible. Just about anyone of any reading level could glide through this book. He has almost a journalistic style, like a long form article in a magazine or a narrative non-fiction report.

This point leads me to what is certainly the strength of the book. The final 75 or so pages (excluding the conclusion) are all from the Bible. As a mentioned above, he goes pretty deep, especially in the Greek (I loved the pronunciation guide listed with each word). These five chapters are theologically and Biblically strong. For a big this size (~230 pages) there is a lot of deep and serious inquiry into Scriptures. I was very impressed.

To circle back to the beginning, this book is also a great help to those whom are angry or feel ‘Christians are losing’ something. Or even people whom don’t know how to engage. It’s an important reminder of how to act, really.

I disagree with his take on the impact of gay marriage on society and I’m skeptical of some grand conspiracy as opposed to a few antagonistic people. However, that was something interesting while reading this book – I found myself disagree at times, but I would alternate from viewing things more liberally at some points and more conservatively at others.

Overall, this is a must read of Christians today who do not know what to do with the issue. Or, even for those who do know what to thing, this book is an invaluable resource on how to engage with others and the Scripture. This is a book that probably every pastor or person in full time ministry should own.


*I received copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, thank you Baker Books. Read more about that here.