Today marks the 34th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States. The shooting (chronicled in a biopic starring Sean Penn which nabbed multiple Oscars) ended Milk’s career as San Francisco supervisor and marked a watershed moment the history of gay rights.
While the movement has gained tremendous footing in the decades since Milk’s death, gay rights continues to spur heated debates today, particularly with regards to marriage equality. With President Obama’s support of gay marriage piquing interest as he heads into his second term and the holiday season upon us, the time seems ripe for a roundup of books on gay issues and Christianity that tells the story of the fraught relationship between the church and same-sex supplicants.
Presbyterian theologist Jack Rogers wasn’t always a supporter of gay rights, but after his pastor asked him to look into the issue in 1993, his deep bible study led him to believe that there is no scriptural reason homosexuality is condemned by churches. His book, “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality,” has recently been revised and expanded to reflect some of the progress made by gay communities in their relationships with mainstream churches.
Justin R. Cannon is the founder of Inclusive Orthodoxy, a ministry to the LGBTQ community, and his book, “The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality,” is a bible study guide to the verses of the good book often used against gay rights.
Jay Michaelson’s passionately-argued book posits that far from barring gays from churches, the Bible actively supports equality and acceptance–and even if one doesn’t agree, Michaelson urges readers to approach the subject compassionately.
So much of the controversy surrounding gay issues and the church comes from a reading (some would say a misreading) of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 1:22-27. For the more traditional view of Paul, we turn to none other than Pope Benedict XVI, the current head of the Roman Catholic Church who, four years into his papacy, published a book exploring the legacy of one of the most charismatic of Christian figures.
The final word, though, goes to former-Jesuit and psychotherapist John J. McNeill, whose trilogy of works on the subject of the gays and the church have set the bar for compassion and acceptance. His third book, “Freedom, Glorious Freedom,” extols the power of gay liberation and argues that is can be a signpost for more freedom for everyone–freedom to love, and a freedom to worship God and be accepted while doing so.