Theologically Sound. Culturally Relevant.


The Gospel Coalition Promotes Gay Christian YA Novel

In the wake of Side B theology running rampant in the church, The Gospel Coalition is promoting a young adult novel that focuses on a “gay Christian teen” with messaging that bypasses the Christian sexual ethic. TGC Australia promoted the book Colors by Patty Guthrie in a review titled Fictional Representation of a Gay Christian Teen: Colours by Patty Guthrie.

According to the publisher description:

“He forced himself to look up at the board and realised there were only a few minutes left of the lesson. His page was blank, an apt representation of his mind. He just hadn’t been able to focus since Jamie had started at school.”

Luke is in his last year of high school, volunteering at the local nursing home and helps out at his dad’s church on Sundays. He also hasn’t told anyone he’s gay.

As his feelings for Jamie grow, Luke will have to figure out how the different pieces of his life fit together. What does this mean for his friendships when his best friend seems to be falling for the same guy? His family, who he could never tell in a million years? And his faith, which has always seemed so sure?

Colours is an in-depth look at the subject of LGBT and the church in an age where we can no longer simply stick our heads in the sand and keep the divide between Christianity, the church, and gay Christians.

The book is clearly presented as Side B theology in the review of The Gospel Coalition which makes it worse that they are promoting it. Side B Theology asserts that homosexual attraction(desires) and identity are not sinful.

Guthrie does not make it clear in her author’s note whether she employed ‘sensitivity readers’, but she does dedicate the novel, among others, to “my two gay friends with the initial K, who haven’t felt welcome in a church since they decided to embrace their sexuality freely and openly”. She also recommends several books by theological and ethically conservative same-sex attracted Christians. The influence of these friendships and books, along with other research, are evident in the pages of the novel itself.

On the issue of identity, the novel is presented as clearly affirming homosexual identity as a legitimate category, compatible with the Christian faith. Moreover, the novel is presented somewhat as an apology from the church. TGC Australia writes.

Guthrie does not just move the reader with her descriptions of turmoil and disillusionment, she also writes of apology, reconciliation and comfort with equal force. The believable interactions she recounts do a wonderful job of showing the otherworldly glory of repentance, forgiveness and acceptance.

The novel’s study of identity moves beyond the simplistic—refusing to reduce someone to their Christian faith or their sexual orientation: “[Your feelings] are a big part of what makes you who you are, but they are not all of who you are.” Even at its denouement, much remains open.

TGC continues:

The descriptor ‘gay Christian’, which many Christians consider unhelpful, is used both within the novel and the author’s note. The author’s note also creates curious ambiguities. It is clear from the books Guthrie recommends and the story she tells, that the author holds a conservative Christian sexual ethic. However, she writes:

“I do not want to invalidate the story of Christians who do pursue relationships, but to try and do the theological footwork of what that means for Christians, and in particular young gay Christians, was not the purpose of this novel.”

It’s possible that she chose to be somewhat circumspect to make this novel accessible to as many readers as possible. More questionable, in my mind, is the choice to list QLife alongside Kids Helpline and Lifeline at the end of the author’s note. I suspect that QLife might not be supportive of the faith of a Christian seeking help who wants to abstain for homosexual sex and romance because of that faith.

According to The Gospel Coalition this book recommends gay affirming organizations in the author’s note. Additionally the affirmation of “gay Christian” is presented as merely “unhelpful” to many Christians as opposed to unbiblical.

On the issue of concupiscence, sinful desire, Colours affirms the Side B position as well.

For those seeking a clear presentation of biblical ethics, there are some interesting tensions in this novel. Readers alert to the discussion around the relevance of the concept of ‘concupiscence’ to sexual ethics will notice its absence here.

So according to The Gospel Coalition, this book that they are recommending does not even make clear a biblical position on the issue. Moreover, a footnote in the article provides a quote from page 92 of the novel:

“As I said, there is nothing wrong with those feelings. … There is nothing sinful about temptation alone – Jesus himself was tempted. It is what you do with those feelings that matters.” 92.

This is not biblical because homosexual attractions are not natural and temptation is external not internal, as Jesus did not have Original Sin.

The Gospel Coalition concludes its recommendation:

The theological ethics commended in the novel are of a subtle and exploratory kind. For those interested in that exploration, and appreciative of the genre of YA fiction, Colours would be worth a look.

Furthermore, YA fans (whether teens or the significantly older shadow YA readership!) who are simply looking for their next quick read (the novel is only about 160 pages long), might consider this a worthy contender.

This is not the material that Christians should be promoting or publishing as the publisher is purportedly a faith-based one.

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One Response

  1. That’s quite a harsh review if you haven’t read the book! The purpose of the book, as also mentioned in the review, was not to affirm same sex relationships, but to encourage “theologically sound, culturally relevant” conversations. I use the word “gay” because that’s what society uses. To spoil the ending, my main character remains celibate, and chooses his faith for himself. I would hope that readers and writers of this blog would create opinions by reading the book themselves.

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