Review of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, by Wesley Hill

Washed and Waiting has been on my reading list for quite a while. I finally got around to reading it yesterday and today, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a relatively quick read, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand the internal conflict of those who desire to live a life holy and pleasing to the Lord, but who also experience attraction only toward members of the same sex.

Wesley Hill identifies himself as a gay Christian—a self-designation that is sure to frustrate both those on the left and those on the right. On the one hand, Hill acknowledges Scripture’s teaching about sexuality: God’s design has always been that it should only be expressed between a man and a woman in the context of lifelong marriage. As such, Hill believes that the only options for Christians are celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in (heterosexual) marriage. On the other hand, Hill is skeptical (in most cases) of the possibility that one’s sexual orientation can change. He admits to having never personally felt a strong and sustained attraction to a woman, and doubts that he ever will.

Hill includes a number of biographies in this book, providing a much-needed personal element to this discussion. In addition to his own story, he also recounts the lives and struggles of believers such as Henri Nouwen and Gerard Hopkins, both of whom  experienced same-sex attraction. Reading these stories was a little heartbreaking. From their earliest years, these men groaned under the weight of unwanted wants and undesired desires. They longed to obey God, but at a fundamental level their affections were persistently misdirected, despite their greatest efforts.

Understandably, such an experience would lead anyone to profound degrees of loneliness, a subject to which Hill devotes a whole chapter. For many same-sex attracted individuals, the only option available is lifelong celibacy. Such a life may have the advantages of freedom and simplicity, but it also lacks the depths of intimacy and companionship (and yes, sexual satisfaction) that are found in marriage. While there may be times of contentment, loneliness can often feel like an unbearable burden. Being a 30-year-old bachelor myself, I can identify with such a feeling, even if not with Hill’s own struggle with same-sex attraction. But there is a certain comfort to be found in the knowledge that I’m not alone in my experience of loneliness. Hill rightly emphasizes the vital role that friendship and Christian community can play in the lives of those called to celibacy (whether for a season or for life).

I’ll conclude this review with some advice to fellow heterosexual Christians who desire to better love and serve those who experience same-sex attraction. First, learn to listen without judgment. As Hill points out, it is quite common for gay and lesbian Christians to experience a deep sense of shame about their orientation, and yet they still long to be known in all their brokenness (like anyone else!). So work on providing a context of safety and understanding for them to share their lives with you. Second, allow them to minister to you. We are all broken, weak, and struggling against sin on the path to sanctification. So don’t act like you have it all together, as if you are coming from a position of superiority. Let them build you up as well; you may find that in certain aspects of their lives, they are even more sanctified than you are. And lastly, please,please stop making gay jokes. It’s cheap and dehumanizing, and it cuts like a knife in the hearts of men who question their own manhood (and women who question their womanhood) for feeling homosexual desires. Instead, let your speech be edifying and full of grace.

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One response

  1. […] a related note, last year I wrote a review in praise of Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill (Zondervan, 2010), who also identifies as a Side B […]

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