A new book that debuts in print this week is already causing outrage and discordant reactions from right-wing American Christian conservatives, who have labeled the book a sham, shameful, inaccurate, and a misinterpretation of the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
The author, Matthew Vines, is a quiet and unassuming 24-year-old former Harvard university student from Wichita, Kan. His book, “God and the Gay Christian,” reexamines what the Christian bible actually says about same-sex relationships, and explores the biblical context and historical background regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.
Yet, judging from the outraged reactions to his new book by right-wing luminaries, one would think that Satan himself co-authored Vines’ latest project.
In 2012, Vines delivered an hourlong lecture on the topic at a Wichita church. Since then, the video has garnered more than 700,000 views and 15,000 responses. And it has been translated into several languages.
The lecture gained national attention and led to a gathering of Christians from around the country to delve into his belief that the Scriptures do not condemn homosexuality as a sexual orientation.
Similarly, Vines’ new book is a straight-forward structured analysis, coupled with a well researched case, that refutes some common misconceptions of the biblical intent and instead argues for a biblical support of same-sex relationships. The book is 180 pages, followed by another 20 pages of footnotes, citations, and other documentation to make the author’s case.
But critics are quick to dismiss Vines research, and instead opt to reassert their own brand of anti-gay rhetoric, cultivated over years of their own biblical interpretations.
Matt Barber, one of the most visible spokespeople for the anti-gay outfit Liberty Counsel, who has previously compared gay rights activists to “a swarm of locusts” with “a pagan morality,” dismisses Vines as “a homosexual activist and Bible revisionist known for manipulating Christian terminology to advance the counter-Christian homosexualist agenda.”
Barber calls Vines an “unabashed denier of biblical teaching on sexual morality.”
Michael Brown, a conservative radio host with a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Literature, and who has previously said you “cannot possibly be a practicing homosexual and a follower of Jesus at the same time,” says the most “disturbing news” is that “the book’s publisher “is making an extraordinary effort to publicize it and claiming that it is thoroughly evangelical.”
“Have we totally lost our bearings as the people of God? Are we now debating the undebatable and trying to sanction the unsanctionable?” asks Brown.
Brown adds: “Certainly, the tone of the book is meant to be civil, and it does attempt to interact with the Scriptures, although, to emphasize this again, you can no more use the Bible to legitimize homosexual relationships than you can use it to legitimize adultery. But to describe the author as ‘a bold, young, evangelical writer’ is to make the word evangelical utterly meaningless.”
Vines himself isn’t all that concerned.
“Most non-affirming evangelicals aren’t prepared to have this conversation about Scripture yet, so I think a fair amount of bluster will precede actual, widespread engagement with the arguments I’m putting forward,” he says.
“But at some point, the bluster will clearly fail, and even the most determined opponents will have to engage with these arguments,” adds Vines.
“God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines is due to be released April 22, 2014.