Hi all! The intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality has long been an area of interest to me–especially given my fascination with the politics of gender and sexuality that I took several courses in during my university days. I thought I’d put together the most current version of my recommended reading list with notes on each title so that folks can have an idea what each book entails. My hope going forward is to update this list periodically so that it remains current as I continue to read and explore this issue.
Beyond Shame: Creating A Healthy Sex Life On Your Own Terms by Mattias Roberts
This book is a wonderful guide to creating a sex ethic and practice that aligns with your own values. It does this principally by first addressing some possible misconceptions and biases, and then by asking questions that will help you determine your values. It does not proscribe what your values should be; rather it is a guide to help you identify your own values and build from there. This is targeted at those who are working to overcome religious shame, but is a good read for anyone regardless of faith background or lack thereof.
Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James V. Brownson
This is perhaps the most comprehensive scholarly work I’ve come across. Brownson is a New Testament scholar who decided to re-examine Scripture when his son came out as gay. Brownson’s work provides much needed historical-critical context and provides a solid basis for many individuals later memoirs that are more accessible and available for popular consumption. Brownson’s work remains one of the best contributions for those who are willing to read through a more scholarly level work.
God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines
This was the first book I read explicitly on the topic of faith and same-sex relationships and it was a breath of fresh air. I had always supported LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+ Chrisitans, as I had friends and family who were on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but I lacked the knowledge and language to back it up. The best I could manage was tying some of the historical context from my earlier politics of gender and sexuality courses into the issue, but my knowledge was incomplete and uncertain. Vines, drawing heavily on Brownson’s and Lee’s work, makes an eminently accessible work that is quite good for the average reader concerned about faith and sexuality.
Good Christian Sex by Bromleigh McCleneghan
This book is one of the more radical on this list. McCleneghan comes from the mainline Protestant tradition and takes a strong stand against purity culture, emphasizing loving, consensual relationships rather than insisting on saving sex for marriage or being strongly against divorce. Definitely on the more radical side of things, but much more reflective of my experience as a millennial who grew up outside the church who can only find a home in the mainline Protestant tradition, and finds areas of that too restrictive even.
Paul and Gender: Reclaiming The Apostle’s For Men and Women in Christ by Cynthia Long Westfall
This book is an excellent look at the Pauline epistles, the linguistics and the historical context. Perhaps one of the strongest arguments in its favour is that it provides a vision of gender that unites the Pauline corpus rather than pursuing the somewhat subjective debate around authorship. This book really highlights how countercultural Paul was, and is an excellent read for anyone who wants to discover how Paul aligns with the Christ they see in the Gospels.
Sex, God and the Conservative Church by Tina Schermer Sellers
This book is technically written for counselors and sex therapists working with those processing purity culture, but is worth the read by lay people as well. It’s quite in-depth, but even if one didn’t grow up in the church, purity culture has had wider influence on the larger North American society than we might be aware of and I gleaned a lot from this work.
Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber
This book is another of the more radical ones on this list. Bolz-Weber makes a powerful case through a combination of historical context, a midrash-like re-telling of Genesis, and personal accounts and reflections that the church needs to radically reform its stance on areas of sexuality: including, but not limited to, sex before marriage, abortion, and divorce. This was perhaps one of my most favorite reads and spoke to me personally in a lot of ways.
Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christian Debate by Justin Lee
This book is much more memoir than several of the entries on this list. Historical critical context is provided, but the context is tied to the journey of the author. This was one of the first memoirs to kick-start a number of others including the ones by Vines and Beeching on this list, as well as a few others that didn’t make this list. Lee also founded the Gay Christian Network which continues excellent advocacy, outreach, and support for LGBTQ+ Christians to this day.
Transforming: The Bible and Lives of Transgender Christians by Austin Hartke
This book is a short one and quick read. There is not nearly as much to draw on from Scripture itself but Hartke does an excellent job of looking to Scripture for what suggestions there are of sexual minorities and marginalized groups and applying that principle to the life of transgender Christians today. The historical context of eunuchs is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this book, and ground for quite a bit of thought.
Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole, and Living Free from Shame by Vicky Beeching
This book is another memoir, similar to Lee’s work, but written from a lesbian’s perspective, with the added dimensions of Beeching’s insights into the Christian music word of the USA, and the faith life of a lesbian in the United Kingdom. A good book to balance out some of the male focus of the other books on this list dealing with homosexuality.
Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne by Wilda C. Gafney
This book springs from the womanist tradition–womanism recognizes that feminism has far too often ignored their sisters of colour, and is thus a lens through the eyes of Black women. Dr. Wil Gafney is an excellent Old Testament scholar and really brings to life the women in the Scriptures who are oft-overlooked and does so in a way that those who have mostly known privilege can’t rival. It’s an excellent book to get one thinking more deeply about the women in the Old Testament, what they suffered, and how resilient they truly were.