My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I’ve been looking for a book I could use with folks in my church that might also attract some interest from the community, and the challenging title of this book caught my eye. A Willow Creek satellite nearby has drawn people of all ages in part because of worship style but also because of children’s programs. If people don’t know our theology is different, namely more accepting, why would they come here instead of going there? I turned to this book hoping it might attract some attention if we publicized a book study.
Martin Thielen is a United Methodist pastor who framed this book in response to the question in the title. He presents ten things you don’t have to believe followed by ten you do, but he lost me after Thing Nine in the former section: “God loves straight people but not gay people.” Clearly, he wasn’t saying this was true. He was making a different case. He describes conservative churches as “Now Welcoming and Not Affirming” and liberal churches as “Welcoming and Affirming,” then makes the case that the broad swath of the mainline is “Welcoming but not Affirming.”
He’s defending people who like individual gay people but don’t want to have to think about the broader issues of rights, and saying since that’s where most of the mainline is, you don’t have to be afraid of them. It’s a very strange little chapter. He’s being super-careful to assure the reader that God doesn’t hate gay people, but hedges on acceptance and also seems to be joining in the careful chorus that wishes liberals would shut up already about the gay rights, because it’s upsetting to people and dividing denominations. To me it’s a revolting point of view. I wouldn’t in good conscience be able to use the book in my church and wouldn’t want community members to think I might be lukewarm about them because of their sexual orientation. Pah! Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I spit you out of my mouth!
I’ll admit that I did not then go on to read in detail the ten things you must believe, but I did note that the book ends with a question about salvation and invites people to pray a version of the Sinner’s Prayer, which would also be a little Evangelical in my context. So this book is a great idea in theory that disappointed in actuality.
I requested a review copy of this book on behalf of RevGalBlogPals, which was supplied by Westminster John Knox Press, and I did not receive any other considerations from them.