Friday, September 09, 2016

Basic LGBTQ Christian books: Where to start?

Where should beginners start with LGBTQ Christian books on theology, Bible and church? What books should every church have in their library?

People often ask me these questions, so I created this basic introductory list of 25 books. A full list with more than 200 books will be posted later.

This is a bare-bones, user-friendly list aimed primarily at the newcomers who tell me they are overwhelmed by the huge number of LGBTQ Christian books today. It tries to include something for everyone.

The list of basic LGBTQ Christian books is a work in progress, so please leave comments with your recommendations on what to add or change.

Fifty years ago it was almost impossible to find LGBTQ-affirming religious books, but now there are so many that it is tough to narrow them down to a manageable list. Important books inevitably get left out.

The explosion of LGBTQ Christian books is wonderful -- and almost dizzying. No wonder readers asked me to create a booklist advising them on where to start!

The wide diversity of authors is needed. Multiple viewpoints empower LGBTQ people to approach Christ by any means necessary! There are enough books to build specialized lists for various age groups, education levels and LGBTQ Christian identities: Catholic, evangelical, liberal Protestant, people of color, and many more.

When I asked for book recommendations on Facebook, I was surprised and moved by the many personal comments about how LGBTQ Christian books literally transformed lives and saved souls.

Within every group, individuals each have their own private “canon” of beloved books, and there is not a lot of overlap. For example, some people seek books that debunk the so-called “clobber passages” on homosexuality in the Bible, while others want queer ways of accessing other parts of the Bible.

Different generations were shaped by distinct. Older readers may be loyal to the classics, while younger readers may prefer millennial authors who focus more on same-sex marriage and use “queer” or “LGBT” instead of “gay,” “lesbian” or“homosexual.”

The publishers are as varied as the authors, ranging from self-publishing and small independent presses to mainstream mega-publishers.

One of the queer aspects of LGBTQ Christian books is that they tend to blend genres, often mixing theology, history and memoir.

Apologies to anyone and everyone who is not on this basic list -- and to all those whose favorite books are missing. There are hundreds of LGBTQ Christian books, and many are excellent.

Here I had to focus on those that meant the most to the largest number of readers. I limited it to one book per author (excluding edited collections). Preference is also given to books that are accessible in writing style and still in print at a reasonable price.

Actually a person can start anywhere and one book will lead to another according to your own spiritual needs and questions.

Thanks to the Facebook friends and groups who made recommendations, including the Queer Biblical Studies and Theologies group and the Whosoever group.

Basic LGBTQ Christian Books

Althaus-Reid, Marcella. The Queer God, Routledge, 2003.

A search for a different face of God leads to a courageous new theology from the margins of sexual deviance, racial injustice and economic exclusion. Born in Argentina, Marcella Althaus-Reid is an influential Latina bisexual theologian who became the first woman appointed to a chair in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 2006.

Beardsley, Christina and Michelle O'Brien (editors). This Is My Body: Hearing the Theology of Transgender Christians, Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd., 2016.

Transgender Christians speak for themselves in this collection. They give voice to faith and theology grounded in specific yet diverse experiences beyond the usual gender identity imposed by church tradition. The book brings hope, anger and grace, plus a review of the latest theological, cultural and scientific literature. Many contributors come from the Sibyls, a confidential spirituality group for transgender people and allies in the United Kingdom. Foreword by Susannah Cornwall. Beardsley is a Church of England priest, hospital chaplain and activist for trans inclusion in the church. Raised Anglican, O’Brien does advocacy, research, lecturing and writing on intersex and trans issues.

Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century, University of Chicago Press, 1980.

This landmark book upended the popular misconception that homosexuality was universally condemned throughout church history. It shows that at least until the twelfth century, same-sex love was ignored or celebrated by the church. This National Book Award winner was written by Yale history professor John Boswell.

Cheng, Patrick S. Radical Love: Introduction to Queer Theology, Seabury Books, 2011.

First on many queer theology booklists, “Radical Love” provides a crystal-clear introduction to the topic using scripture, tradition, reason and experience. This user-friendly guide includes questions and exercises for group or individual study. Cheng is a gay theologian, attorney, and Episcopal priest who teaches at Chicago Theological Seminary.

Cherry, Kittredge. Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More, AndroGyne Press, 2007.

Art that dares to show Jesus as gay or female has been censored or destroyed. Eleven artists tell the stories behind their controversial images, and an introduction puts them into context, exploring issues of blasphemy and artistic freedom. This Lambda Literary Award finalist was written by a lesbian art historian. Packed with color illustrations.

Cherry, Kittredge and Zalmon Sherwood (editors). Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations, Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.

Weddings, memorial services, healing rites, LGBT pride celebrations and more are drawn from diverse Protestant and Catholic sources. There’s even a motorcycle blessing. The treasury presents 50 liturgies by 30 spiritual leaders. Contributors include Malcolm Boyd, Chris Glaser, Carter Heyward, Elias Farajaje-Jones, Diann Neu, Troy Perry, Jane Spahr, and many more.

Cornwall, Susannah. Controversies in Queer Theology, London: SCM Press, 2011.

Questions discussed include: Questions include: Is “queer” just a white Western idea? Are queer theologies just about sex? Is the Christian tradition really queer? Should queer people stay Christian? The author is advanced research fellow at Exeter University in Britain.

Glaser, Chris. The Word Is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men, Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.

Inspirational daily meditations on the Bible for LGBTQ people and allies from a gay Presbyterian author who was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches.

Goss, Robert E. Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus Acted Up, Pilgrim Press, 2002.

Scholarly yet provocative and sometimes personal, this Lambda Literary Award finalist explores the queer Christ through such topics as erotic contemplatives and the heart-genital connection. Ordained as a Jesuit, Goss wrote the book when he was a religion professor at Webster University.

Guest, Deryn, Mona West, Robert Goss, and Thomas Bohache, (editors). The Queer Bible Commentary, SCM, 2006.

The definitive guide on the subject. A variety of writers cover every book of the Bible.

Gushee, David P. Changing Our Mind, David Crumm Media, 2014.

A leading evangelical ethics scholar calls for full acceptance of LGBT Christians in the church, using personal stories and a scholarly approach with a high view of the inerrancy of scripture.

Helminiak, Daniel. What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, Alamo Square Press, 1994.

This bestseller clearly explains new scholarship showing that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. The author is a Catholic priest and psychology professor.

Heyward, Carter. Saving Jesus From Those Who Are Right: Rethinking What it Means to be Christian, Fortress Press, 1999.

A pioneering lesbian feminist Episcopal priest reveals the importance of Jesus for ecological, racial, economic, and gender justice. Her liberating Christology reconstructs the concepts of incarnation, atonement, evil, suffering, and fear.

Jennings, Theodore W., Jr. The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament, Pilgrim Press, 2003.

The historical Jesus defied gender roles, supported same-sex relationships—and probably had a male lover himself. A Chicago Theological Seminary professor tells all. The ultimate book on Biblical evidence for a gay Jesus.

Jordan, Mark. The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, University of Chicago Press, 1997.

The evolution of “sodomy” as a concept is traced from medieval times to the present with an analysis of its impact on sexual ethics then and now. The author is a Washington University religion professor who taught at Harvard.

Lee, Justin. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, Jericho Books, 2012.

Memoir with practical advice from a gay evangelical who experienced the ex-gay movement on the way to self-acceptance. The author is founder and executive director of The Gay Christian Network.

Lightsey, Pamela R. Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology, Pickwick Publications, 2015.

With the “Black Lives Matter” protests as a backdrop, the book uses womanist and queer liberation theological approaches to explore the impact of oppression against black LGBTQ people. Contemporary debates such as same-sex marriage and ordination rights are covered. The author is assistant professor of contextual theology at Boston University and a queer lesbian ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

Loughlin, Gerard (editor). Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body, Blackwell, 2007.

Hidden aspects of queerness in Christian tradition are rediscovered in this creative collection of specially commissioned essays from Anglo-American scholars. Diverse authors reflect on the Trinity, saints, sacraments and other aspects of how bodies and their erotic desires are understood through religion.

McNeill, John. Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families, and Friends, Beacon Press, 1988.

A pioneering gay Jesuit priest writes about LGBTQ liberation, self-acceptance and spiritual maturity. John McNeill was a psychotherapist and priest who began ministering to lesbian and gay Catholics in the 1970s, helping give birth to Dignity in 1974. He was silenced by the Vatican and expelled from the Jesuit order for coming out and promoting LBGTQ rights in church and society.

Mollenknott, Virginia Ramey. Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach, Pilgrim Press, 2001.

An accessible approach to transgender Christian lives and related themes. The common understanding of gender as two opposite sexes is shown to be inaccurate and harmful in this helpful guide. Scripture and church history can provide new visions of a more flexible gender paradigm that honors the experience of transgender, transsexual, intersex and other non-binary identities. The author draws on a lifetime of writing and teaching about gender issues.

Rohrer, Megan. Faithful Families, Wilgefortis Press, 2016.

This children’s book reminds kids that God loves them, no matter what their family looks like -- even if they have two mommies or two daddies. It is aimed at children up to 8 years old. The author is pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran Church. For more info and a sample page, see First-ever LGBT religious children's books published.

Sanchez, Alex. The God Box, Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Small-town gay Christian teens fall in love and struggle with the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality in a young-adult romance novel from a Lammy-winning author.

Vines, Matthew. God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, Convergent Books, 2014.

An evangelical LGBT activist uses clear Biblical arguments and his own story to establish that the Bible supports loving, monogamous same-sex unions. Born in 1990, Vines founded the Reformation Project, which is hugely popular, especially with millennials.

White, Heather Rachelle. Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights, University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

One of the few histories of LGBTQ religious movements. Religion tends to get downplayed in LGBTQ history. A religion professor challenges the prevailing secular narrative and recovers the forgotten history of liberal Protestants' role on both sides of the debates on sexual orientation and identity. White teaches in the religion department and gender and queer studies program at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

White, Mel. Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America, Simon and Schuster, 1994.

This is the bestselling autobiography of Mel White, a high-ranking insider in the evangelical Protestant movement in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Mel White ghostwrote autobiographies for such famous right-wing televangelists as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Billy Graham. Meanwhile he was trying to “cure” his homosexuality with “ex-gay” therapy, including prayer, fasting, exorcisms and even electroshock treatment. Then he came out as gay in 1993, transferred his clergy credentials to Metropolitan Community Church and became a national media sensation. Later he founded Soulforce to end religious and political oppression of LGBTQ people by using non-violent resistance in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Christ.

Related links:

Top 35 LGBTQ Christian books of 2016 named

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2015 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 20 Gay Jesus books (from Jesus in Love)

Queer Theology book list (from Patrick Cheng)

Jesus in Love Bookstore (includes LGBT Christian classics)

15 LGBTQ Christian Valentine’s Day books, movies and gifts (Jesus in Love)

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts


Unknown said...

"Queer Virtue" is so new that lots of people don't know it yet, but it is my dream that someday it will join such esteemed company!

Kittredge Cherry said...

Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity” by Elizabeth M. Edman will be on the full list that I am working on. If I do a "queer theology" list, it will be there too. Thanks for writing it!

Trudie said...

This looks like the book I've been waiting for thirty-plus years for somebody to write. I'm getting it!

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks, Trudie! I found that putting together a list of "basics" is actually harder than a long list (except for the mechanical difficulty of formatting many links). Doing a list of basics involves sorting through and making choices, which will inevitably leave out somebody's favorites. I'm glad that people like you appreciate the effort!