A new book uses sto­ries and sta­tis­tics to dis­pel stereo­types and sus­pi­cion.

Being a celi­bate gay Chris­t­ian means being an object of sus­pi­cion. The wider LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty sees you as shock­ing­ly con­ser­v­a­tive (“You think gay sex is wrong?”), while the wider evan­gel­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty sees you as wor­ry­ing­ly lib­er­al (“You call your­self gay?”).

One day, some­one will be express­ing dis­gust toward your “fun­da­men­tal­ist” beliefs. On the next, some­one else is tar­get­ing your “per­vert­ed” sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion. Dis­parate groups see you as an exis­ten­tial threat, and their attacks can be fierce, as recent online respons­es to con­fer­ences like Revoice and min­istries like Spir­i­tu­al Friend­ship and Liv­ing Out would attest.

Researchers Mark Yarhouse and Olya Zaporozhets step brave­ly (fool­ish­ly?) into this bat­tle­ground with their com­pre­hen­sive study of peo­ple like me: Cost­ly Obe­di­ence: What We Can Learn from the Celi­bate Gay Chris­t­ian Com­mu­ni­ty. It’s an impor­tant book with an aca­d­e­m­ic feel that grows more pas­toral as you read on. Yarhouse has writ­ten mul­ti­ple vol­umes on LGBTQ expe­ri­ence based on care­ful research from the Insti­tute for the Study of Sex­u­al Iden­ti­ty at Regent Uni­ver­si­ty in Vir­ginia, where both of the authors teach. I wouldn’t agree with every­thing he’s ever writ­ten, but I thank God for the gra­cious tenor of his con­tri­bu­tions.

This newest book is essen­tial­ly a lis­ten­ing exer­cise, based on an in-depth sur­vey of celi­bate gay Chris­tians. You hear their sto­ries of mile­stone events and expe­ri­ences in church life and ministry—as well as research that maps their men­tal health out­comes and rela­tion­al chal­lenges. But they are not the only voic­es record­ed: There’s also input from friends, along with some fas­ci­nat­ing insights into the per­spec­tives of some …

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