With deep understanding born from her own painful experiences, Melissa shows that somewhere between the extremes of condemning and condoning is the way of Jesus, a way marked with courage, compassion, and hope. The Way of Hope aims to equip the church to make a positive impact in the lives of those hurting from their relational or sexual differences. It aims to inspire everyone, regardless of sexual identity or gender orientation, toward a relationship with Jesus, who wants to offer us all love and hope greater than anything we've ever known.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
I was anticipating that The Way of Hope by Melissa Fisher would provide an answer for the church to find a way to accept the gay community into the church without condoning their lifestyle or condemning them in the process. And while it did not address the issues of the subtitle - A Fresh Perspective on Sexual Identity, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Church, it did give insight, in the form of a memoir, into the life of the author who struggled with same-sex attraction.
The author grew up in the church and knew what it meant to be a Christian. She admits to being sexually abused by a man, hence her reason for not trusting men. But what came through quite clearly to me and what she didn't seem to realize is that she was also sexually assaulted by a female. She was raped by a friend she trusted. She admits to being horrified and laid there paralyzed, frozen until the assault stopped and the girl left her room. This "friend" continued to attack her, but because the author was brought up a certain way, she did not call her out on it. And clearly, she did not even see it as a sexual assault. Eventually, she got to the point where the lust for sex controlled her. She wasn't gay. She was a victim who already had a problem with pornography, who was moulded by her predator to become her sex toy. This predator, this woman who raped her night after night, ignited in her a desire for sex, to make a deliberate choice to sin. I did not get the feeling while reading this that she was born gay. In fact, she states that "Ninety-nine percent of the women I've known I have felt zero attraction toward." Confirming to me that she was in fact not born gay. I felt she had instead, found a way to release her frustration with life, her anxieties and her desire to rebel against the church and God in general, through sex and since men weren't safe, she chose women.
Time after time, she deliberately chose to sin, cutting off all ties to God and the church so that she didn't feel guilty. As she states: "Since there was no God, there were no rules, and no one could disapprove of my feelings or actions. My monster had free reign."
But, the author did eventually come to a point where she was willing to listen to God again. She knew what she was doing was wrong and never really felt comfortable doing it. She rebels in a big way against God and God, brings her back to Him, step by painful step. What the author learned in the process can be applied to anyone (not just those dealing with their sexual identity), but anyone who is struggling with sin. There is a Way of Hope as the title suggests and the author shows that it is Jesus!
I especially liked her description of the woman caught in adultery, who was brought before Jesus. When applying it to those in the gay community, the church has failed horribly. We have collected boulders, not rocks and are throwing them in condemnation at people who are struggling with sin. We don't do it for anyone else but the gay community. Why? As Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone." As the author states, "Transformation happens only after the rocks of condemnation get dropped." The church needs to listen to that and take it to heart. Step one on The Way to Hope - throw away your rocks! Accept gay people into your church AS THEY ARE, worts and all. We do it for everyone else, and we especially need to do it for them.
But here is the problem - most people in the gay community do not think they are sinning. They believe their sexual desires are normal. Since the church believes the gay lifestyle is a sin, how do you offer acceptance without condemning? These are the issues that should have been addressed in this book. Instead, the author talks about her spiritual journey, (which is worth the read in itself), but I was left with the feeling that unless a gay person is willing to go on the same search for God, they will not be stepping inside a church anytime soon. The author proposes that they must be prepared to admit that they are sinning and willing to become celibate forever until God changes them, something I believe most gay people will find offensive.
Can we love and not condemn the gay person without condoning their lifestyle choice? This is a question I wanted to see answered in this book, but it was not forthcoming. However, The Way of Hope is well worth the read simply because the insights the author learned on her journey to hope will help anyone who is struggling with sin in general.