In her book, Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been, Jackie Hill Perry joins with other thoughtful, discerning Christians to offer a different perspective on sin and sexuality. Like Rosaria Butterfield, Sam Allberry, and others, she refuses to reduce who we are to our sexuality, bringing the gospel to bear on our entire life—from what we say, to what we wear, to how (and who) we love. Every part of us needs the cleansing blood of Jesus, and every part of us ought to cry out in praise to Him. This message, as told through her own story, is vital for the Church and all claiming Christ today—gay or otherwise.
Perry makes it clear from the outset that the purpose of her book is not to help us better know and love this gay girl turned good, but to know and love the gracious God who has framed and shaped all of history, and consequently, her own story. Her poetic prose draws an expressive and vibrant picture of “who she was”: abandoned by her father, abused by her cousin, exposed to pornography, experimenting with marijuana. She has every legitimate claim to victimhood, but while acknowledging the pain and confusion that characterized her experience, is careful to bring us back to Eden, showing us how our first father and mother distrusted God and valued their own desires over Him. As their child, she owns these same sins of distrust and rebellion. Never does she excuse her disrespect, lying, pride, lusting.
But God claimed Perry for his own before her birth. In the second section, she describes the sometimes slow and perplexing process by which the Lord drew her from sin to Himself. It started with outwards acts—wearing women’s clothes, breaking up with her girlfriend, leaving the community she’d come to call home—then moved to matters of the heart. Her mentor told her, “Jackie, homosexuality is not your only issue…whether it is homosexuality, pride, fear, anger, laziness, et cetera, there is more than one sin in you that needs to be overcome” (101). While Perry can see sin still infiltrating her heart, she finds hope because she knows that heart is new. In giving her a new heart, God slowly revealed the fallibility and corruption of lesser loves and began to gradually heal the wounds left by the trauma. In the midst of learning to love God more, she learned to embrace who he made her to be: not (just) a straight woman, a woman made in the image of her creator. The final section of the book emphasizes that marriage and children are not what makes her either Christian or holy. “Our sexuality is not our soul, marriage is not heaven, and singleness is not hell” (190).
Perry is deliberate in distinguishing between same-sex attracted and gay. She points out that ‘gay’ implies a state of being; ‘same-sex attracted’ is a resistible temptation. She holds to a robustly biblical view of sin that condemns pride, vanity and idolatry as well as homosexuality, pointing out that all lead to separation from God and death, and encouraging other same-sex attracted Christians to persevere in their struggle against sin, because “sin, when in the body, cannot not stay put. It’s not a guest that stays in one room, making sure not to disturb the others. It is a tenant that lives in everything and goes everywhere” (20).
This is not a fight we can wage alone. We need our brothers and sisters in the church, and the church needs to recognize those who struggle with same-sex attraction are as much a part of the church as those who have struggled with porn or heterosexual lust. The church must remember that Christ is not in the business of making gay people happily married heterosexuals (though he may). He is aiming for far more: making broken people whole:
Christ did not die to redeem us in part. Neither did He rise so that we might have life in portions. But with us having a body made for Him, as well as the mind, will, personality, and emotions that it contains, we must understand that God is after us becoming victorious over any and all sin that would hinder the whole person from serving God fully and freely (101).
This holistic view of sin and salvation was one thing I particularly appreciated about Perry’s book. She does not fall into the pit of making our sexuality and sexual sins worse than any other sin. Nor does she stumble into the error of pretending that same-sex attraction is not a temptation, and that acting on it (in any way) is not a sin. Rather, she shows that sexual sins are as grotesque as any sin, because all sin is a rebellion against God. All sin is loving something created more than the Creator. Such a view of sin keeps us from the self-deception that we can some-how will our way out of sin. She makes clear that sin is a matter of love—we sin not because we don’t know what the right thing is; we sin because we love the wrong thing. Until we have been given a heart that longs to love God above all else, we are slaves to lesser loves. Only Christ’s completed work on our behalf and the renewing power of His Spirit gives us the free-dom to love the best thing. True freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want, but “the power to do what is pleasing” (86) This freedom comes through faith in Christ; given as a gift of grace, and the power to continue in it is from faith in Christ; given as a gift of grace. Unlike many contemporary Christian authors, Perry offers no magical formula; only the gospel. Who but an all-loving, all-powerful God could take someone so overrun with sin and make her new? Such a God deserves our worship. “What God has done to my soul is worth telling because He is worth knowing. Worth seeing. Worth hearing. Worth loving, and trusting, and exalting…To tell you about what God has done for my soul is to invite you into my worship” (pg. 192).
For someone so young, Perry offers unusually profound insight into such an intensely-debated topic, and the book is a helpful resource to both those familiar and unfamiliar with the conver-sation. It’s also startlingly convicting. I found myself so captivated so by her story—written like poetry; so evocative of Maya Angelou—that I was startled to see my own heart laid bare. Perry’s book challenged me to face the ugliness and pervasiveness of sin in myself; while at the same time, giving me compassion and love for those in the LGBTQ community.
Elisabeth Bloechl is a blogger and member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Hammond, WI.