Three Star review, originally posted here on September 17, 2014.
I was really looking forward to reading this book, liking it, and giving it a big pretty glowing 5 star review. Last I checked there weren’t many reviews, and I was hoping that my 5-stars would help persuade people to read it, since it covers such an important topic, and I like what I’ve read of John Shore’s stuff when friends post it on Facebook. Unfortunately, it falls a bit flat, at least for me. I was hoping for a pretty detailed analysis of what the Clobber Passages were and why they’re bunk. I was hoping for serious and intellectual fodder to use if ever trying to persuade Christians to stop being dicks to gay people. Basically, I was hoping for the book version of the movie “For the Bible Tells Me So” (which you ABSOLUTELY MUST WATCH). This book lightly flirted with this stuff, but always stopped short.
In essence, this book was more an appeal to emotion and the heart than an appeal to logic and the brain. It seems to be directed more at gay Christians (or potential Christians) and making them feel welcome than directed at straight Christians and/or other allies. This is definitely a noble goal, so in that respect the book serves a very real purpose. I just wish I’d realized ahead of time that that’s what I was about to read. If this book made just one gay Christian feel better, then mission accomplished, job well done, etc.
To people like me, however, the book felt unfocused and ill-organized. Half the book is a collection of letters Shore collected from gay Christians describing their experiences. At first this section was great. It was great to hear from real people, with real experiences, expressing their real emotions. But then there were more letters. And I was like, “Okay, I see what he’s doing here. He wants to emphasize that you are truly not alone, and that these experiences are universal, that there are sooo many people going through these struggles, etc.” But then the letters kept going, and going, and going, and going, for what seemed like forever. This may have been alright if the book had been titled “A Collection of Letters From Gay Christians, as Compiled by John Shore.” But it wasn’t. It was titled “UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Questions” (though I don’t recall the T being discussed at any point) WRITTEN BY John Shore. But even as a compilation it is not very good, mostly because the majority of the stories are pretty much exactly the same. It got very tiring to read, which means it got boring, which is counterproductive. I do not mean to suggest that each individual story isn’t moving or compelling or useful on its own, but mashing them all together like that sucked away half of the underlying meaning.
To his credit, Shore explains the layout of the book right at the beginning, so if the compilations got boring or tedious you could just skip them and go straight to Shore’s essays at the end of the book. But I, naively, assumed that if Shore included them all as a selection in his published book, it was because he had an actual plan wherein the reader was actually supposed to gain something from each individual letter, and then combine it with his essays at the end. Nope, not so much. In fact, even the essays at the end didn’t really seem to flow in any logical progression. In the end I was disappointed, because I had waited so long to get to the essays at the end, and those were just kinda meh.
DEFINITELY READ THIS BOOK if you are a gay Christian and are feeling alone, conflicted, unloved, etc. Buy this book and keep it handy so that at any point you can flip it open and read the words of someone who is/was in the exact same position as you. Read it to help realize that there ARE loving, non-crazy Christians out there reaching out their arms to accept you.
DEFINITELY READ THIS BOOK if you are a Christian who is at heart a really nice person but just can’t figure out what to think about gays. You will learn how loving and normal they can be, and how harmful your actions (or inactions) can be.
DO NOT READ THIS BOOK if you’re expecting facts, arguments, etc. You will not find them here. This is not a comprehensive examination of the issues, just a relevant collection of thoughts and stories.
Whether or not you read the book, definitely check out John Shore’s stuff online. I’m not sure why this particular book kinda missed the mark, but his overall body of work is pretty great. And then definitely supplement all of this with the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So for an effective, reasoned look at the Clobber Passages (yes ,I’m plugging it twice, because it is good).