REVIEW: Jeremy Marks, ‘Exchanging the truth of God for a lie’
In ‘Exchanging the truth of God for a lie: One man’s spiritual journey to find the truth about homosexuality and same-sex partnerships’, Jeremy Marks explores his philosophy on gay Christianity.
A gay Evangelical church leader himself, Marks founded Courage, a gay Christian ministry, in 1988.
The original focus of the ministry was to ‘help’ gay Christians towards a closer relationship with Christ, which, they believed, would eventually eradicate their homosexual urges.
Over the course of the book, Marks explains how the direction of the ministry changed from one that tried to ‘cure’ homosexuality, to one that reconciled Christianity with homosexuality and affirmed gay sexuality.
When Marks sent me a copy of his book to review, I must admit I was apprehensive.
Firstly, as a non-believer, I doubted I would understand the theological arguments well enough to assess them properly.
Secondly, the state of the current debate around Christianity and homosexuality is decidedly nasty.
The comments on this very site regarding the conflict over gays and the Church have been some of the most prejudiced, personal, and uncompromising I’ve ever seen (on all sides of the debate).
I was prepared for a re-run of the same arguments often pitched against homophobia within the Church.
I read on waiting for the age old whine of ‘but the Bible contradicts itself!’ or ‘the Bible says we should stone people, but we don’t!’
Those comments, I’m happy to say, never materialised on the pages; to reinstate these well-known facts would be a waste of time.
Neither was there any mud-slinging and bitterness against Christianity, nor claims that the religion is inherently oppressive and thus not suitable for any self-respecting gay (or indeed human, for that matter).
Occasional references to oppressive things that the Church has done were countered by Marks’ admission of his own, originally conservative views on homosexuality, and his explanations of those.
The result is a refreshing, insightful and intelligent insight into the conflict between homosexuality and Christianity.
Detailed analysis of scripture, plainly set out for non-Christians to understand, assist Marks’ argument.
He takes the view that faith, and more metaphorical readings of the Bible, are important for modern worship.
He points out, for example, that if all the situations occurring in human life were set out in the Bible, there would be no need to pray to God.
The book contains many real-life cases of gay Christians who Marks met through Courage.
Their stories are delivered with genuine pathos, without glorifying their suffering or condemning the Church for their treatment.
Instead, Marks offers a fair and practical analysis of the successes and failures of Evangelical leaders in dealing with gay members of their congregations.
Marks doubts, for example, that Evangelical healers were insincere and taking advantage of the gay people they professed to have ‘healed’.
These healers, he points out, often moved on with church tours.
As a result, they rarely saw the long-term psychological damage done to gay Christians who believed they were ‘cured’, and were later disappointed.
The central idea to the book, and Marks’ philosophy, is that ‘falsehood’ is a far worse sin that homosexuality.
If people do not truly know and accept themselves as they are, they can never know Christ.
Therefore, Marks believes that denying sexuality prevents closeness to God.
For him, this view is reinforced by the fact that he spent ten years attempting earnestly to change people’s homosexuality, only to fail and cause more hurt.
This, he believes, is evidence that God does not want to change gays into straights.
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Overall, the book was uplifting, diplomatic and forward-thinking.
Despite its Christian subject matter, some discussion of the pressures facing gay people ring true with even an atheist lesbian like me.
Marks deliberately published ‘Exchanging the truth of God for lie’ to coincide with the recent Lambeth conference.
Let’s hope that some of his ideas on reconciliation were noted by a few conference members.
‘Exchanging the truth of God for a lie’ is currently available at from Amazon