by Michael B. RegeleRegele_book

Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2014.

A book review by Tricia Dykers Koenig

Love God with all you have and all you are, and love your neighbor as yourself. Are these two Great Commandments ever in conflict? Does God put people of faith in the position of being required to choose between adhering to the First Commandment and obeying the Second?

When Mike Regele’s daughter came out to her parents, there was never a question for them: “… we would side with our daughter.” (p. 7)  Yet, as for many evangelical Christian parents of LGBTQ children, reconciling their instinctive support for their child with the teachings of the church – and traditional interpretations of Scripture – was a complicated journey.

A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister who has founded firms helping congregations serve their communities more effectively, Regele explores multiple disciplines in his search for understanding – biology, psychology, sociology, and demographics, along with biblical study, theology, and church history – and reflects on these learnings in light of his personal story.  He provides an accessible survey of the science pointing to the probability that sexual orientation is innate, resulting from a combination of genetic and prenatal hormonal influences. The ethical conclusion: it is inconsistent with loving one’s LGBTQ neighbors to blame and penalize them for a characteristic they did not choose and cannot change.

Chapters on both Testaments examine in context the passages used to condemn homosexuality.  Regele identifies idolatry as the central sin at issue in these texts, and argues for an understanding of sexual morality in which the forbidden actions are domination, exploitation, and abuse. Broader biblical themes, with emphasis on the life and teaching of Jesus, evoke an ethic in which the goal is human flourishing.

Regele provides summaries at the end of most chapters, making his argument clear for those who prefer to skim – or to review. Resolute in his LGBTQ-affirming conclusions, he respects those who disagree. A quibble: some of the charts have small or fuzzy print that challenges all but the sharpest eyesight.

With the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the U.S., #LoveWins was perhaps intended to celebrate the love of partners for one another; yet the hashtag also affirms that a societal commitment to equal dignity for all is a victory not just for romantic love, but also for love of neighbor. Regele’s skillful interdisciplinary approach will inform those within and outside the church who still struggle with the rapid change in attitudes and laws – or who would benefit from help in explaining their own instinct toward siding with their LGBTQ neighbors.