I appreciated Dave Thompson’s book, Over Coffee, for pressing the importance of dialogue when engaging others with different points of view or with those who are in various stages of position development. However, I was disappointed that it was a fictional story. I imagine it would not be difficult to find pastors who would be willing to do interviews for research towards a work such as this. It would be critically important to protect identities but that could be assured by formal contract.
Because the work is fictional the best responses to it are hypothetical. What would Dave have said if the pastor answered, “XXXXXXX.” Or, how would the pastor have responded if Dave said, “YYYYYY?” Real conversations showing different ideas, approaches, and responses would have been more valuable. I have already pointed out that the book rightly encourages dialogue to identify the issues and emotions that are part of the sexual identity and preference discussion. Real discussions, however, would have given various insights and the added value of true exchanges. I also believe the book demonstrates the benefit of being theologically informed while being sociologically open and curious about various positions of thought.
Thompson clearly articulates what he is arguing for, “Well, the long and short of it is that I am presenting the case for repositioning gay partnership alongside all of the other human circumstances we allow in the Church. I am arguing the case for allowing two gay Christians, who are unable to change their orientation, who do not desire or possess a gift to be celibate, and who desire to live by the same standards as all other Christians, to be partnered together.”(1) I have concerns over the parameters of his argument. First, he proposes to “reposition” gay partnership in the same framework as all other circumstances “allowed” in the Church. I find this troubling because just a few paragraphs earlier he claimed that there was indeed a difference between gay partnerships and the partnerships between a man and a woman. In the context of faith, when he himself sets as the context, he now wants to make a distinction.
Second, Thompson is declaring correctly that the Church allows wrong situations to exist. That does make those wrong situation right nor does it mean other situations can be added in order to justify their expression. I believe his argument could have been reframed by simple wanting to make the argument that gay partnerships should be allowed in the church. No “repositioning” needed, in fact, any repositioning indicates parameters and assumptions that can color the ensuing conversation.
Of lesser importance but worthy to be noted is that Thompson, in his argument, makes assumptions that may or may not be correct but are at least questionable for an honest conversation. He assumes that a gay person’s orientation cannot be changed. That may well be true but why does he take that off the table? Actually, in the course of the book he does address that issue and I commend him for doing so. His argument should have been reworded.
Thompson writes, ““I mean, there’s a big difference between what God intended for the timespan of the Garden, and what His plan was for the end of time. Sure, Adam and Eve were created to be one flesh and commanded to be ‘fruitful and multiply.’ But after the proverbial apple was bitten, we are no longer talking about the Garden -state, we are talking about a world of complexities.”(2) The author is making an argument that since the fall people cannot live the ideal as if they were still in the Garden. I could not agree more! However, I want to raise the issue about the presence of the Kingdom that Jesus announced. How does the “now” presence of the Kingdom impact this discussion? Did Jesus adjust “standards” (Thompson used this word) to accommodate various human situations? This is not a stone being thrown. I am not ideal and worthy of rocks myself. I am asking questions that have bearing on the conversation which Thompson does not address.
How does the presence of the Kingdom of God impact this discussion?
What does a Kingdom lifestyle look like in light of this discussion?
(1) Dave Thompson, Over Coffee, (BlueHead Publishing, 2013), 28-31.
(2) Ibid. 80-81.
Thompson, Dave (2013-04-15). Over Coffee: A Conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith . BlueHead Publishing. Kindle Edition.