Book Review: Spiritual Friendship
I recently received a copy of Wesley Hill's Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian. I was intrigued by a couple of the names that endorsed the book and felt I needed to read it immediately. Given that I was on vacation, I was able to dive in for long stretches of road time and finished the book off quickly.
And yet, my thoughts towards the book have been a muddy mess delaying me from blogging or reviewing the book until now. I'm not unfamiliar with reading conservative literature on same-sex attraction and LGTBQ issues. But Spiritual Friendship felt different than the other books I'd read by individuals who experience SSA. Ed Shaw's Same-Sex Attraction and the Church was more didactic. Sam Allberry's Is God Anti-Gay? was more tightly constructed. Something about Hill unnerved me and it only hit my conscience somewhere between Cincinnati and Nashville.
That something was actually quite simple in the grand scheme of things. Despite thoroughly enjoying Shaw and Allberry's practical stories and examples, I was able to read "from a distance." Something about it was able to feel abstract despite the eminent practicality of the content. With Hill, his writing and stories were not only personal but somehow able to penetrate a layer of distance I had kept between myself and other literature. I came away from Spiritual Friendship feeling less like I had been talked to and more like I had conversed with Hill. All of this in retrospect is a very positive thing.
Developing the history of friendship, the devaluing of friendship in modernity, and how the church can carve a path forward sounds all very systematic. But nothing in Hill's writing presents itself that way. The content is surrounded by stories, questions, and musing. As I finished the final paragraph and sentence, I felt an unsatisfactory feeling in my gut. Hill doesn't have all the answers. The book isn't written for snooty know-it-alls to develop trite or trope responses to the issues and struggles of loneliness in the church. Instead, it's a thorough conversation with a knowledgeable, experienced, and theologically minded brother in Christ.
Is everyone going to agree with everything Hill believes or practices? Absolutely not. But then again, that's not the point of conversing and having dialogue. And that's what Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian is—a conversation over coffee about an important issue facing the church. I recommend it to all who are willing to listen.