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LOVE IS AN ORIENTATION
Elevating the Conversation With the Gay Community
By Andrew Marin
205 pp., Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009, $15.00, paperback, $9.05, Kindle.
Review: Andrew Marin begins by chronicling his experience in college of having three friends in 3 months "come out" to him as gay. Their revelations were a shock for him and he was unsure of how to respond. Soon he found himself on a journey that amazed and bewildered many "straight" Christians. Instead of distancing himself from his gay friends, he dove into their world. He became "the most involved, gayest straight dude on the face of the earth" (p. 19) by seeking out Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) friends, going to GLBT events, and spending time at GLBT bars and clubs in order to listen, talk, and learn. He began to hear stories of pain, rejection, and a deep yearning for God. He discovered that GLBT people are just like straight people when it comes to the core human needs-seeking a place to belong and desiring a relationship with God.
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Marin sees his role as a bridge builder between the GLBT community and the evangelical Christian community. It pains him to see the way the GLBT community is often left to search for God without the help of the Church because the Church has not been a welcoming community to GLBT persons. Many in the GLBT community carry deep hurt from how those in the Church have treated them, and yet they truly are on a search to know God. Marin states, "The GLBT community is ultimately like every other: compelled by the gospel as they taste and see that the Lord is good" (p. 22). Marin challenges readers to put aside their preconceived ideas about the GLBT community and to step into the world of GLBT persons. He gives helpful insight into how to engage friends in the GLBT community in dialogue that seeks to understand and build trust. Whether or not you realize it, you probably have friends, family members, neighbors, or co-workers who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Our response as followers of Jesus to GLBT persons should not be to start a conversation by expressing what we believe theologically about their attraction or lifestyle. If there is one place where everyone should know they belong and feel accepted no matter what, it should be in the company of those who make up the body of Christ.
While Marin does not dive into the deep theological debates taking place today about sexual orientation and attraction, he does give practical advice on how to live as Jesus lived in our diverse society. Marin invites us to be the church to the GLBT community. Being the church is no easy task, for it means that we first of all love God and love our neighbor.
A six-session corresponding participant's guide with contributor Ginny Olson was published in 2011. The guide is available without ($9.99) or with DVD ($31.99)-Renee Lick, MA, BSN, RN, Student Ministries Director, Nurses Christian Fellowship USA.
THE END OF SEXUAL IDENTITY
Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are
By Jenell Williams Paris
160 pp., Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2011, $15.00, paperback, $9.20, Kindle.
Review: Paris, a cultural anthropologist who teaches at Messiah College, takes readers on an interesting and wild ride through sexual identity. She challenges readers to rethink sex, sexual desire, sexual identity, and sexual orientation, pointing out these are modern concepts, social constructions of our postmodern world. Paris explains sexual identity is a Western, 19th century composition (p. 40). "Heterosexual" and "homosexual" were medical terms developed to describe deviants (both) who engaged in sex for pleasure rather than procreation, not used in common language until the 1930s. "Though these categories claim to be natural, neutral descriptions of human beings, they are actually concepts created by people within the last two hundred years. When Christians develop theology and ethics about homosexuality and heterosexuality, then, they are really evaluating elements of culture, though they often mistakenly believe sexual identity as we know it today was given by God at creation" (p. 15).
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Encouraging readers to think beyond our enculturation, Paris describes the Bugis in Indonesia who "believe that people can embody different amounts of maleness or femaleness" (p. 25) and have five different gender categories ranging from man to woman. Paris offers this bit of anthropology to help us see just how much sexual identity is a cultural phenomenon. "Because they configure sex and gender differently, the Bugis help me see that believing in social identities linked directly to sexual desire is just that-a belief" (p. 28). Yes God created us male and female, (Genesis 1:27), but Paris argues that sexual dimorphism (binary sex categories) is a cultural creation. "The major problem for Christians with heterosexuality, and sexual identity in general, is that it is a social construct that provides a faulty pattern for understanding what it means to be human, linking desire to identity in a way that violates biblical themes...[it] implies that what you want, sexually speaking, is who you are" (p. 43). The Bible, however, teaches that human desire is fickle and can't be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
Instead of relying on social constructs to define holiness (i.e., thinking heterosexuality is more "holy" or "better" than homosexuality), we should think about being like Christ. Paris shows how the Bible uses unpresentable body parts (including sexual) to teach us to honor all in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12); that circumcision involves the man's genitals, and how the uterus of a laboring woman is a metaphor for hope (Romans 8). She writes, "Both circumcision and biological reproduction encourage people to prioritize ethnic belonging over spiritual family, when in reality, adoption into God's family is the real deal" (p. 142). We need to redefine sexual desire (i.e., hetero or homo) as simply a part, not the whole, of who we are; not a criterion for establishing "insiders" and "outsiders." Paris repeatedly draws on Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," as we think about ourselves and sexuality.
Paris wants us to stop using scriptural prohibitions to denigrate people, to stop circumscribing worth by someone's sexual preference. Don't "lop off parts of the body [of Christ] we find disagreeable" but be driven by love and make our "way around, under, over, and through the sexual identify impasse" (p. 143). She suggests we pursue holiness, including sexual holiness, and grow in our understanding of what it means to be like Christ. This is a challenging book but worth the read.-KSS
What Health Care Professionals Need to Know About Sexual And Gender Diversity
By Michele J. Eliason, Suzanne L. Dibble, Jeanne DeJoseph, and Peggy Chinn
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, http://NursingCenter.com, 2009, $24.99 eBook, $95.00 eBook + CE (21 contact hours), electronic for iPad, Nook, Kindle.
Review: Written by four white lesbian women, the authors write, "The purpose of this book is to serve as an introduction to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) health issues and offer [healthcare] professionals tools for creating safer and more inclusive environments for the people they serve, and a more humane workplace for their LGBTQ coworkers" (p. 1, Preface). As a broad overview of health issues and concerns shared by persons who identify as LGBTQ (rather than a book about specific health problems and care), the goal of the book is to build understanding of LGBTQ perspectives. Resources for detailed care information are provided in an appendix.
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Part I provides background information on sexuality and sex/gender identities, stigma, myths, stereotypes, diversity, and family structures-including a chapter where the authors discuss and refute 27 myths about sexual orientation and gender identity such as "People could change their sexual orientation if they wanted to" and "LGBTQ people are blatant: they flaunt their sexuality" that challenges you to rethink how you view LGBTQ individuals. Part II discusses effects of stigma on health and healthcare access, barriers to quality care, and the experiences of LGBTQ healthcare professionals. The last chapter makes a call for action at individual, institutional, community, and societal levels and concludes with a "top-10" list of things healthcare professionals should know and consider doing. Reflection questions are included at the end of each chapter.
This is an eye-opening book for "straight" healthcare workers, especially for those who have not thought much about LGBTQ issues. It probably will be an uncomfortable read for some and you won't agree with or endorse everything the authors suggest. But because we work with, have friends socially, and will have LGBTQ patients, this book is important to improving care and relationships. Numerous quotes and sad experiences of LGBTQ individuals with the healthcare system are found throughout the chapters. I found the book helpful in understanding and looking through a different lens about LGBTQ perspectives (i.e., through their lens rather than my Christian, heterosexual, conventional lens). The authors write, "Our hope is that the content of this book stimulates open discussion of the influences of sex/gender, sexuality, and other human differences on [healthcare] access and quality of care. For too long, there has been silence on these issues. In the spirit of healthy dialogue, we offer this book" (p. 1, Preface). I agree. We need healthy (i.e., not fearful, ignorant, angry, defensive) dialogue in healthcare about LGBTQ issues. This book is a helpful start.-KSS
SERVANT LEADERSHIP IN NURSING
By Mary Elizabeth O'Brien
355 pp., Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 2011, $49.95, paperback.
Review: O'Brien has added yet another moving and profound book to her collection of publications in Servant Leadership in Nursing. She begins by discussing nursing as a vocation of caring historically and in today's modern healthcare, and explores the concept and development of the term "servant leadership." An extensive review of both health and leadership literature is offered, along with in-depth biblical discussion. What is exciting and moving is the reporting of O'Brien's Called to Serve: The Lived Experience of a Nursing Vocation phenomenological study. Seventy-five nursing leaders consisting of administrators, managers, head nurses, charge nurses, team leaders, advanced practice, educators, researchers, and parish nurses were interviewed and their ideas and comments about servant leadership are shared throughout the book. Readers will resonate with the rich themes relayed by study participants. In Phase 1, five attitudinal themes about nursing vocation were developed beginning with "A Blessed Calling." Nine behavioral themes such as "Listening with the Heart" and "Being There to Serve" emerged from analysis of the study interviews. O'Brien develops a "Model of Servant Leadership for Nursing" from the attitudinal and behavioral themes expressed by the leaders. She summarizes the model writing, "A description of servant leadership in nursing involves a vocational perception of the profession as encompassing a strongly positive attitude toward one's calling, a passion for the ministry, a feeling of belonging in nursing, a desire to do more than required, and a deep gratitude for nursing as a personal life vocation" (p. 209). Application of the model and what it means to be servant leader in contemporary nursing is made to administrators, managers, clinicians, advanced practice, parish, educators, and researchers in nursing in hospitals, long-term care, community, and church settings. Bible verses and stories are woven throughout the book, and O'Brien concludes with a moving parable of servant leadership in nursing, which is a true story.
This is an inspiring read for nurses in any area of practice, but especially helpful to those in leadership positions and to those needing encouragement in your nursing life. As with all of O'Brien's books, I highly recommend Servant Leadership in Nursing.-KSS
A FAMILY'S RESURRECTION FROM BREAST CANCER
By Patricia A. Sealy
288 pp., Belleville, Ontario, Canada: Guardian, 20110 $24.95, paperback.
Review: In her book, Dr. Sealy has given those of us who have not walked with breast cancer (either personally or with someone close) a very intimate and profound experience. Sealy, her family, and close supporters share moment by moment details of their experience with Sealy's locally advanced breast cancer, treatment, and recovery. But this isn't a travelogue of thoughts; it's a moving and well written story. Sealy includes humor and insight and deep reflections that take your breath away. I became quite caught up in the moving reflections relayed by Dr. Sealy and her husband and daughters. She details the day-to-day awfulness of diagnosis, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, surgery, infection, and recovery for herself and her family. She uses analogy quite colorfully, like "Chemo feels like a time zone...Daylight Savings Time as the clock springs forward...you end up feeling mixed up and wondering where the missing time went" (p. 42). She includes pictures of her body, some quite gruesome, to help us understand the horror of what she went through.
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Sealy's most profound analogy is the journey of Jesus through his Passion. She provides new understanding of what Christ suffered for us, while at the same time empowering us by relating Jesus' experience to her pain and suffering, and ultimately to our pain and suffering. Sealy ends each chapter with a collection of short reflections that are deep, sometimes funny, and moving. For example at the end of Chapter 8, "Easter Saturday: In the Tomb - Recovery" she writes, "The fatigue from radiation therapy was like none other...Did Sleeping Beauty and Rip Van Winkle have cancer treatment...?" and "Was Jesus really in the tomb for only one day?" (p. 215).
This is an outstanding book for anyone who wants to understand what it's like for someone and his/her family to have serious cancer. It would be a thoughtful gift to a woman with breast cancer or to a family member. Be sure to read Sealy's article in this issue, "The Passion Journey: Bringing Meaning to Suffering, Spiritual Crisis, and Recovery in Cancer" (pp. 238-242). The article offers a taste of Sealy's moving writing.-KSS