Gregory Coles’ Single, Gay, Christian releases today. Go buy it.
Writing a review for my friend Greg Coles’ new book is a bit like taking a photograph of the Grand Canyon… using an old-fashioned camera… with a cracked lens… and overexposed film. It is doomed to fail utterly at the task of representing the experience of actually journeying with Greg as he relates his personal story of how he discovered that God could love gay people like himself, like me, and like others. For this reason, as well as due to the genre of Greg’s book (memoir), my comments here will not follow the pattern of a standard review, but will be instead a somewhat stream-of-consciousness reflection on how I was personally impacted by Greg’s story.
Perhaps more than anything, I was impacted by the sheer humanity of Single, Gay, Christian. Although I have spent the past ten years talking publicly about my own experience of not being straight, I found myself struck time and time again with the realization that Greg had discovered descriptions of his experience that had eluded me in my own search to make meaning out of my orientation.
As a result, reading about Greg’s journey to make meaning out of his experience helped me to become more human in my own journey to search out what might still be in store for me to discover about myself as a gay man. The sting of loneliness, the search for Truth, and the discovery of Beauty are all wrapped up in a bundle of neurons and desires that continually elude my understanding, yet that beckon me onward in my journey toward the celestial City of God. Yes, these are deeply human matters and I have been enriched by my encounter with Greg’s life in his book.
Greg’s book is also deeply spiritual. Whether he is relating his angst surrounding the initial suspicion as a teenager that something wasn’t normal (“Am I gay?”), his experiences dating women, or his attempt to wrestle with the Bible’s teaching about sexuality and marriage, Greg continually brings the gospel to bear on his experience. And when clear answers don’t emerge, he doesn’t conjure them out of thin air. Superficial, self-manufactured solutions don’t stand the test of time and trial. As I encountered Greg’s journey through doubt, pain, and loss, I discovered anew that solace is ultimately found in a Person, and that Christ himself is the treasure and prize that we have been promised.
Finally—and it simply must be said—Greg’s book is a delightful (he’ll be happy I used that word) and enjoyable read simply because Greg is a genius wordsmith. Greg tells his story the way an artist paints a landscape, relishing the combination of bold strokes of confidence in God’s promises to his children together with delicate wisps of color bearing witness to the reality of weakness, fear, and loss. Greg’s unique gift of creative transparency enables him to portray the beauty that is inherent in being a work-in-progress. And when we encounter beauty in another’s transparency, we are changed.
In closing, perhaps it would be good to note that in some ways, “Single, Gay, Christian” might represent a coming-of-age of sorts of the orthodox gay Christian movement. With Wesley Hill’s trailblazing memoir Washed and Waiting entering a second, updated edition, perhaps the time is ripe for nonstraight people of faith to look with greater eagerness and expectation for what our Father might do through the faithfulness of his children, as we all—gay and straight—try to live our lives faithfully before him in our world today.