book report: She's my Dad by Jonathan Williams 2018

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One reaction to a transgender person in my former fundagelical approach to the world is to believe such a person is deceived by the devil if not fully cooperating with Satan. In fact, it is such a demonic act that one should not even participate in using the person's new name. The observational, scientific understanding of sex, gender, genitalia, and brain structure are not yet allowed to disagree with Moses's binary assertion that in the beginning God created them male and female. Compassion is not allowed to overrule bronze age judgments, the very issue Jesus fought against in his interactions with his contemporary Bible-thumpers.

Experience forces us to reconsider the primacy of scripture. For Jesus, it was an encounter with a Gentile woman. For Peter it was a dream about eating non-kosher food. For me it was the coming out of a family member. For Jonathan Williams, it was his dad, a successful leader of a large fundagelical church planting organization, admitting he's always known he was not a man despite his genitals. These guys knew their Bibles thoroughly. They had pastored churches. They had baptized disciples. They had preached the good news. But did the good news stop at a man in his 60's who had faithfully served the Lord for decades who was now attempting to align his external life with his internal life?

In 2012, I might have said yes. But like the author of this book, I've made a painful discovery, to believe that God is indeed love. It's a beautiful discovery, but painful when your religious community turns against you for believing this verse over all the others in the Bible. For Jonathan's father, Paula, it was being fired from the church planting organization she headed for 20 years, and losing all the friends made over that time frame. For himself, it was a loss of the father he thought he knew, and as his theology changed, the loss of the same church network.

Paula was born again when she transitioned. Jonathan's faith was born again when he embraced a theology of original blessing and inclusiveness and love. But new birth is painful and Jonathan writes honestly and unflinchingly about the pain. I devoured this book and I hope this book is a lifeline to those christians who are LGBTQ and in non-affirming communities.

Thanks to Netgalley and Westminster John Knox Press for a complementary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Please watch this excellent TEDtalk by Paula.


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