All But Invisible

Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality

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Nate Collins
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 
    Zondervan
    , September
     2017.
     320 pages.
     $19.99.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780310526025.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

In All But Invisible: Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality, Nate Collins invites the reader into his own personal understanding of living as a conservative Christian homosexual man—in a traditional marriage—who is making the case for why his conservative Christian church should respond with a strong ethic of love towards homosexuals in their community. As a reader, you may need more than just a moment to absorb this first sentence. In fact, when reading the book—no matter where you stand on the issue of homosexuality in the church—Collins challenges us by not conforming to common preconceptions. While reading, my own bias repeatedly surfaced, making me want to rescue Collins from his own understanding of self. However, this is exactly what Collins asks the reader not to do. Therefore, rather than trying to fit Collins into my own conceptions of whom he should be, which is the temptation, I will instead examine the case he presents: advocating for a stronger ethic of love through deeper understanding.

Collins begins by recounting how the church is understood. He recalls images of an upside-down community, a living organism, a sacred kinship, and a costly embrace. Collins argues that the church has been co-opted by politics and culture wars in a way that has hindered its ability to live out the love of the gospel, then proceeds to broaden the conception of homosexuality. He demonstrates that lived homosexuality is far more diverse than heterosexuals imagine, which often interferes with a congregation’s ability to make space in their church for gay people. Collins presents several ways that homosexuals can be true to their identity of same-gender attraction while not engaging in homosexual sex, which he agrees is sinful. Collins closes with a deeper understanding of how gender is perceived in light of both Christian theology and cultural influences in hopes of distinguishing what reflects the gospel and what reflects cultural biases.

In addition to conceptualizing homosexuality in new and different ways, Collins also invites the reader to understand terms in a novel manner, which can be difficult. It is also problematic that he is not always clear in making his arguments. For instance, in defining passion, he argues that “a desire crosses into the territory of passion when the prospect, however faint, of the fulfillment of the desire seems not only good but good for me” (118). This definition suggests that desire never obtains a self-fulfilling quality, and also implies that passion is primarily good. Collins does pair passion with temptation and suggests that, when mixed with temptation, passion can become harmful. Still, it appears as if he is forcing all of these concepts (desire, passion, temptation) to embody unnecessary linguistic nuances. Moreover, Collins frequently asks the reader to reconsider generally accepted definitions. Unfortunately, in the opinion of this reader,  when so many terms require redefinition to construct a convincing argument, the argument becomes less convincing.

Collins also states that he will not examine biblical passages on homosexuality given that there are many books that already address them. He does, however, address the relationship between Jonathan and David, which he views as purely non-sexual but full of passionate admiration (120). Therefore, he does interpret a passage dealing with homosexuality, only not one condemning homosexuality. For those readers unfamiliar with the conservative Christian understanding of those passages, or for those who are unaware of the debate surrounding their interpretation, a summary may have been useful—particularly if Collins’s journey may have  influenced his own interpretation of the passages.

Although this book disrupts presumptions, particularly the preconceptions of heterosexual Christians, it remains an important work given it demands a more inclusive Christian community, yet also affirms a traditional understanding of marriage. Perhaps the text may be helpful for churches or denominations that are embroiled in arguments concerning homosexuality. Collins, in many ways, brings both sides into the conversation, however he also reminds us that while we debate, we do so on top of the bodies of real human beings, people who are just as loved and precious to Jesus as everyone else. Perhaps reading Collins’ story will encourage Christians to have more humility and love in how they deal with all God’s family.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Michelle J. Morris is an Elder in the United Methodist Church working in the Arkansas Conference.

Date of Review: 
January 25, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Nate Collins has served as an instructor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological seminary and currently is a partner associate at The Sight Ministry, a Christian organization based in Nashville, Tennessee, that provides resources and support for individuals, families, and churches regarding LGBT issues. He also serves on the board of directors of LOVEboldly, a nonprofit organization that promotes reconciliation to God, self, and others at the intersection of faith, sexuality, and gender identity.

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