Review by Wesley Hill, Christianity Today
Sometime in 2007 I discovered Eve Tushnet’s writing. I can’t recall exactly how I found her non-flashy, off-the-beaten-path blog, tagged with the teasing moniker “Conservatism reborn in twisted sisterhood,” but somehow I landed there, following a trail of hyperlinks. I used to read her posts in the morning, while sipping coffee, huddled over my laptop in my cell-like flat in England, when I was just starting graduate school.
Tushnet is a gay Catholic writer who embraces her church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. By the time I learned about her, I’d been admitting to myself for a few years that I was gay, though I hadn’t told many other people yet. I was still too frightened and unsure of what kind of welcome (or lack thereof) I’d receive. You know those novels and movies about the yearning, aching twentysomethings who are trying to disentangle and sort out their erotic and religious longings, while dreading loneliness and rejection above all else? That was me. Imagine Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited, all angsty and insecure, but with a small-town-USA upbringing, and you’ll get the picture. I needed a lifeline. I was hungry to know I wasn’t alone.
One of the first things by Tushnet that I read was the following paragraph from an article published in the magazine Commonweal. In this paragraph was the answer to a question I hadn’t been able to formulate for myself but which, once heard, seemed like the question I needed to ask:
Almost all the time, love of God will deepen and strengthen our love of others in obvious ways, rather than conflicting with that love or posing a dilemma. And so we are tempted to believe that our love of God and our love of others won’t ever conflict. But there will be times when it does seem like God is asking us to choose. At the very least, God may require us to radically reshape our understanding of what love of another person should look like. God may ask you not to stop loving your partner but to express that love without sex.
There it was—the question for me, buried in that last sentence: Might God be asking me not to deny and discard my yearning for same-sex closeness but rather to offer my desire to God—and, thereby, to find it elevated, altered, transformed in some way? That was the gamble: If God wanted me to live without gay sex, could I trust that God wasn’t also asking me to deny my desire to give and receive love? Could I trust that God had a “Yes” for me, and not just a “No”?