I have to admit, there was a lot of trepidation in reading this volume and not knowing what exactly to expect. Dwelling in the Land: Bringing Same-Sex Attraction Under the Lordship of Christ could have gone either way. It could have gone the direction of saying that it’s not that big of a sin to be same-sex attracted, or it could have gone in the other direction in saying that God wants us to be loving and accepting. Unfortunately, this went down the middle and really kept the readers on a fence not landing in one direction or another.
Right off the bat Jeanette Howard presents herself as one who hasn’t “traveled from one end of the continuum to the other. I have not exchanged a homosexual identity for a heterosexual identity, and I haven’t even tried to ‘change’ in the past fourteen years. The relief has been exhilarating and has freed me to grow and mature as a concrete individual and not as an abstract identity.” This tone sets the course for the rest of the volume, again, neither good or bad, just sort of a middle of the road examination of identity and orientation.
It is because of that middle-road feeling that I’m not quite sure how to feel about this book. Much of the information Howard gives is great for the same-sex attracted person moving towards the Christian worldview. I applaud her yielding herself and her identity to Christ in the midst of a terrible and daunting struggle.
What I’m still unsure about is how someone can move towards a new sense of identity and not have their orientation radically affected as well. If we are moving, for example, from a naturalist worldview to a Christian worldview, this shatters all the presuppositions that everything is only and ever natural. God breaks into this world through a miraculous incarnation which defies all logical thinking. How can orientation not be affected by this radical change in thinking? I’m puzzled!
As a piece of writing, apart from the subject, Howard’s writing is clear and transparent. She’s not fake or unaware of the struggles she has faced, and still faces. This point makes this book more likable to audiences who can connect with her on a deeper level. I appreciate that she is so candid about her past and the hurt she has gained from both sides of the struggle. Her end goal is realized as a child of God, filled with the spirit, and living in union with Christ. Her efforts are to be applauded, but I’m not quite sure I’m there yet, which may mean work on my own heart. And who loves to do that kind of thing?