"Born Again This Way" by Rachel Gilson
Rachel Gilson’s book “Born Again This Way” was published this year and describes her life and how she came to acknowledge her same-sex attraction (SSA) in her teenage years. Her first relationship was with another woman in high school. Rachel, as an academic, had also come to a point where she had firmly rejected Christianity. However, on arrival at university, she discovered that she was no longer the smartest person around and, through a series of life events, came to the point of deciding to let Jesus into her life. Her need to seek and search Scripture for what it actually said about same-sex relationships was brought to her attention when two other Christian women who were in a same-sex relationship said it was acceptable to be both. Rachel, in searching through the Scriptures, found she was unable to square this up. And so she made the decision to be Christ-centred in her walk with Jesus.
Rachel interweaves each chapter with the expounding of different Scriptures, including the relevant subject matter, life stories and experiences. The unexpectedness of each chapter is refreshing to read, and there seems to be something new around each corner.
For this review, I have just focused briefly on four of the chapters, each starting with the word “Unexpected”: Ministry, Relationships, Marriage, and Celibacy.
In choosing to invite Jesus in and to be central in our lives, Rachel reminds us:
“those of us who decided to follow Christ in the midst of our SSA did so because we saw in the gospel the power of salvation-something worth leaving everything for. But the gospel is not just for Day 1 of our life with Jesus. It is for every day that follows... we won’t survive if we replace our connection with Jesus with duty of morals.”
Rachel explores and expands on 1 Thess 4:3-6. She unpacks this here:
“the ministry that SSA Christians have to the church and the world must go beyond an individualistic stance. The costliness of our obedience to God’s words makes demands on others – they can, and should, find it unsettling. When people are offended by our obedience, it is because our culture, both inside and outside the church, has brought the lie that sex is merely a private matter.”
She notes that sex is, in fact, a social matter. The Apostle Paul explains this in 1 Thess 4:6 – “In this matter [of sexual immorality] no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.”
Rachel’s personal story unpacks and shows us the importance of good quality healthy relationships and how these can strengthen us when we feel vulnerable and face struggles with SSA. The importance can’t be underestimated of both developing “sibling relationships in Christ [which] create immense freedom to love” and nurturing intergenerational relationships within the Church family. These are all needed to provide a safe place to share, receive and give support.
This chapter is full of surprises and I am not going to reveal them here. You need to read it for yourself. Rachel explores this subject area, and has also drawn on several couples’ and friends’ experiences. She gives us these helpful reminders:
“Marriage is not the prize for faithfulness, nor the source. Jesus is the prize. The Spirit is the source.”
“Marriage is beautiful and possible for same-sex-attracted people, as long as it is entered into with clarity and freedom. It will be where God leads some of his people, perhaps unexpectedly.”
“But just as beautiful and possible is the life dedicated to God in singleness.”
Unexpected Celibacy can be difficult to adjust to and to come to terms with. Obedience is a strong thread throughout this book, particularly in this chapter. One key thing that jumped out at me was this:
“…our obedience is the natural and obvious response to a God who is gracious: a way of saying we choose to find our rest and hope in Him, and not in anything else.”
Rachel reminds us that obedience always leads us to God’s blessing. For me, this reminder for thriving as an SSA person was incredibly helpful: “[we are to have] a thick relationship with Jesus, life-giving companions, and a realistic view of singleness”.
Rachel reminds us that God’s invitation to “exchange our sin for his righteousness – living forever with him – can be our anchor in the storms of life,” and that obedience to Jesus is foundational in our walk with him.
Ed Shaw describes this book so succinctly as follows:
“[this book is] a pastoral gold mine full of biblical advice for us all – movingly illustrated by the lives of Rachel and her friends. It wonderfully tells of how same-sex attracted people can both become Christians and stay Christian in a world which often believes that neither is possible.”
This is an excellent book to be read, and re-read, suitable for both men and women who experience SSA, as well as those who seek to provide pastoral support – both friends and church leaders.
"Born Again This Way" by Rachel Gilson
(The Good Book Company, 2020)
£8.99 paperback, £6.99 Kindle
This book review was originally published in the Autumn 2020 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Autumn 2020 edition of Ascend