Book Review of: On Being Human: Sexual Orientation and the Image of God, C. Norman Kraus, Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011, 113 pp. By Wayne Northey
Since receipt of this publication for review, same-sex marriage has been legalized in the United States. Canada had legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. Since, in both countries, the sky has not fallen…
Nonetheless, I approach reviewing this book with hesitation and trepidation. Same-sex marriage is still hugely contested in most church denominations.
C. Norman Kraus enters this discussion as an octogenarian, who, in his Mennonite denomination, is well aware of the minority position he takes.
He invited fellow octogenarian and pastor Martin Lehman to write the Foreword. It states:
Simply put, Kraus presents a case for the view that sexual orientation is an essential part of being human; that a human is not responsible for his or her sexual orientation; that homosexual identity is no more perverse than heterosexual identity, and [Christian] guidelines for both homo-erotic and hetero-erotic behaviours should be identical (p. viii).
I have both appreciated anything I’ve read in the past by the author, and I confess at the outset to find Kraus’ book compelling. For Kraus, indicates Lehman, there is an ecclesial concern related to mission and more specifically evangelism. In the church’s opposition to same-sex relationships, its “saving message is weakened and made less believable by excluding gay believers (p. ix)”, contends Lehman. The rejoinder of course, is that gays and lesbians are not excluded from the church, rather same-sex relations are. But gays and lesbians tell a different real-life story.
If the church fails in heeding Kraus’ message, Lehman contends that
those who need Jesus may not believe him, the Holy Spirit will be grieved, the church’s growth as a community of grace, joy, and peace will be slowed, and the flow of healing and hope from the church to the world will be restricted.
Lehman adds, “This sounds harsh, but it must be said (p. ix).”
I read recently a restatement by one church body of its opposition to same-sex marriage, in the context of the June 2015 court decision to permit same-sex marriage across the United States. It was compassionate, non-reactionary, and based the opposition on the analogy of Christ and the church in covenant relationship. In that statement, the church had to be “female” in order for the analogy to work.