Settle in, this will be one of my epic reviews.
I am concerned about the content, the message, and the impact of Janet Boynes’ latest book “God & Sexuality.” I will go section by section in my evaluation of content.
The foreword endorsement to the book is written by Dr. Michael L. Brown. Without further comment to Brown’s work here, several book reviews of his works written by me are linked under my Amazon commenter account.
In the Preface, Boynes tells her readers that she is in a season of ministry to “hundreds of people who have struggled or are struggling with homosexuality and want to leave the lifestyle once and for all.” She also writes that she “lived the lifestyle for 14 years” and has been “called out of a homosexual lifestyle.” In the two opening paragraphs, Boynes uses the word “lifestyle” four times.
Boynes never defines what she means by “lifestyle.”
So, does “lifestyle” mean: being gay, or openly living as gay perhaps even married and maybe with children, or identifying as gay, or having gay sex, or being attracted to the same sex — yet not having gay sex, or some other variation of how a person of any sexual orientation may live his or her own life. Boynes never tells us what she means by the word.
This is problematic because in total, the word “lifestyle” is used over eighty times. The reader is left to make assumptions as to what it means to them and what Boynes herself means.
This is actually a quite clever move on Boynes part. The readers can attach their own meaning to the word and outcome expectations. That gets sticky, and even deceptive.
Boynes works from her personal theological model of “word of faith” and “name it and claim it.” Her church, work, and ministry associations belie that. Though Boynes in her speaking and writing NEVER says “I am no longer a lesbian,” that is likely what many of her listeners/readers imagine she means or sees as the outcome of her advice and ministry.
In the midst of the smoke and mirrors blurring, Boynes does mention that the goal of “homosexual strugglers” should be wholeness, not heterosexuality. The former leader of the umbrella ministry Exodus, Alan Chambers, used to play the same word games saying the goal of his organization was “holiness, not heterosexuality.” When there was virtually no fruit of orientation change over decades, and evidence of harmful outcome, Exodus was closed down in 2013.
Supporting this move, every major professional mental health care organization in the U.S. agrees that human sexuality naturally exists along a spectrum from heterosexuality to homosexuality. They also agree that people cannot change their natural orientation and attempting to do so is mentally and emotionally dangerous, frequently associated with physical negative consequences.
That ship of changing orientation has sailed, yet people like Boynes still play the subtle semantics game when terms are poorly defined.
Boynes makes her living as “no longer in the lifestyle;” it is assumed by listeners and readers that Boynes is no longer a lesbian, meaning a woman who is sexually, emotionally and romantically attracted to women. But, Boynes herself never says that. In the book or in speaking. Potential buyer, reader, listener – beware. Are you simply hearing what you want to hear? What are your expectations?
On to the Introduction. Boynes overall theme for the book is “compassion without compromise” yet, this is the chapter opener: “It (homosexuality) feels like a living, breathing dragon, consuming anything in its path that disagrees with the gay, lesbian, and transgender agenda. It attacks religious freedom and anyone who professes the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.” (p. 15) and continuing: “The message of this book is not about guilt or condemnation for a lifestyle choice.”
Whoa! Recall the Christian definition of compassion –“to suffer with.” As my gay friend Ashley so well puts it: “Compassion inherently calls us into compromise, otherwise it is disingenuous to its own meaning. Rarely do we enter another person’s suffering unless we feel the pain of walking into their brambles, having stepped off our own well-worn and self-protective path.” Gay and trans people would NOT read Boynes’ assessment of homosexuality as compassionate, or even bearing a hint of compassion.
Along with many other Christians who hold to a non-affirming, actually an exclusionary to the gays, policy and theology, Boynes is sloppy in her ability to look at the passages of Scripture used to investigate same-sex behavior.
For proper and intended understanding of these key passages, one must use good exegetical skills which include consideration of who was the audience, what is the cultural or historical context, what was the original meaning of the passage, and what did specific Greek or Hebrew words mean at the time of writing?
I published a book in 2014 in which I carefully built the understanding of human sexuality, the roles of men and women, and eventual understanding of homosexuality as a sexual orientation in the late 20th century. The Bible and the verses in question were written to and through the lenses of ancient people who never understood same-sex (romantic, emotional and sexual) attraction.
Surely as a black female ministry leader, Boynes would not want us to operate within the confines of ancient contexts pertaining to the role of women and people who are enslaved. Likewise, with same-sex behavior in the Bible – such cases are always portrayed in instances of abuse, excess, lust or rape. Bible authors were NOT writing about homosexual people as we understand them today.
Chapter 1 – Did God Make Me This Way? Boynes responds “no.” Her reasoning? Heterosexuality was the model in the garden and for all time. There is no mention of homosexual unions. The intention of creation is for a man and woman to be united. Homosexuality came about because man sinned and rejected God.
Some readers may take no issue with any of these assertions. I would suggest Boynes is reading bias into verses from a modern mindset far apart from intended meaning. (More on that in Chapter 3 summary.)
Chapter 2 – I Want You to Support Me Boynes takes issue with gay children asking that their parents support “their choice of sexuality.” As a reminder, no U.S professional health or mental health organization would agree with Boynes that sexual orientation is a choice. Still believing orientation to be a choice, Boynes states that “loving” your gay child means you should not accept “their lifestyle choice.” (p 27) Even a young child may be appear to be gay, she writes, because they “might have detached or separated from their true masculine or feminine identities.” (p 27)
Chapter 3 –Can I Still Be a Christian and Be Gay? (Understanding Biblical Arguments) Boynes tackles this topic in eight pages. (If you would like a more expansive, well-researched, contextually solid and accessible view of the passages, I offer such analysis on my own blog –which is easily searched and linked under VERSES in the main menu. I cannot link it here.) Not surprisingly, Boynes says “no,” you cannot live a full Christian life if you “live a homosexual lifestyle.” Again, we don’t know exactly what that term means. It might be a good idea to define it if it is the limiting factor of a “victorious Christian life”or eternal salvation. (p 29)
Boynes feels the Bible is “clear” in Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy and Jude to “define homosexuality as a sin.” Even “Paul, without a doubt, defines homosexuality as a sin.” What is “clear” and “without doubt” to Boynes, is to me and a growing number of Christians clearly, and without doubt NOT about homosexuality. These verses refer to instances of same-sex behavior in states of lust, excess, or violence used to subjugate one partner, typically a boy, into the demeaning social and sexual role of a woman.
Chapter 4 – Becoming an Overcomer (To the Struggler) If a gay person has made it to page 38, he/she is reminded: “God’s take on homosexuality is clear, and I don’t need to remind you of that. We know where He stands on the issue.” Boynes ends the chapter with “God is not interested in behavior modification, He is interested in soul transformation.” (p 43)
So which is it Janet? Is it good enough to stop “living the lifestyle,” or does God expect gay people to change their natural attractions once they become Christians? It may be curious to ask if Boynes herself has achieved this level of transformation to which she alludes? Surely three books and several decades into full time ministry, Boynes has transformed to a heterosexual in order to please God. But, she does not say that.
Chapter 5 – Dialogue with Your Child About His or Her Lifestyle Choice Parents are warned that the “gay propaganda is rapidly spreading in schools, even on the elementary level.” Boynes sees inclusion, education about differences, and anti-bullying platforms as “gay propaganda.” Boynes reminds parents that “homosexual lifestyle is an act of rebellion.” Parents are warned: “The gay rights movement has a plan to transform society. A part of its plan is to indoctrinate impressionable kids from an early age to accept homosexuality as normal.” (p 48)
I hope, as a society, that we DO teach our children to respect diversity and to honor a more inclusive range of sexual orientation and gender identity. I, however, don’t view this as “gay propaganda,” but rather as an informed loving Christian stance.
Chapter 6 – Know Your Enemy (Attack on the Family) Boynes is concerned that extending marriage equality to same-sex couples is a sign that “social revolutionaries have diabolically targeted marriage as a major strategy to accomplish their goals.” (p 54) All the usual objections are posed – slippery slopes of brothers marrying, uncles marrying nieces, thruples, kids not having one parent. The time to present all these legal concerns has come and gone at both the state and Supreme Court levels. These objections are decoys and were refuted with real studies and information, not scare tactics.
Boynes reminds us of the “persecuted” Christians and that “freedom of thought, belief and religion are under assault. . . . no one is allowed to express their moral, Christian opposition to the lifestyle. “ (p 57) Yet, here it all is, right in this book, expressed, and freely expressed. As to the “social revolutionaries” that have “diabolically targeted marriage,” they are getting married.
Chapter 7 – The Blame Game (Attack on Marriage) Parents are reminded that the likely cause of their child’s homosexuality was a response to “sexual, physical, or emotional” abuse in the home. Parents, she suggests, need to review their roles, be honest, ask for forgiveness and then, present a unified front.
Women are challenged “have you been overbearing or smothering towards your children?” This theory was tossed out by the mental health community in the 1970s, yet, here it resurfaces to beat up mothers of gay kids. Men don’t escape the recycled theories either. Maybe they’ve been distracted by their jobs or hobbies? Boynes, and those who agree with her brand of fixing gay people, are constantly seeking to find the root causes of homosexuality. Ugh.
Chapter 8 – Validating Without Celebrating This is a useless, space-filling chapter that rehashes what’s been said. Better editing would have cut the chapter.
Chapter 9 – Establishing Boundaries Oh, this chapter had me hopping mad! Boynes suggest ways in which to engage and participate in the lives of your gay children. If your gay child is still at home, the partner cannot visit. If you are invited to your child’s home for dinner, accept the invitation because “Jesus sat down and ate with sinners. His goal was clear, however. He influenced their lives during the process, and not vice versa.” (p 73) If your child who does not live at home is married or partnered, rather than invite them back home, meet at a neutral location, like “a restaurant or some other enjoyable location” rather than invite them to the parents’ home.
Boynes states, “I, personally, do not feel it is appropriate to have a homosexual couple, whether it is my child or not, come to my home.”
Though this book was published in 2016, Boynes repeatedly mislabels same-sex marriages as civil unions. Don’t go to their “same-sex union.” Send a gift, a nice card, and thank them for the invitation. Explain you love them very much but “you cannot support a marriage that was not designed by God.” (p 74) It is all about compassion without compromise Boynes reminds readers.
Chapter 10 – Parents Persevere Another chapter of mostly rehashing. (Where is the editor?)
Chapter 11 – Working Through Grief Again, we are reminded why a son or daughter is gay: poor relationship with parents, bullying from peers, sexual abuse or trauma, or fallen nature. Parents, AGAIN, are encouraged to find their part in contributing to their child’s homosexuality. (I cannot imagine the shame a parent of a gay child would feel in reading this drivel over and over.) But don’t beat yourselves up too much Mom and Dad, “In the final analysis, this is the choice the child has made.” (p 87) Followed by MORE rehashing of parents blaming each other.
Chapter 12 – Praying Effectively Repetition in bullet points of what’s been stated because “your child has chosen the gay lifestyle.” (p 91)
Chapter 13 & 14 – My Story by Walt Heyer I have already reviewed one of Heyer’s highly problematic books. (search my Amazon commenter account and Heyer ). I will, however, illuminate one of the statistics he presents.
Heyer writes: “According to research studies, 62.7 percent of transgender suffer from undiagnosed and untreated comorbid disorders.” (p 103) That stat just did not ring true to me, so I tried to find out the source. By the way, there are only two bits of information in the entire book that are cited. This was not one of them; I had to dig around.
At first inspection, this stat make is appear as though Heyer is referring to a general issue with all trans people, or maybe transpeople in the U.S.
But, here are the facts when you hunt down the actual study: the 2014 Iranian study was conducted on trans women (57 of them) in TEHERAN, IRAN!!!! Further, the study does not state the words “undiagnosed” and “untreated” as blanket statements for all the participants, just some. The comorbid disorder relates mostly to depression.
What a shocker — transwomen in Iran suffer depression under extreme cultural oppression. Do some reading on the particulars in Iran for transwomen. They need to undergo full gender reconfirmation surgery in order to be recognized as trans. Depression as a side effect? Heck, yeah.
This example from Heyer is either incredibly sloppy research or intentionally misleading and misinformation. Boynes’ book, however, is rife with unsubstantiated statements, rehashed unproven theories, myths and sloppy theology. The extreme lack of citing sources becomes problematic under such circumstances. Unfortunately many people simple believe what they read, especially if it reinforces their own narrative or is stated by a fellow Christian.
Chapter 15 – Sexual Sin is Sin, Right? I am not quite sure what this chapter adds to the book other than four more pages. I did find two sentences that appear a bit extreme though: “Will there even be a male/female gender to identify with in the next generation?” (p 113) “Standing up for what is right may mean a loss of many things – our friends, our jobs, and maybe even our lives.” (p 115) Seems a bit overly dramatic.
Chapter 16 – The Judgmental Church Yes, it is, and Boynes proves it.
Chapter 17 – How to Minister as the Church Boynes suggests pastors work with experts if they are unfamiliar with how to minister to “someone struggling with homosexuality.” Pastors are encouraged to “love them where they are.” Good advice, but Boynes messes up the love-train by adding “People who have struggled with same-sex attraction will have detached from their true masculine or feminine selves in varying degrees.” (p 126) That latter statement is offensive. If you don’t understand why, ask a gay person.
Incidentally, I fully agree that most conservative pastors are ill equipped to counsel gay people. An insightful starting point might be listening to my free audio chapter of sex, gender and orientation on my website. (Again, findable, I cannot link it here.)
Boynes would like the referrals to herself and ministry as “expert.” I hope I have done some good in dispelling the myth of her status as an expert.
Chapter 18 – Prayer I am fully supportive of prayer, but not bad editing. These are eight pages of filler that could have been part of chapters 7/combo 12.
Chapter 19 – Dear Pastor I believe I read this before in chapters 16 and 17.
Chapters 20 & 21 Included are the testimonies of parents and gay Christians who have followed Boynes’ advice. For me, this was the most agonizing part of the book. There are stories of families fully disconnected from their children in their pursuit to be “righteous” and hold “compassion without compromise.” People’s stories are their stories and I respect that, so I will not analyze them. The displayed broken relationships could have been avoided by better biblical understanding, better counsel, and not listening to Boynes’ as she purports to be speaking for God.
Chapter 22 – FAQs Included in this section was the sole quote from the book that was cited. The quote is from Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, and originally printed on Barbwire.com. Perkins informs readers of the “admissions of a leading gay activist.”
What a suitable ending to this mess of a book.
Perkins quotes at length the words of a Canadian activist named S. Bear Bergman. Offensively, Perkins continually refers to Bergman as she. Bergman is a married transman and father of three children who wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece for HuffPo about “recruiting” children to the goal of teaching them diversity. The piece was picked up by multiple conservative news sources and postured as a recruitment threat to children. It was a form of literary satire, not a manifesto of sorts. But, again, tell people what they want to hear, and they will likely believe it.
The book ends with a pitch for Boynes’ website and ministry. Boynes counsels parents or “struggling homosexuals” for a bit, but the pitch will soon come. If you REALLY want to believe in God’s promises and see results, you will sow a seed of faith giving into her ministry. Ka-ching.
I have had direct contact with two of Boynes’ projects; it has not gone well for them. I suspect the bigger current audience is parents who fear for the salvation and well-being of their children.
If reading this review was not enough to dissuade you from buying Boynes’ book or buying into her theology, you’ve been warned. There are places to learn and grow in relationship with your children, or if you are a gay Christian, with God. Those resources/churches/support groups will never seek to change or modify the natural orientation of yourself or your child.
I am findable and wrote a book ” Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach Between the Church and the LGBT Community ” — one that is well researched, footnoted, and from a Christian perspective. Get my book, or not, just don’t buy this one.
[Janet, this review is not ‘being persecuted for the sake of righteousness,” so don’t wear that badge. This is being “called out” for lack of solid biblical work, honest and truthful substantiated statements, integrity, authenticity, transparency and for the damaging aspects of your toward LGBT people and their families.]