Modern Kinship is both salt and light for the Church. It is both a call to deep vulnerability and an unapologetic acceptance of grace. In sharing glimpses of their individual and collective stories, David and Tino offers the reader the foundations of a practical and nuanced approach to what it means to be a LGBTQIA+ Christian entering the world of relationships.
David and Tino have been writing for some time. They post regularly on their blog. They have covered topics such as: Listening, In-Laws, & Reparative Therapy. I encourage you to check out their blog! David and Tino started the journey of Modern Kinship because they found few resources for LGBTQIA+ persons, relationships, & dating. It is their hope by sharing their experiences through both the blog and book “that other people, gay and straight alike, can see at least one way in which gay Christian marriage can be done.”
As the reader digs into the first chapter of Modern Kinship, one will find that David and Tino are candid about what it means to be a LGBTQIA+ Christian who is seeking a partner that shares their faith. I am from a religious tradition that is worldwide. However, when we get together for our general church meetings every four years, it’s almost like a family reunion. Everyone knows one another. I didn't know what a close knit community was until I became a part of the LGBTQIA+ Christian community. David and Tino hit the nail on the head when they describe the LGBTQIA+ Christian community as a “dating puddle” within the much larger pool of dating.
God’s a Wingman, Not a Matchmatcher
I grew up around several friends that had this idea about God where I would eventually given a hand selected spouse from the vastness of humanity. Since I grew up in a conservative Christian home and lived in a small rural town in KY, most of the time I was told, “God is preparing you a woman to be married to.” Granted, while I am most certainly sure that this was well intended, it doesn't make much sense that God have a specific someone planned out for everyone, especially since there are those of us who rather not be in a romantic relationship. For those of us who are seeking a life partner, a “teammate”, or in my case a buddy, finding and being in a relationship is not so cut and dry. Believe me, I have had a few relationships that I believed they were God ordained that lasted about 5 months. David and Tino offer a new perspective on how they have seen God working in relationship. Not only does their proposal of God as Wingman free Christians from the micro managing God, it also invites Christians into the process of co-creating with God in telling the story. David and Tino suggest that it is in God’s wingman-ness, or God’s wing woman-ness, that we are partnered with in the dating process. God doesn’t have it all figured out. Rather, God journeys with us, calling us to focus and allowing room for mistakes. Not only is this exciting news for LGBTQIA+ and straight Christians alike, I believe this to also be a call to the Church to trust the work of the Holy Spirit in the things that we so often seek to control or have all the answers for. Maybe there is grace to be found in the uncertainty?
SEX, SHAME, AND SPIRITUALITY
Ignore. Suppress. Distract.
It is my experience, growing up in a small conservative town and being a part of a traditionally ethic-ed church tradition, sex education was not on the docket in Sunday school. I learned about sex through my middle school sex-ed class. Honestly, the teacher didn’t want to touch the conversation with a 10ft pole. I think I learned more about how the bubble-eyed goldfish we had in our classroom aquarium mated than the different ways in which human beings can engage in sexual activity.
As I grew older and walked into my experience as a Gay Christian, though I identified with the term SSA at the time, I heard the word celibacy being thrown around by some of my mentors and friends. I would be in conversations with someone and I would hear things like, “If you want to be holy you need to be celibate and ask God to take your attractions away.” I hope that these individuals were being genuine in their care for me. However, I beg the question as to whether or not they ever felt the need to be celibate or pray about their attractions? While I hold the call of celibacy to a high standard, as I believe it to be a respectable and honorable calling, that is exactly what it is, celibacy is a calling. To force an individual into celibacy is not only a bastardization of the call itself, but also a sign of amnesia to the rich history the calling was born out of.
David and Tino dive deeper into the erroneous underpinnings of shame theology and how it can not only impact our relationships with self and others, but also how it impacts our relationship with and to God. Instead of staring from a place of original sin and brokenness in sexuality, they start from a place of original blessing and Divine beauty. I am sure there was years of work to get to this point on their part, and it most certainly shows. Sex is not bad. David and Tino seem to suggest that sex is an intentional desire that has been given to us by God to honor God and God’s creative expression. David and Tino are encouraging the reader to dig deep into their theology of sex, what it means to have a body, and how those bodies may or may not interact.
The practical reflection that has went into the development of Modern Kinship is a masterful tapestry of not only David and Tino’s individual and coupled lives, but is also paired with the reflections from others in the LGBTQIA+ community, both christian and not. The discernment behind the various approaches to theology are wise and call the reader to a place of tension between encouragement and growth.
“The glory of God is human beings fully alive.” -St Irenaeus
David and Tino are surely walking in and forever towards fully living and have provided the Church with a signpost to one of the many ways of holy living.