Book Review: Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk
Why and how Christians should have gay friends
Review by Schenley Pilgram
As a Christian who has a gay sister, I approached this book with a mix of trepidation and hope. Although I’ve seen Christians inflict terrible pain, I’ve also had conversations with evangelical friends who genuinely want to know how to lovingly interact with LGBT people. Fortunately, I believe this book can help improve those interactions.
Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk is about individual Christians building friendships, not about the Church reaching the gay community or winning a “culture war.” Author Brad Hambrick does not linger on what Scripture says about homosexuality, nor on the theories of the development of same-sex attraction—those are topics that require further thought and study elsewhere. Instead, his focus is on encouraging empathy toward those who experience SSA or identify as gay, and on providing practical advice for engaging in difficult conversations as a true friend.
In fact, this emphasis on empathy is the reason I recommend this book. So much conflict arises from our inability to understand another’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. When we have empathy, we are better able to show love and kindness, even when we disagree. To help his readers practice empathy, Hambrick points out parallels to other temptations and sins, provides thought experiments, and reminds us that we are called to be ambassadors.
He also cautions readers to not reduce a person to his or her struggle. Real friends enjoy activities together and converse about much more than just sexuality! But when that difficult topic does arise, Hambrick provides actionable suggestions and guidelines for how to approach the discussion with humility, honesty and empathy. He provides tips for maintaining relationship-building conversations, rather than winning debates.
Understandably, this short book does not answer every question a reader might have. Should you attend that same-sex wedding? How do you talk to your children about the family you have befriended, the one with two moms? There are also weaknesses in some of the fictional sample dialogue, and Hambrick acknowledges that a brief book imposes constraints. However, the book is still a great starting point.
I wish I could have read this book years ago, when I first began wrestling with how to interact with those who have SSA or identify as LGBT. As I read, I frequently thought back to the night a dear Christian friend sat across from me at my kitchen table. Terrified, he admitted that he struggled with homosexuality. I had absolutely no idea how to respond, and I was quiet for several minutes as he shared his story. I thank God for the words I finally said: “You are my brother. There’s nothing you could say or do that would make me love you any more or any less.”
It is my hope that this book will help believers to have real conversations and friendships with these image-bearers who so often feel rejected and unloved.
Read what a book reviewer for The Gospel Coalition had to say about Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk.
The EFCA has also created a church statement on human sexuality that addresses the topic of this book.
Schenley Pilgram is a member of Lanse (Pa.) EFC, where she leads a Wednesday-evening girls’ Bible study and disciples young women. “My close relationship with my little sister has opened my eyes to many of the struggles faced by LGBT individuals,” she says, “and I want to encourage other Christians to respond to her community with friendship and love.”