What happens when an evangelical theologian and his gay son sit down to talk about issues that have threatened to destroy their relationship?
Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical and His Gay Son records the interaction between Brad Harper, a professor of theology at Multnomah University and Biblical Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and his gay son, Drew Harper. Interestingly, it’s a book that came to life through crowdfunding on Kickstarter.
I don’t know of any book like this. It’s candid, honest, funny, and sometimes gut-wrenching. “I’ll never write another book like this,” writes Drew. “Not because it nearly killed me, but because I could never again approximate the profound joy and satisfaction of creating alongside my greatest teacher, my greatest foe, and my greatest friend. I am blessed beyond measure.”
The book is part memoir, describing Drew’s life from his childhood until today. We get to witness the events of his life from both his perspective and his father’s.
But it’s also a very personal reflection on how both interacted with each other. It is clear that both authors love each other and are committed to each other, and that it’s cost them both.
This book doesn’t gloss over the feelings that both experienced, the mistakes they made, and the tensions they continue to feel. It’s sometimes heartbreaking.
“Why have I gone so many years without admitting how important this world and its people were to me, and how much it hurt when I found I no longer had a home here?” Drew asks. “I allowed myself to feel for the first time how lost I was without it, how much I missed my church.” Later on, Drew says, “Looking back now, in spite of the new things I was learning, I think that deep down I still felt I needed to be punished and condemned for my homosexuality.” Drew helps us understand how hard it has been for us. “Kids, you need to come to grips with the fact that your parents may never fully embrace who you are in a way that is satisfying or that makes you feel truly accepted, despite what might be their most sincere efforts.”
I also appreciate learning more of Brad’s struggles, including the day he lost it with Drew. “We had a really heated argument, an argument that spilled out of the house and onto our driveway. I pushed you, a moment I will always regret,” he writes. It’s clear that both Brad and Drew tried their best in their relationship, but both understandably fell short sometimes in their efforts to work through their issues. I love the honesty of this book.
If you’re looking for a neat book with all the answers, skip this book. If you’re looking for an honest account of people who are committed to each other but disagree, then this is the book for you.
“It is my prayer to God for you that you find—and make—space for faith,” writes Brad. “Space for humility. Space for love. Space at your table.”
This book is for those thinking through what it looks like to love their gay neighbor and who sense that love cannot begin with condemnation.
I am learning that the only way to stay in relationship is to come to the table, again and again.
As a Christian theologian and former pastor, one of my greatest frustrations is that, at least when it comes to sexuality, it is often safer for a young person to be honest at the public school than it is at church, a place that is meant to be driven by love and grace, a community where people walk with each other. No matter what.
The situation with my parents taught me the value of seeking a working relationship with those closest to us, rather than always seeking to win arguments or alter others’ core beliefs.
Love, acceptance, and participation in life does not mean “agreement.”
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