Review and Critique of Dan Boone's "Human Sexuality: A Primer for Christians"

This post serves as a kind of Table of Contents for my in-depth review and critique of Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality: A Primer for Christians.

While I understand that Boone's audience for the book was primarily members of the Church of the Nazarene, and that he endeavors to show compassion to all people engaging in questions about sexual ethics and the Christian life, there were many assumptions and assertions in his book that I felt were harmful and needed to be addressed. I'm Nazarene too, and I think the Church of the Nazarene can do better than this book in our discussions of sexuality. So I tried to offer an alternative perspective.

Chapter 11: Behind the Veil

This is the last post in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10

To wrap up the book, Boone talks a bit about holiness. He says that “we veil that which is holy to respect its dignity and to protect it from usage that cheapens it” and that “the veil before the Holy of Holies signified to humans that boundaries are to be respected” (152).

The whole book has been about drawing lines and parsing distinctions of what’s right and wrong. About what needs to be covered, hidden, denied. About what we should turn away from and fear.

Boone says that the tearing of the veil at the crucifixion is “the epitome of evil,” and that God somehow makes something good out of it, but what if the tearing of the veil is an act of holiness itself?

What if, instead of talking about holiness in terms of protecting and defending, we talked about holiness in terms of loving with reckless abandon and radical openness? What if instead of talking about the death of Uzzah, who touched the Ark of the Covenant “unworthily,” we talk about the hemorrhaging woman, who touched Jesus—God in the flesh—knowing she would be healed? Holiness is about healing and love. It is about opening your door to the broken, sitting to eat with the sinner, giving all you have to the needy. It’s not about establishing who’s “in” and who’s “out,” or telling people what they must do to be accepted. It’s about ripping through these distinctions completely—from the top to the very bottom.

I hope the Church of the Nazarene can embrace this kind of holiness.

Chapter 10: The Church in Exile: Interpreting Where We Are

This is post eleven in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9

This chapter compares American Christians to the Israelites in exile. This is foolish. As long as our banks are closed on Christmas but not on Rosh Hashanah or Eid, you can’t talk about our pluralist society as if Christians are not in a position of privilege and power. There is no “500 pound cultural gorilla beat[ing] the church into quiet submission” (132). There are people living their lives differently than white middle-class hetero evangelical Christians would have them live. This is not persecution. This is not oppression. This is not exile.

Say it with me: The Church in America is not oppressed.

Boone explains that “exile was a time when [the Israelites] remembered having had a Jewish king, Jewish army, Jewish laws, Jewish land, Jewish economy, Jewish religious structure,” etc. (133). That is, while they were oppressed, they longed for a time when they were powerful rulers.[1] Today in America, Christians are still powerful rulers. The United States has never had a non-Christian president. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of the 2015 House and Senate are Christian.[2] In 2010 the Military Leadership Diversity Commission reported that about 78% of military personnel identify as Christian.[3]

One more time for those in the back: The Church in America is not oppressed.

Instead of fearing how the Church should react or challenge a culture that is opposed to us, continuing to construct an “us vs. them” narrative, we should be concerned about how we go about loving the people that make up this culture. I think that might be what Boone is trying to say, but when he talks about “warning” culture about the supposed consequences of their actions and “defending our religious liberties” (147), it sounds more like a defensive stance than an openly loving one.

[1] It’s worth noting that many scholars, following the archaeological work of Israel Finkelstein and others, don’t actually believe there ever was a powerful Jewish monarchy at all, but rather that these were stories written to encourage the Israelites in their faith.

[2] “Faith on the Hill,” Pew Research Center, January 5 2015.

[3] “Religious Diversity in the US Military,” Military Leadership Diversity Commission, June 2010.

Chapter 9: The Case for Celibacy

This is post ten in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8

Much of what I want to say in response to this chapter I have said before.

Both LGBTQ+ persons and straight persons may be called to celibacy. It is our responsibility as the church to encourage them, love them, and care for them—as whole persons already, our siblings in Christ, our dearly beloved friends. But, as Boone says, “the vow of celibacy must begin in one’s identity,” which is not earned or chosen (121). This is exactly why we cannot force our gay friends to be celibate. If they are not called, if it is not part of their identity, then it is not the life for them. We aren’t going around insisting that certain people are called to professional ministry, why would we insist that people are called to celibacy? Calling and identity are deeply personal.

In this chapter, Boone follows Mark Yarhouse in saying that there are two “scripts that compete for dominance in a same sex attracted life: the gay script and the identity in Christ script” (123). Essentially he is arguing that a gay Christian must be sure she is more Christian than gay, and to do so by “center[ing] your identity around other aspects of your experience” besides sexuality. While indeed our belonging to Christ is at the core of our identity, it’s absurd to demand LGBTQ+ Christians to compartmentalize their lives in this way. Humans are sexual beings, and our sexuality is integrated throughout our lives and experiences. Further, nowhere in this book does Boone demand the same of heterosexual Christians. He apparently assumes that heterosexual Christians automatically have this Christ-first kind of compartmentalized identity all figured out. Surely this is not the case.

Indeed, the thrust of this chapter is for LGBTQ+ Christians to deny themselves in favor of a hegemonic, heteronormative narrative of identity that is unfair and untenable.

I’d like to again point you to this article, “Gay Celibacy is the New Ex-Gay Therapy,” in which lesbian and former chaplain at Wheaton College Julie Rodgers says, "No matter how graciously it’s framed, that message [of celibacy] tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love. When that’s the case … it’s hard to believe we’re actually wanted in our churches. It’s hard to believe the God who loves us actually likes us."

If the people we are endeavoring to love feel unwanted, we are not loving them.


Chapter 8: The Big Questions

This is post nine in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7

For this post, I'll address Dr. Boone's answers for each of the questions he poses.

“Why is same sex behavior wrong?” (93)

In answering this question, Boone bases his argument on “the reality that the overwhelming occurrence of male same sex behavior is neither monogamous nor intended to establish a God-honoring lifetime relationship” (94). Barring the fact that he cites no sources to back up this “reality,” and that he assumes that monogamy is an inherent good, it seems clear here that the “wrong” behavior we’re talking about is not homosexuality, but is, again, objectification and abuse of another person. To continue to equate homosexuality and objectification is incorrect and problematic. They are not the same thing. Boone even points out that this kind of objectification occurs in heterosexual relationships as well. So indeed he is not explaining why homosexuality is wrong at all, but why objectification is. Which may lead one to believe that homosexuality in itself is not wrong after all.

“But what about the monogamous, devoted, faithful, same sex couple whose marriage has been legally approved by the state and officiated by a minister of the gospel?” (95) And “‘I’m a practicing homosexual Christian.’ How do we respond?” (96)

Boone answers these questions in essentially the same way: he will not argue with a person’s testimony of Christianity, and he respects that individuals and congregations have reached the decision that homosexuality is not sinful. I appreciate this admission, because it’s important to identify that LGBTQ+ Christians and Christians who affirm them exist, but what Boone does not recognize is that these people exist in the Church of the Nazarene.

“What does the Bible have to say about the practice of homosexuality?” (97)

This question is far too big to discuss here, and I am not a biblical scholar, so I’ll leave this to the professionals. Boone cites Robin Scroggs , John Boswell and James Brownson as scholars who “have concluded that the Bible does not oppose the practice of homosexuality” (98). Boone gives some reasons why he disagrees with such an interpretation. But given that there are learned, faithful people of God who lead us to two opposed interpretations of Scripture, I will side with that interpretation more concerned with grace and love and openness than the one concerned with drawing lines of “in” and “out,” and “right” and “wrong.”

“Can a person who is same sex oriented be reoriented to heterosexuality?” (105)

Boone is right that “when Christians assume that re-orientation is possible for all same sex attracted persons, we place a burden on them that is unfair” (105). It’s worth pointing out here that “gay reparative” or “conversion” therapy is opposed by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and many other professional organizations.[1] It has been found to be psychologically harmful to those subjected to it, particularly young people.[2] That is, children have killed themselves as a result of attempts to reorient them to heterosexuality. The severity of this cannot be overstated.

“How do we show God’s grace to same sex attracted persons without condoning their lifestyle?” (106)

Boone’s method of loving gay people is to help them live a celibate lifestyle. While he makes many good points about how to do this, and I agree that the church should do better to support and live life alongside our celibate friends—gay and straight—Boone must recognize that not all LGBTQ+ people are called to a life of celibacy. And the church has to figure out how to love those who aren’t just as well as it tries to love those who are. And this means “condoning their lifestyle”—a lifestyle that, barring the issues of objectification and un-love discussed earlier, is just as faithful and life-giving and good as any heterosexual lifestyle. “Love the sinner; hate the sin” is not loving the sinner. And even if one is still convinced that homosexuality is wrong, it is not our job to convict people; it is not our job to change people; it is our job to show grace. As Thomas Merton said, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”

“Is gay marriage a social justice issue?” (115)

Boone’s answer is no. He says he is “in favor of basic civil rights” and in favor of “laws which prohibit violence against same sex oriented persons,” but that it’s more important that the church remain a “faithful witness,” which, to him, means keeping marriage between a man and a woman (115). It’s sad to me that Boone does not think one can be a faithful witness while supporting the right for anyone to marry whom they choose. I do. And while honestly I believe everyone should be able to access the governmental and legal benefits given to married couples—that is, all people, not just married people—I certainly think gay people should be able to marry if they so choose. If Boone wants to hold marriage up as a relational ideal that makes people fully human, it’s cruel that he would then deny that to some.

[1] Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies),American Psychiatric Association, May 2000, 


[2] Jason Cianciotto and Sean Cahill (2006). Youth in the crosshairs: the third wave of ex-gay activism. New York: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.


Chapter 7: Homosexuality

This is post eight in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 Chapter 5 / Chapter 6

I was pleasantly surprised with Boone’s treatment of the complexity of sexual attraction and orientation. He talks about sexual attraction as a spectrum, and as fluid and flexible over time. He presents Mark Yarhouse’s “three-tiered distinction” of attraction, which is not chosen; orientation, which may or may not be chosen; and identity, which is usually chosen. I think this can definitely be a helpful way to talk about sexuality. And I love that Boone encourages us to “treat persons individually rather than as a single group assumed to be at the same place” (84). Each person is unique, and experiences their sexuality in their own unique way.

Which is why it is troubling to me that Boone assumes that any gay person who is also a Christian would automatically come to the conclusion that they should live a celibate life. Certainly some may. Some heterosexual people may come to that conclusion as well. And all of Boone’s critiques of the church and how it is failing to support and live alongside our celibate friends are so valid and so important. We absolutely need to do better—not to pity them or console their “loneliness,” but to love and respect them as the whole persons that they are.

Additionally, Boone includes several hypothetical questions and an extensive fictional letter from an imagined gay Christian. I wonder why he wouldn’t solicit questions or thoughts from an actual gay Christian. This bit of rhetorical roleplaying is irresponsible in that it erases the existence of the very people he is supposing to address. And furthermore, this imaginary gay Christian believes that “to be sexually involved with a person of the same sex is an affront to God” (85-86). Boone takes the same stance as Wesley Hill, whom he quotes, that he’s only really talking to “gay Christians who are already convinced that their discipleship to Jesus necessarily commits them to the demanding, costly obedience of choosing not to nurture their homosexual desires” (90). I think this is a damaging belief in the first place,[1] but especially so when considered as an immediate assumption with no alternatives. At this point in the book, Boone is less “starting a conversation” and more following a scripted soliloquy. One that has been shown to be harmful to LGBTQ+ Christians.

Chapter 6: Marital Sex: Bliss or Legalized Lust?

This is post seven in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5

This chapter reads like a sepia-toned advertisement for a romanticized version of Christian marriage.

Now, I want to say up front that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a lifelong covenant love between two people. I have no problem with “golden wedding anniversaries with kids and grandkids beaming” (76). However, when we set up heterosexual marriage as the ideal state of being for all people, and say that people are less than human without it, we have made it into an idol. I believe the church’s neglect and marginalization of single people, celibate people, and LGBTQ+ people proves that this idol has already taken up residence here.

Boone does nothing to challenge this. In fact, he feeds the idol. Marital love, he says, “is a gift that makes us fully human” (71). This is a damned lie. Maybe the worst sentence in the whole book. Not only because it is so blatantly hurtful, but because it is believed and supported by the actions of the church.

When our focus is how we are going to teach our children that marriage should be their goal rather than how we are going to teach them to primarily be self-possessed, respectful individuals who endeavor to love others the way God loves, we are missing the mark.

Further on in this chapter, we see the latent patriarchy that is insidious in the church and this book. One of the examples Boone gives of “how love is meant to be” is this:

A dad sitting in a nice restaurant across the table from his dressed-up 12-year-old daughter, giving her a locket and key as he explains to her the intimacy her heart desires and how to find it in marriage.

Setting aside the classist implications that an example of real love takes place in a “nice restaurant,” the fact that a man of authority is explaining to a girl the desires of her heart should bring up all kinds of red flags. The church and parents of girls therein should be equipping and empowering young women to think and speak for themselves, not telling them what they should want.

As I mentioned above, I have no problem with heterosexual marriage or a dad taking his daughter on a special outing in and of themselves. It’s the underlying assumptions and implications that marginalize unmarried or non-heterosexual people and continually put women “in their place,” without agency, that are harmful. And just as these assumptions and implications are subtle and uncriticized, people are harmed by them subtly and permanently.