In a fast changing world that is still in a “sexual revolution,” many Christian parents have expressed to me a great deal of concern and frustration, especially in regards to how they should go about addressing the various subjects with their children. Quite frankly, it can be really scary trying to talk about sex with your kids! Right or wrong, that’s just the reality many parents live in.
Tom Gilson, senior editor for apologetics with The Stream, has written a book that he hopes will help equip parents to have some of those conversations, especially in regards to issues related to LGBTQ. His book is titled, Crucial Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with TEENS.
Gilson’s book is not a scholarly tome of academic engagement akin to Loader, Davidson, or any of the other scholars that I’ve read on the subject. His book is just what he says it is, a guide for parents to talk to their kids. In this regard, Gilson’s book is helpful for parents holding to the traditional (and I’d argue biblical) approach to marriage and sexuality. Though I would nuance certain aspects of his practical advice and think there are some other challenges that weren’t addressed, by and large I think this book is a helpful part of the ongoing “conversation” regarding the subject.
Gilson’s book has organized into three sections:
- Part One: Essential Background.
- Part Two: Navigating the Rocky Relationships
- Part Three: Practical Help in Handling the Challenges.
While each section offers helpful guidance for parents, I think the standout section is part three, “Practical Help in Handling the Challenges.” Over the course of nearly one hundred pages, Gilson engages common objections to traditional Christian sexual ethics in relation to the charges of intolerance and hate, public social policy, and God and the Bible. The author addresses 27 unique objections and does more than just provide helpful responses. He suggests parents engage each of those objects by first dealing with the truth behind or within the objection and then encourages parents toward “digging deeper” in order to have a better understanding of the issue. Finally, Gilson gives tips on how to talk about the objection in a way that encourages conversation. So, for example, when it comes to the objection that those who hold to Christian sexual ethics are “just like the southerners who used the Bible to defend slavery,” Gilson encourages parents to acknowledge that, yes, some southerners did use the Bible that way, but they were wrong and that the Bible (in the big picture) doesn’t end up supporting slavery (yes, I’m aware there needs to be nuance here). He then provides a very helpful two page summary of the complexities involved in connecting biblical slavery with southern American slavery. Finally, he gives helpful tips on how to talk about this specific issue and even provides an imaginary conversation.
All in all, Critical Conversations is, I think, generally a very helpful book for parents to read. At a time when practical resources are needed in order for parents to really dig deep into the challenges facing our kids, this is a great start. It’s engaging and, for the most part, pastorally gracious and sensitive while remaining firm in his convictions.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review*