Committed and regular readers will know that, alongside other topics (like being human, prayer, and aging) I have read quite widely and deeply about human sexuality and the relationship between that and Christian Spirituality. So, when I heard a fragment of David’s story on Emmaus Road’s brilliant podcast back in 2017, I couldn’t wait for his book to be written. David is someone who identifies as gay, and also identifies as Christian. He’s also a charismatic, passionately believing in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and an academic; currently starting Doctoral research at Oxford, following a Masters further north. A War of Loves is a powerful book, because it draws together all of those threads, and shares the story of one person, made in the image of God, who chooses Jesus above and beyond everything else. This book is both a powerful biography – ‘the unexpected story of a gay atheist activist discovering Jesus’ – and thoughtful piece of theology, hence N. T. Wright’s foreword.
David writes powerfully about his own story, and the way that his story interacts with the stories of other people, whether it be those in his family (particularly his aunt and uncle) or those of his friends, and ultimately where it rubs up against and challenges the story that God is wanting to tell. In reading this book – which I did in one sitting, voraciously, before I actually recieved the finished version that I would commend to you now – I was constantly and convictingly (definitely a word!) struck by David’s passion for truth. David Bennett doesn’t want to win an argument, or a person, or even an award – David, in writing this book, wants to ultimately invite people to consider what is true.
Readers of A War of Loves may be coming from a panoply of perpsectives. Some will be, like me, people who reject the idea that sexuality defines us, and will be refreshed by David’s insistence on Jesus as the core person we love. Others, like me, will read this as people who are concerned by the way the debate around sexuality and spirituality has become polarised and trench-based – David’s book is a welcome and necessary mortar-shell of holiness into a miasma of entrenched opinions. Still others, perhaps like me, will be worrying and wondering about how the way we love and who we love relates to our Christian faith. This book seeks to work with all of these questions, all of these desires, in order to point us beyond this book, this story, this author, to something and someone else. I hope that, regardless of position or theology, pretty much everyone might read this book, because David makes so much of Jesus, in order to point beyond himself to a greater and more beautiful love.
I should note that David is quite – and necessarily – explicit in his story-telling. This is not a book, I don’t think, that could have been made up. It’s author is sharing both personal stories and serious questions – this is not a book that can be ignored. As the reader, grabbed by the heart but forced to engage and use the mind, is drawn into and through David’s story, we are invited to consider what love is, who should and could be the object of our love, and the way that this inner turmoil reflects a bigger and more engaging question. Ultimately, despite ostensibly being a book about gay identity and following Jesus, this is a book that should encourage every reader to cleave closer to Christ.