Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Straight Face by Brandon Wallace: A Book Review

The issue of homosexuality is one that has advanced to the forefront of most societal circles, especially within the Church. This has not simply been by course of agenda or political intent, but one that has developed quite naturally as our culture continues to progress in becoming more socially minded. There was a time when one could develop a personal belief on homosexuality, keep it to themselves and within certain circles, discuss it openly and without fear of judgment. Pastors and Christian leaders could remain fairly neutral by virtue of political correctness, and never have to really confront the issue or take a stand one way or the other. While radically opposite ends of the spectrum have continued to stand by traditional positions, mainstream Christianity has been afforded the luxury of ignoring the issue. This is simply no longer the case as an obvious line is being drawn for all to choose a side on which to stand. In the company of authors such as Timothy Kurek and Matthew Vines, with his first book, Straight Face, Brandon Wallace has created yet another instrument that has etched that line even deeper and more defined.

Brandon is well on his way to becoming a leading voice for homosexuality within the Church. Gay Christian leaders are finding their way into the mainstream of Christian culture, although this is still a somewhat of an anomaly. What makes Brandon’s voice so unique on this issue is his deep connection with traditional conservative church culture and his previous personal rejection of homosexuality. Growing up in Arkansas, in the heart of Southern Bible Belt theology, being a gay Christian was not an option, much less for one hoping to enjoy a career in ministry. From all practical and outward perspectives, Brandon experienced a typical upbringing within the Evangelical Church. Finding faith in Christ at a young age, Brandon developed a deep relationship with Christ and began to entertain early aspirations that he was called to a life in ministry. Although knowing the truth of his sexuality from an early age, he began the process of preparing for what he thought his life would look like as a pastor. He jumped through each proverbial Evangelical hoop, dotted each Baptist “I” and crossed every Conservative Bible Belt “T”. From the outside looking in, Brandon was on the ministerial path to become an Evangelical golden boy; as long as the door to his closet stayed closed and well locked. Brandon would need help in achieving what he had always aspired to achieve, and to silence the part of him that he had grown to hate. That help would come in the form of an unusual partner in ministry. A friend that would stand by him, but not exactly in love and support. A partner that would become more of an enemy than ally. Enter Straight Face.       

Straight Face is more than the autobiographical title of Brandon’s story; it is the name of his mask; his alter-ego that helped him navigate the uncertain waters of being a gay Christian living in the closet. Straight Face is the story of what it is like to wear a mask and reject the true self. It’s the story of a Christian leader, with a deep love for Christ, the Church and even the traditional conservative culture in which he was raised. It’s the story of how a talented young leader struggles to not only find his place in ministry, but discovers and accepts himself as God created him to be. And it’s the story of how, upon finally coming to grips with the truth of his sexuality, he finds that in reality the enemies he would face were not those of the typical nature. His greatest foes were not God, not the Church, not his friends and family, but the one person that he had spent years fighting against: Himself.     
Brandon writes in a compelling way that draws the reader into his story. It challenges the reader to look at the issue of homosexuality within Christianity from a real, humble and honest perspective. The reader will feel as if they are joining him on this journey, feeling his pain, experiencing his frustrations and sharing in his joys. Each page creates opportunity to feel that you are with him, walking side by side in his struggles. Brandon welcomes the reader into his story as a friend, brother or son, and regardless of your personal beliefs on homosexuality, you will feel compassion. Straight Face is not necessarily intended to convince the reader of changing their views on the issue, but is a humble and respectful entreaty to help the reader come to the realization that we all wear our own masks to some extent. With love and conviction, Brandon gives the reader permission to be who they are, without concern with popular and cultural opinion. 

The Church is rapidly facing a point in history in which it must confront changing societal issues in candid and honest discussion. Despite our comfort zones, we are rapidly moving to a culture that is more focused and concerned with issues that may have previously made many of us uncomfortable. Within the Church, the key to facing and remaining relevant in times of cultural shift is truth. And while talk of transparency and authenticity are common in most Christian circles, the evidence proves that words do not always match actions. Brandon encourages the reader that our first action must be removing the proverbial masks, because only then can we face the other person with the unconditional love and compassion of Christ.  

You can find Brandon's book, Straight Face on Amazon and connect with Brandon on facebook, twitter or his website, The Gay Christian 

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