Faith and Free Thought

I have a new book out next month (although you can pre-order it now) published by Signal Books, part of Random House. It’s called Epiphany: A Christian’s Change of Heart and Mind over Same-Sex Marriage, and while I’ve written 16 books and am proud of some (but not all) of them, this is the most important I’ve ever written. I won’t apologize for, as it were, blowing my own trumpet because I am convinced that the subject and the cause are far, far more important than the author. If the book can change minds and make life easier and better, especially for gay people within the Christian church, it will have been more than worthwhile.

It’s been given some extraordinarily generous advance reviews by leading scholars and theologians but the most remarkable was from author, actor and international celebrity Stephen Fry, who has more than 12 million Twitter followers. He’s also a hero of mine and someone I’ve admired greatly for many years. He wrote me an entire letter of praise, concluding that, “Michael Coren’s Epiphany is a wonderfully revealing read — an epiphany in itself. I urge anyone interested in the conjunction of faith and free-thought to read this engrossing and fascinating book.” It doesn’t really get any better than that.
April2016_EpiphanyBut there will also be attacks and negativity. The Christian right will not be pleased, critics of the gay community and progressive ideas will hardly be partying, and even some of those who agree with me will almost certainly be mean-spirited because, well, that’s what some in the Canadian literary scene do. “I show disdain therefore I am.”

It doesn’t matter of course. What does matter is that after many years as a champion of Christian conservatism, at least in certain areas, I changed my mind. Or, as the book’s title suggests, my heart and then my mind. Not, let me emphasize, in spite of my Christian faith but precisely because of it. I could no longer reconcile the life and teachings of Jesus with the harshness and even anger of so many churches. Not that all Christian opponents of equal marriage and full gay rights are bad people – far from it – but they are wrong on this particular subject.

Having said this, the organized and grotesque attack campaign against me after I “came out” as a supporter of same-sex marriage was breathtaking. I was condemned as an adulterer, a liar, a thief and as someone who was mentally ill. My children’s Facebook pages were trolled, they were said to be gay – all four are straight but I couldn’t give a fig if that weren’t the case – and I was apparently doing all of this for money. That was an interesting accusation in that I lost four regular columns and a dozen speeches in the space of a week and half of my entire income.

No, I changed because I realized that the quintessence of my faith was not judgement but acceptance, not laws but love, not a pedantic and absurd observance of misunderstood Biblical texts but an experience-based understanding of the inner meaning of God’s word.

One of the chapters of the book recounts what happened to me, and I name names and publish e-mails: some people will be very embarrassed indeed. Another explores what Scripture actually says about homosexuality, which in fact is hardly anything and Jesus never mentions it at all. He does, however, condemn divorce and some of the most severe homophobes out there are divorced. Another consists of some heart-breaking interviews with gay Christians, some of them former Catholic priests who have some profound and shocking things to say about what they witnessed. Other chapters discuss secular arguments over equal marriage and look at the future of the issue.

Quite the transformation I suppose, but I have never been happier, more rooted in my faith or more proud to state my position on this vital issue. Thank God, in every sense of the phrase.