July 3, 2009

Review: Sexual Authenticity

I was a little unsure of what I would get when I ordered Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism by Melinda Selmys. It was described as a "personal reflection" of a woman who had exchanged "secular lesbianism for Catholicism," so I was a bit worried I'd end up with a book in which a "former lesbian" is saved and now preaches from the hilltops on how all those sinful homosexuals could easily be saved, too, if they'd just throw off the shackles of their sexuality and embrace Jesus. Quite the contrary, the author is openly critical of such approaches.

Sexual Authenticity is partially a personal reflection on Catholicism and homosexuality, but it's also a very sharp and introspective look at the theological truths of sexuality, marriage, children, gender, as well as the influence of the media and secular society. Selmys is brutally honest about her personal life and her struggles, which allows her to confront an extremely sensitive topic in a way that's truthful and sometimes necessarily uncomfortable without being self-righteous or accusatory.

Selmys' extremely sharp mind and penchant for philosophy make for explanations of complicated theological arguments that are at once cerebral and easily accessible. She manages to explain the Theology of the Body in a way that is soundly logical and nearly irrefutable, but also simple enough for lay people and non-Catholics to grasp.

Her insights into the inner workings of humanity are just as impressive. More than once her frank assessment of common human failings shook me to my core. Selmys has a way of nonchalantly destroying every wall and straw man you've built up for yourself that's innately disarming, but also inviting because it's rooted in truth and shared experience.

Sexual Authenticity is a powerful book that will make people on all sides of the homosexuality issue uncomfortable. But it's a necessary discomfort that forces us to discard societal labels that divide us and recognize each other as people, as children of God, first, no better or worse than the other. Only then can we even attempt a meaningful dialogue or understanding of such a intimate issue.

This review was written as a part of the Catholic book reviewer program.

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