consent of the people that no number ofrnpettifogging scribblers can suppress.rnClyde Wilson is a professor of history atrnthe University of South Carolina.rnNot Ours to Givernby Harold O.J. BrownrnUnrepentant, Self-Affirming,rnPracticing: Lesbian/Bisexual/GayrnPeople Within Organized Religionrnby Gary David ComstockrnNew York: Continuum;rn348pp.,$29.9SrnGary David Comstock is Protestantrnchaplain and visiting assistant professorrnof sociologv at Wesleyan University.rnThe author cites his “lover/partnerrnTed” in the acknowledgments, and thusrnmanifestly belongs to the group he describesrnin uniformly favorable terms.rnThe book is interesting, and in many respectsrnchallenging to the traditionallyrnminded reader. A jacket blurb by ProfessorrnWade Clark Roof of the University ofrnCalifornia at Santa Barbara calls it arn”useful and timely piece of research.”rnDespite its impressive scholady apparatus,rnhowever. Unrepentant exhibits severalrnmethodological and philosophical defects.rnFirst, we note that Comstockrndraws his data from unrepresentativernsources: most of his tables compare thernUnited Church of Christ (UCC)—an almostrnentirely liberal denomination andrnone of two which have recognized homosexualityrnas morally legitimate—and thernUmted Methodist Church (UMC), arnmuch larger denomination with stronglyrnliberal tendencies, especially among therndenominational leadership, but in whichrnconservative and evangelical elementsrnexercise considerable influence. He assumesrnthe accuracy of the gravely flawedrnKinsey studies on human sexuality andrntheir conclusion that ten percent of thernmales in American society are more orrnless exclusively homosexual. He refers torn”Good News,” a parachurch organizationrnin Atlanta, but makes no referencernto the Good News Fellowship, an importantrnevangelical witness in the UnitedrnMethodist Church that naturally takes arndim view of homosexual conduct, despiternhis extensive use of UMC material.rnSecond, he relies extensively on firstpersonrnaccounts of homosexuals (and bisexuals)rnin various churches and otherrnreligious groups, but gives no testimonyrnfrom former or recovering homosexualsrnin any of the many recovery groups, suchrnas Exodus, Harvest, and the like. Perhapsrnthis is not a methodological fault, asrnComstock is concerned with how homosexualsrnrespond to religion. Nevertheless,rnat least some of them do so by repentancernand change: a fact that is surel)’rnworth noting.rnPhilosophically, he seems to presupposernwhat he is trying to prove. He beginsrnwith the presupposition that homosexualityrnis constitutional or genetic, anrnassumption that is frequently made butrnso far cannot be proven. Despite the factrnthat all traditional religions have seriousrnstrictures against homosexual conduct—rnwhich he notes—Comstock simplyrnassumes that the morality and acceptabilityrnof homosexual conduct and relationshipsrncan be taken for granted, andrnthat the efforts of traditionalist Christiansrnand others to help homosexuals tornchange are dismissable as prejudicial andrn”homophobic.” When homosexuals encounterrncriticism and opposition withinrntraditional Christian or Jewish circlesrnand migrate to Asian religions. New Agerncults, or even Wiccan goddess worship,rnhe regards this as a perfectly understandablernresponse to the lack of understandingrnand love of the traditionalists. Thernfact that it can also be interpreted asrnapostasy into unbelief or even idolatry,rnmotivated by an unwillingness to comernto terms with the moral code of a traditionalrnreligion, is simply ignored. “I wantrnto live in a way the church forbids: shamernon the church!”rnIn addition to dismissing without examinationrnthe commandments of traditionalrnreligion, Comstock bases much ofrnhis presentation on an unexpressed presupposition:rnnamely, that homosexualsrngenerally form committed, faithful, lovingrnrelationships. Nevertheless, he doesrninclude bisexuals in his subject group, althoughrnthe emergence of so-called bisexualsrnas a distinct and privileged group onrnthe level of male homosexuals and lesbiansrncertainly raises the question ofrnwhether we are not dealing simply withrnsexual profligacy rather than with anyrnconstitutional or genetic orientation,rnsince the phenomenon of bisexuality, byrndefinition, excludes the idea of committed,rnfaithful, “monogamous” relationships,rnwhich forms a presupposition forrnmuch of his argument.rnThe assumption that the basic patternrnof sexual relations is committedrnmonogamy has considerably less basisrnwith regard to homosexuals than to heterosexuals,rnwhile even the latter’s commitmentrnto faithful monogamy is farrnfrom total. Nevertheless, among heterosexualsrnthe concept of marital fidelity isrncredible enough for churches to presentrncelibacy before marriage and fidelity inrnmarriage as attainable ideals. Amongrnhomosexuals, and particularly gay men,rnthe ideal of a committed, loving relationshiprnwith one person is seldom achievedrnover a long period. Not only “bisexuals”rnbut gay men often seem to have morernthan one “partner”—indeed, they oftenrnpursue a very large number of them.rnThis is one of the main reasons for thernrapid spread of AIDS through the malernhomosexual population. If organized religionsrn—and not merely the trendierrngroups such as the Unitarian Universalists.rnUnited Church of Christ, and ReconstructionistrnJudaism—are persuadedrnto accept the legitimacy of homosexualityrn(and, even more, of bisexuality), theyrnwill be forced to abandon all standards ofrnsexual conduct for their clergy, not tornmention for their general membership.rnAnd given the tendency of other churches,rnincluding the Roman Catholic andrnevangelical Protestant denominations, torn”go with the flow,” however sluggishly,rnsuch an attitude on the part of the liberalsrnwill have an impact on the generalrnculture and ultimately on the more conservativerngroups—unless they steelrnthemselves to fight it.rnMuch of this book consists of sympatheticrnreports of homosexuals’ experiencesrnwith organized religion. Somernhave welcoming and affirming contacts;rnothers find rejection, condemnation,rnand even verbal and physical abuse.rnWhat Comstock does not consider is thernhomosexual who encounters loving acceptancernof his person but not his practice,rnand who is thereby led to repentancernand sometimes to transformation.rnHe gives no attention to the homosexualsrnand lesbians—they are numerous—rnwho, having been challenged by the receivedrnmoral standards of the church,rnrepent and change their conduct as wellrnas, in some cases, their sexual orientation.rnThe thought that homosexuals can berntransformed is anathema to the gay andrnlesbian movement. Even though withrn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn