Tyler Francke’s new novel “Reoriented” tackles the most divisive issue facing modern Christianity: homosexuality. Through the fictional story of a gay student at a Christian college, Francke offers an engaging and thought-provoking exploration of “faith, scripture and sexual identity.”
“Reoriented” opens with a suicide-in-progress, thus framing the story in terms of the potentially disastrous consequences of Christianity’s failure to responsibly engage with issues of sexuality. And though the rest of the story isn’t as heart-wrenchingly dramatic, it nevertheless compellingly grapples with the relevant sides of the debate. Francke’s cast of characters capably represent a variety of positions and understandings on the issue of homosexuality, and through their eyes we are shown the challenges and motivations of these diverse viewpoints.
Francke avoids easy answers; this novel is an invitation to think about our positions and presuppositions and to carefully consider the consequences of our beliefs. It’s a starting point, not an ending. At times, I found that lack of theological decisiveness frustrating, but the ambiguity is an honest reflection of Francke’s own uncertainty about the issue. Though Francke is ultimately unwilling to take a definitive doctrinal stand on homosexuality, he makes it abundantly clear that Christians are called to love, not hate, and that when we marginalize, exclude and persecute LGBT people, we are going against the very heart of the gospel message.
Perhaps because this is essentially a didactic novel, I never felt fully engaged by the story. This is issue-driven fiction in which aesthetic and literary sensibilities are necessarily sacrificed for thematic fidelity. The novel gently guides the reader toward engaging the relevant questions, rather than trusting us to tease our own meaning out of a more opaque narrative. This isn’t necessarily a fault, so much as it is an inherent characteristic of this type of fiction.
“Reoriented” won’t win the war for Christian acceptance of LGBT people, but it does add an important voice to that on-going struggle. Books like Matthew Vines’s “God and the Gay Christian,” Justin Lee’s “Torn” and John Shore’s “UNFAIR” each engage the issue of Christianity and homosexuality in their own way, and Francke’s fiction offers a valuable and unique entry point into the discussion.