Jackie Hill Perry is an American poet and recording artist on the Humble Beast label. Married to Preston, she is the mother of two children. Last year, she published her first book Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been. This is an “interview” of sorts, with her responses coming as excerpts from her book.
WES BREDENHOF: At its heart, what is your book really about?
JACKIE HILL PERRY: Every sentence is the pursuit of showing off God….This is a book with a lot of me in it but with a whole lot more of God. He is what the soul needs for rest and what the mind needs for peace. He is the Creator God, the King of Glory, the one who, in love, sent the Christ to pay the penalty for and become the sin that we are all born with. It is the words from and about this resurrected Lamb of God that I hope will lift off the page and into the heart. This book is a lifted hand, a glad praise, a necessary hymn, a hallelujah overheard and not kept quiet. This work is my worship unto God that, with prayer, I hope will leave you saying, “God is so good!”
WB: You say that it was the story of who you were. So who were you? What were you like?
JHP: To me, the devil made more sense than God sometimes. Both he and God spoke. God through His Scriptures; Satan, through doubt. I’d learned of the Ten Commandments in Sunday school in between eating a handful of homemade popcorn and picking at my stockings. The “Thou shall nots” didn’t complement the sweet buttered chew I found myself distracted by. They were a noise I didn’t care to welcome. “You can’t. You shouldn’t. Do not,” didn’t sound like a song worth listening to, only a terrible noise to drown out by resistance. Satan, on the other hand, only told me to do what felt good or what made sense to me.
WB: When you finally came out as gay, what were you thinking about God? And what do you think He thought about you?
JHP: As much as I wanted to believe God grinned when He thought of my life, I knew He didn’t. My conscience spoke to me throughout the day. In the morning, it reminded me of God. A few minutes before the clock brought the noon in, it brought God to mind, again. Night was when it was the loudest. On the way to sleep, my head lay relaxed on my pillow surrounded by the natural darkness of night, I thought about God. I was His enemy (James 4:4). How could I, an enemy of God, have sweet dreams knowing that He sat awake throughout the night?
WB: So by God’s grace you became a Christian in 2008 – through his Spirit and Word you were miraculously brought to faith and repentance. What impact did your conversion have on your same-sex desires?
JHP: To my surprise, being a Christian delivered me from the power of sin but in no way did it remove the possibility of temptation. A common lie thrown far and wide is that if salvation has truly come to someone who is same-sex attracted, then those attractions should immediately vanish. To be cleansed by Jesus, they presume, is to be immune to the enticement of sin. This we know not to be true because of Jesus. He being completely perfect and yet He still experienced temptation.
WB: What was that temptation like for you?
JHP: It was slapping me around like a weightless doll in the hands of an imaginative child. Being tossed between fun and funeral, who would I decide to trust more? What the temptation wanted me to believe or what God had already revealed? The struggle with homosexuality was a battle of faith. To give into temptation would be to give into unbelief. It was up to me to believe Him. His Word was authoritative, active, sharp. The simplicity of faith is this: taking God’s Word for it. And I might not have felt like it, but I had no choice but to believe Him.
WB: Why do we have a hard time believing that a gay girl can become a completely different creature?
JHP: Because we have a hard time believing God. The Pharisees saw the man born blind, heard his testimony, heard about his past and how it was completely different from the present one, and refused to believe the miracle of Whothe miracle pointed to. The same power that made a man born blind able to see through the means of something as foolish as spit and mud is the same enormous power contained in a foolish gospel brought into the world by a risen Saviour. It is through faith in Him, initiated by His pursuit of me, that I, a gay girl, now new creature, was made right with God. Given sight, able to recognize my hands and how they’d been calloused by sin, and how Jesus had come to cleanse me of them all. Now seeing, I worship. One thing is sure, if ever I am asked, how am I able to see now, after being blind for so long, I will simply say, “I was blind, a good God came, and now, I see.”
WB: You have experienced the struggle with same-sex attraction. Should those who are tempted with that identify themselves as “Gay Christians”?
JHP: I don’t believe it is wise or truthful to the power of the gospel to identify oneself by the sins of one’s past or the temptations of one’s present but rather to only be defined by the Christ who’s overcome both for those He calls His own. All men and women, including myself, that are well acquainted with sexual temptation are ultimately not what our temptation says of us. We are what Christ had done for us; therefore, our ultimate identity is very simple: We are Christians.
WB: In your book, you warn about the “heterosexual gospel.” You write that “God isn’t calling gay people to be straight” and it’s actually dangerous to teach that he is. Why do you say that?
JHP: Because it puts more emphasis on marriage as the goal of the Christian life than knowing Jesus. Just as God’s aim in my salvation was not mainly the removal of my same-sex desires, in sanctification, it is not always His aim that marriage or experiencing an attraction for the opposite sex will be involved.
Excerpts from Jackie Hill Perry’s “Gay Girl, Good God” have been used with the gracious permission of the author (and publisher). Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com. A Dutch translation of this article can be found here.