January 14, 2015 in General
A Life of Unlearning is the autobiography of Anthony Venn-Brown, a former pastor at Australian mega-churches such as Hillsong. It tells the story of his rise to prominence in the evangelical Christian movement, and then a realisation in middle age that his sexuality was something he could no longer suppress.
Anthonyâ€™s story resonated with me in numerous ways. Like me, he knew he was gay at a young age, yet chose to lock those feelings away. Like him, Iâ€™ve known the pain and despair of feeling Iâ€™d never be accepted by those I loved.Â And weâ€™ve both experienced the cruelty of separation at the hands of so-called Christians.
A Life of Unlearning reinforced my fears of what couldâ€™ve happened if I hadnâ€™t left the Exclusive Brethren when I did. I could see myself getting married, having a family, trying (and failing) to bury my sexuality, and then having it all rise to the surface and explode later in life. This was Anthonyâ€™s experience.
Born in an era when homosexuality was still illegal, he went through the process of coming out with little or no support from others. The AIDS crisis was in full swing, and he was damned to hell by church leaders when he announced he planned to live his life as an openly gay man. Yet for Anthony â€“ and for me â€“ coming out was a liberating experience.
In his autobiography, Anthony describes how he re-discovered his faith after being away from religion for several years. Since then he has worked tirelessly to establish networks between the faith and rainbow communities. Heâ€™s acted as an advocate for those who have no voice, and has opened dialogue in an area deemed by many others to be a lost cause.
Thereâ€™s a common perception that being Christian and being gay are mutually exclusive. At the time I left the church, I felt I had to choose one or the other. Anthonyâ€™s story shows that itâ€™s possible to reconcile your sexuality with your faith. Thereâ€™s an extensive network of gay Christians in Australia and New Zealand, and leaders such as Anthony are an inspiration to those seeking the courage to be true to themselves.
Even if youâ€™re not gay or Christian, A Life of Unlearning is still a great read. It charts a story of acceptance and tolerance, and shows that if we persevere, love always wins through. It will make you laugh, and it will make you cry. When you finally put it down, youâ€™ll be glad to be alive.
For more information about A Life of Unlearning, check out Anthony Venn-Brownâ€™s website.