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Holy Disunity

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What a perfect time to read this well written book.   We have certainly become a fight or flight culture and this book really addresses that when we can begin to look at our differences as a gift and be open to hear others out disunity will change.  There are 12 things that Layton Williams stated that we need to look at as gifts: difference, doubt, argument, tension, separation, vulnerability, trouble, protest, hunger, limitations, failure, and uncertainty.   I don't agree with everything in this book but I did enjoy the writing style and the idea of community and value in everyone.   There are two quotes at the beginning of the book that I think are my favorites.  "In short, I believe that when we pursue earthly unity at all costs, it becomes for us an idol - a distraction from the greater unity that comes from God."   The second quote is, "If we trust in the promise that God has it under control, we can let go a little bit."     So often I think that we argue for the sack of arguing or simply being right and don't always value someone else's opinion when they differ from our own.   I did enjoy the questions at the end of the book.  They really do help you to ponder and appreciate the gifts within each of the 12 things listed above.   

I did receive this book from NetGalley for an honest review.
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Thank you NetGalley and Westminster John Knox Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!

I read 30 pages into this book, before making the decision to DNF. I expected this book to be a Biblical essay reflecting on the examples of productive, Christian disunity from Christ's ministry and how we can emulate that in our polarized American political landscape today. However, it's rather a "Christian-ish" blog post of a book attempting to justify LGBTQIA decisions as Biblically acceptable. I understand this is controversial, but according to the Bible, it's not. 

I wholly agree that Christians must bridge the divides between "us and them," seeing all people as images of God like we are, but when the Bible discusses how we are all parts of a body, that analogy only refers to members of the church, not every person. To be a member of a church, one must conform and live to Scriptural truths and repentance. She mentions an instance of Jesus sinning, how the Bible is not a trusted source and was ill written, and how churches not just love but affirm LGBTQIA. This is not Christianity, but a religion that refers to the Bible for morality--which is fine, but it needs to be labeled as such.

Aside from theological error and lack of research, the writing needed one more good edit not by the author. It was redundant, sometimes veered off topic, and felt more like an informal blog post, as mentioned above, rather than a researched treatise for a theological principle. The foreword by a different woman than the author was the most well written, inspiring, and clear piece of the book (what I did read, obviously, since I didn't finish). 

I give the book one star for the foreword alone! Another star because the author does make a few good points. But ultimately, I cannot recommend this either for content or writing quality.
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I appreciate the thoughtful reflections on what it looks Scripture tells what loving people well looks from this book. Williams sets the stage beautifully by rejecting a dualistic image when necessary, but also forcing us as the reader to consider stewing in seemingly contradictory states of mind for many different controversial topics in Christian discussion: Humans are both fragile beings but also God’s beloved creatures, being vulnerable can result in oppression or freedom depending on human’s struggle with power, and lastly seeing the tension of our human understanding of living into the now/not yet of God’s Kingdom can feel as both a blessing and a frustration. Sitting in this tension is difficult for me, but I am grateful to read about Willams’ story of wrestling with it and growing from it.
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It was only a couple of chapters into Layton Williams's "Holy Disunity: How What Separates Us Can Save Us" that I identified to friends who knew that I was reading it that Williams had already left me having to set the book aside for a few moments of quiet sobbing.

There is a rawness and an authenticity to "Holy Disunity," especially in its early chapters, that struck a chord with me and resonated deeply within my soul.

As a paraplegic/double amputee with spina bifida, I was also deeply touched at Williams's repeated inclusion of persons of varying/differing abilities within her inclusive language - as someone who is used to regularly being excluded, especially within church and theological circles, it's hard to express how deeply touched I was by being included.

"Holy Disunity: How What Separates Us Can Save Us" essentially possesses a rather simple and straightforward argument - that there is holiness in the disunity that exists within our lives and, at least sometimes, our attempts to move toward unity at any cost may be widening the chasm and not trusting God to work within those differences.

Williams points out that quite often within the world and within the faith community that the presence of discord and disagreement is highly frowned upon to the point that all sides of an argument feel pressured to either compromise themselves or stifle their authenticity. This can lead to emotional/physical challenges for individuals, unstable/unsafe communities, and increased severity of fractures when they do occur.

In a tremendously organized manner, Williams looks at several different expressions of disunity, or perceived expressions of disunity, and how they can be expressed in our daily lives, biblical examples of their expression and how Jesus dealt with them, and how they can ultimately save us if we are open to living within the tensions that they can cause.

At nearly all times, Williams is quick to point out that there are exceptions to the healthiness of disunity. "Holy Disunity" isn't so much a prescriptive collection as it is a series of opportunities to reflect on the subject matter on a deeper level.

I'm being incredibly sincere when I say that I found the first half of "Holy Disunity" to be an incredibly emotional, cathartic reading experience largely because the first half of the book had a stronger balance of Williams's autobiographical experiences woven into the material and the subjects simply resonated on a deeper level.

On the other hand, I struggled somewhat in the final 1/3 of "Holy Disunity" as it began to feel like perhaps the material was being stretched a bit too thin and the topics began to feel just a wee bit redundant in presentation. I also felt, at times, like Williams was contradicting herself by simultaneously saying that disunity can be holy but then pointing out how disunity can really lead us to actual unity.

Williams, who self-identifies as bisexual and is an ordained Presbyterian minister currently working on the staff of Sojourners, draws many of her autobiographical stories from her identity within the LGBTQ community and as part of a denomination that has only within the past few years allowed for members of said community to be ordained. This in itself is not problematic. However, I at times longed for Williams to reveal other aspects of her being and how they're all impacted by these discussions. If Williams were a character in a movie, I'd likely describe her as coming off as very one-note yet it's abundantly clear from her life experiences that she's far from one-note. We get a glimpse of this in the early pages, especially in discussions around her being a weird child, but nearly all the examples in the latter parts of the book are references to the LGBTQ community. Do I want her to disown that? Of course not. I simply wanted a more complete picture of "Who is Layton Williams?" to give her examples greater context.

I also felt, at times, that Williams didn't delve as deeply into subject matter as she could have gone. For example, she specifically references the disability community on multiple occasions early in the book yet never provides a place for their inclusion as her examples begin to be expressed. As I arrived at the chapter on "The Gift of Limitation," I thought to myself "Ah, here we go!" Alas, nothing even mentioned despite such a wonderful opportunity to use this as an opportunity to explore the role of disability, disunity, and church life. It even fit quite nicely within the topic she did focus on - bias. There were a couple other times where I felt like the book could have expanded its universal reach but didn't quite stretch for it.

Ultimately, however, I loved every minute of reading "Holy Disunity: How What Separates Us Can Save Us." It's a book that challenged me. It's a book that made me think. It's a book that made me feel deeply and, especially in its first half, made me cry openly. It's a book that challenged me to explore my own issues with my own disability and how often I've fought so hard to be what the church wanted me to be that I compromised my well-being, my welfare, and even my health - this is especially vital as I'm sitting here having read the book just two months after having my left leg amputated above the knee.

While I may have had minor issues with "Holy Disunity," I'm excited by Williams's authentic and honest voice being unleashed in the literary and theological worlds and there's literally zero doubt this is a book I will reference again and again. Inviting us into reflection and discussion and into a place where we can be ourselves amidst the tensions and uncertainties, Layton Williams has written an important, vital book for our times.
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Although I normally enjoy different perspectives when it comes to Christianity, This particular book just wasn't for me, but judge for yourself
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As a Christian, I thought unity was an essential trait I had to employ at all costs. However, disunity is more common as we build relationships with other humans. And, according to author Layton Williams, disunity is not a sin. In fact, we should learn how, when and why to embrace and practice disunity as we grow more into God’s likeness.
In “Holy Disunity,” Lawton discusses differences, doubt, conflict avoidance, protest, and other topics. Every chapter is dedicated to a challenge that we fear, how it can divide us, and what gifts we can find in it.
I finished this book and felt encouraged to embrace disunity and view it as an opportunity to grow together in unity with my fellow believers.
One improvement I would make is less talk about Lawton’s homosexuality. In places, this book read like a memoir rather than a book that would help the church at large.
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I have been challenging myself to read more books that come from different perspectives - and this book came in that category. Layton Williams is a LGBTQ clergyperson who writes from a very different perspective than me. With that in mind, I did enjoy this book! Her approach to seeing the "gifts" in things we often see as problems - like failure and tension - was unique and eye opening. Her writing style is excellent and easy to read! While there were many points on which I didn't agree, I still enjoyed this read!
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This was a great book about how we can letter differences divide us or make us stronger. In it, the author analyzes "gifts" of things like many emotions that most people do not view in that light. She brings in her own experience as a Presbyterian minister and a part of the LGBTQ community, and then brings in biblical references to show why these uncomfortable emotions can be gifts that draw a community together. A very good read that didn't get bogged down at all but moved from topic to topic in a straightforward natural manner. Very thought-provoking and meaningful.
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What an excellent read.  I selected the book based on the title and description mostly because of the how relevant the topic is today.  My bias' wanted to reject the book before I even read it, but after getting into the content it was not easy putting this down.  The author has a particular sense of clarity that was very refreshing and I felt that she made some very excellent points.  Her personal life circumstances fit her examples perfectly and I particularly like how she emphasized being able to communicate with out being offended.  To openly communicate and acknowledging our differences without having to be forced into agreeing with each other or giving up on your own beliefs.  I feel strongly that this book was influential in my own life and gave me a new perspective on talking about current issues that tend to disrupt and divide church communities today.
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This book I could not finish. Very disturbing some of things written. The part about Jesus having moments of prejudice. Really? She thinks God was prejudice?
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I found this work to embrace the intersections of faith, relationships and justice. This book highlights how God’s love is greater than the chaos of our world. Layton argues that God is not calling humans to unity, but to relationship. This distinction allows for folks to communicate and embrace their differing experiences of God. Layton notes that our desire to force normativity often results in constructed cultural hierarchies and barriers, and that our differences can expand our understanding of who God is . Layton notes that to be in relationship with one another we need to be honest and vulnerable with one another, and that disagreement and conflict are a part of that journey. She highlights that often disunity and struggle are a holy experience, and even shows how Jesus embraces Judas as brother and friend even with the knowledge of betrayal. I found this work to be insightful and love the questions at the back. I think this would be a wonderful discussion book for a church to do as a community. I would highly recommend this work. I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a review of this work. These are my honest thoughts about this work.
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I requested and voluntarily read an advanced review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley and I offer my honest opinion in response.
I struggled with this book.  I battled between quitting because I was offended by the liberal theology presented (eg., Jesus was prejudiced and repented; the Bible was written by people who were prejudiced by the cultural beliefs of their time so some things don't apply to our modern times) and sticking with the reading to glean the inspirational, feel-good ideas that were promised by the blurb.  In the end, I stuck with the reading.  I think I gained some insight from this exploration of the "gifts" presented to us by diversity.  I wouldn't recommend this to someone young in their faith or grappling with the idea of inerrancy of scripture.
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I wanted to like this book based on the title.  I don't know what I expected, but what I got certainly wasn't it.

The author of this book is a bisexual female pastor -something she really doesn't want the reader to forget.  She reminds us in every chapter.

While I expected this book to be about how to get along with others who hold different views on various topics, I had no idea that it would turn into a book about how everyone needs to accept the LGBTQ group.  And that's what it really is about.  It appears in every chapter.  Her life story of how she felt different and wants to be accepted.  Every single chapter.  We are fed over and over again how awful it is for people to hold Biblical beliefs about sin.  It is those people who cause all the disunity.  If only they would accept the LGBTQ agenda, we could have unity!

The real danger of this book is that it contains partial truth.

"-when we allow those differences to justify our hating others or treating them as less beloved by God than us, as less than human - we are not just rejecting them.  We are rejecting the God-image in them."
Absolutely!  We need to love each other as God loves us.  But we also need to be wary of sin.  We can love someone and not accept their sin.  What does that look like?  When they are in trouble, sick, need help, we provide it.  But we do not encourage the sin they are in. In the case of Rev. Williams, if she came to visit me, I would welcome her, but I would not allow her to share a bedroom with someone else knowing her sins to be of a sexual nature.  It would be a sin for me to encourage or facilitate her sin.

"...the overarching message of Paul's letters seems to be that what matters is not that we are all the same, but rather that our differences do not determine our worth in the eyes of God."
This is true!  God is love.  He loves every part of His creation.  We are created in His image.  However, He also has defined sin for us.  No doubt you've heard, "Love the sinner and hate the sin."  This is what God does!  He calls us to repentance.  And this is where we begin to see the half truths - she has presented this to subtly encourage the acceptance of the LGBTQ agenda.

Paul tells the church in Corinth that they need to put a man out of their midst because of his sin.  The idea is that when he realizes his sin and repents, he can be restored.  Through this "tough love" he will be saved.  

It is not the person's "identity" that is the sin, it is the actions this person performs.  Rev. Williams can call herself anything she wants - bisexual, queer, whatever.  When she struggles with her passions and refrains from engaging in sinful acts, she is living an authentic Christian life.  If she revels in her "identity" and engages in these acts, she is living in sin and needs to repent and make every effort to not fall into this sin again.   

But it gets worse:

"...even though Jesus has his moments of prejudice...."
Seriously?  You believe that God is prejudice?  Now we are going off the rails to prove a point we want to make.

"Multiple truths can and do exist all the time, and the space of tension between the opposing and challenging truths is where true faith resides."
Sorry, I don't see multiple truths.  I don't see "multiple truths" in any of the examples she gives.

"Compromise on your conviction in the name of relationship.  Compromise on justice in the name of peace.  Compromise on truth in the name of politeness.  I'm not saying that there's never a time for compromise - of course there is.  But make no mistake, compromise isn't staying in the tension.  It's resolving it.  Compromise says, 'Resolving this tension is more important than anything else - more important than what either of us wants.'"
Well, now. There we have it.  Resolving the tension of the fact that she is LGBTQ and you see that as sinful means that we must compromise.  What does that compromise look like?  Well, accepting her and her actions as okay.  People are asked to compromise on their convictions - compromise on truth!

This book did not give me any peace, any ideas of how to have "Holy Unity"  and it certainly didn't give me ideas of how things that separate us can save us unless we all "compromise and call "truth" what Rev. Williams calls truth   We must see it her way, or we are the ones causing the disunity.  She never accepts that God created male and female, not bisexuals, transsexuals, and her alphabet of genders.  We are to give up that most basic Biblical belief so she can not feel "different."

I think not.
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There is some good writing here and author Williams makes some valid points about the way differences in outlook, personality, and talents can mesh to have a more powerful effect than efforts from a single source.  Still, to me, the book is not theologically sound nor practically credible.  While purporting to use the Bible and authentic Christian living as the basis of the book, I feel the book contorts and twists biblical mandates.. The book often takes on a petulant tone, which I found out of place.  I pictured a child leaping from a dock in a fit of misbehavior and being saved by a strong swimmer, only to shout that her disobedient actions caused the swimmer to show his prowess, and must therefore have been a good thing since it brought strength to light.  From very early on, the book champions flawed thinking in this way and, for me, the book''s basic ideas are faulty as they fail the test of truth.  One star from this reviewer.
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I enjoyed this book.  It challenges readers to think.  Some text was hard to understand but having a belief in God is a personal decision and everyone needs to get there on their own.
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Holy Disunity: How what separates us can save us by Layton E. Williams is a call to “let go of the idol of unity and see the holiness in disunity” as stated by Diana Butler Bass in the foreword. Ms. Layton, a bisexual ordained Presbyterian minister, who sets out to show how we are unified in Christ and holy unity is not ours to create or to destroy. She sets out to argue for holy disunity and how we can faithfully coexist without being unified with each chapter dedicated to a challenge that we all face such as fear, doubt and tension and how it divides us and how we can use it in the Church. Through Biblical text and her own personal struggles and journey, she presents how we should embrace our differences in our life experiences, our abilities, our limitations and in our failures, so we can further the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. 
When I picked this book, I was intrigued by the idea of holy disunity. Ms. Williams makes a very convincing case of how the goal of “peace on earth” is not our mission. Holy Disunity is a very interesting read and while I disagreed with a few of Ms. Williams’ assertions, I found myself agreeing with her main points and thinking about how to use our differences as we strive to spread the Gospel. Just as Paul states in Romans 12:3-8 and in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, we are all one part of the a greater whole and each with different gifts and different roles. At the end of the book, she presents questions for reflection and discussion. They were thought provoking and allows the reader to apply the ideas presented in each chapter. I would have liked to see the questions at the end of each chapter so that the reflections can be done after reading the designated chapters. Overall, I enjoyed this book and Ms. Williams is heartfelt and honest in her arguments and examples for holy disunity. It is a book I will read again in the future. I recommend Holy Disunity.

Holy Disunity: 
How what separates us can save us
Is available in paperback, eBook and audiobook
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Holy Disunity attempts to look at the idea that we do not have to be united to be Jesus's love. Layton E. Williams proves this while making points in each chapter based on ideas such as difference, doubt and protest. Each chapter focus on a real life experience or example and then followed by a Bible story. These two sections are not connected so the reader must just assume how the stories combine. And I have to admit, I didn't understand how some Bible passages fit into the real world ideal.
The best part, honestly, is Williams experience as a member of the LGBTQ community and how faith played into their life. It was these moments of true vulnerability that makes the book. 
However, I wanted to have a dialogue about the content which is a success for the author. We need to dialogue to understand each other and who we can celebrate Jesus while understanding we don't all have to be the same cookie cutter Christian.
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Good for those interested in religion, even if a bit cumbersome and long. Ideal for those wanting an academic take without the over the top words.
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was done at Jesus was prejudiced and repented. Nothing to see here

Received ARC by Westminster John Knox Press and Netgalley
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{Full disclosure: Westminster John Knox Press gave me a free copy of this book for review.}

This book makes some fantastic points about diversity, and with some tweaks I would recommend it wholeheartedly. As it is I cannot, but more of that later. The very first paragraph of the introduction captured me, and compelled me forward. I don’t think the author or publisher will mind if I try to draw you in with her words:


I have spent my entire life deeply loving people with whom I will never agree. We disagree on politics, on faith, and on some of our core values. Over the last few years I have watched the divisions in our world and especially our country grow deeper and deeper—or perhaps I’ve merely watched existing divisions come more and more to light. I have observed the conversations becoming both angrier (which I believe is sometimes good, or at least fair) and more hateful (which I believe is neither productive nor good). I’ve seen, all around me, people retreating into havens of like-minded community, and I have seen their ability to tolerate others—even to recognize that others are human beings beloved and created in the image of God—wither to nothing. For an empathetic, sensitive, and conflict-averse person, it has been agonizing.


I could not agree more! And there is absolutely no place for this among people who claim to be followers of Christ. She makes a fantastic point by emphasizing that God, by the very definition of “Trinity,” embraces diversity. “God isn’t just capable of relationship; God is relationship. And that relationship is born out of contrast.” Well said!


I also appreciate her references to Paul breaking down barriers and clearly pointing out that the Church Body not just can but must be composed of people with differences. These are important passages against things like sexism, nationalism, and racism that all who claim to be Christian must be aware of. To nobody’s surprise, though, the author (who self-defines as “a liberal, bisexual, female pastor”) left out Paul’s teaching that some things like homosexual activity are not differences but sin.


She rightly points out that portions of the Bible, such as the curse on Ham, have been improperly used to justify bad behavior. I agree completely that the Bible has been abused. In fact, the author herself does so by contending that when Jesus encountered the Canaanite woman he initially sinned, but when she challenged him he then repented and changed His mind. She repeatedly accuses Jesus of prejudice, but that’s understandable since non-Jews throughout the centuries have been unhappy that God made a special covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


She also points out that the wonderful variety we see in nature is an indication that God appreciates differences. Further, despite her concerns regarding Jesus’ testing of the Canaanite woman, she quite rightly points out that he spent much of his life with people that others had shunned for various reasons.
I

 think the author hurts her cause when she portrays the world as far more extreme than it is to try to strengthen her position. For example, “There are normal and abnormal hobbies, normal and abnormal ways to feel about a popular thing or person, normal and abnormal life timelines.” I’ve never found anyone, either in person or in social media, who declared hobbies, feelings about pop culture, or timelines as “abnormal.” People may describe such things as unusual, but that’s quite different.


Another example, “If you like soccer, love Brad Pitt, and get married and have kids, you’re normal and that’s good. If you like rock collecting, think Brad Pitt is ugly, and never have a relationship at all—you’re not just different—you’re weird. And weird carries with it a cost, in social capital at least.” Again, I have never come across anyone who would be less engaged with someone else because of rock collecting or opinions on pop culture stars.


Rather than a theological look at disunity, this sounds far more like the petulant hyperbole of a person who was picked on as a child. Early in the first chapter she asserts, “At some point, we also learn that ‘right’ equals ‘normal’ and that normal is good. And we learn that ‘different’ is bad or wrong.” I strongly disagree with that assertion. She may have felt that way, growing up as different from the majority herself, but it isn’t broadly true.


An even more blatant example: “Acknowledging that others are different requires us to either label them as ‘less than’ or confront the possibility that some of our value and power is undeserved.” What rubbish! I have lived in several parts of the U.S. and have never been in a culture that lived such “requirements.” There are certainly some extremists that feel this way, but they are the exception. The author seems to think that Internet trolls are representative of the culture’s true feelings.


She asserts, “We attempt to justify our fear by demonizing those who are different. We transform our fear into hate. And then hate, too, becomes normalized.” I would very much like to know who the author includes with herself in the pronoun “we.” And how can she support her claim that hate has become normalized? Would she claim that KKK members are considered normal? Not by anyone I know! In general, I support her premise, but she weakens her argument by carrying it to absurd extremes—the same behavior she complains about in others.


This book could (and in my opinion, should) have been an insightful, powerful work on the importance of diversity. Things like sexism, racism, and nationalism have divided us, but all of those are simply differences. They are not things that should lead to fear, power battles, and hatred. Not things that the Bible supports. In fact, the Bible is clearly against them! The author does a wonderful job of laying these out well, and I very much appreciate her words. Unfortunately, she chose to also promote her LGBTQ+ agenda by ignoring the fact that the Bible does declare homosexual activity to be sin. That dissolves the book’s power, and makes it one that I must recommend against.
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