Vines came to grips with his sexual orientation during his sophomore year of college. He found numerous allies at Harvard, but felt consistently rebuffed by the fact that many of them came from such different cultural and religious backgrounds than he did. One LGBT tutor, for example, responded to his plight by bemoaning the burden that religion often placed on its gay adherents. “Her attitude was basically ‘Matthew, religion isn’t worth it,’” Vines said. “And I was just like, ‘well, okay, but that’s not really helpful.’”
Vines returned home to Kansas after that semester and stayed there. He decided that he couldn’t complete his undergraduate degree until he discovered a way to square his sexual orientation with his faith. This ended up being harder than expected, since he was at a loss to find a comprehensive, cogent, single piece or argument that he felt did justice to the issue. “There were so many books written on this topic, there are so many websites,” Vines said, but virtually all of them “cu[t] corners in order to reach their desired conclusion.” Most of the genuine scholarship on this issue, Vines discovered, was inaccessible to the vast majority of Christians, and most of the popular literature wouldn’t persuade a mainstream conservative Christian—and, most importantly, persuade Matthew Vines.
So ever since March 2010, Vines has devoted his life to researching this topic. This involved reading myriad scholarly articles, teaching himself basic Greek, and even returning to Harvard briefly to study Latin. Only after thousands of hours of study did Vines finally feel comfortable enough to present his findings. “I really want to reclaim the Bible,” Vines told me, “and not have to do it in a way that’s manipulative of the text. And fortunately…I think that my arguments and my interpretations are actually more accurate historically and Biblically” than the traditional ones.
Even if you’re not a Christian, even if you’re not very religious, and even if you disagree with Vines’s findings, his work serves as a beacon to those who seek a popular discourse on religion that is grounded in erudition, thoughtfulness, and dignity.