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Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole, and Living Free From Shame Hardcover – Unabridged, 14 Jun 2018
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"Whether you have faith or not, are gay, straight or neither, in a relationship or not, this is a must-read book. Brave, fresh and honest it will help humankind become more humane."
Clare Balding, Broadcaster and Author
"Stories like Vicky's change the world. This is a wonderful book: it's compelling, moving and profoundly important. It is a beautiful story of personal triumph over toxic homophobia".Nicky Campbell, Broadcaster and Author
"This is a life-changing book. Vicky's blisteringly honest account of her painful journey through a world of prejudice challenges us all to look again at 21st century society.”
Dr. Brian May, Lead Guitarist from the band Queen
"An incredibly powerful, moving story about reconciling faith and sexuality. This inspiring account will bring hope to so many struggling in a world still so riddled with homophobia."
Owen Jones, Journalist and Broadcaster
“This is why Vicky Beeching is so inspiring – she's not just commentating, or offering theological perspectives, or timely opinions here, she's showing us in flesh and blood what hope looks like.”
Rob Bell, New York Times bestselling author of Love Wins
About the Author
VICKY BEECHING is a writer, keynote speaker and equality campaigner. A regular on BBC TV and radio, she often commentates on current affairs, faith and LGBT equality. She has been featured in publications including The Guardian, TIME Magazine, The Telegraph, Huffington Post, The New Statesman, Gay Times, and many others. Formerly, she spent over a decade singing and touring in Christian music, becoming one of the best known religious musicians in the UK and the US. She has won awards for her media work, her writing, and for her equality campaigning. Her first book, UNDIVIDED, is published by HarperCollins. Vicky lives in London. Visit her at www.vickybeeching.com
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This is a very moving, at times upsetting, and ultimately uplifting memoir of the life of Christian music artist, Vicky Beeching, who now works as a campaigner raising awareness of LGBT issues and also mental health.
Beeching grew up in a strongly Christian and musical household. She discovered soon that she, too had a gift of music that could reach people and assist them in their worship. It was her lifetime ambition to be a kind of missionary, following in the footsteps of her grandparents, and ultimately to do this via her music.
Beeching discovered in her teens, to her dismay, that she was attracted to girls in the same way that her female friends started to be attracted to boys, talking about who they “fancied”. This realisation made her feel nothing but shame and embarrassment, because her religious upbringing taught that homosexuality was an abominable sin. She made various attempts to “cure” herself of her lesbian feelings, including subjecting herself to an extremely degrading and frightening “exorcism”, which made her even more terrified that she might be possessed by demons.
She decided to throw all her energy into her studies and music. She studied for a theology degree at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford, during which time her reputation as a top class Christian musician continued to grow. At Wycliffe, she studied privately what more liberal theologians said about homosexuality and Christianity, but was not yet ready to throw away her deeply held traditional beliefs, and shortly after this, wrote one of her best-known songs “Above all else” in the chapel at Wycliffe Hall, expressing her determination to put God above everything else, including her confusion about her sexuality. Another of her songs, “Undivided Heart” expressing the longing for healing from brokenness, provides the motivation for the book’s title, though the word “undivided” came to have a different meaning for her than the original intent; the only way to be “undivided” was to stop fighting against her sexuality and instead to embrace it.
Her songs became noticed; she was offered a recording contract in America, and after her degree, moved to Nashville, Tennessee to become a professional Christian musician, in an atmosphere that was decidedly homophobic.
One of the overwhelming impressions I get from this well written memoir is of tremendous loneliness and isolation. She found she shut down her emotions and set up barriers between herself and others, of either sex, to avoid the heartbreak of unrequited love of which she dared not speak, or unwanted attention from male admirers, without being able to say why she had to turn them down. Unfortunately she was unable to avoid several heartbreaks, or indeed male attention, in one case with alarming consequences. In the end the stress caused by this inner conflict was too much for her - she developed a life-threatening auto-immune disease that required chemotherapy, and at the same time suffered a nervous breakdown. On at least one occasion, she came close to suicide. To this day, she still suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. For her own sanity she decided she had to face head on the fact that she was gay, and to “come out”, resulting in an abrupt end to her musical career, and rejection by the American “mega-churches” who had previously been much enriched by her music - now seen as tainted.
It is well-known that missionaries suffer greatly for their work, notably from those opposed to their message. In Beeching’s case, it was the “home side” that was the cause of her suffering. One of the most upsetting pages in the book was the one where she described how after she had been diagnosed with CFS that someone wrote to her saying they had prayed to God for her to become ill to punish her for being gay.
But in spite of all the sadness, I find this an inspiring tale of someone determined to serve God “Above all else”, for which she surely had to pay far too high a price. Faced with the appalling treatment she received, many would have abandoned their faith entirely, and the fact that she has held on to her faith is something to be admired, not condemned. It is to be hoped that this book will begin to change attitudes, so that future Christians faced with this particular issue will not have to suffer in the same way.
1) the commercialism of the American mega-churches and the Christian music industry; and
2) the Christian Purity movement, and the way it created feelings of shame around sex in all its forms, however innocent.
I was also surprised and disappointed that, even in the mainstream media industry, people are pressurised into conforming to arbitrary societal norms (such as Vicky feeling that she ought to wear dresses contrary to her personal inclinations).
I hope that this book will be read by Christians who still believe that same-sex relationships are forbidden by God and that they will take seriously Vicky’s arguments, based on sound biblical scholarship, that they are mistaken.
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