The God Box by Alex Sanchez
Simon and Schuster, 272 pages
How could I choose between my sexuality and my spirituality, two of the most important parts that made me whole?
High school senior Paul has dated Angie since middle school, and they’re good together. They have a lot of the same interests, like singing in their church choir and being active in Bible club. But when Manuel transfers to their school, Paul has to rethink his life. Manuel is the first openly gay teen anyone in their small town has ever met, and yet he says he’s also a committed Christian. Talking to Manuel makes Paul reconsider thoughts he has kept hidden, and listening to Manuel’s interpretation of Biblical passages on homosexuality causes Paul to reevaluate everything he believed. Manuel’s outspokenness triggers dramatic consequences at school, culminating in a terrifying situation that leads Paul to take a stand.
Paul considers himself a perfectly ordinary high school guy, striving to be good in every way he can be. He’s been dating his best friend Angie since middle school, sings for his church choir, and active in his school’s Bible club. Underneath his smooth facade hides his struggles that he keeps on praying for, until he meets Manuel, the first openly gay person he’s met who’s also a committed Christian. Paul tries to deny the attraction he feels for Manuel, believing that it is wrong. But as he spends more time with Manuel, talking about their faith and homosexuality, Paul wonders if maybe he was wrong after all this time.
The God Box by Alex Sanchez is my first LGBT book ever. I tend to steer away from LGBT books because I’m not really that interested in them, until I saw this book and got it because of the Christian aspect. Homosexuality is one of those big issues that could easily spark a fire of debate among Christians and non-Christians alike. I never thought I’d have a hard time about it — I’ve had gay friends, and it didn’t really matter much to me because they were already openly gay when I met them. It’s different when someone comes out to you — the basic things I know about my faith back then tells me that it’s wrong, but another part of me says that discriminating because of that is also just as wrong, maybe even worse. Who am I to judge, anyway?
The God Box spoke a lot to me and reinforced the things I’ve learned years since my friend came out to me, things that I remind myself in my everyday life. I think, as much as this book is about homosexuality, it can also be a book about bullying. Or being different. It’s a book about intolerance and how this can lead to cruelty, especially coming from Christians who interpret the Bible literally and forget the one important thing that God called us to do. The God Box is a message book that tackles the given topic quite nicely, and I think that Alex Sanchez did a good job with the Biblical arguments and how some of the anti-LGBT arguments are just Bible verses interpreted literally to suit an intolerant attitude.
However, as much as The God Box has a good message in its heart, I’m afraid the execution of it leaves little to be desired. I was a little bored with the story and the characters were, if not cliche, very flat. Everyone seemed to be just black and white: you’re either for or against the issue. Manuel, as cool as he is, felt a little bit too perfect and too Mary Sue (or Gary Stu?), with what how everything revolved around him and how blameless he was made to be. More often than not, the story wasn’t showing — it was just telling, and that kept me distant to Paul as a character. I think the only one I really liked and related to was Angie, who played the role of a seemingly perfect tolerant girlfriend.
It wasn’t bad, but it’s not that great either. I think The God Box would be a good book to discuss in book clubs or in church for its message and not its writing. There are a lot of good arguments that was presented in the book, but I think it still has to be read with guidance from open-minded church/community leaders so as to really discuss the issues surrounding homosexuality and the call for Christians to love.
And I think that’s what it is all about really: love. That is the one important thing that we Christians are called to do. A good friend once told me, “It is better to be loving than to be right.” I agree. I liked what Paul’s grandmother had to say about love and the Bible:
“…the Bible was meant to be a bridge, not a wedge…it’s the greatest love story ever told, about God’s enduring and unconditional love for his creation — love beyond all reason. To understand it, you have to read it with love as the standard. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. Always remember that.” (p. 171)
In the end, that is what I am always going back to: love. Like I said, who am I to judge? And I’d like to believe that the God I believe in is always bigger than the things that I don’t understand, and He just wants me to love the people He brings into my life, regardless of race or age or gender or religion. Maybe if we, regardless of our faith, approached issues with a firm determination to love first above anything else, then maybe (pardon the cheesiness) this will be a better world to live in.
My copy: paperback from Powerbooks
Cover and blurb: Goodreads