Hartzler, Aaron. “Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family”, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint, 2014.
Aaron Hartzler was taught, in his home, that the Rapture could happen at any time. He was further told that Jesus might just come and take him and his family right into heaven (isn’t that why we are always supposed to have on clean underwear?). This idea made Aaron happy because it meant that he could leave planet Earth.
This elation did not last long. When Aaron turned 16 he discovered that he was attached to the planet Earth. He was also curious about those things that his family has given up in the name of God. He doesn’t want the Rapture to happen until he gets a chance to see his first movie, stars in the school play or gets his first kiss. (He was a guy who thought ahead). It took a while but Aaron rebelled against religion and the Rapture. He learned things that are not in the Bible. He takes us back to his teenage journey and his quest to discover who he is without losing his family in the process. He might have lost his faith but he gained truth.
Aaron’s teen years were a time of question and as he asked he found himself more drawn to the world than to faith. Up to now, his parents had picked his friends but Aaron saw that as parental love and care. Regardless of how his parents lived, he was aware of their love for him. They also had rules about how he should live his life and he listened and then did what he wanted. The rules drove him away but the love remained.
He tells us honesty about his sexual encounters with girls and boys and about underage drinking at parties he attended. It is his honesty that makes this book such a refreshing read. He is also never condescending when he writes about Evangelical Christians (something that I would very hard to do).
He shows where his own questions led him, even as he shows how his parents saw things very differently than he did. We see how the questioning of his faith began, and how it grew.
We meet Aaron, his strict but devoted parents his grandmother who loves him is unconditionally and the classmates at his Christian schools who were instrumental in shaping him. Aaron’s attraction to other boys is suggested but not overtly—it is necessary to read the acknowledgments to find out more. It will take a sequel to learn how his parents react to his gayness.
The book is not about rebellion—rather it is about discovery. Aaron does judge his parents or anyone. He is also an excellent writer especially when we consider that he has no background in writing. His thoughts are engaging and very intelligent. He had questions but had no one to tell him the answers and so he learned alone.
This is not just a story about growing up gay (in fact, that plays a very small role in the total picture) or growing up in a strict religious family/community. This is a story about discovering self. This is an important book for young readers who have questions about faith and sexuality and for older readers who are dealing with the same issues. In closing I would like to quote another reader/reviewer who puts everything in perspective in the review.
“If church were a safer place to be real, “Rapture Practice” would be Number One on the Christian charts instead of books filled with clichés and platitudes by the spotless apostles of godless optimism.
If honesty were valued ,this book would be used in small group studies and Sunday School discussions instead of yet another version of Ten Bible Steps to Beat the Blues & Step Into Your God-Given Purpose.
Aaron’s words ring true from beginning to end, smart, funny & written with no pretension — full of life and grace and love, like good gospel should be.
Best faith-based book I have read in a very long time”.