By Heath Bradley, Special Contributor…
Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate
Jericho Books, 2012
Hardcover, 272 pages
Justin Lee has a voice and a story that everyone needs to listen to. He is the leader of the Gay Christian Network (gaychristian.net), a regular blogger (gcnjustin.tumblr.com) and, now, the author of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate.
In this, his first book, Mr. Lee offers his readers a wide-ranging discussion of the gay debate in the church today, including very evenhanded and brief overviews of the biblical and scientific debates surrounding homosexuality.
Far and away the strongest aspect of this book, though, is the honest and candid nature in which Mr. Lee shares with us his own story.
I have never met the author, but after reading Torn I feel as though I know him, and can’t help but like him. He’s funny, for starters. How he manages to keep a sense of humor in the midst of such difficult and painful struggles is pretty amazing. He also obviously has a strong desire to live his life as a faithful Christian and to take the Bible very seriously, and readers can almost feel this desire coming through every word he writes.
Living as a faithful Christian, however, is complicated by the fact that Mr. Lee is gay. He grew up in what he describes as an ideal evangelical home. He has always had a strong interest in being a disciple of Christ (so much so that in school he was labeled “the God-boy”). He very candidly shares his deep and painful struggle with his emerging awareness of his sexual orientation. Mr. Lee also lets readers in on his failed attempts at “fixing” himself through so-called “ex-gay” ministries.
For most Christians, this issue comes down to what they think the Bible teaches, and rightfully so. Mr. Lee has done his homework, and is very fair about how difficult it is to determine what the best interpretations are.
For those who already find themselves on the liberal side of the biblical debate, my hope is that this book would help you cultivate more understanding toward those who ultimately interpret the Bible as condemning all same-sex relationships. Not all conservatives on this issue are hate-filled bigots, and the conversation isn’t advanced by assuming otherwise.
For those who already find themselves on the conservative side of this issue, my hope is that this book would help you appreciate the thoughtfulness of the way in which Christians on the other side approach the biblical texts. This discussion would take a huge step forward if we could all acknowledge that neither position is obviously true, and that intelligent and loving Christians can come to different conclusions, as we do on virtually every other theological and ethical issue.
Regardless of which view we hold, we are taking something of a risk. We might be giving in too much to the culture around us. We’ve done that before and we might be doing it now. Or, we might be blocking the movement of God’s Spirit among us and putting a bucket over the fresh light that is waiting to break forth from God’s Word. We’ve done that before and we might be doing it now.
The church is torn over which view is true, and probably will be for a good while. In the meantime, I am thankful for people like Justin Lee who set the proper tone by writing with such honesty and grace. Everybody can learn from that.
The Rev. Bradley serves as pastor of preaching and Christian education at Pulaski Heights UMC in Little Rock, Ark. Reprinted with permission from the Arkansas United Methodist.