In his new book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate, Justin Lee tells his own story of happily growing up in a conservative Christian family and wholeheartedly embracing their religious beliefs and cultural perspectives. A few people even gave him the nickname, "God Boy." As he grew older he came to the difficult realization that he had absolutely no sexual curiosity or interest toward girls. Rather, to his dismay and surprise, he found himself dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction.
Justin is a good storyteller and does a masterful job of giving his readers a clear sense of his personal journey and the things he has worked through. He has come to the conclusion that it is possible to be gay and, at the same time, a committed Christian--one that has a respect for the authority and inspiration of the Bible. He is not timid about his views, but neither is he dismissive of those who disagree with him. Quite the opposite!
Justin's story is very much worth your time if you are willing give him an honest reading without being dismissive. Even readers with views that differ profoundly from those of the author will find themselves identifying with his struggles and viewing their disagreements with him in a personal and charitable light. Torn is not so much an attempt to convince or convert anyone, but is, rather, more of an effort to be understood and to generate healthy dialogue. He writes...
Dialogue means we must set aside our own prejudices and language preferences for the sake of communication. It often requires finding ways to work within the other person's value system. If the thing you value the most is your commitment to the Bible, I'm not going to get very far if I ask you to throw that out in order to address my own concerns. In order to work within other people's value systems, though, you have to know what their values are, and that's why it's so important to seek to understand them first and foremost.
We must be willing, too, to seek common ground and shared interests. Perhaps you and the other person have very different views on some things but both share a concern for the emotional health of gay people who feel hurt by the church. If so, that's a starting point. You can find ways to build on that without having to compromise on your most deeply held values.
This kind of gracious dialogue is hard for a lot of people. It feels wishy-washy to them, as if it requires that they stop thinking the other side is wrong. [p. 251]
Gracious dialogue is hard work. It requires effort and patience, and it's tempting to put it off. All of us have busy lives and a lot of other issues to address.
But for anyone who cares about the future of the church, this can't be put off. The next generation is watching how we handle these questions, and they're using that to determine how they should treat people and whether this Christianity business is something they want to be involved in. [p. 252]
Justin Lee is the founder and executive director of The Gay Christian Network (GCN), a nonprofit, interdenominational organization working to increase dialogue between gays and Christians and support people on both sides wrestling with related issues.
A passionate Christian from a conservative evangelical background, Justin thought he knew everything there was to know about the Christian approach to homosexuality-until unexpected events turned his world upside down and forced him to reconsider everything he believed. Today, his organization works with individuals, families, and churches to stop the debate from tearing people apart.
Justin's work has garnered national attention and praise from gays and Christians from across the theological spectrum. He has been featured in numerous print, radio, and television venues including Dr. Phil, Anderson Cooper 360, the Associated Press, and a front page article in The New York Times. He is the director of the 2009 documentary Through My Eyes about the debate's impact on young Christians, and the co-host of popular long-running podcast GCN Radio. Justin lives in Raleigh, NC.