Torn by Justin Lee

Title: Torn: Rescuing the Gospel form the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate
Author: Justin Lee
Pages: 272
Genre: Faith, Biblical Living, LGBT issues,
Age Range: Adult
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Publisher: Jericho Books
Medium: Audiobook

What brought this book to your attention?

I heard about this book from two different fronts: (1) Rachel Held Evans recommended it on her blog, and (2) I stumbled across Justin Lee on the internet. I immediately knew it was a book I wanted to read, since the "Gay vs. Christian" debate is a very real debate in our modern world. I've struggled with wanting to be an "affirming" Christian (i.e. someone who wants to affirm gay relationships) but unsure how I can Biblically take such a position. So I've been trying to seek out books that discuss this issue.

This book is definitely one of those books. In Torn, Justin Lee tells his story as growing up Southern Baptist and discovering he's gay. This book is his testimony, his journey with God and his struggle with his sexuality. This is not a man who lightly made a "choice" to be gay. This is a man who struggled mightily against the sexuality he was born with, who denied it, tried to change it, and struggled with God and His Word before coming to any conclusions. This not a man who takes God's Word lightly, and neither does he ask his reader.

I've never read a book that is so fair to all parties involved. Lee is not condemning the Christians who tried to change or fix him. He understands and loves them, because they are his family, his people, and once upon a time he was them. He just wants to tell his story, so Christians understand his struggle as a gay Christian. He wants to educated and enlighten.

We of the Southern Baptist flavor of Christianity have always put a strong emphasis on personal testimonies, personal stories of how God moved in people's life. This is Justin Lee's testimony. And a very gracious and educational addition to any reading list on the topic. 

Did you learn anything?

Any Biblical arguments Justin Lee made in his book I had already heard; however, for anyone new to the discussion of the Biblical arguments for gay celibacy or gay monogamous relationships in a Christian context this book provides a high level groundwork for that discussion. Justin Lee takes a stance towards the end of where he stands on this discussion, but he is certainly not of the "YOU MUST AGREE WITH ME OR ELSE" variety of person. He's just like "This is what I believe and these are other things other people also believe."

However, I did learn a lot about the ex-gay movement. I didn't know a lot about it, because the ex-gay movement only came on my radar as it was ending. At the time this book was written, the ex-gay movement was still strong and on-going. Now most ex-gay groups have closed doors and admitted that their promise of changing people from gay to straight basically never worked.

It was fascinating and heartbreaking  to hear this personal story of a young man's struggles with trying to change his orientation, his struggles with his faith in the light of the fact he couldn't change it, and trying to figure out what it meant for his life going forward.

Did you disagree with anything?

You can and may disagree with Justin's conclusion that gay married relationships are acceptable in the Christian faith. Personally, I am becoming more convinced every day to the affirming position. However for me, one of the nice things about this book is that he allows for disagreement. He doesn't require you agree with him, because getting you to that solution is not his final point, not the purpose of his book. Justin's main point is to educate the straight Christian community on the struggles of gay Christian, and why some gay Christians get to the solutions they do: whether that's pretending to be straight, celibacy, or a same-sex marriage. Justin is clear in which solution he has chosen, but he's also clear that we should support celibate gay Christians, and that if a gay Christian decides to enter into a straight marriage they are as equally held to those vows as any straight person.

How did you like the book overall?

I loved this book and honestly think every Christian should read this book--whether you're struggling with the debate or not. Even if you think gay people should never be allowed to enter into romantic or sexual relationships and at the end of the book you still think that, the book allows for that and better shows you how to love the gay Christians in your midst. We can not help our brothers and sisters in Christ if we do not understand their struggle. We should not condemn them without listening to them. And that is ultimately Justin's moral. Listen first.

That is advice any Christian can use in any situation, but especially in this one. We jump so quickly to condemnation without even hearing people's stories and trials.

Read this book. Hear the story. You won't regret it.