Okay, soooo I started to write the intro to this review about my desire to journey into understanding the gay community better, but it ended up getting so long that I felt it merited it’s own post. You can check it out at this link.
Not knowing where to begin on this journey, I did what a person probably shouldn’t do and trust the internet to guide me! Namely, I went to Amazon, searched for “gay Christian book”, and out popped a big list. There were two that stuck out to me as being highly rated and particularly interesting per their descriptions: this book and another book called God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. (Don’t worry, that latter one is next on my list!)
So, how did the Internet do? Let’s get into the review!
“LOVE THE SINNER, HATE THE SIN”
If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase many, many times. And often, sure, it comes out of the mouths of people with good intentions. I can’t recall ever saying it myself, but it feels like something I might have said before.
What struck me almost right away is how loaded and hurtful that phrase can be. The author, Justin Lee, didn’t exactly say these words, but the general gist is that there isn’t really a way to separate the person from the gay part of them. So the way I took it, that phrase is basically saying, “Love the person, but also simultaneously hate almost every aspect of them.” It’s paradoxical, isn’t it?
(Oh, and if this review ever makes it back to Justin, sorry if I misunderstood that!)
Actually, I listened to the audiobook version of Torn (narrated by Justin himself), and I’m really glad I did. There was a certain authenticity just in the tone of his voice that made me really connect with his story all the more. During his retelling of his coming out story to his parents, I couldn’t help from holding back the tears, wondering how I would react if one of my children came out to me.
Between Justin’s story of leaders in his home church, ex-gay ministries, and more, I truly got the sense that this approach of “loving the sinner and hating the sin” is sticky. More on that in a bit, but for now I’ll say I feel Justin did a very good job at even handedly sharing his experiences.
BORN THIS WAY
Another big sticking point for me in this book was Justin’s experience and sharing of how others are born with natural same sex relational thoughts. I truly don’t mean to sound bigoted at all, but between what I’ve heard from others and my own experiences, it seemed like being gay was more of a choice than people led on.
But my mind has really changed about that. The only thing I can say for doubters is to listen to Justin’s story in this book. In a nutshell, Justin was a very Christian kid who grew up in a very Christian community, and it’s so clear how much his younger self would have traded away homosexual feelings for heterosexual ones that I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed the mark before.
(Transparently, I do feel there are some cases where past experiences / community pressures have influenced people into being gay, but we’ll cover that in another post… or five.)
LOVING ACROSS THE DIVIDE
I’ll definitely not claim to be a gay expert after reading just this one book, but I feel so much more informed about the community that I’m so glad this is the first book I picked up. I sincerely feel Justin gave an even hand to all parties, and I could totally relate to his story about having grown up in a community that was, for lack of better term, narrow minded about the topic.
For me, it’s clear that the church can do a better job at loving gay people. What surprised me even more, however, is how many thoughts came to me about how we could love people of all walks better. Though the book was centered around the gay topic, Justin at times highlighted points about how we treat cohabitants and others the church would understand as living a deviant lifestyle. And what struck me was how judgmental we are about those lifestyles instead of trying to meet people where they are at today. (And no, meeting people where they are today isn’t particularly an affirmation of their choice.)
I absolutely loved the book. Though it was a longer audiobook (at 9 hours) than most of the ones I listen to (~6 hours), I felt it breeze by so quickly. I hung on Justin’s every word, wanting to know more and more and more. Having been praying for discernment and wisdom through beginning this journey, I do feel God led me to this book first, and I’m so glad to begin here. If you are looking to join me in this quest, look no further than Torn.