This book is an incredible achievement.
It may be Jeff’s pilgrimage, but the stories come from many. At this time in history, this book is über-relevant, and much needed.
In his rather brave journeys, Jeff Chu has talked with/interviewed people across the nation, from various walks of life, with vastly, vastly differing opinions on the subjects of Christian faith and sexual orientation. From Justin Lee (Gay Christian Network), to Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church), to everyday people who are just trying to figure out life.
His pilgrimage was also to help him understand how people can read the same Bible, and come to such dramatically different conclusions.
Mr. Chu not only shares his story and the stories of others, but he occasionally “steps aside” and just lets people, including John Smid and Ted Haggard, tell their own stories.
Some stories are uplifting. Some are heartbreaking. Some are damn maddening.
One of the most unusual things for me was Jeff describing the people of WBC as friendly and warm. Jeff actually went on a protest with them!
Still, they would use words like “fag” and “whore” with the comfort and ease of saying “tall” or “brunet.”
Sounds like they have some major cognitive dissonance going on. But we also see that, except for their trademark acts of extremism, their beliefs are quite similar to most fundamentalist churches.
Of course, there are stories of being rejected by family and friends. Of being designated as hell-bound abominations by those who should be the ones most loving and supportive. (How anyone can think that that kind of religiously-induced hatred has anything whatsoever to do with God is beyond me.)
There’s discussion of so-called “ex-gay” organizations. We look at the difference between “hate-based” and “fear-based” anti-gay sentiments.
We learn, too, that in Nashville Tennessee (the “Protestant Vatican”), “You can’t do anything without involving the church.”
We look at mixed-orientation marriages (Chapter 7 is awesome). And we discover the special challenges of being gay in an African-American church.
This book isn’t just for straight Christians to understand those of other orientations. It’s for all of us to understand ourselves. It is also (and I have found this essential) for people of varying orientations to understand each other. Even though “christianists” have honed it to an art-form, being judgmental isn’t something on which they’ve cornered the market. I, as a so-called “spousosexual” think Jeff’s book has the potential for helping all of us to better understand the “other.” Just because people may share the common bond of not being straight doesn’t mean they inherently share much else. Sometimes we talk about “both sides,” as if there are only two views. Mr. Chu’s chronicle helps us see otherwise.
Some very misinformed people see LGBT persons as inherently uninterested in the Bible, or issues of faith. Not true. Some are, and some are not. I don’t believe that institutional religion is usually a good thing. So it bothers me, somewhat, that people struggle so hard to be accepted by organizations that I don’t think should exist in the first place.
Still, I understand.
Tradition and religious structure are very important to some.
Wanting love and acceptance is universal.
If I have one disagreement with the author, it’s that America is a Christian nation. I know many people think it is. Many want it to be one. I, as a “Jesus lover,” do not. I get his point, though, when he states that “Christianequse civil religion prevails in America.”
So, “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” To what conclusions did this pilgrimage lead?
Well, I have to say Jeff through me a curve. I really didn’t see some of his comments coming. I’ll just say that I smiled alot during the final chapter.
I had the honor of reading and reviewing this book before it’s release.
Mega-thanks to HarperCollins AND to Jeff Chu.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
- This issue is about sons and daughters, friends and lovers, our neighbors, ourselves. It is also about our freedom, our faith, perhaps our salvation.
– I doubt. A lot. And yet I can’t not believe in God.
– Christian maturity is partly about living in the tension of not knowing, and it’s okay not to be sure.
– [Here's one from Andrae Gonzalo that many of us can identify with.] I got saved every night before I went to bed.
- Nearly every relationship I had in the church community virtually stopped overnight. It was like I ceased to exist. [John Hauenstein, on coming out to his church "family."]
– The term Christian means radically different things to different people.
– [Important!] While the anger among those who have suffered because of organizations such as Exodus makes sense, to channel it as they [often] do… helps nothing, heals nothing, and draws nobody closer to God.
– Humans are expert box builders. It’s what we do to make sense of the world.
- Christian leaders have a responsibility to do image management and damage control, and that leads them to a natural tendency toward Phariseeism. [Ted Haggard]
– I stopped praying, “God make me straight,” and I started praying, “God, show me what you want me to do.” [Justin Lee]
– …Those moments…when the light is so pure, so clear. It’s as if you’d never seen the world with these eyes before, and once you do, nothing can be the same.
– I run into people all the time who say, “The Bible Says…” They never say “…as it has been translated and interpreted.” There’s no hermeneutical awareness, and you shouldn’t be able to get away with that. We are all interpreting.” [Mark Tidd]
– I searched dozens of congregations in a host of denominations. What I never found was _________. (You’ll have to Buy The Book to finish that quote.)
- At the highest level, I want to live a life that pleases God.
I must say, I’m not fond of the title. Yes, ultimately it’s an important question, but it’s too “Sunday school” for the complexity of Jeff’s work here. And the sub-title…
I just think this is a great book, and the title doesn’t come close to conveying that.