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Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate Paperback – May 14, 2013
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"Radiates a genuine concern and belief in progress through slow, personal evolution...Both LGBT individuals and Christians will benefit from the modeling of a kinder, more accommodating navigation of this culture war."―Publishers Weekly,
"Lee's writing is approachable, and he shows compassion for those on all sides of this debate."―Kirkus Reviews
"Disarmingly vulnerable...poignant..."―Christianity Today
"The beauty of this book is that Lee wants to challenge all kinds of Christians...Perhaps it is because of so many fights hard won that Lee is now able to move into more nuanced territory in this gracious and grace-filled memoir."―The Christian Century
"Lee, one of our leading voices on the issues of being gay and Christian, gives us this powerful look at ways that members on both sides of the lines can learn from and grow with each other."―SHE Magazine
"...His book offers helpful suggestions for Christians...[and] helpful suggestions for pastoral counseling..."―World Magazine
"This book is full of three things that are not always much in evidence in our debates on sexuality--fresh air, common sense and manifest love of Christ. What makes it different is that it is not essentially about arguing a case but abut bridging the gaps of understanding and sympathy that (inside and outside the Church) have distorted or muffled the overwhelming miracle of Gods gift in Christ and in Scripture. I welcome it very warmly."―Honorable Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams
"Justin didn't leave the church when he realized he was gay...he has been too determined to show them how much he loves them...This is the story of how one Christian man's faith taught him to accept himself, serve others who are in need, and bridge the gap for those who do not always understand."
―Jennifer Knapp, Singer/Songwriter, Founder of InsideOutFaith.org
"This is the most important book I've read in years, and it will be the first I recommend to anyone interested in bridging the divide between the LGBT community and the church. Justin has given us a precious gift with this story. May we receive it with the same courage and faith with which it was delivered."―Rachel Held Evans, blogger, author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood
"In TORN, Justin Lee blends simplicity, clarity, humility, honesty, and vulnerability in a gracious and eye-opening way. The book brings fresh perspectives to old and polarized debates, and it offers a wise and faithful way forward for pastors and other Christian leaders, parents and other family members, not to mention gay men and women themselves. This is the book that every Evangelical, Charismatic, and Roman Catholic Christian should read on the question of homosexuality."
―Brian D. McLaren, author of Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (brianmclaren.net)
About the Author
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.
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Second, I do wholeheartedly feel empathy for mr lees situation but (although he denies it) his book is an example of someone taking a forgone conclusion and attempting to back it up scripturally. (as a former lawyer, I get it) His attempt to support it biblically, no matter how smart he professes to be, is simply not biblical. Specific literally interpreted scripture (which there is plenty) negating his position aside...to suggest that the gay lifestyle would be pleasing to Jesus Christ under the heading of 1) love your neighbor as yourself; 2) even Jesus was a rule breaker when it came to demonstrating his love (healing on the sabbath) ; and 3) even the holy spirit guides us contrary to the law in special circumstances (?)..on its face demonstrates a lack of understanding about Jesus and the bible. The bible, god and Jesus Christ taken as a whole simply do not support the gay lifestyle (read the bible entirely, pray for guidance from the holy spirit..you can only reach this conclusion ..try it). mr lees analysis is not holy spirit guided. This book is deception, albeit perhaps not in the 1st degree or premeditated, at its best. The church is wrong when people who profess to be gay are not accepted into the church with open arms...with that I agree but that is where my agreement ends with anything in this book. Why write this review?..mr lee seems to be a very conscientious man who only wants to serve the lord. Because great souls are being deceived in these times..We are in an age of "don't judged me or be judged" age. Churches and Christians look the other way. But! Scripture by definition judges ...using mr lees own guiding rule book (love your neighbor...)..it necessarily judges those who don't follow gods command to love another. But show me where the bible says love is defined as love shown through the gay lifestyle or generally that Jesus says to love in any way you want to as long as it's a " true committed love"? Did god not take into account that the man and woman he created might over time turn into men and women of other orientations? No ...did he make a mistake? Of course not, he is sovereign. The creator decides our course, our orientation. Jesus ( or any person in the bible for that matter)had plenty of time to find great men of faith who practiced the gay lifestyle and tell us through the bible that these men demonstrated his concept of "love". He did not. The bible is either from god or it isnt...infallible or not...to suggest that if a specific sin is not discussed by Jesus himself means that it is ok or falls under the "love" umbrella is just so self serving and demonstrates such a shallow view of gods word. But can we suggest that the gay lifestyle is not ok if jesus did not address it specifically? Absolutely.. Because the whole bible is about relationships and our roles as men and women within them! But you have to read the bible as a whole! And be spirit guided. Start with genesis and the creation of man and wife. Read the old testament and read how god felt about men and women who had same sex. In the new testament, read how paul, james and the disciples told the gentiles that while they were no longer under the 600 odd jewish laws, they remained under the law prohibiting sexual immorality. Paul pleaded for the gentile churches to follow his lifestyle example.. not to do whatever came natural to them because they were now under grace through our savior! The bible cannot be understood by those who are not spirit led. How does one account for Jesus' statements to the woman at the well? I'm sure she thought she was loving all five men as her neighbor. We don't get to define what relationships are acceptable to god. Only the creator can...his ways are higher than ours...our humanistic interpretation today is misguided. God is not shocked by the day of acceptance of the gay lifestyle. But he did consider that sin would occur and that repetitive sin without repentance can create hardened hearts... Hearts that god finally and with great sorrow allows to "not know right from wrong". In the last days, the church will become cold...hearts will harden, people will be deceived and nobody will care. I Urge you to read "the secret thoughts of an unlikely convert" by Rosario Butterfield for another viewpoint...she has more space and time to explain the bible as it relates to the gay lifestyle than me. Mr lee is correct...we need to love others whatever their orientation...but he introduces a humanistic interpretation of gods charges when he states that god would condone the gay lifestyle. And the well meaning churches and Christians who stay silent or promote this lifestyle through pastors who are either a part of the gay lifestyle or ok it as a godly path will be held accountable one day. The deceived deserve our love and in my mind, that means they deserve the truth even if it is uncomfortable or is not PC. If Mr lee is a believer and I do not doubt for one second that he is, then he is convicted every day if the holy spirit resides within him ..of that im certain. Not a popular view but most people today will not step out or even care enough to say it. In anticipation of commentary..this review does not promote keeping gay people away from church or the organized methods of changing another's orientation. Churches...open the doors! Know that ONLY the holy spirit and god can change us...no matter what it is. And in his timing...just because change does not occur in our timing does not make it "out of gods will". As believers, we are all on this journey to become more like Jesus...we are flat out unable to either want to do this or even make an attempt without his help. Too often we equate our feelings with gods will and import humanistic characteristics onto our creator...dig deeper readers. This isn't it.
This book claims to lead the way to constructive dialogue between the church and gays, asserting it will offer ways to reconcile these two opposing sides of the sexual orientation debate. Mr. Lee, however, consistently takes the side of the LGBT community, accusing Christians as hateful and hypocritical. Meanwhile he excuses the anti-Christian rhetoric of the gay community as simply a response to the hatred demonstrated by some Christians.
"The reputation of the Church"
Justin points out that the way some in the church have mistreated homosexuals has led to a significant divide between Christians and the gay community. I agree with him there are some horrific examples of ways in which some Christians have mistreated homosexuals. That being said, however, Mr. Lee is dishonest in his representation of this issue. He makes no distinction between the person who physically assaults a gay man, and a Christian who simply believes homosexuality is sinful. As he makes his case about how badly the church has treated the gay community, one of the two examples he gives is that of Westboro Baptist Church. Anyone who is familiar with this group knows that they in no way represent the Christian church as a whole and have been roundly condemned by believers for their reprehensible tactics. Using this group as an example of Christians persecuting gays is blatantly misleading and suggests a lack of evidence to support his point.
I might also point out that the poor example of a few does not change the fact that the Scriptures clearly condemn homosexuality, nor does it indict the entire faith. Mr. Lee makes a big point that the church's position on homosexuality is hurting us in public opinion polls and my response is, "Of course it is!" Believers have always been opposed, maligned, and misunderstood. If the goal is to gain higher "likability" numbers in the polls, we should abandon several of our beliefs. The belief that Jesus is the only way... isn't that a little offensive to other religions? Let's just abandon that one so people will view us more favorably. That is where Justin Lee's logic leads - if a belief is offensive to others, let's just abandon it.
The argument from silence...
Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, nor did He condemn it. This is a favorite argument of those who seek to justify homosexual behavior and Mr. Lee predictably includes it in his book. There are two simple problems with this argument. (1) Whenever Jesus talked about marriage He specifically referred to Adam and Eve, a man and a woman. He gives no acknowledgement to any other sexual arrangement. (2) The Pharisees held to the teaching of Moses that homosexuality was an abomination. Throughout His ministry Jesus confronted the Pharisees for multiple hypocrisies and incorrect beliefs. If they were also wrong on this issue as Mr. Lee suggests, isn't it curious that Christ never once brought it up to correct them or to condemn them for being judgmental of gays?
"The Bible does not condemn homosexuality"
This is the main point of the book. While the book claims to be a new approach, an attempt to bridge the gap, in reality it is simply another individual's attempt to justify his sinful lifestyle. Without delving into the specifics, Justin's argument here is that when the Bible condemns homosexual behavior it is referring specifically to gang rape and ritual sex in worship of false gods. In making these arguments, on at least one occasion he misquotes a Bible scholar, taking his comments out of context as "proof" of his own position. Doing so significantly undermines Mr. Lee's credibility on this issue. Multiple Bible scholars throughout the years have studied this issue and still the majority position of those who believe the Bible is God's inerrant Word, is that Scripture clearly teaches homosexual behavior is wrong. Period. The assertion that only ritual homosexuality is wrong is akin to claiming that the Bible doesn't really teach that murder is wrong, only ritualistic killing in the worship of false gods. Justin makes multiple assumptions to come to his conclusions and argues from his opinion toward Scripture, rather than starting with Scripture and forming his beliefs around this. I would have more respect for Mr. Lee if he would simply state that he rejects the Bible and has chosen to life his life in opposition to what it teaches. Instead he claims to believe the Bible and rejects every reference to homosexuality as simply being misunderstood by Christians. Again, he is asking us to believe that for thousands of years we have misread and misinterpreted the Scriptures on this issue and now we can confidently alter our beliefs based on his findings.
"Jesus reserved His harshest criticism for religious leaders"
Another predictable argument is that Jesus did not condemn those the religious leaders viewed as sinful, but rather, He condemned the religious leaders themselves. Again, there are two simple responses to this.
1) Yes, Jesus condemned them, but not for their adherence to biblical truth. One of His primary judgments against them was their practice of placing man's rules above God's. These men were more committed to the hundreds of laws they invented than they were to the Law which God handed down to them. In essence, isn't this exactly what Mr. Lee and all those who reject the biblical view of sexuality are doing? They choose to accept parts of Scripture, but those passages which point to sin in their lives, they reject or reinterpret for their own benefit. 2) While it is true that Jesus' harshest criticism was not leveled at "sinners and tax collectors", this does not mean He endorsed their lifestyles. Those who believed Him repented of their sin and changed their lifestyles significantly. Mary Magdalene did not continue turning tricks after she became a believer; Zacchaeus didn't keep ripping off taxpayers; and the woman in Samaria didn't continue her cycle of marry-divorce-repeat. None of these individuals celebrated their sinful lifestyle, justified it by twisting the Scriptures, or demanded that Jesus endorse their behaviors. Furthermore, Jesus did speak to them about their sin - the woman in Samaria realized Jesus was the Messiah when He pointed out that she had been through multiple husbands and was currently living in sin with another man - the woman caught in adultery was told, "Go and sin no more" - while we don't know the content of Jesus' conversation with Zacchaeus, we do know it led to a life change for the man. None of these individuals were told that it would be okay to continue to live out their sinful choices out without consequence because of grace.
Over the years many in the church have mistreated gays - this is a sad truth and something for which we must repent and ask forgiveness. Repentance for this, however, does not include justifying the sin of homosexuality. To the woman caught in adultery Jesus said "Neither do I condemn you", but He also said, "Go and sin no more". He gave a clear call to repentance, something that is missing in Justin Lee's book. Justin makes the point that the church must be loving, and I wholeheartedly agree. Let's not confuse the issue, however. Loving others does not mean endorsing a lifestyle which is sinful and destructive. That is one of the least loving things we can do.
My fear is that many in the church will buy into Mr. Lee's dishonest arguments. Rather than studying the Scriptures, many will (1) be more motivated by their fear of being condemned as a "bigot" or a "homophobe" than they are by Scriptural truth, and (2) accept Mr. Lee's shoddy scholarship as "evidence" that homosexuality is accepted in the Scriptures. I fear that many who are believers, struggling with homosexual temptation will read this book and accept it as permission to reject the biblical mandate to repent, choosing instead to continue pursuing a sinful lifestyle. Justin has chosen to mislead people, and he is responsible for how it will affect the lives of others (see Romans 1:32).