Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reading: Torn by Justin Lee

I once read a blog written by the musician Michael Gungor titled God and Country.  In the blog, Gungor recalls overhearing a conversation between two people who were arguing about abortion...

"They were not really listening to the other person, but just spouting off the clichéd answers of their particular parties.  (Pro-choice) is horrified at this monstrous (pro-life) because (pro-choice) assumes (pro-life) wants to take rights away from women. At the same time, (pro-life) is horrified at (pro-choice), thinking that she wants to kill babies.  In these situations, we stop conversing with human beings and start dealing with principles. Principles aren’t supposed to bend and flex. You’re not supposed to stay “kind of” faithful to your spouse. You’re not supposed to “pretty much” pay your taxes. So, when we get into these divisive discussions, we end up arguing against people and for principles, demonizing the other into a “them” that stand in the way of our principles.  (Anti-gay marriage) is horrified at this monstrous (pro-gay marriage) because (anti-gay marriage) thinks that (pro-gay marriage) is trying to desecrate the sacrament of marriage while (pro-gay marriage) is horrified at the monstrous (anti-gay marriage) who is trying to discriminate against gay people.  As a result, we’re rarely even talking about the same thing. The pro-choice person is talking about the woman’s body, but the pro-life person is talking about the baby’s body. And neither side really wants to talk about the exact thing that the other does. The pro-gay marriage person is talking about the right of an individual to be who he or she is without discrimination and the anti-gay marriage person is talking about the concept and sacrament of marriage." - Michael Gungor
This idea really puts things in perspective for me.  I am the child of a conservative household who was schooled by liberal intellectuals.  I don't say that to offend, I say that to be real with you.  Needless to say, my worldview is challenged quite often when it comes to God's word and the political debates that are going on in our culture today.  I always thought that these sort of debates that Gungor mentions were self explanatory but they are not - they are extremely complex, so complex that it gets to a point where we aren't even arguing over the same thing anymore because of our completely different world views.
There are a lot of topics that I struggled to understand in high school and throughout college that seem to fall under this notion.  One of these topics was gay marriage.  Growing up, my understanding was that gay marriage was a sin and that gay people were weird and gross.  This isn't something my parents taught me per say - I didn't grow up super religious - but it was sort of an unspoken fact in our house that didn't pertain to any of us.  This fact is something I came to learn on the school playground and during seemingly harmless conversations I had with my friends during youth group.  My black and white worldview was soon radically challenged when I entered college and encountered a whole student body that was diverse with straight and gay students embracing their sexuality and proud of it.  It seemed that my view was outdated.  I became friends with a gay woman (who I also roomed with for a semester in college) and to this day I don't know how I could have gone through my freshman year without her.  She was one of the nicest people I met during my first year of college.  We were art majors together.  We shared the same love for music and both enjoyed animation and witty internet humor.  What I found was that she was nicer than most straight people I had met on campus...which made me wonder why God condemned people who were gay.  For the first time, I began to think that what I had been taught all of these years was wrong.  The gospel, according to Christians, is about love.  God created each and every one of us equally and with the same amount of attention.  I had been taught that Jesus loved me and that Jesus loved the little children and that Jesus loved everyone no matter what.  So why exclude gay people?  If God called us to love, why were Christians showing so much hate?
I wasn't confident in my views yet, though.  I wanted to be but I also wanted some reassurance and unfortunately I wasn't finding that anywhere.  Books, blogs, articles, movies, etc., were all one sided arguments.  The creator was either all the way on the left side of the argument or all the way on the right side.  There was no in between.  On top of it all, each creator would insult the other side of the argument which seemed very immature and ignorant.  Their arguments were full of hate.  I began to wonder if anyone had answers and if I was the only one who was wondering these things.  Thankfully, I wasn't.

“What a horrible choice: Would you be a good person, or be an honest person?  Deny what you believe about God, or deny what you know about yourself?  Condemn yourself to a lifetime of faking it, or condemn yourself to an eternity in hell?” - Page 156

I can't exactly remember how I heard about this book Torn by Justin Lee but I somehow found out
my library had it and decided I would check it out even though there were other books I wanted to read instead.  Right away I was hooked with Justin's honest writing style and the fact that I could relate to him wholeheartedly.  I, like Justin in high school, was very much a play by the rules sort of person.  I would get mad at my fellow students for skipping senior skip day because it was wrong in general to skip a day of school.  Yeah...I know, I was a nerd (and I am still am a nerd in many regards) but I don't regret having that mindset.  Now that I am older and have had more experience, I am able to look back and realize that I have learned a lot and come a long way from the girl I used to be.  Back to the book though...Justin's story moved me to tears.  I don't think I've ever cried so hard while reading a book.  His story really struck a chord with me.  Justin, who used to speak out against being gay, realized he himself was gay during high school.  He lived in denial at first but soon told a pastor at his church and came out to his parents after.

“In one action thriller, the hero races across town, dodging roadblocks and breaking laws, all in pursuit of a van he believes is carrying a bomb.  Only after arriving at his destination does he realize in horror that he’s been tricked.  In the film’s shocking conclusion, we learn that the van he was following was clean; the bomb was in his car, and he’s just brought it to the very destination the villains wanted.  A good twist ending, like a good magic trick, depends on misdirection.  While you’re watching one hand, the magician is doing something with the other hand.  While you’re focused on the van, the villains are planting the bomb in the car.  And while so many of us in the church have been focused on the “threat” to our culture posed by homosexuality, we’ve missed the realization that the church in our culture is under attack – not by gays, but by Christians.  We Christians are the sleeper agents.  The bomb is in our car.  We have become the unwitting assassins of people’s faith.  The Christians are killing Christianity.” - Page 135-136

Wanting to seek help, Justin and his parents decided to go to a week long ex-gay conference but Justin quickly realized that the ex-gay program was promoting false information.  They claimed that being gay was a choice and that they could take someone who was gay and help them become straight.  But Justin knew better.  He knew that he had not chosen to be gay and came to the conclusion that no matter what, he was not going to change.  His biggest concern was how he could fit in the Christian community after coming out.  He wanted to be honest with himself and the people around him and he was not planning on abandoning the faith he was raised with and believed in 100%.  There had to be another option in the gray between the black and the white.
“Context matters!  The Catholic Church condemned Galileo for insisting that the earth revolves around the sun.  Their rationale was based around a ‘plain sense’ reading of several passages like Psalm 104:5: ‘[The Lord] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.’  Today, the poetic imagery is obvious, but at the time, Galileo’s interpretation of such passages as metaphors was seen as a weaselly way of trying to avoid the plain sense of Scripture.  Similar arguments were made about slavery, hair length, and women’s head coverings.  In each case, the church ultimately realized that the passages were relevant to a specific context or culture and did not apply in the same way to us today.  Couldn’t the same be true of same-sex relationships?” - Page 191-192
This book is a complex narrative; part memoir, part spiritual guidance, and part academic.  Justin takes an entirely fresh approach to the gays vs. Christians debate and I think it is one we have all been waiting for because he is able to come from both sides of the spectrum.  Instead of blindly accepting what the world and the church told him, Justin instead went and interacted and did research on his own, bringing unique conclusions to the table that shake things up in a good way - much like Jesus does and calls us to do.  While the book is first and foremost about the gays vs. Christians debate, it also speaks about faith in general and what it means to be a Christian and why it is important to not accept the propaganda people offer us every single day. 
This book will definitely be one of the best I have read in 2013.  While it has confirmed many of the beliefs I have come to on my own terms these past few years, it also taught me a lot of new things and revealed a lot of truths to me that I needed to hear.  I have slowly come to the conclusion that sin is sin no matter what - so that stealing a loaf of bread and murder are both sin and there is no weight to either of them.  What has come to anger me though is that gay relationships are the same as straight relationships essentially - they center around love for one another.  In fact, studies are showing that the divorce rates are extremely high in straight relationships while same sex relationships are remaining strong.  The church rejects gay people along with murders, drunks, porn addicts, etc., yet somehow we have murders, drunks, and porn addicts being allowed into the church who are legitimately doing wrong while gay couples are doing what Jesus preaches - loving one another.  Far too often I see the church hating those who are different while gay people accept one another for who they are despite their differences in opinion.  Something is servery wrong with this picture and Justin Lee has realized this as well.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  Don't hesitate.  Read it as soon as possible.  I feel like this should be a required text that sits in every church pew next to Bibles and church hymnals.  It actually looks at the gospel in its whole form instead of defacing it and using it to condone self-righteousness and promote fake Christianity.  It is a book that has been long awaited and I believe we are all blessed to be living at this point of history when so much is changing and growing and falling apart because God is shining through and revealing that He is not a judgmental, kill joy, uptight God but a loving God who does not only exist in a building on Sunday mornings but in every spade of grass we step on and every horrific tragedy that strikes us and those around us and every relationship we encounter.

No comments:

Post a Comment