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Review & Giveaway of Justin Lee’s “Torn: Rescuing The Gospel From the Gays vs Christians Debate”

Homosexuality,” my friend Jeff says, “is the new ‘shibboleth.'”

Another friend, a college and seminary professor, tells me “Everywhere I go, this (homosexuality) is what everyone (church leaders) wants to talk about.”

A college student follows, as she mentions to me, “The most frequent conversation on campus is about homosexuality.”

It’s no exaggeration to say how Christians have and will approach homosexuality is immensely important to the future of the church. The issues are myriad. Biblical interpretation, grace, reconciliation, and love are all on display. For some, it’s a question of purity to their view of the scriptures. For others, it’s a question of purity to their view of the scriptures.

See the problem?

Even more, behind these questions of scriptural interpretation lays something larger. Who is God? What is God’s nature?

Into this dangerous fray, Justin Lee enters with his tremendous memoir of coming out as a gay teenager, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. Lee, whose heart and life had been nurtured and nestled in conservative, southern, evangelical, Christian culture, is the founder and executive director of Gay Christian Network. As a young man, Justin knew two things. He loved God. And he was gay. Justin writes,

 “For all my confidence on the issue (homosexuality), there was one thing I couldn’t tell…I wasn’t a late bloomer; my young sex drive was kicking in right along with theirs, bringing with it all the mysterious feelings of attraction to classmates who had previously been only friends on the playground. But in my case, it was guys, not girls who triggered this strange reaction. (Torn, 19, advanced copy)”

As a pastor, I’ve sat with countless Christian men and women, young and old, who’ve recounted the same experience Justin writes about. Reading “Torn” is much like sitting down over coffer with a gay friend and hearing them tell their story. Poignant. Heart-felt. Frustrating. Heartbreaking. Inspiring. And stinging in it’s truthfulness.

Justin’s story is shockingly similar to the stories of men and women who have silently, patiently, and painfully wrestled with their sexuality as they sat in the pews of churches I’ve pastored for nearly two decades. His story is their story. No decision or choice to “become gay.” Few were from broken or dysfunctional families. Each had a desire to follow God’s will. Each tried to pray the gay away or work through an ex-gay ministry. Each heard the cruel, thoughtless, uneducated, parroting of popular “Christian” and “conservative talking points” about homosexuality from well-intended but ignorant people with no experience knowing or loving someone gay.

Like Justin, these men and women (often boys and girls) struggled to understand their role and place in God’s Kingdom – questioning whether they even had one in the first place. This is why everyone who would fain to open their mouth about gays, lesbians, and homosexuality needs to click to buy this book as soon as they can.

Many will dismiss the reality of gays and Christians having a productive, healing, and informative conversation. On one side, a particular reading and exegesis of scripture has settled the issue. Final. Period. No questions asked. No thought required. On the other side, a particular exegesis of culture, understanding of humanity, and a particular understanding of God will be the guiding influence. According to Lee, both sides are misguided. It’s not that Lee is offering the now-ever-popular “3rd way,” but rather identifying for both sides the full range of arguments and issues at work.

Essentially, Torn is for anyone who hasn’t made up their mind about homosexuality. It’s also for anyone who thinks they have made up their mind – left, right, or center. It’s for anyone, for whom, one or two stories – left, right, or center – has determined where they land on the issue and they feel no need to revisit their assumptions and positions. In fact, it’s for anyone who thinks the gay issue is an “issue” and less about people. As Justin writes,

“Jesus radiated grace and compassion in such a way that people came to him to hear his views on things. By contrast, we Christians were so focused on preaching our views on things that we were driving people away, turning them off to the church, Jesus, and everything we had to say.”

Many readers – of this blog and Torn – are ultimately only interested in settling the question. That misses the point – at least of this book. People cannot be reduced to the degree to which they manage their sin or non-sin.  Torn reminds us that Jesus teaches that the sins we should be most concerned about are our own. I don’t suspect, Justin Lee will change the minds of those entrenched on either side of the gay debate. Hopefully, hearing his story and beginning to genuinely listen to the stories of those already in our midst, will improve the quality and tone of the conversation.

After all, no matter what we think about the issue of homosexuality we can all be unified by Jesus’ command to love our neighbor.


The Giveaway

I’m giving away 3 copies of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate and YOU can win one.

You need to do ONE of the following FOUR in order to win.

  1. SUBSCRIBE to “The Palmer Perspective” using the SUBSCRIBE button in the upper right-hand corner. Subscribers also receive additional content and giveaways from time-to-time.
  2. Leave a comment in the “Comments” section below telling us why you would like a copy.
  3. Tweet: “@seanpalmer is giving away copies of  Justin Lee’s, “Torn” and I entered to win. You can too: www.thepalmerperspective.com”
  4. Share this post on your Facebook wall saying, “I entered to win Justin Lee’s newest book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate at The Palmer Perspective (www.thepalmerperspective.com) and you can too.


The Disclaimers

Disclosure of Material Connection (1): Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclosure of Material Connection(2): I received the work reviewed above for free from the publisher in the hope that I would review it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


The Giveaway is now CLOSED. Thank you all for reading.

  • Would love to comment but don’t think they ever go through because I don’t have that gravatar thingy and can’t seem to get one to go through. Just computer challenged I guess.

    • Your comment went through, as did your Gravatar (which is the picture in the corner). Comment away…

  • I would love to read this book. I have my own personal beliefs on this subject and always felt uncomfortable with the views of the religion I belonged to for a long time. Great giveaway!

  • Hook me up!? Would love to read it.

  • Hi Sean! i hope to win a copy of Torn, because i want to grow to love those who struggle with homosexuality and show Jesus to them and help them change.
    i’ll put this on my own blog page also.
    God bless. Peace.

    • TJ

      I think you’re missing the point that gay people don’t need to be changed but loved and accepted by the community of faith as we are by God.

  • Jacob

    Hi Sean! ^^
    Personally I would like to win a copy of this book, because I’ve been struggling with this subject for years. I’ve been Torn (no pun intended XD) on whether or not I was fully allowing God to show me where to stand on this specific topic. I still am to be honest. Thankfully I’m having a discussion with a friend of mine (Who is gay and Christian) and he suggested this book to me. He had won a free copy from Justin’s blog. So now I hope as well to win a copy, so that way I can hopefully gain a better insight on where to stand 🙂
    God bless!

  • Tim Stephens

    I would like to win the book !

  • Shawna Mathis

    At the end of the day, I’m interested in learning how others see Jesus and what difference that makes. Justin’s story might give me some motivation to go beyond my comfort level and be Jesus in a uncomfortable place.

  • Harry Henry

    I’m going to subscribe but I was unable to in this tweet.

  • Tricia Noyola

    I appreciate you writing this and acknowledge the courage it took for you to even begin to address this topic. I admire your grace and the openness of your heart. May all who claim Christianity behave similarly.

    I don’t want to be a wet blanket, because on the surface,I agree with the thesis of what you’re saying here. There’s just something about this quote that is still unsettling to me:

    “People cannot be reduced to the degree to which they manage their sin or non-sin. Torn reminds us that Jesus teaches that the sins we should be most concerned about are our own.”

    Yes- be concerned with your own sin. That’s good advice. However that logic still seems to allow people to classify homosexuality as a sin, and that is logic I cannot allow in my head and my heart. I don’t think this is what you’re trying to say, but I grew up hearing the popular refrain of “hate the sin, love the sinner”. The “hate the sin, love the sinner” sounds strikingly similar to other popular sentiments, such as:

    “Kill the indian, save the man”- used to justify Native American boarding schools where Natives were raped, beaten and stripped of their humanity in the name of Jesus

    “Separate but equal”- used to justify the horrors of Brown v. Board and Jim Crow

    The problem is that people have and will continue to use that logic (homosexuality is a sin) to deny my closest friends their God given rights. What makes this issue of paramount importance to me is because of people’s individual thoughts about what is or is not a sin, my friend faces deportation because he can’t legally get married. Because he may or may not be “sinning” in the eyes of one group’s interpretation of an ancient text, he is relegated to second class citizenry. Because of that logic, two of my dearest friends who are having a child have to actually leave the state because I live in a place that would prefer a child be homeless than live with gays and lesbians.

    In an ideal world, we could say that we all love Jesus, so let’s just love each other and get along and not speak on these matters. Joel Osteen and other popular preachers have tried that for years. I find that to be a sin of a different nature, however- remaining silent while your brothers and sisters are persecuted. This is why today I want little, if anything, to do with any church. The scars and the cuts are so deep to my friends and myself that we are merely trying to find refuge from all who “love Jesus” so much that they wish to pray us into non-existence.

    I try so hard to extend generosity towards those who feel differently on this issue, but I’ll be honest and say that I have a really rough time with that. Mostly because my disagreement with them doesn’t mean that I get to put their rights to a popular vote.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Tricia. And you’re right. That’s not what I was saying. This is a big discussion. And if the text messages, e-mail, Twitter DM’s and Facebook messages I’ve received today are indicative, the perception that Christian are anti-gay is overcharged. Though, I think some people who get in front of cameras are.

      In the book, Justin addresses all the issues you bring up in a healthy way. I really am encouraging everyone – regardless of viewpoint – to buy it and read it.

      If there is one thing true of most of the Christians I know personally it’s this: We are torn as to what to do.

      I’ll be returning to the topic tomorrow….I think 🙂

      • Tricia Noyola

        Hahaha, thanks Sean. I will definitely read it, you’ve convinced me.

        I don’t want to believe most Christians are anti-gay. I choose to believe that they are misinformed and are way too comfortable resting in their own bias because it is comfortable and aligns to the heteronormative, white privileged world we live in…but that’s a whole other post. 🙂

      • Shawna Mathis

        Sean, I hope you continue to challenge those of us who claim to follow Jesus-and not just with this issue. People need to know that there are people in Christianity who truly do not have a hidden agenda. We’re just trying to understand God’s kingdom in real-life words…

  • Corey Markum

    I’d love to have a copy of Justin’s book. I read some of Justin’s perspective on a panel discussion-type blog hosted by Rachel Held Evans, but would really be interested to read his full work. Apparently like numerous others, I’m in the midst of a challenging journey to discover the parameters of interaction and fellowship with open homosexuals–particularly those who are believers–and what it means (in the nitty-gritty sense) to love them as Christ loves them. I think Justin’s voice is a crucial one in that journey.

  • Zach Snyder

    Thanks for this post, Sean. The church is in desperate need of a game-changer in how to understand and love GLBT brothers and sisters. Justin Lee is by far the most qualified person I know of to lead that conversation. I have high hopes for what he offers in this book, but I’m unsure if it will be read by people who most need their perspective challenged.

    The truth is that the church has been and largely remains an utterly hostile place if you experience any attraction to your own gender. The church needs bold straight people to be advocates and allies, to stand up against bigotry and hatred. I do believe welcoming and loving people exist at the local church, but I doubt they could be easily identified for fear of being labeled themselves.

    • Jesse

      Great point Zach, especially about being unsure if it will be read by people who need their perspective challenged. I think this book needs to be read by pastors in churches more than anyone else.

  • Darin

    Sean, as always, outstanding blog post! I’m interested in reading this book, especially because of your review. Thanks for being one of the few ministers I know who is not afraid to discuss controversial issues. I feel sorry for those ministers that never speak up for fear of offending those in their church. You’ve always been one who speaks boldly and I have been encouraged and stretched by that many times. Keep it up, brother!

  • Heather S

    Any book that will help me in my personal walk with the Lord, and help me to love others I would LOVE to read! 🙂

  • If I win a copy, I’ll read it because this is an issue that’s not going away.

  • Jesse

    I’m interested in reading this book because I would really like an “insiders” perspective on this issue.

  • Yvonne Eele

    I would like to win this book because I would like to read it.

  • i would love to read this. the Church has so far to go toward really loving each other well.

  • Eric Weiss

    I’d like a copy to read and be able to share. Not sure if the giveaway is still on, though.

  • Great review! I would love to win a copy of this book, if the giveaway is still open. I have just found your blog today, after doing a google search for reviews on Justin’s book. It sounds like a really amazing one, and I know how much his ministry has helped me, as the mom of a gay son!! Thank you for the review!

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