A review of "Torn" by Justin Lee

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

First, I read it and loved it. 

Then, I loaned it to Dan, and he read it and loved it. 

Then, I loaned it to my parents, and they read it and loved it. 

And the book hadn’t even been released yet! 

This is the power of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee, which officially releases today. (Justin participated in one of our most popular "Ask A…" interviews, "Ask a Gay Christian.") It’s the only book about homosexuality and the Church that I feel comfortable recommending to everyone—from my gay friends to my parents.  The minute I finished, I turned to Dan, tears streaming down my face, and said, “This one is a game-changer.” 

I had the privilege of receiving an advance review copy of Torn, in which Justin shares his story.   Nicknamed "God Boy" by his peers, Justin knew that he was called to a life in the evangelical Christian ministry. But he harbored a secret: He also knew that he was gay. With humor, vulnerability, and an accessibility that both disarms and delights, Lee recalls the events—his coming out to his parents, his experiences with the "ex-gay" movement, and his in-depth study of the Bible—that led him, eventually, to self-acceptance. 

Here’s what I wrote for the back cover: 

“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." 

I cannot recommend this book enough.  What makes it so effective is how relatable Justin’s story is.  His high school experience could have been mine—loving and involved parents, public school, a life that revolved around a conservative evangelical youth group, a true passion for Jesus and the Bible. 

The only difference is that Justin was gay. 

He didn’t choose to be gay. 

He didn’t want to be gay. 

His parents didn’t make him gay. (The number of Christian counselors who tried to convince Justin that his same-sex attraction was his parents’ "fault" is one of the most sickening, heartbreaking parts of this story.) 

He was (and is) just gay

And no amount of praying,  counseling, and self-hatred could change that. 

So Justin sets out to make sense of it….and he does so with more grace and forgiveness than seems reasonable.  He does so with the humility and love of Christ. Though he would have every right to lambast the failures of evangelicalism, Justin’s love for Christ and His Church seeps through every page of this book. It humbled me, and it will humble you. 

I think we can all sense a shift in momentum regarding the future of the LGBT community, and for Christians who feel torn about this, Torn is the best place to start. As I’ve said before, the best way to move beyond a culture war mentality is to listen to one another’s stories, and Justin’s is just the kind of story we need to hear right now. You may not agree with all of his conclusions, but you will be challenged and changed by his story. 

As soon as I’m out from under all this book release/travel craziness, we will continue this conversation. In the meantime, I encourage you to read Torn, and we’ll use it as a starting point for future discussions. 

You buy it here, or wherever books are sold. 

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