Written by Daniel Hazard
"The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom."
Raised a Southern Baptist, with two loving parents, Justin Lee didn't want to be gay. But when he revealed that he was only attracted to his own gender, his church acted like he had chosen it and encouraged him to join the ex-gay movement. He listened to national speakers testify about turning their sexuality around, only to see them publicly fail. Searching for understanding in high school and college, he was essentially told to cut it out and stop being gay, with Jesus' help.
So much for that idea. Today, Lee leads the Gay Christian Network. And thank God for it. In his new book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christian Debate, he talks about joining a conservative campus ministry group searching for a safe place to connect with God in the tradition he was raised in. He also joined the gay students group, whose numbers increased with his enthusiastic involvement. But he felt alone in both groups, unable to be himself. With the Christians, he worried about being gay. With the GLBTQ crowd, he worried about not being gay enough. Where did he fit in?
You don’t have to be gay to ask these questions. They seem to me to be universal. In life, we never fit entirely into one group or another. But when a group demeans you for who you are and treats you like a second-class citizen, you have two choices: try to reform it or move on.
I am grateful for Justin Lee’s prophetic word to his own evangelical tradition. His story is opening people’s minds. And I am grateful to the UCC for its early and extravagant welcome to those who have been wounded by other churches. Let’s bless all wings of this mighty reformation and think of ourselves as a mighty cloud of witnesses, not torn, but running as a team.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Amen.
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