Monday, July 16, 2012

pondering wild goose: a storm, and justin lee rescues the gospel

I found Aaron and Sarah just as the wind was really picking up.  We made our way to the campsite and got dinner made before the rain rolled in.  Then we relaxed in the tent together, just listening to it fall ... I could have taken a seriously sweet nap, but the kids got bored.  Finally, I decided, "This is dumb - who cares if we get wet?"  So off we went - we found our friends wandering around in the rain, too, so we all enjoyed the relief from the heat. Justin Lee was set to speak at 8:00, and by then the storm had passed over, so I left the kids playing badminton and throwing frisbees as I made my way to his session.

I hadn't met Justin in person, but it felt like I'd known him for months.  It was over a year ago when I first came across his Gay Christian Network and ordered a copy of Through My Eyes (which I highly recommend - if you can't order one of your own, borrow mine!)  Justin and his ministry are right here in NC, so I'd hoped to meet him someday and was especially excited to see that I'd get the chance at Wild Goose.

I'd actually chatted with Justin earlier in the weekend, when I recognized him near the coffee barn.  He'd directed me to the Jericho Books table, where he said I could help myself to an advance copy of his new book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay vs. Christian Debate.  I'd practically skipped over, excited to get my hands on what I was otherwise going to be waiting months for.  I knew from the tone of his blog that his book would be one I'd both learn from and enjoy, and hoped to share with others.  By the time his session began Friday night, I'd already started reading it. 

First though, my raw notes from that evening:
Barna group survey (Unchristian) #1 term to describe Christians is “anti-gay”
- 91% of unchurched, 80% of young Christians
young people leaving church in droves - don’t want to be known for that
Matthew23 (Jesus: woe to you)
educate yourself: know LGBT people, learn language, educate others
if we don’t talk about it we let people who are talking about it run the conversation
Tony Campolo - love the sinner, hate your own sin
**our stories are so much more powerful than our arguments**
(extended question/answer)

Justin spoke with the same tone he's known for in his writing (this particular blog post went viral during the NC Amendment One battle this past spring).  Not at all militant, but not apologetic either – a true peacemaker, which is a hard balance to strike.  Only a person who is both gay and a Christian could pull it off.  Not that he is pulling anything off - he's being who he is, exactly who he is.  In that way, he makes me think of Esther,"for such a time as this":  not a beauty queen (wink), but gifted, bright, articulate, likeable, Christian, brave, and (yes) gay.  It's no surprise to learn that this "calling" is often a burden, however.  In one of his more vulnerable posts, Justin wrote, "I hate being the 'gay Christian' guy. It’s exhausting."

I didn't leave Justin's session surprised - he was exactly what I'd expected, and that was a good thing.  I can say the exact same about his book (which I've finished, by the way). I do see it as a potential game-changer because it's both/and.  Yes, it's his story, and that in and of itself is powerful.  But, because Justin is who he is, Christian faith and the Bible are woven completely throughout that story.  He spends most of the book not convinced, himself, of how to reconcile his sexuality with scripture, so when he finally does gain clarity on that, his explanation doesn't feel as though he is trying to win you over to his interpretation. 

I don't want to spoil the book by sharing too much, but I will lift a few quotes to whet your appetites, here.

"We might just be raising the most anti-Christian generation America has ever seen, a generation that believes they have to choose between being loving and being Christian."

"What kind of ministry takes a person who thinks he has a wonderful relationship with his father and convinces him that he actually has a bad one? This was feeling less and less like the work of God to me....As it was, I was losing my faith.  Not in God, but in ex-gays."

"As the yeast of misinformation has spread throughout the church, it has turned the church not only into the perceived enemy of gays, but into its own worst enemy as well... Better education is the anecdote. One of the most powerful ways of educating people is by sharing our stories."

When people like Justin tell us their stories, they make us all better. 

 The question is,  
are we listening?

1 comment:

Cherie said...

I enjoyed meeting Justin. He is such a kind and gracious person. Looking forward to reading his book.