One Less Lonely Person

In the evening of April 16th, 2013, on a whim after having seen it on Amazon on a recommended list, I purchased the book “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate” by, Justin Lee. At roughly 5:40 a.m CST, as a thunderstorm raged and lit up my room with flashes of light, I finished the book whilst curled up in my blankets with my smartphone plugged into my charger as the Kindle app ran continuously. I couldn’t get enough of the book and the reasoning for this is pretty clear to me. Once again, in the middle of the night, God was letting me in on something; I am not alone.

I know, I know; simple right? You’d think so for most people, but as someone who is both gay and a Christian, this feeling is more prevalent than you would think.

Justin and I share much of the same story, though there are some deviations throughout. We both grew up in homes where both parents were incredibly loving. We both grew up in the South (in the good ol’ Bible Belt). We were both raised in Christian homes. The deviation comes when we take into account things like my being molested by multiple men in my life. Justin wasn’t (this is actually a discussion point in his book). Despite the differences, reading through his book was like reading a template of my life’s progression. As he chronologically ventured into each area of his life, I found myself becoming more and more captivated by what would occur, if only because I wanted to know how alike our stories were. I wanted to know if he encountered the same things I did. I again wanted to know that I wasn’t alone.

Justin eloquently delves through the journey of his life, pitting the traditions of the Church against the experiences of himself and others. He doesn’t do so in a way that is flippant of either side of the tracks. This isn’t a gay Christian lawyer versus the evangelical Christians of today. This is a man who has been making, and is still making, his journey through understanding how sexuality interacts with Christianity. There is no “Us-vs-Them” dichotomy in the book, merely an experiential outline and struggle. Justin’s views stated in the book aren’t easily come to. Though there are many gay Christians who decide that, based on experience, they can’t make themselves straight so being gay MUST be OK, (Justin addresses this view in the book) Justin isn’t one of those people. He fights with the scriptures and wrestles with them before forming and then elaborating on his positions in this debate.

I had known of Justin before reading his book, but only in a passing manner. Other gay friends of mine had mentioned him to me and had mentioned his network. I had read his stance on gay relationships through his page here and had agreed with much of it, but hadn’t gone much further than that. I was midway through the book before I looked him up on Google and was like, “Oh yeahhh. That guy.” What I had known of him before was good, but reading this book made me respect him.

As someone who loves a good debate, one of the things I can’t stand is when people hold beliefs that they can’t defend; or when they defend them in a flippant manner such as, “I just believe this.” I love hashing out ideologies and reasonings and listening to people’s apologetics. To me, it’s a sign that someone has come to their belief through good critical thinking and time. Justin is one of the people I would get along with in debates, for he is such a person. I can’t recommend this book to my friends enough. Especially with the way current events bear down on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, books like this shine a light in a really dark room.

Justin’s book takes a look at all sides of the debate whilst not painting anyone as a “villain.” There are people and stances he takes issue with, but never in a condescending or condemning way. Even if you don’t agree with the theology in the book, there’s no way you could read it and feel unloved. Justin is a shining example of Christ’s unconditional love for all, and that light shows itself throughout the pages. Pick up this book. Seriously.

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Amazon: Here

Barnes & Noble: Here

Official Site: http://www.tornbook.com/

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The Journey Through the FAYZ

I just finished reading “LIGHT” by, Michael Grant. It’s the conclusion of the GONE series. I find myself seemingly overwhelmed by the impact these six books have had on me. They’re absolutely incredibly, but will leave no person unchanged should they decide to pick them up and journey through the FAYZ with the characters they’ll grow to love, hate, and fear.

I started reading the GONE series 5 years ago. My first year in college I had picked up GONE and from there I was hooked. I awaited each book release with excitement and trepidation because I knew that whatever was going to take place on those pages was going to be an emotional roller coaster. There are moments that are beautiful, moments that are terrifying, and moments where you think the situation couldn’t POSSIBLY get any worse, but you’d be wrong.

There is something different about reading through this series as opposed to other series’ that have similar themes or scenarios. The Hungers Games may be brutal, but GONE is harrowing. It’s Lord of the Flies with super powers and a lot less hope. Don’t get me wrong, there is hope throughout, but the world presented here is so bleak for so long that you almost begin to lose hope as some the characters do.

The stories of the children in these books are so powerful though. Quinn, Sam, Lana, Edilio, Caine, Diana, Brianna, Orc, etc. They are all meaningfully laid out through each of the novels. These kids go from being young, innocent teenagers to powerful, thoughtful adults, even over the course of the year and a half or so that they’re in this situation. Some kids lead, some run away. Some kids kill, some protect. Factions are built. People choose sides. Lives are lost. The whole time you’re reading through this epic war-like scenario that thought keeps springing to the forefront of your mind, “These are kids. Good God, these are kids.”

There has been talk of the series being adapted for movies or television and I hope to God they find someone who understands the darkness of the series and why that darkness matters. I hope they find a channel like AMC that will let them get away with the brutality that this content needs to work. In 50 years, The Hunger Games won’t  be in a conversational about incredible movies because they sacrificed content for a PG-13 rating. The Hunger Games was decent, but sacrificed the brutality of the books for ticket sales. At the core of a series like The Hunger Games or GONE you have to remember that the power of these characters’ journeys stems from the incredible odds they have to overcome, and yes, sometimes that means killing other children to survive.

The violence, sex, drugs, etc in the GONE series is there as a reminder. A reminder that sometimes, sometimes the world can be an incredibly dark place. The people who get up in arms about the content of these books and the situations that these kids are placed in are missing the point. You’re supposed to be horrified, just as these children are, but you’re also supposed to understand something; for every bit of darkness, there is light. There is love. There is mercy. There is friendship. The children of Perdido Beach all make their journeys along that spectrum. Some end up embracing the darkness and the evil, but some embrace the hope; the light, and that’s all that matters.