Today’s book is Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, & Queer Christians Are Reclaiming Evangelicalism (by Deborah Jian Lee).
The author tells the stories of four Christians who have struggled to find their place in Evangelical Christianity because they don’t conform to certain strict standards. And she weaves those stories in and through a lot of interesting history and perspective and thoughts and ideas about how evangelicalism is changing and why.
It’s really really good. And if you’re someone (like the few-years-ago me) who isn’t sure someone can be gay AND a Christian or a feminist AND a Christian or a racial justice activist AND a Christian, I would love for you to read it.
I underlined way too much good stuff to even be able to scratch the surface in a blog post, but I’ll give it a shot.
Lisa Sharon Harper (the first person we meet in the book) is a black woman who spent many years assimilating into white Christian culture. In 2003, she took a month-long bus ride-pilgrimage across the South that followed the Cherokee Trail of Tears and the African American experience from slavery to the civil rights movement.
It changed her life. (More on that tomorrow when I highlight Lisa’s book, The Very Good Gospel.)
I think all of us can learn a lot lot lot from Lisa about how very very white our evangelical theology is. And how much we ignore the perspectives of minority cultures. And how blind we can be to the racism that pervades so much of the evangelical church.
“As long as white evangelicals, especially those in power, continue to see racism as something that happened in the past, or as easily identifiable insults, rather than as an institutional issue, they will block any real progress on fixing unjust systems.” (p. 179)
Through Lisa’s journey, we clearly begin to see why racial justice issues aren’t a distraction from the gospel; they’re an integral part of it.
Jennifer Crumpton is a long time Evangelical Christian who escaped “the sexism of her Southern Baptist upbringing” and “struggled to unlearn the unhealthy gender expectations foisted upon her.” The author talks about the double standard for men and women in many evangelical denominations, such as purity rings that fathers buy for their daughters, but not for their sons. (p. 116)
I could relate to a lot of Jennifer’s story and love the ending (which is really just the beginning): “By breaking free from tradition and following her moral convictions, Jennifer has embarked on a new life, which she described as ‘coming full circle,’ bringing her back to that childhood feeling of being capable of anything. For the first time in decades, Jennifer has recaptured that sense of life’s fullness, of God’s love surrounding her, of endless possibilities.” (p. 227)
The last story is Will and Tasha’s. Will and Tasha are two gay Christian students who met at a Christian university.
“If the 1990s represented an era when vilifying the LGBTQ community galvanized evangelicals, this past decade stands for a period when that very tactic has divided the church and alienated a generation. Today, sexual minorities come out earlier in life, which means more young evangelicals have encountered LBGTQ people as friends, roommates, and youth group buddies and not as the threatening outsiders conjured by older evangelicals.” (p. 144)
The author shares Will and Tasha’s struggle to be true to who they are while fighting to be accepted in their Christian community.
She says that adminstrators at many Christian institutions don’t understand why openly LBGTQ people would choose to go to a Christian university anyway. Why not go somewhere that doesn’t have a problem with you and your lifestyle? (the author admits to having these same thoughts–why do people like Will and Tasha subject themselves to this pain?)
“But for many LGBTQ Christian youth, it’s not so simple. Students like Tasha have dreams of ministry; students like Will want to forge business ventures built on biblical principles. They can’t find that at secular schools. They don’t want to leave the conservative evangelical world they were raised in–they want to further its mission.” (p. 235)
This book is just really well written, so thoughtful, candid but not too cynical, and full of hope at the end.
“At the start of this project,” Deborah Jian Lee writes, “I found myself among the orphans of evangelicalism, holding on to something I still called faith but feeling estranged from the establishment that taught me about it. I did not set out to find a home for myself in writing this book, but I did…
I have witnessed profound grace and beauty and strength among marginalized believers who, in the face of hostile exclusion, have held on to their faith and changed their communities. Their lives have reminded me that God is so much bigger than the limitations set by the far Right or by anyone else. In God’s house, there is room for everybody. There is room even for me.” (p. 267-268)
Amen, sister. Amen.
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Books by/about refugees.
Day 3: Books about race & faith.
Day 4: Books about race & faith, cont’d.
Day 5: Book about a family with a transgender child.
Day 6: Just Mercy.
Day 7: The New Jim Crow.
(All links are Amazon Associate links.)