Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America

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Overview

In this timely work—part memoir, part investigative analysis—a prize-winning writer explores the explosive and confusing intersection of faith, politics, and sexuality in Christian America.

When Jeff Chu came out to his parents as a gay man, his devout Christian mother cried. And cried. Every time she looked at him. For months. As a journalist and a believer, Chu knew that he had to get to the heart of a question that had been haunting him for ...

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Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America

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Overview

In this timely work—part memoir, part investigative analysis—a prize-winning writer explores the explosive and confusing intersection of faith, politics, and sexuality in Christian America.

When Jeff Chu came out to his parents as a gay man, his devout Christian mother cried. And cried. Every time she looked at him. For months. As a journalist and a believer, Chu knew that he had to get to the heart of a question that had been haunting him for years: Does Jesus really love me?

The quest to find an answer propels Chu on a remarkable cross-country journey to discover the God “forbidden to him” because of his sexuality. Surveying the breadth of the political and theological spectrum, from the most conservative viewpoints to the most liberal, he tries to distill what the diverse followers of Christ believe about homosexuality and to understand how these people who purportedly follow the same God and the same Scriptures have come to hold such a wide range of opinions. Why does Pastor A believe that God hates me, especially because of my gayness? Why does Person B believe that God loves me, gayness and all?

From Brooklyn to Nashville to California, from Westboro Baptist Church and their god hates fags protest signs to the pioneering Episcopal bishop Mary Glasspool, who proclaims a message of liberation and divine love, Chu captures spiritual snapshots of Christian America at a remarkable moment, when tensions between both sides in the culture wars have rarely been higher. Both funny and heartbreaking, perplexing and wise, Does Jesus Really Love Me? is an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual pilgrimage that reveals a portrait of a faith and a nation at odds.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Dan Savage
…Chu has written a fascinating, thoughtful and important book. He captures the fractures and conflict at a moment when the issue of what to do with L.G.B.T. people is tearing Christian denominations apart. Does Jesus Really Love Me? deserves to be widely read.
Publishers Weekly
Whether the Bible disavows or condones gay love takes up its own echelon of discourse in American religious life. In his compassionate, engaging first book, journalist Chu, a gay Christian who was raised Southern Baptist, spends a year interviewing Christians across America, “asking the questions that have long frightened me.” What Chu finds is “a country that deeply wants to love, but is conflicted on how to do so.” His interview subjects include Jennifer Knapp, a contemporary Christian music star who continues to perform religious music after coming out; and Kevin Olson, who has chosen a lifetime of celibacy and identifies himself as not gay but homosexually oriented. Marching purposefully into controversy, Chu meets disgraced pastor Ted Haggard, members of the “ex-gay” movement, and members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Though Chu unflinchingly reveals the wrecked lives and suicide attempts that church-sponsored homophobia helped create, he acknowledges the religiosity of those who perpetrate it. Resisting easy answers, Chu deftly portrays the lived experience of Christians—mostly gay, though not all. The book’s few shortcomings occur when Chu shuts down his inquiry, such as with an older lesbian who invites him to a “healing exercise” that he dismisses as “New Agey, hippy-dippy mumbo jumbo.” Overall, the book brings complexity and humanity to a discourse often lacking in both. Agent: Todd Schuster, Zachary Schuster Harmsworth. (Apr.)
Booklist
“Outstandingly personable and appealing.”
Dan Savage
“Chu has written a fascinating, thoughtful, and important book. He captures the fractures and conflict at a moment when the issue of what to do with L.G.B.T. people is tearing Christian denominations apart. Does Jesus Really Love Me? deserves to be widely read.”
Bookriot.com
“A comprehensive, important, illuminating book for anyone exploring these issues.”
Frank Bruni
“Jeff’s own story makes me hopeful. It’s one of grace.”
Christianity Today
“An essential survey description of homosexuality in U.S. churches today that should be read by church members and leaders, and people who care about how U.S. Christians engage with sexual minorities and related issues.”
Rob Bell
“In telling these stories—chief among them his own—Jeff has done an extraordinary thing, showing us all to the God who is big enough and loving enough and true enough to meet all of us exactly where we’re at. This book is moving, inspiring, and much needed.”
Stephen Prothero
“Finally an examination of Christianity and homosexuality that refuses to demonize either side. A smart and deeply personal exploration of one of the great public questions of our time.”
Benoit Denizet-Lewis
“Jeff Chu has written a masterpiece about sexuality and spirituality in America. In this unforgettable blend of reportage and memoir, he doesn’t demonize, ridicule, or pander to an ideology. Instead, he explores—and inspires. This is the smartest, and most humane, book about Christianity and homosexuality that I’ve ever read.”
Bernadette Barton
“People struggling to reconcile homosexuality and Christianity will find much that validates their experiences in Chu’s thoughtful book. Those confused why anyone would attempt to reconcile conservative Christian and gay identities will better understand the dilemmas gay Christians face after reading Does Jesus Really Love Me.
David P. Gushee
“A beautiful, courageous, heartbreaking exploration. . . . Does Jesus Really Love Me? is both a moving personal memoir and a pivotal piece of reporting on what the deadlocked Christian fight over homosexuality is costing human beings, the churches, and our culture.”
Lauren Sandler
“This is a book for anyone who believes the church is unbroken, who feels they have no place in a world that disdains them, or who is looking for fellowship amongst courageous travelers striking their own path.”
Mark D. Jordan
“Jeff Chu is a smart and experienced guide through evangelical battles over homosexuality. . . . [He] leads us beyond the battlefields to unexpected scenes of hope. This is a sobering book, but above all a book of compassionate consolation.”
Donna Freitas
“Jeff Chu’s pilgrimage across America to discover his own place as a gay man in the Christian church as well as attitudes about being gay and Christian across denominations is at once timely, smart, poignant, disturbing, inspiring, and maddening. . . . Essential reading for everybody.”
Library Journal
Dismayed and confused by the homophobia prevalent in many Christian denominations, Chu, raised a Southern Baptist, went on a personal pilgrimage to examine what it means to be both gay and Christian in America today. Crisscrossing the country from Nashville to San Francisco, he visited churches and other religious institutions from the notoriously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas and the "ex-gay" Exodus International, headquartered in Florida, to the gay-positive Metropolitan Community Churches in San Francisco and Las Vegas. The people he encountered are as wide-ranging and include agnostics, a celibate, a gay man married to a woman, and a lesbian, Anglican bishop. The book is dotted with personal testimonies and a running email correspondence between the author and a young, closeted Christian man. Throughout, Chu balances clear-eyed objectivity with nonpatronizing humanity for even the most dogmatic homophobes. VERDICT Poignant, at times painful, and spiced with wry humor, this is a must-read for LGBT people on their own spiritual journeys or anyone interested in reconciling religion with sexuality.—Richard J. Violette, Victoria P.L., British Columbia
Kirkus Reviews
A gay Christian's exploration of homosexuality in the American church. Curious as to why Christians in America take such radically differing stances on the issue of homosexuality, Chu set off on a yearlong quest for answers, meeting and interviewing many people from across the range of viewpoints on this issue. Though the author introduces readers to his personal story, the narrative is focused on the people he encountered on his journey. Chu provides ample commentary about those he meets, but he does a good job appearing as their interlocutor, not as the center of attention. At the conservative end of the spectrum, the author visited rabidly anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, where he was surprised by the affability and near-normalcy of many parishioners. His candid meeting with Westboro founder Fred Phelps is a highlight of the book. Chu also explored Harding University in Arkansas, where he learned what it is like for students who are gay on one of America's most conservative college campuses. At the other end of the spectrum, Chu visited two primarily gay Metropolitan Community Churches in San Francisco, which he found "more focused on people than on God" and where he was hit on for the only time in his journey. He also explored a Lutheran church expelled from its denomination over the issue of gay ordination. Between these two extremes, Chu met many individuals whose stories are compelling--e.g., former evangelist leader Ted Haggard, people who lost their faith after coming out, a celibate gay clergyman and a straight woman who knowingly married a gay man. Chu's writing is informal, sometimes overly hip, but the stories he relates are intriguing. Yes, Chu concludes in his revealing book, Jesus really loves him. Other Christians? The jury's still out.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062049742
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/15/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 172,455
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Chu grew up in Berkeley, California, and Miami, Florida. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton, earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and received French-American Foundation and Harvard Divinity School fellowships. He has written for Time, Condé Nast Portfolio, the Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company, winning Deadline Club and German Marshall Fund awards for his work. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2013

    Well written and thought provoking, excellent read

    Well written and thought provoking, excellent read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2013

    The Bible does not speak of homosexuality very often,

    but, when it does, it condemns it as sin. Please read what God says in Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:26-28.
    Of course God loves you and me. He hates ALL sin.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2013

    Very thought provoking. One of the more engaging books I've read

    Very thought provoking. One of the more engaging books I've read in a while. Chu does a great job of providing each story without interjecting a lot of personal opinion. The only exception, interestingly enough, was the coverage given to MCC. Even if you're not gay or Christian, you'll find this an interesting read.

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  • Posted June 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This book is full of a lot of interesting and controversial idea

    This book is full of a lot of interesting and controversial ideas. While I was fascinated to learn about other people’s journeys as gay Christians, I found this book over-all to be very sad. I accepted myself as a gay Christian long ago. I came to terms with my sexual orientation as a teenager. I never doubted my Christian faith or my relationship with God, so for me there was no conflict. I found it to be tragic that most of the people (clergy included) that were interviewed or featured in this book seemed to remain so full of doubt and conflict. They seem to still be struggling to find away to believe that God still loves them, even as actively gay people. Also, sad was the devastating need for approval these people seemed to have. In many cases they seemed to be desperate for their minister or anyone with some assumed religious authority to accept them and give them permission to be the gay person God made them without sacrificing their position as children of God. I don’t think I ever had that need for approval from fellow humans. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted, but it is another thing to so need validation from others that you can’t be happy and self-loving without it. I hope all those people find peace eventually, and somehow find the truth. God made them, and He doesn’t make mistakes. He loves them completely exactly as they are. And if God is with you, who can stand against you? As a final note, I don’t think those asking this question will find comfort in this book, unless they just want the validation of knowing that many other people share their fears. My answer to them would be to consider this: Since Jesus never said a word against homosexuality, why would they ever doubt that He would not love them because of it. It seems very probably that if He had a problem with it, He would have said so. He seemed to prefer those people that most of society shunned. He’s kind of amazing that way.
    Michael Travis Jasper, Author of the Novel “To Be Chosen”


    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    *starts clapping*

    Westboro Baptist, get your @$$ over here and read this $h!t.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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