TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate – a Book Review

Justin Lee was a normal Southern Baptist boy who was very dedicated to Jesus and the church. When his friends began to notice girls, Justin began to notice guys. He had heard there was sometimes a period of sexual confusion during puberty, so he waited for his attraction to guys to pass.

To his alarm, the feelings did not go away even though he dated girls and had a steady girlfriend.

TORN by Justin Lee

Justin’s Story

In TORN, Justin tells his story of a devout Southern Baptist surprised by unwanted same-sex attraction; but the book is more than that. As he shares his struggle with same-sex attraction and his journey to understand and cope with it, Justin explores many aspects of the Gay vs. Christian culture war.

Even though he didn’t fit the stereotypical image of a gay person and never had a sexual encounter, Justin experienced rejection from Christians he knew. He was told that if he would give his life to Jesus he wouldn’t feel that way anymore; but he had already given his life to Jesus.

In college, gays told him he could not be both gay and Christian—he had to choose one or the other; most Christians seemed to agree. But Justin refused to take sides in the Gay vs. Christian culture war. He continued to search the Bible to understand the truth.

TORN Addresses Important Issues

When teens tell parents about their same-sex attraction, parents often respond to their gay child with:

    • Don’t tell anyone.
    • You’re not like those people.
    • How could you hurt us like this?
    • What did we do wrong?
    • This is the devil’s way of trying to stop you from doing what God wants.

In chapter 4 Justin gives good advice to Christian parents.

Chapter 5 discusses common confusion between same-sex attraction and same-sex involvement. Then he examines four theories on why people are gay and shares his experience with the ex-gay therapy movement.

Part of the false promise of ex-gay therapy was due to its definition of ‘gay’. They claimed a gay person can become straight and no longer be gay, but in practice they only meant they can stop same-sex involvement.

Many ‘ex-gays’ married women and had children, but their same-sex attraction never went away—they were still gay. Ultimately, the ex-gay movement created a lot of pain and disillusionment.

Are Gay Relationships Sinful?

A key question is whether gays can have loving relationships together. Some Christians now believe gays can be Christians if they are celibate; but is celibacy necessary? Opinions are mixed.

It is easy for Christians to tell people how they must live their life; it’s not so easy for those who have to live it. Justin describes his situation on page 103:

Imagine telling any teenage boy that he can never have sex, that he must go his entire life without being able to experience it even once…As a teenager, abstaining from sex is difficult enough when you know you’re waiting for the right time. It’s far more difficult when you know there will never be a right time, even if you find the right person.

Other parts of lifelong celibacy were harder for me to handle. To go without sex was one thing, but to go without romance and companionship was quite another.

Justin was willing to remain celibate if necessary, but he wanted to know if he had to. In all earnestness, he went back to the Bible for guidance.

What Does the Bible Say about Gays?

In chapters 12 and 13, Justin does an excellent job looking at what the Bible says about gays. He covers the ‘clobber passages’ much better than I did in my recent posts. I read TORN over a year ago but didn’t re-visit it before writing the posts.

In addition to the clobber passages, Justin looks at the larger picture in the Bible and brings the views of Paul and Jesus to bear on accepting people over laws.

Observations on TORN

Justin is well-informed. Though he began knowing little about homosexuality except what he learned and accepted from the church, his careful investigation brought him to a more mature understanding.

Justin does not fit the stereotype of a gay person justifying his orientation to satisfy his desires. In fact, Justin is celibate though he no longer believes celibacy is necessary for those with same-sex attraction. He is diligent in determining God’s will.

Justin is a reconciler; his tone is neither judgmental nor angry—neither bitter nor combative. He reaches out both to gays and to Christians and has become a highly visible leader among Gay Christians as he leads the Gay Christian Network.

You can purchase TORN at I recommend this book highly; we can all learn a lot from Justin’s story.

I invite your comments and observations below.
If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please sign up in the column to the right so you don’t miss future posts.
Have a great day! ~Tim
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13 Responses to TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate – a Book Review

  1. michaeleeast says:

    “Torn” sounds like a very good book for those gay people who are emerging from Fundamentalist Churches. I come from a religious background but rejected the Church in my teens. So essentially I am approaching Christianity from a secular position. Although the issues involved are still relevant I don’t feel this is a book for me.


    • Michael, you are probably better informed than most readers. I think this is an excellent book for gay Christians who have big questions and also for straight Christians looking for information on how to think about gay Christians.


  2. Pingback: Concluding Remarks on Gays and the Church | Jesus Without Baggage

  3. Tiffani says:

    This book is wonderful. What I find most admirable about Justin’s work – both in his book and on his blog – is the careful, patient way he works to inform us. He isn’t trying to convert us to his way of thinking. He is just sharing his experiences and the experiences of others in the LGBT community and talking about how they don’t always line up with what we expect.


  4. sheila0405 says:

    When I started out on my journey to find out why some Christians believe it is ok to be gay, the Gay Christian Network is the first place I visited. Justin is very loving, patient, and logical in his presentations. He answers questions in a kind and accepting manner that he has received from Christians who have problems with homosexuality. From the GCN I followed links to the so-called “clobber passages” interpretations. I discovered a lot about the cultural context of those passages and the manner in which the Greek & Hebrew is dissected by other Bible scholars,


    • Sheila, I think Justin makes a huge difference in the conversation about gays and the church by his leadership, his friendly and open tone, and the resources he provides.


  5. lotharson says:

    Hello Tim.

    It is really depressing that so many Gay Christians give up their faith in Jesus because they became convinced it is not compatible.

    I just wrote a new post explaining how liberal and conservative Christians should discuss about this issue, namely in a loving way.

    I really enjoy your contributions to my post and kind of miss them 🙂

    Lovely greetings in Christ.


  6. Anonymous says:

    If a person is gay, do they go to Hell?

    Liked by 1 person

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