Consider This Perspective – Jeff Chu

 

Welcome to another installment of LOVEboldly’s interview series. Previously , Randy Roberts Potts, Derek Webb (Part 1Part 2Part 3), Logan Mehl-LaituriTripp YorkWesley HillJen Thweatt-BatesPeterson ToscanoJenell Paris, and Alan Chambers (Part 1Part 2Part 3) offered their perspectives on a number of issues related to faith and sexuality. Now we are privileged to share an interview with Jeff Chu.

Over his eclectic journalistic career, Jeff Chu has interviewed presidents and paupers, corporate execs and preachers, Britney Spears and Ben Kingsley. As a writer and editor for Time, Conde Nast Portfolio, and Fast Company, he has compiled a portfolio that includes stories on megahit-making Swedish songwriters (a piece for which he went clubbing in Stockholm); James Bond (for which he stood on a Spanish beach and watched Halle Berry emerge from the waves over and over and over); undercover missionaries in the Arab world (he traveled to North Africa and went to church); and the decline of Christianity in Europe (he prayed). On the wall of his New York office, you’ll find a quote from former Senator John Warner, who once told Jeff: “You’re a good little interviewer!”

A California native, Jeff went to high school at Miami’s Westminster Christian, where he sat behind Alex Rodriguez in Mr. Warner’s world history class. A graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics, Jeff has received fellowships from the Phillips Foundation and the French-American Foundation, and in 2012, was part of the Seminar on Debates in Religion and Sexuality at Harvard Divinity School. The nephew and grandson of Baptist preachers, he is an elder at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York. He loves the San Francisco 49ers, the Book of Ecclesiastes, and clementines. And he detests marzipan more than he can explain in words (Amazon).

 

Tell us about your recent memoir Does Jesus Really Love Me. Why did you decide to write it? What have been some of the responses to it?
First, I have to ask for a little adjustment—it’s not a memoir. It’s primarily a work of journalism—other people’s stories, not my own—but there is some of my story woven in, so that people understand where I’m coming from and why I wrote this. I get a little defensive about this because a) I’m a journalist; and b) I don’t think my life has been interesting enough to hold a reader’s attention for 300 pages, and writing a memoir would feel totally self-aggrandizing and self-indulgent.

I wrote the book for one of the most cliched reasons—I wrote the book I wanted to read. I couldn’t find a book like it when I was going through the difficult process of acknowledging my sexuality to myself and to the rest of the world. I didn’t want to be told what to do, as I was by so many people.

I wanted to hear others’ stories, and to have the room to process all that for myself. I wanted to understand the ways in which other people had tried (or failed) to reconcile their faith with their sexuality. I wanted to get a glimpse of the choices they made, the struggles they had, and the lessons they learned, so that I could try to figure things out for myself.

Anytime you write about issues like faith and sexuality, you’re bound to get into trouble with someone. I’ve been heartened by the kind letters and grateful emails that I’ve gotten from many readers. I’ve been saddened by the dogmatic and judgmental ones that I’ve gotten from two distinct poles—a lot of them have come from conservative Christians (for lack of a better term), which I expected, but a lot of them have also come from liberals and atheists, which I did not. Maybe I was naive. But it turns out that many atheists think it is a sign of my lower intelligence that I am still trying to hang onto my faith, and a lot of liberals didn’t like my decision to write about conservatives as if their beliefs and choices have been valid.
What surprised you most about this journey?
I’m surprised that so many people ask me what has surprised me about the journey. I think we’re always looking for surprise, when, in fact, some of the most profound lessons come from those

who are not surprising at all. We are so often looking for the extraordinary that we miss the testimonies of people who seem to be ordinary. I didn’t meet a single family or encounter a single congregation that was, beneath the surface, ordinary. Maybe it’s a sign of the way our culture has moved, that we’re always looking for the spectacular, but I’m far more interested in the “average”—which is to say, not at all average—mom who is doing the hard work of trying to love her child, the pastor who is struggling with his hermeneutic and striving to meet his congregation where they are, the bridge-builder who is hoping to live in a place where she can talk to people on both sides of these huge chasms in relationship that we have today.
You interviewed quite a few people for this book. Who was your favorite, and why?
I think it would be rude to pick my “favorite” subject. I will say that I was struck by the thoughtfulness of Pete Wilson, an evangelical megachurch pastor I met in Nashville. Pete looked the stereotypical part—funky hair, distressed jeans, semitight shirt, and all that—but he was so gracious and so candid about his efforts to grow and to learn. I wish more pastors showed their vulnerability in that way. I fell in love with the expansive vision of Mary Glasspool, the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, who has been deemed by some conservatives to be a militant. Maybe she is, but as she told me, the only thing she is militant about is the love of God, and she reflects that love in a wonderful way. Finally, Gideon Eads, a young man in Arizona who has been through so much turmoil with his community and family as they have learned about his sexuality. He is perhaps the bravest person I met during my journey, largely because of his refusal to walk away and his commitment to being part of the place where he has been planted.
What advice would you give to a Christian who has or is discovering that he/she is attracted to the same sex?
The main thing I would say, and I don’t know if this is advice so much as it is begging, is not to let ANYONE tell you that God is off-limits to you, that your sexuality somehow puts you beyond the boundaries of Jesus’ love, that there is no place for you in the church. There may not be a spot in THAT church, but THE church is a different matter. For a long time, I made the mistake of mixing up God with those who claim to be the people of God. They are different. Nobody has the power to write you out of God’s story. Nobody has the right to tell you that you don’t belong to the one who created you in the first place.

Any future projects?
I loved spending so much time gathering people’s stories, at a depth and length that is atypical for a magazine journalist. Usually, we’re jumping from one topic to another, and I got to spend years with this one. To be honest, I don’t think I’m going to write about homosexuality again, at least not at book length. The experience of putting this book out into the world has left me at times a bit discouraged about the tone of the discourse. My goal has been and continues to be to put stories out there so that we—or at least some of us—can try to have a more gracious conversation. I believe that we can disagree in kindness, that we can be in community even with those of us who see differently and interpret Scripture differently. I’m going to keep sharing stories and keep talking about this experience. But sometimes it feels like I’m one of the moles in a big game of Whack-a-Mole, and that gets boring. Some days, my head hurts. Some days, my heart hurts. But we have to walk forward in hope. And we have to cling to a God whose grace is big enough to handle even our mistakes.

Jeff Chu, an editor and writer at Fast Company, leads the magazine’s coverage of China, philanthropy, and urban affairs. Before coming to Fast Company, he spent a very long nine months at the now-defunct Conde Nast Portfolio and seven years at Time magazine, where he was a London-based staff writer (his first cover story was on Britney Spears and her Swedish songwriter, Max Martin) and then a New York-based writer and editor. The grandson of a Baptist preacher, he has written and reported extensively on religion, both at Time and at Fast Company.

 

Jeff was born in California and went to high school at Westminster Christian in Miami, where he sat behind Alex Rodriguez in Mr. Warner’s world history class. A graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics, Jeff was a 2004 Phillips Foundation journalism fellow (his project examined complaint in American history) and a 2011-2012 French-American Foundation Young Leader.

– See more at: http://doesjesusreallyloveme.com/about/#sthash.HGaK6VCj.dpuf

Jeff Chu, an editor and writer at Fast Company, leads the magazine’s coverage of China, philanthropy, and urban affairs. Before coming to Fast Company, he spent a very long nine months at the now-defunct Conde Nast Portfolio and seven years at Time magazine, where he was a London-based staff writer (his first cover story was on Britney Spears and her Swedish songwriter, Max Martin) and then a New York-based writer and editor. The grandson of a Baptist preacher, he has written and reported extensively on religion, both at Time and at Fast Company.

 

Jeff was born in California and went to high school at Westminster Christian in Miami, where he sat behind Alex Rodriguez in Mr. Warner’s world history class. A graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics, Jeff was a 2004 Phillips Foundation journalism fellow (his project examined complaint in American history) and a 2011-2012 French-American Foundation Young Leader.

– See more at: http://doesjesusreallyloveme.com/about/#sthash.HGaK6VCj.dpuf

Consider This Perspective – Randy Roberts Potts

Welcome to another installment of LOVEboldly’s interview series. Previously , Derek Webb (Part 1Part 2Part 3), Logan Mehl-LaituriTripp YorkWesley HillJen Thweatt-BatesPeterson ToscanoJenell Paris, and Alan Chambers (Part 1Part 2Part 3) offered their perspectives on a number of issues related to faith and sexuality. Now we are privileged to share an interview with Randy Roberts Potts.
2012RandyPotts
Randy Roberts Potts has worked with juvenile delinquents on the East Coast, was a social worker in Oklahoma City, spent five years as a middle school English teacher, and is now a freelance writer for several publications including The Washington Post, Box Turtle Bulletin, The Advocate, This Land Press, D Magazine, and others.
Randy wrote about his coming out experience as the grandson of televangelist Oral Roberts in the recent It Gets Better book and spends his life trying to spread a message of hope to gay youth. He is also a public speaker and has spoken on a gay cruise, for gay pride, in churches, high schools, universities and LGBT centers across the country.
Randy  launched a  project called “The Gay Agenda,” a performance art piece designed for conservative areas across the country. For more information on Randy, you can visit his website.
For those who may not know you, you are the grandson of late televangelist Oral Roberts. What was it like growing up as a member of this family? How did it shape your early views of God?
As a child I was very passionately religious and a devout holy roller Pentecostal.  Sometime in middle school that began to break down as I struggled with my sexuality and other aspects of what my religion taught me.
How has your view of God changed since coming to terms with your sexuality?
Coming out hasn’t affected my view of God at all but it has drastically altered my view of religion, especially the one I grew up within.  Among Evangelicals, the Bible is used opportunistically as a weapon with which to beat homosexuals and many commit suicide as a result.  Even so, I don’t mix up man’s use of religion with my views on God and know that Jesus’ message had nothing to do with this behavior.
What do you think of mixed orientation marriages?
They are intensely problematic and unfair on so many levels and I spent 11 years within one.  The platonic love that is possible is not enough to ease the natural sexual tension for the two individuals and sex cannot be emotionally healing in such a relationship and therefore a huge divide exists between such couples.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend this type of arrangement.
 Tell us about your project The Gay Agenda. What sparked this idea? How has it been received?
The idea for the gay agenda project came from a dream I had, in which Keaton and I were living in a glass box in Central Park in NYC.  I realized it wouldn’t be controversial for two men to keep house in Central Park but it would be on Main Street in small town USA.  The reception has been mixed — we have not found a way to execute the project in a way that is effective — meaning, finding safe, available locations in which to perform has meant that we have audiences already too friendly.  I still think it could be effectively carried out but I don’t feel it has yet lived up to expectations.
 What do you wish the straight, evangelical Christian community knew about the LGBTQ community? 
The main thing I would ask the straight, evangelical Christian community to do is to recognize our humanity, that we are human beings who fall in love and seek to build lives together.  Paul in the New Testament says that in Christ there is no gender and, hey, the LGBTQ community gets this, why don’t evangelicals?
 Please tell us about any current and/or new projects on which you are working?  
No new projects at the moment; my husband and I are newly married and just bought a house and heavily involved in feathering our nest with our three kiddos in Texas.

Comments Policy:

At LOVEboldly we embrace controversy, dissenting opinions and even a good debate now and then. However, we also value civility, kindness, and respect. Therefore, please feel free to share your opinion, but keep it constructive, considerate, and civilized. If you choose to be rude we will delete your comment. Do so consistently and we will ban you. And yes, we do get to define the terms. 

Consider This Perspective: Alan Chambers (Part 1)

chambersheadshot

Welcome to this week’s installment of “Consider This Perspective.”  This series is off to a good start, introducing us to perspectives from folks all across the board on faith and sexuality.

Previous interviews have been from more progressive Christian thinkers so far, so this week, in an effort to provide some perspective from the more Conservative Christians in our mix, we want to share with you a phone interview with Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International.  Exodus International is a global umbrella organization for over 260 churches, ministries, and counselors offering support and help to those experiencing same-sex attraction.  Alan Chambers has served as President of Exodus International since 2001.

Exodus International has been hotly criticized by many in the LGBT community for their championing of reparative therapy and other sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE’s), which Alan here clarifies is not what they embrace or promote any longer and he apologizes for the harm they’ve done.  The anger felt towards Exodus International and Alan Chambers from many in the LGBT community is significant, and rightly so, as he himself admits here.

I want to remind everyone that this series is a forum for all perspectives and that LOVEboldly does not support, endorse, or affirm any one perspective. Instead, we want to provide opportunities for you to hear from perspectives that perhaps you have never considered before.  This is a “food for thought” forum, and we welcome you to share your perspective and comments below in a healthy dialogue through the comments.

Additionally, we are aware that posting a voice which has been representative of so much pain and betrayal in the LGBT community may cause many of you to ask serious questions about where LOVEboldly stands on the issue of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE’s).  We want our readers and members of our community to know that we do not promote SOCE’s because we do not believe they are necessary or usually helpful (see more on that here). Further, we are very concerned and disturbed by the results we most often see from SOCE’s in our friends and fellow believers.  We do, however, support a person’s right to choose to reconcile faith and sexual orientation in the way that seems best to them, while considering carefully all of the possible physical, emotional, and spiritual risks and benefits.  This includes affirming the right of a person to pursue SOCE’s if one chooses to do so.  We encourage folks to make careful and thoughtful decisions about how to honor God, themselves, and others as they navigate tough decisions in their spiritual and sexual lives.  As an organization, LOVEboldly endeavors to be a friend, supporter, and encourager to each person, no matter where they may be in their journey or how they have chosen to reconcile religious beliefs and sexuality.  Many folks have been shamed and harmed through organizations which identify as members and affiliates of Exodus International.  We are sorry that this has been the over-arching witness of the church to the LGBT community.  We have failed.  We want to do better.

All of that being said, I am pleased to introduce you to Alan Chambers.  I hope you enjoy the interview, which I will post in 3 parts over the next 3 days.

In part 1, I asked Alan to share his personal story of reconciling his faith and same-sex attractions, as well as to answer for what he’d like to say to folks who have been violated or betrayed by Exodus’ messages and techniques for attempting/promising to “heal”, “cure”, or “change” sexual orientation.

Keep the comments kind, productive, and helpful – but also feel free to express raw emotion in response to what you hear here.

LOVEboldly.

Comments Policy:

At LOVEboldly we embrace controversy, dissenting opinions and even a good debate now and then. However, we also value civility, kindness, and respect. Therefore, please feel free to share your opinion, but keep it constructive, considerate, and civilized. If you choose to be rude we will delete your comment. Do so consistently and we will ban you. And yes, we do get to define the terms. 

Click Here to Listen: Chambers Interview – Part 1