Hartford Seminary

At the Mark Twain House – The Gay Christian Conundrum: Three Authors Discuss Their Journeys

Jason Chu book photo

The Mark Twain House & Museum and the Hartford Seminary have joined together to present this  talk about the challenges of balancing faith and homosexuality.  This talk will include three authors who have written books on the subject:  Jeff Chu, author of Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God;  Justin Lee, author of Torn: Rescuing The Gospel From the Gays-vs.-Christian Debate, and Chris Stedman, author of Fathiest: How An Atheist Found Common Ground With The Religious.

All the authors personally struggled with the supposed dichotomy of their faith and being gay.  Chu and Lee came to the conclusion that there was nothing mutually exclusive about the being a gay Christian, and embraced their faith.  Stedman ended up personally rejecting religion, but seeks to dialogue with people of faith.  Their books tell their life stories and about their investigations, and they will discuss the books and their own journeys at this Book/Mark event.

About the Books

Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America is part memoir and part investigative analysis that explores the explosive and confusing intersection of faith, politics, and sexuality in Christian America.  The quest to find an answer is at the heart of Does Jesus Really Love Me? — a personal journey of belief, an investigation, and a portrait of a faith and a nation at odds by award-winning reporter Jeff Chu.  Funny and heartbreaking, perplexing and wise, this book is an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual pilgrimage that reveals a nation in crisis.

As a teenager and young man, Justin Lee felt deeply torn. Nicknamed “God Boy” by his peers, he knew that he was called to a life in the evangelical Christian ministry. But Lee harbored a secret: He also knew that he was gay. In this groundbreaking book Torn: Rescuing The Gospel From the Gays-vs.-Christian Debate, Lee recalls the events — his coming out to his parents, his experiences with the “ex-gay” movement, and his in-depth study of the Bible — that led him, eventually, to self-acceptance. Convinced that “in a culture that sees gays and Christians as enemies, gay Christians are in a unique position to bring peace,” Lee demonstrates that people of faith on both sides of the debate can respect, learn from, and love one another.

Faithiest is the story of a former Evangelical Christian turned openly gay atheist who now works to bridge the divide between atheists and the religious. Becoming aware of injustice, and craving community, Chris Stedman became a “born-again” Christian in late childhood. But Stedman’s religious community did not embody this idea of God’s love: they were staunchly homophobic at a time when he was slowly coming to realize that he was gay. In Faitheist, Stedman draws on his work organizing interfaith and secular communities, his academic study of religion, and his own experiences to argue for the necessity of bridging the growing chasm between atheists and the religious.

About the Authors

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, James Bond, undercover missionaries in the Arab world, and the decline of Christianity in Europe. The nephew and grandson of Baptist preachers, he is an elder at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York.

Justin Lee is the founder of the Gay Christian Network (GCN), a nonprofit organization that provides resources and support to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians. Lee founded GCN to “build a supportive community to support fellow gay Christians in their Christian walks.”

Chris Stedman is the Executive Director and Coordinator of Humanist Life for the Yale Humanist Community. He is the atheist columnist for Religion News Service, Emeritus Managing Director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, and founder of the first blog dedicated to exploring atheist-interfaith engagement, NonProphet Status.

This is a free BOOK/MARK event, and is followed by a book sale and signing. Reservations are suggested; please call (860) 280-3130 or visit marktwainhouse.org and click on Events.

Hartford Seminary is a non-denominational graduate school for religious and theological studies. What makes Hartford Seminary unique is their multi-faith environment and their proven ability to prepare leaders for the complex world that surrounds everyone.  Hartford Seminary offers degree programs and graduate certificates as well as leadership certificates. They seek out students who are interested in serving their communities and deepening their own faiths, as well as understanding the faiths of others.  Hartford Seminary also strengthens religious communities through its programs of research and education. By studying and sharing information, it enables local faith communities to remain strong.  For more information, please visit www.HartSem.edu.

The Mark Twain House &Museum (www.marktwainhouse.org) has restored the author’s Hartford, Connecticut, home, where Samuel L. Clemens and his family lived from 1874 to 1891.

Twain wrote his most important works during the years he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

In addition to providing tours of Twain’s restored home, a National Historic Landmark, the institution offers activities and educational programs that illuminate Twain’s literary legacy and provide information about his life and times.

The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave. are open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. The museum is closed Tuesdays during January, February and March. For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit www.marktwainhouse.org.

Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, and the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign. 

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