September 2, 2013

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an interesting book. It poses far more questions than it answers, and exposes more than a few churches and individuals to extremely unflattering lights. But, like all the best journalism, it merely lays out the facts and the author's impressions of the people he's talking to, and lets the readers draw their own conclusions.

The writer, Jeff Chu, goes on a year-long personal and spiritual journey trying to reconcile what he views as two conflicting aspects of his personality: "gay" and "Christian." Ultimately, the journey itself is the reward, as he admits. What makes this journey different is the author is an absolutely sparkling writer. His clarity of ideas and wonderful turns of phrase hold the reader's attention throughout. Just one example, plucked randomly from p. 33: "Belief grows or dies for all different reasons; the ecosystem of personal faith is rich and difficult terrain, a spiritual jungle as dense as the Amazon."

How can you not love a writer like that?

Chu treats his complex, controversial subject remarkably well. In the end, he affirms his faith and his belief in God, but admits that both have changed, and will keep on changing. Hopefully, in ten or fifteen more years he will write a sequel to this book. I would love to read it.

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Jeff Chu said...

Bonnie, thanks so much for reading the book and for reviewing it. I know there are so many books out there clamoring for attention. I'd be curious to know what could have elevated the book to four or five stars in your evaluation.
Jeff Chu

Bonnie McDaniel said...

Hello, Mr. Chu! Thanks for visiting my little blog.

The number of stars I hand out in a review actually has somewhat of a fiction/nonfiction divide; since I read mostly fiction, I generally save my four and five stars for those reads. That's just a little quirk I have, I guess. My nonfiction reviews are usually two or three stars.

Having said that, the main things that dragged the book down for me were the chapters on the Westboro Baptist Church and Exodus International. Ugh. Such terrible people. You were right to shine a journalistic light on them, to be sure, but they cast a bit of a depressing pall over the book. But that's just my own personal thing, not a reflection on the book's quality as a whole.

(Although it would be interesting, in any future editions of the book, to write a little coda to the Exodus chapters now that it has disbanded.)

Thanks for dropping by. If you ever write about this subject in the future, please (if you have his permission) let your readers know how Gideon is doing! He is the one I actually worried about.