Review: ‘Does Jesus Really Love Me?” by Jeff Chu

by Kim on April 2, 2013 · 14 comments

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Title: Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America
Author: Jeff Chu
Genre: Nonfiction
Year: 2013
Publisher: Harper
Acquired: From the publisher for review consideration
Rating: ★★★★★

Full Disclosure: Parts of this review originally appeared in a column I wrote for the newspaper that I work at.

Review: Generally speaking, I don’t actively try to match up my reading with current events. Sometimes I’ll pick a book that connects with a holiday because I’m in the mood, like Diane Ackerman’s One Hundred Names for Love near Valentine’s Day. Or sometimes a tragic event will inspire me to pick up a book that can offer answers, like Dave Cullen’s Columbine in the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. But more often, serendipity plays a role in putting the perfect book in my hands at just the right time.

That is the experience I had last week, when I happened to be finishing Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu on the same day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases related to same-sex marriage. In the book, Chu, a journalist who grew up in California and now lives in New York, sets out on a year-long pilgrimage to ask tough why so many people who read the same scriptures and follow the same God can end up at radically different conclusions on issues of faith, the church and homosexuality.

During his journey — which is both a personal process of coming to understand his own faith and an exercise in investigation — Chu interviews hundreds of people and, in the book, gives many of them enormous space to speak their minds and share their thoughts about the state of being Christian in the United States.

On issues that can be as fundamental as a disagreement of religion and human rights, it’s far too easy to assume that people who disagree just haven’t thought about it enough. What I loved about Chu’s book is that he never makes that mistake. He approaches every person he interviews with compassion and only critiques their argument when he sees inconsistencies or questions of logic.

He even, to my deep surprise, manages to tease out some of the logic of the members of Westboro Baptist Church, a small group known for their inflammatory messages and offensive picketing. Chu doesn’t let their rhetoric or behavior off the hook by any stretch, but he manages to approach them openly enough to at least see where they are coming from (even if most people [including myself] disagree with their message and methods).

I can’t speak highly enough of this book or recommend it more strongly to anyone hoping to better understand the complex intersections and divergences of the Christian faith and current events. These are issues that aren’t going away, and it behooves all of us to try and understand each other better.

Reading this book reminded me that no matter what our own perspective is, it’s important to approach those who look at the world differently with openness, generosity and curiosity. It’s really, really hard to do that, especially on questions that get at the core of who we are and what we believe. But it matters, a great deal, that we try anyway.

Other Reviews: Publisher’s Weekly |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne April 2, 2013 at 5:07 am

Open-minded about the Westboro Baptist Church? That’s quite a feat!

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Kim April 2, 2013 at 5:58 am

Open minded in the sense that he visited them in the spirit of inquiry rather than condemnation. During his visit he went with some members to protests and talked with them about their beliefs, and interviewed the head of the church (I can’t remember his name). Chu admits to being really nervous about the visit (he brought some friends with him as back up), but he still went and asked questions and tried to figure out what makes the organization (and individuals in it) tick.

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bermudaonion(Kathy) April 2, 2013 at 8:47 am

Wow, this sounds fascinating! I’m with Jeanne, I can’t imagine being open about Westboro Baptist.

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Kim April 3, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I don’t know if I would have been able to do it either, but I think the author did a remarkable job with that section. It had to be hard to write.

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Jennifer April 2, 2013 at 8:55 am

This sounds absolutely fascinating to me!

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Nikki Steele April 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm

What a special timely book. I love that he really tried to understand people. Will be recommending out to quite a few people.

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Charlie April 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

That sounds brilliant, a far more comprehensive look at issues and discussions than you’d usually find. I like the sound of the objectiveness Chu uses, it must be quite enlightening for that. He certainly has guts!

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Kim April 3, 2013 at 7:34 pm

I think the book is comprehensive in the sense that it covers a lot of different people’s process to reconcile their faith with sexuality or society. It doesn’t really address homosexuality as a political or legal issue, but I think it would have been a less interesting book if it had done that.

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Jenny April 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I’m so impressed that he went to talk to the Westboro Baptist Church. I’d be too scared to talk to them NOW, let alone if I were gay. This sounds so interesting — I always like it when people go forth and confront the people who have a gripe with them. I remember reading about a scientist (I think he was a neurologist maybe? or something totally else) who whenever he would read a criticism of his work, he would go to that person and ask if they wanted to collaborate with him on some research. I just think that’s the most interesting and, like, gracious thing, to be able to respond that way.

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Kim April 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Yeah, that was a scary thing. I probably wouldn’t have done it, but the book is better for it. That scientist sounds awesome — incredibly smart and gracious.

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