Jeff Chu is well-positioned to explore the intersection of homosexuality and Christianity. As a gay man and the grandson of a Chinese Baptist minister, he understands each world from the inside. “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” is a sensitive and intelligent exploration of the many ways that American Christians have dealt with homosexuality. Chu himself lives the contradiction. In spite of having lost church relationships over his homosexuality (his mother cries for him every night) he has maintained a faith in God in spite of the wounds he carries.
Chu’s search runs the gamut of Christian reactions. He spends time with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, the most publicly and virulently anti-gay church. Amazingly, he comes to like them as people, even while rejecting their radical stance. He interviews the leadership of Exodus, the group best-known for trying to get gay Christians to stop being gay. At the other end of the spectrum, he speaks with Christians who have resolved the tensions between their faith life and their sex life by rejecting faith altogether. Chu is unique, I thinks, in allowing each of these groups and individuals to speak for themselves, even when what they say conflicts with his own experience.
Aside from homosexuality, there are few topics that pit a fundamentalist understanding of the Scriptures against present-day lived reality. The variety of responses that Chu chronicles are both amazingly creative as well as heartbreaking. There is the couple (the husband is gay and knows it) who go on trying to have a married relationship even though the wife knows her husband is not physically attracted to her. They love and respect each other, even though something fundamentally important is missing from their lives. There is the gay man who has decided that he will lead a celibate life, even though that leaves him lonely and isolated. And many more. You have to admire how hard these folks want to love God, and who have contorted their lives drastically to allow them to feel worthy of that love. Chu has done a wonderful service by exposing the difficulty and stress that many deal with over the issue of their homosexuality. That he has done so without polemics and without judgment is an achievement in itself.
“Does Jesus Really Love Me?” is wonderfully-written and heartfelt look at an issues that will be with us for a long, long time.