November 26, 2006

Book Review: Coming Out Christian

Coming Out Christian. By Jen Austin. 254 pp. Sources of Hope Publishing. $15.

One of the aspects of blogging I find particularly interesting is people’s willingness to dig deep into themselves and share their findings, warts and all, with the world.

Accomplishing this in a blog is impressive enough, but capturing that in a book is another matter entirely. Jen Austin, a radio DJ in Dallas, Texas, has done an outstanding job of that with her recently published book, “Coming Out Christian,” (Sources of Hope Publishing, $15).

Jen has been blogging about her life on her personal website since 2005, sharing her views on being a Christian lesbian and the perspective that gives her on life and social issues. She was one of the first to link to this blog, supporting our goal of bringing the message of GLBT equality and the Good News of Jesus into the gay community.

In “Coming Out Christian,” Jen retraces the steps she took on her “journey of self-discovery” and gives readers an inside look at how she accepted the fact she was attracted to women, come out as a lesbian, and then reconcile that to her Christian beliefs.

Jen’s was often a difficult journey, one with plenty of obstacles. As she tells her story, Jen is almost painfully honest about the mistakes she made along the way. This is not a book written by someone trying to elicit sympathy or looking to make excuses when things went badly. Jen accepts responsibility for her decisions throughout and wants to help others not suffer through the same pitfalls she did.

In the introduction to “Coming Out Christian,” Jen writes, “The single greatest barrier to irrevocably accepting my own homosexuality in the mid 1990’s was the all-consuming fear that upon doing so, God would cast me into the fire in the pit of hell in absolute disgust, without even blinking an eye. This fear paralyzed me for many years, but after an extended period of intense study and even more intense prayer, I can now say with certainty that—contrary to popular belief, God is the author of homosexuality, and wholly embraces me as a lesbian.”

Regarding her family background, Jen writes, “Nothing traumatic happened to me during my childhood that my present-day homosexuality could somehow be blamed on…..I grew up in a situation, if it was not the American Dream, it certainly did resemble it.”

Yet despite a strong foundation growing up, it was still a difficult, at times traumatic process for Jen to accept herself as a lesbian Christian. One of the major problems was all the un-learning she had to do. Growing up in the nation’s heartland, homosexuality was usually discussed “under the guise of dirty jokes and religious condemnation….being gay was seen as an unacceptable lifestyle or behavior that you chose to pursue, rather than an orientation or state of being that you were born with and can do nothing about.”

Jen, not realizing there was another option, made a valiant effort of doing what was expected of her; date boys, get married, and raise a family. She writes, “I wasted a lot of valuable time in my late teens and early twenties barking up the wrong heterosexual tree. We gay men and lesbians seem to spend a good portion of our lives attempting to deny and even exorcise our most pure and native instincts, while the heterosexual population is allowed to carry on quite naturally. It’s a shame that the process of coming of age and dating which comes so easily for a heterosexual person is often years in the making for a homosexual person. We should not have to attempt to live as heterosexuals before accepting our innate homosexuality.”

While I personally didn’t find the coming of age process quite as easy as Jen implies it should be for a heterosexual male like me, at least I didn’t have the enormous disadvantage of being funneled into a lifestyle I was not born to live. Jen has come to understand this about the societal norm of heterosexuality, “I believe that most people who fear homosexuality do so because they consider heterosexuality to be the default identity….homosexuality is a corrupt departure from the norm…..I, for one, cannot fathom heterosexuality. Homosexuality is my norm. I don’t understand why a woman would want to have a husband and I don’t understand how a woman could sexually desire a man.”

She hits on a critical point here. I can’t explain why a woman would desire another woman, but I don’t have to. I can just accept that’s the way God made them and accept them as they are. Jen doesn’t understand how I can be attracted to a woman, but she accepts me as I am. Unfortunately, there are still far too many people who, instead of accepting what they don’t understand, fear and condemn it.

Jen details the ups and downs of her relationship with Angela, her long-term partner, including how she almost pushed Angela away for good. They shared worship experiences and studied the bible together, but it wasn’t until Jen made her final reconciliation with God’s acceptance of her homosexuality that she could be at peace and her relationship had the strong foundation it needed to last.

She writes, “I used to fear the Bible…..when I semi-blindly let others decide for me what exactly the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality ….. Thankfully, I began to “get real” with God and listen more closely to the things God would say to me personally, while trusting in the Spirit’s ability to reveal truth to me not via the vocal masses, but alone, through prayer and intimate moments with the Word.”

Folks, when you hear someone referring to “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, THAT is what they are talking about! Without it, we will stumble along, either following someone else’s direction like sheep or falling away from God entirely. He wants us to choose neither of those options. As Jen demonstrates, that intimate relationship with our savior is available regardless of our sexual orientation.

If you are a GLBT ally who wants to understand more about the coming out process and the reconciliation of homosexuality and Christianity, you will, like I did, find this book very informative and helpful.

If you are a Christian who condemns homosexuality and those you believe chose that “lifestyle,” I would strongly recommend you open you mind and read this book. It will be a lesson that not all homosexuals hang out at leather bars and sleep with a different partner every night. Many of them live like Jen and Angela; in a loving, long-term committed relationship.

If you are a GLBT person who feels that God does not love you as your are, you need to read this book to understand how he DOES love you and wants to have a relationship with you.

If you don’t fall into any of these categories, “Coming Out Christian” is still worth reading. It is interesting, well written, and most of all real.

This book is available at

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a book worth reading! Thanks for mentioning it!

    Peas and hominy,