A New Faith Narrative

Deborah Jian Lee is an award-winning journalist, radio producer and co-founder of One Book, One Church. She is the author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians Are Reclaiming Evangelicalism (Beacon Press, $19.95).

photo: Luis Bacca

Your journalism has delved into a variety of subjects, most notably your series about migrant workers in China. What drew your focus to changes in the Evangelical movement for such in-depth study?

I found the massive racial demographic shifts and generational shifts within evangelicalism so compelling and rich with stories. I used to be an evangelical student leader, but left because I couldn't stomach the culture wars. I'm a woman of color, a feminist and an LGBT ally, and whenever I asserted these parts of my humanity, my faith was questioned. So I was particularly intrigued when I met deeply evangelical people of color, women and queer folks who were doing theology from the margins and recasting a vision of evangelicalism that was far more inclusive and inspiring that what I had left.

What surprised you most in your interviews?

I was surprised by the degree to which evangelical leaders have historically used power and their version of "theology" to engineer a religion where straight white men owned the faith. They deployed so-called biblical rationalizations that kept women submissive, endorsed racial segregation and stoked fear of gays, lesbians and all sexual/gender minorities. The second big surprise came when I met scores of evangelicals who have thoroughly rejected these principles and offered up Biblical scholarship and stories from the margins. Evangelical feminists are denouncing purity culture, evangelicals of color and white evangelicals are offering themselves to such causes like Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ evangelicals and allies are advocating for full inclusion. Despite the risk of spiritual trauma, lost livelihoods and ostracism, evangelicals on the margins are rising up to tell a new faith narrative.

--Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness


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