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Julie Rodgers, Outlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story (Minneapolis: Broadleaf, 2021), 235pp.Julie Rodgers, Outlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story (Minneapolis: Broadleaf, 2021), 235pp.

Julie Rodgers was ten years old when she thought she was gay. She was sure of it by the time she hit middle school. She eventually came out to her fundamentalist mother her junior year of high school. It eventually took about about twenty years, until she was thirty, to make peace with her body, and to fully embrace her homosexuality. This memoir chronicles her long journey into the light.

For those twenty long years, Rodgers worked and prayed hard to be a good Christian in what she was told was a bad body. She did everything her evangelical mentors told her to do. It's hard to imagine anyone more deeply committed to becoming straight: "my entire life revolved around trying not to be gay." She spent ten years as a leader in Exodus International, which was founded in 1976 and then closed in 2013 after its leaders acknowledged how "completely wrong" they had been in their efforts to convert gays, the "crushing realization" about the horrible damage they had done to the people they thought they were helping, and how they had "lied about their [own] continued same sex attractions" (while claiming to be "healed"). She also endured what she calls a "debacle" as the first openly gay chaplain at the deeply conservative Wheaton College near Chicago (see below).

Rodgers paid a horrible personal price, as have many thousands of gays, for trying to "pray away the gay," namely, eating disorders, burning herself, and a self-loathing after being told for twenty years that she was an abomination to God for sexual desires that she did not choose and could not change. Rodgers finally listened to her own experience, to the stories of gays who were similarly damaged by conversion therapy, and to the voice of her conscience over shame-based religious authority.

This isn't an angry book like it might have been. Rodgers merely asks readers to consider her story: "Maybe [anti-gay Christians] just don't understand. Maybe if someone like me told the truth about myself and stayed in the Evangelical church, they would see the humanity of queer people and be moved to embrace us. Maybe we could grow in love together." Outlove was released in conjunction with the Netflix movie Pray Away (2021) about the rise and fall of Exodus International (and which features Rodgers).

Note: on how Julie Rodgers was hired by Wheaton College and then resigned, see her essay:

Dan Clendenin:

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