Journalist, radio producer, professor and author Deborah Jian Lee will visit Eastern Mennonite University on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The 10 a.m. chapel in Lehman Auditorium and a 4 p.m. colloquium, “Faith From the Margins,” in the seminary’s Martin Chapel are open to the public. In addition she’ll also participate in several events with students.
Lee’s work often takes her to the fringes of societies: whether of Chinese family structures or evangelical Christianity. Her first book, Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism (Beacon Press, 2015) examines the counter-cultures of the American church.
Jian Lee is currently touring the U.S. speaking about Rescuing Jesus and the social issues it references.She’s also had a successful career as a freelance journalism. With colleague Sushma Subramanian, Lee produced an award-winning radio documentary about one of the “bachelor villages” of China, where aging straight men face a life without a romantic partner due to the population’s gender imbalance. She has been published in The Atlantic, Forbes and Self, among others.
In childhood, she joined a Chinese immigrant church, seeking solidarity in the face of racially-motivated bullying at school. However, the church’s exclusion of the LGBTQ community prompted her to leave religion as a young adult.
As a journalist years later, Lee encountered a pro-LGBTQ faction of Christianity – an “underground” queer group at the evangelical Biola University. “Those queer and ally evangelical college kids embodied the very teachings of Jesus that compelled me to call myself a Christian back in my youth,” says Jian Lee in an article for “Believe Out Loud,” an online Christian network that advocates for LGBT equality.
“When you’re looking at the millenials, you’re definitely seeing this reinvention of what church is,” she said in an episode of National Public Radio’s “On Point. “I see the church changing radically, and I see churches who are able to invite and readily include and celebrate the diversity of humanity – those are the ones that are going to survive.”
Lee joins two other experts to speak about millenials in the church in an interview with Tom Ashbrook for “On Point.”
Read a review of ‘Rescuing Jesus’ in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
In Asian America: The Ken Fong Podcast, Jian Lee discusses her book, intersectionality, purity culture and her own spiritual story.