Mihee Kim-Kort is an ordained Presbyterian minister who also identifies as queer. But rather than this making her feel distanced from God, it has only deepened her faith. In her groundbreaking new book, Outside the Lines, she utilizes a combination of memoir-style personal narrative, combined with biblical analysis to examine how God's love for us is so radical and expansive that it mirrors the boundary-breaking openheartedness of queer love, which always seeks to tear down barriers and deconstruct the oppressive systems that hold us back. When we love ourselves and those around us with this type of love, we also open ourselves to a queer spirituality that can change the way we see the world.
Outside the Lines was our latest church book club choice. In it, author Mihee Kim-Kort, a Presbyterian minister who identifies as queer, shows how embracing a queer mindset can help to transform an individual's faith. This book has exceptionally high ratings on both Amazon and GoodReads. It also has a forward written by Rachel Held Evans, an author whose work I've enjoyed and whose journey I relate to quite well. With these things in mind, I went into reading Outside the Lines with high expectations, but I can't say that it entirely lived up to them.
For me, the strength of the book lay in its more personal stories. I could relate to the author through her depictions of various events throughout her life and I enjoyed learning about her as a person. There were certain topics she covered that were of great interest to me as well, such as purity culture. I especially appreciated this section, because she talks about it not only in a sexual context, but also in a racial one. As a person of color, Ms. Kim-Kort has been affected by the overuse of purity in more ways than one, and I valued this new perspective on purity culture that I hadn't considered before. I also like how the author reclaims and redefines some words with negative connotations, although readers who lack open-mindedness might find these creative interpretations offensive. Eg. The title of one chapter is "Blessed Are the Promiscuous," which is pretty provocative, but not what you might think. Ultimately, I agreed with her conclusions as well about how we can move into a more transforming faith by embracing queerness. In fact, she turns this into the verb "queering" as she describes how we can "queer" the various areas of our lives. It mostly boils down to having a more queer mindset, which is all about erasing boundaries, subverting expectations, deconstructing systems, and opening our hearts and minds to a more expansive love that's more like God's love for all of us.
However, all that said, I struggled a bit with this book, often finding my mind wandering. I'm not entirely sure why, but overall, it simply didn't engage me and speak to me in the way I wanted it to. Oddly enough, I wasn't the only book club member who felt this way. Perhaps it was because there was a disconnect between the author's writing style and me as the reader, or perhaps it was because the author and I have very different backgrounds and life experiences. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I just didn't get as much out of the book as I'd hoped I would. Maybe it was because I was searching for a profound message and didn't entirely find what I was looking for. In fact, the book felt a tad repetitive. The author takes a look at several different areas of life in each chapter, but by the end of each one, I felt like she was coming back around to the same general conclusion. I learned from one of our club members that the book was originally written as a series of essays and maybe that's the reason why I felt like there were redundancies.
In any case, just because Outside the Lines didn't fully work for me, doesn't mean that it might not work for another reader. Clearly all the great ratings and reviews would suggest that it's hitting the mark with most people, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I don't doubt that persons who identify as queer would probably find inspiration and affirmation within its pages. I also think that it would make a good read for anyone who is looking for a queer counter-cultural message to traditional fundamentalist Christianity. Overall, I felt it had some good points to make and was a worthwhile read, just not one that really excited me or that will make it to my keeper shelf.
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