Jeff Chu

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Over his eclectic journalistic career, Jeff Chu has interviewed presidents and paupers, corporate execs and preachers, Britney Spears and Ben Kingsley. As a writer and editor for Time and Fast Company, he has compiled an award-winning portfolio including stories on hit-making Swedish songwriters (a piece for which he went clubbing in Stockholm); James Bond (for which he stood on a beach and watched Halle Berry emerge from the waves over and over); undercover missionaries in the Arab world (he traveled to North Africa and went to church); and the decline of Christianity in Europe (he prayed). His acclaimed book, Does Jesus Really Love Me?—which earned the cover of the New York Times Book Review—features his reporting on Christianity and sexuality across America. One of Jeff’s prized possessions is a print of a quote from former Senator John Warner, who once told Jeff: "You're a good little interviewer!"

As a speaker, Jeff’s experience has been equally as compelling. He has stood before audiences in Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and an array of other denominational and non-denominational churches across the country. He has given lectures at major colleges, universities and seminaries, including (to name a few) Princeton, Yale, Fuller, Calvin, Syracuse, and Hope. He has also graced the stages of the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival in Washington and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored and Innovation by Design gatherings, as well as the Progressive Youth Ministry, Gay Christian Network, Why Christian?, and Room for All (Reformed Church in America) conferences.

Jeff grew up California and Florida. He went to high school in Miami, at Westminster Christian, where he sat behind Alex Rodriguez in Mr. Warner’s world history class. He’s a graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics. And he will tell you that he is a writer today largely because of two people: Carmen Gonzalez, his second- and third-grade teacher at Black Pine Circle Day School in Berkeley, California, who first taught him about storytelling, and Charlotte Grimes, whose one-semester journalism seminar at Princeton—the only journalism course he ever took—taught him that he was not a terrible reporter and might even someday be a good one. Jeff has received fellowships from the Phillips Foundation, the French-American Foundation, and the International Reporting Project, and in 2012, was part of the Seminar on Debates in Religion and Sexuality at Harvard Divinity School.

Chu is the nephew and grandson of Baptist preachers, and currently serves as an elder at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York. He loves the San Francisco 49ers, the Book of Ecclesiastes, and clementines.

SOME TOPICS JEFF SPEAKS ON:

Otherworldly Grace
Jesus' message of grace and unconditional love is totally unfair. Indeed, grace by definition is something none of us deserves. That became a reality to Jeff when he visited Westboro Baptist Church, the famously anti-gay congregation in Topeka, KS. That may seem an odd place to learn lessons about grace, especially for a gay man and a journalist who is seen by those folks as the embodiment of evil. But an encounter with a six-year-old boy in that church transformed Jeff's view of grace and the call of Christ to love without exception. He'll discuss that as well as the crucial cultivation of empathy--for ourselves and for others--as foundational to the pursuit of otherworldly grace.

From Fear to Hope
Fear plays many toxic roles in our lives today. It's a tool being used to divide us socially and politically. And for so many of us, fear is functionally an idol--something that governs our lives and crowds out goodness, love, and God. Jeff will use our unhealthy fears as a starting point for this conversation. He'll reflect on his battles with fear and the residue of trauma in his personal journey. He'll discuss how we need to discern between unhealthy fears and healthy ones. And drawing on stories and lessons gathered and learned over his 15-year journalism career, Jeff will talk about ways we can build empathy--for ourselves and for others--and grow hope. 

Telling Your Story
Sometimes the biggest obstacle to hearing and receiving others' stories is the fact that we haven't processed or understood our own. Using skills gleaned from a long career in journalism, Jeff will walk with you through a process of exploring your stories, examining them anew, and understanding how they ricochet off the stories of those you encounter in the world. His message of grace and hospitality through storytelling and listening could not be more timely, given the polarization of our society and the challenge of living out grace and love.

VIDEOS OF JEFF CHU