September 15, 2019

My Highest Recommendation: Love Is An Orientation by Andrew Marin

Here’s a previous IM essay on this topic: “What Do Gays and Lesbians Hear? (When They Are With Evangelicals.)”

UPDATE: I appreciate Andrew’s kind words in the comments. I have to confess that I’m a little disappointed that the emphasis of Andrew’s book- relationships and conversations- seems to be lost, and the discussion is drawn immediately toward “what should churches do to those people?” As I said, this book will not be the normal reading experience. Andrew is trying to do something- in his own experience first- that is incredibly difficult: pay the price to love those who are very angry with us.

This book has been as profoundly unsettling as Sara Miles’ Take This Bread. It’s Jesus shaped Christianity, and it does not leave you alone. It is not what you’re prepared for. It will hit you like Jesus’ love for the unacceptable hit his world..

Love is An Orientation. Andrew Marin. “Elevating the conversation with the gay community.” Inter-Varsity Press.

I’m hoping to write a book in the next few months. I have something I want to say and I think it’s important. I hope all of you buy it, and I wouldn’t mind if a few million people bought it and I could change my life accordingly.

But I want you to hear what I am about to say: If you had two books to choose from, whatever I will write and what Andrew Marin has written in Love Is An Orientation, I would want you to buy Andrew’s book.

What Andrew Marin has written in this book isn’t just interesting. It is absolutely vital that evangelicals hear what Marin is saying about the state of things between Gays and Evangelicals. This is a message that may be more important than any issue evangelicals are currently discussing short of the content of the Gospel itself.

Love Is An Orientation is a must buy. In fact, buy two or three. You are going to do some good with this book, despite the fact the people who most need to read it may be less than inclined to do so. Don’t just read it; get someone else to read it. Awaken the sleepers. Start a revolt.

It is a book that will put most of you into an immediate struggle. You are going to read what Marin says about the situation between Evangelicals and the Gay community with intense appreciation, but part of your ingrained evangelical training will be talking to you the whole time, telling you to stop thinking about anything other than the abomination of Gay sex and the verses that apply. You’ll want to shut it and you’ll want to keep reading. You’ll know you need this and you aren’t hearing it anywhere else, but part of you will say you’re slipping into squishy, emerging liberalism.

You aren’t. You are applying the Gospel.

One of my preacher friends wrote me the other day and confessed that he has trouble with the application part of his sermons. Seminary trained, smart, devoted to Christ, the church and its mission, he was struggling with how to leave the text and walk his hearers into the real world.

That is the recent story with evangelicals. We have lots of Bible, but when we’ve finished the exegesis and the explanation of the text, we have the challenge of walking with the God we’ve talked about back into the real world. We have the challenge of applying Jesus to our own lives and living like him in relationships with others.

We’re pretty bad at it. We prefer to walk into our families, into Christian culture, into the evangelical ghetto. Our engagement with the world is much like those currently on the run from their fears of swine flu: masks and ignorance. We build walls and we live behind them, telling ourselves what we believe is the truth.

When it comes to our interaction with the Gay community- and the Gay Christians in our midst- we have made a five-star mess of things. To make it worse, it’s a mess we’re either ignorant of or proud of.

We’ve invested hours and dollars in hearing over and over the assurance that these particular sexual sins are condemned in scripture. We’ve insured that our default idea of conversation with gay persons is being shouted out by angry advocates of hate. We’ve given the culture warriors the floor to say whatever they wanted in whatever way they wanted.

We’ve avoided the subject when it wasn’t on our turf. We’ve made sure that our sources never came at us from a side of the subject we weren’t prepared to hear. We controlled the stories that came to us so they were always properly scripted.

We’ve treated gays with almost no appreciation for their real situation. We’ve obsessed on sex, forgotten how painful it is to be human, minimized the pain of exclusion and become apologists for the worst among us because they believed the same Bible we do.

God didn’t leave Andrew Marin where the rest of us prefer to dwell. He shattered his world of Gay stereotypes. He demolished his knee-jerk evangelical prejudices. He called him on a mission to the Gay community and he made him into a missionary of listening and friendship.

Now he’s sent Andrew to us, with a book so unlike any book you’ve read on the Gay-Evangelical issue, that it’s dangerous. Andrew will take a lot of criticism for this book, and people who have been writing books about Gays and posing as experts on the Gay community are going to be embarrassed, irritated and infuriated with this combination of compassionate listening, repentance, passion for the Gospel and insightful analysis of the evangelical failure to love the Gay community as Jesus would.

We aren’t supposed to have this book or read this book in most circles of Christian influence, but that hasn’t stopped Andrew Marin from writing a book that, without a word of snark, wise-acreage or finger-wagging, succeeds in taking the evangelical conversation about how we respond to gay persons and gay Christians to an entirely different level.’

Marin’s book isn’t about exercising an agenda. It’s a book that grows out of the Gospel, out of the incarnate God’s love for all persons, out of refusal to be torn apart on the usual talking points and out of ministry to people who need Christ.

Inter-Varsity Press is often the subject of a fair amount of snark for not towing the predictable conservative line consistently enough to suit the Knights of Reformed Orthodoxy. In fact, IVP has a history of publishing brave, ground-breaking books that push scholarship, challenge predictable stereotypes and allow us to hear voices you won’t hear almost anywhere else in evangelicalism.

I don’t agree with everything Andrew Marin says, but Jesus was everywhere in what this book is all about. It made me think of dozens of conversations with Gay persons down through the years of ministry where the wisdom and challenge of this book would have been life-changing for me and those I talked with.

I read so many Christian books that leave me cold, if not turned off, to being a Christian. This one made me want to be 20 again and start following Jesus all over again. It’s a painful inventory of mistakes, but it’s a wonderful model of throwing open the doors and letting the light of God’s love in.

It is largely too late for many of us in evangelicalism to change what is an intolerable and embarrassing failure to love fellow human beings and fellow believers as Jesus calls us to. But for many younger Christians, this book is, frankly, astonishingly hopeful. Grab it, read it, engage it, practice it.

I never approved receiving this book, so I usually don’t write a review I didn’t agree to do in advance. But this book blew me away. Unhesitatingly recommended in the highest possible terms.

Comments

  1. ProdigalSarah says

    GratefulForGraces,
    I agree with you. If an adult chooses celibacy, that is their choice. However, all adult humans have sexual desires to some degree or another. It’s not reasonable to tell an entire group of adults that sex is off limits for them for their entire adult life. I know gay couples who have been in committed relationships for 20+ years. I don’t think you get that far in a relationship unless fidelity means a lot more than sex.

  2. Add me to Parsifal: I’m confused on this as well…

    What I’m unclear about is if IMonk or Mr. Marin are talking about how Christians have failed to love gay folks well, in which case I’d agree wholeheartedly–or if they’re suggesting that we need to rethink sexual orientation as sin, in which case I’d have to respectfully decline.

    Greg R.
    well said, parsifal, BTW

  3. greg r said: “their lifestyle is a very real roadblock to the gospel”

    I’m not picking on you personally, but I have heard this sort of comment from many people. What is says is that a person needs to meet a certain standard before they can hear the gospel. This is simply untrue (and maybe not what you meant anyway, so apologies if it wasn’t). The gospel is that God loves us anyway, regardless of the stains we bear. Once we accept that, then we are open to change through the Spirit. For a gay person that may mean struggling with celibacy. For the greedy that may mean finding it in their heart to give more to charity. The point is, the change, whatever it may be, comes as a response to God’s love, not as a way to earn it in the first place.
    I haven’t seen the book, but it strikes me that it is coming from this latter position – love first, change second (and the change may be in you, not in the person you think it should be).

  4. Memphis Aggie says

    I don’t know about anyone else but it seems to me that there is currently substantial social and worldly pressure to ignore , minimize and excuse sins of all kinds but especially homosexuality. For me the whole “live and let live/ forget about it” philosophy would be the easiest and most natural thing to do. But the Bible and Church teaches that these things matter on some level, so I can’t ignore the issues entirely, although I’d sure like to.

    I for one also feel zero guilt about alleged bad experiences that any individual might have toward the Church. I didn’t perpetrate them myself and I resent being accused even by remote implication if I’m not exquisitely sensitive to every perceived slight. Who hasn’t had a grievance of some kind with a Christian? Worst rip off I ever fell victim to was by a “Christian” or at least he claimed to be. When I was a kid I got the “you Jews killed Christ” treatment, as if I drove the nails personally. I didn’t need some tailored walk on eggshells approach to see Christians favorably. I grew up and got over it. Doesn’t real respect mean being treated just like everyone else? Does there have to be a special outreach for every class of sinner?
    Don’t separate yourselves, don’t be a hyphenated Christian, just mix it up with the rest of us.

  5. Fishon,

    While a pastor doesn’t have to say whether a sin seems unforgivable or not, it’s the whole feeling of the church community that tells you. In fact, the preacher could say “All sins are forgiven” but if the sinner is nudged out or ignored, then the actions speak louder than words.

    I think that part of the challege is due to the culture. I know that a lot of my information about homosexual culture comes from the mass media. Talking about Gay Pride Parades, bathhouses, etc. That turns me off. So how do we get to the point of talking to each other without the loudmouths on both sides getting in the way?

  6. greg r,
    Oh, I certainly agree with your statement: “…there is a certain kind of respect that all GOD’s created humanity gets).” The Cross, the Blood, the Empty tomb demands respect for humanity.

    Maybe I interpreted Rob incorrectly, but it seems to me he was saying that all humanity deserved the same respect irreguardless of the “practice” of sin in their life. That is, intentional, thoughtout, in your face sin. It is in that context that I was defining respect.

    Man, this form of communication is difficult for a person like me with very few writing skills.
    fishon

  7. The poison in the conversation from the evangelical side is that we are completely unwilling to let the subject come up without running the entire collection of questions that we believe must be answered according to our own preferences. So if someone does what Marin has done- reframe the conversation entirely in terms of friendships, relationships, listening, respect, understanding, etc- then we can start asking “Where’s the answer to this question? If it’s not forthcoming, then perhaps Marin and Spencer are hiding something. Maybe they are both for (insert worst case scenario here.)”

    Here’s where I have a different world than many other people. I am surrounded by non-Christians in my classes, and Marin has challenged me all over again in areas I am deeply aware of from my own journey. I am so aware after reading this book of the pain of being a young person who desperately DOESN’T want to have same sex attractions, who feels God is punishing them, who assumes they are doomed to hell, and then here are so many evangelicals talking IMMEDIATELY about throwing them out of church.

    How many gays are employed by churches NOW? How many have ALWAYS been in our seminaries? Is the issue that we just want to be left alone to have our rhetoric, even as we look at our instrumentalists and almost certainly KNOW?

    Marin is not cooperating with the coopting of the conversation down the same tired roads. This isn’t a book about the issues of how to announce what’s wrong more loudly. As I read this book, every kind of Christian would benefit. Marin beautifully lays out the message and DEMANDS of the Gospel to all of us WITHOUT SINGLING OUT someone because of sex.

    ms

  8. JohnO: we agree that the gospel is to go out at all times, to all people. We are commanded to “sow bountifully…” and sometimes we preach by what we DON’T say: to whit…I work every day with two homosexuals; we have worked shouler to shoulder for three years. I have not said WORD ONE about homosexuality, tho I would, and will, when I’m sure it’s time. In the meantime, we’ve talked about a lot of other topics, including church, and Jesus, from time to time.

    These friends do not have to “attain” to anything to anything to hear the good news from me, but their lifestyle IS a filter thru which they hear my words about who JESUS is and what HE did. I’m not saying this is an insurmountable mountain, but it IS a mountain….but no more so than heteros shacking up and seeing marraiage as disposable/optional.

    I’m very convinced that FIRST we get a clue as to who JESUS is, and THEN the peices of life come together, not the other way around. To repeat or paraphrase one on Fishon’s points: we love these gay friends precisely by offering them a way OUT. And they desparately need a way out. That would be JESUS.

    PS to FIshon: you are more lucid than you give yourself credit for….keep walking toward the LIGHT and speaking the truth in love.

  9. Anna A,
    I don’t live in an ivory palace, so I do know that there are abuses perpetrated upon homosexuals in the Christian community. But often times, we are accused of hate, intolerance, bigotry, and you name it just because we point out that practicing homosexuality is a sin.

    I do not spend much time of that particular sin in preaching and teaching to my local, rural congregation. But if on the occasion that I would bring it up, and the wrong person is in the audience, I would be branded a hate monger, etc. I would be lumped into the Fred Philps camp. But I am far from that camp. I am in the same camp that calls the practice of drunkedness a sin, but I have never been called a hater of drunks. I know of what I speak. I was one until I was 33.

    I am in the same camp that says practicing lying is a sin, but I have never been call intolerant of liars. So why when I/ point out praciting homosexuality a sin are we labeled…?

    Miss Calif. is a great example of a Christian giving an opinion based on the Bible; look what that got her, even death threats. She was not hateful or ugly in any way in which she answered a question she could not duck.

    Many ask, why is homosexuality a big deal to many Christians. For me there are a couple reasons. It is sin and all sin is a big deal to me. And the other reason is this: The gay community is not tolerant of my opinion about their practice. They do not want me to be able to call it sin–{and soon it will land preachers in prison for doing so}, and a great many of them insist I accept their lifestyle and/or keep my opinions and belief to myself. That, my friend is very dangerous.

    Does it not bother some of you who believe the practice of homosexuality is NOT sin, that I will not be able to voice my belief in a few short years without the threat of going to prison? Congress took the first big step towards that yesterday. Yep, homosexuality is a big deal. Many who call it a perfectly exceptable lifestyle are trying to silence people like me.

    As I reread what I have wrote, I believe I have voiced my opinion in a kind way. I wonder, thought, how many thing me a hater because of my opinion?
    fishon

  10. >It is sin and all sin is a big deal to me.

    An extraordinary statement. If there is anything obvious to me in my life it’s that I have fine tuned my outrage at sin to be hyper sensitive to some and almost totally blind to others.

    I’m amazed to meet someone who is as quick to jump on blogs regarding domestic abuse and greed as he is those discussing homosexuality.

    And your proclamation that it is the evangelical community that is the victim of angry gays reminds me of all the evangelical youth I’ve met in my 30 years whose defining experience in life was rejection by gays.

    Truly extraordinary.

    ms

  11. Reread the MONK’s post above mine: maybe what gays need along with JESUS is a friend that looks a lot like JESUS, who sounds like JESUS, who treats them as JESUS would….maybe that’s where this thread is going…at least for me. In the absence of that friendship, maybe the “thou shalt not’s” fall flat…or worse.

  12. ….2 things i”ve learned in this life sofar..1-There but for the Grace of God go I…and..2-Never say Never….

  13. Fascinating stuff.

    I can’t tell you how loathe I am to put in the comments section of anyone else’s blog a link to something on mine; it’s just so obnoxious. But four or so days ago I published a piece called “The (Confusing) Power of the Devout Gay Christian” that—like all the stuff I write on the relationship between homosexuals and Christians–has … well, for one, brought me too much of the kind of attention I’d rather not get (and, thank God, plenty of it I would). Anyway, if anyone looking for perhaps another angle on this topic cares to read it, that piece is linked to below. Thank you, Michael. I’m certainly looking forward to reading the book you’re writing. It’ll go huge, I’m positive.

    http://johnshore.com/2009/04/29/the-confusing-power-of-the-devout-gay-christian/

  14. IMonk,
    I certainly do not want to bore you with my uneducated rambles, and I know your time is valuable, but I wonder if you are missing the other side of the problem/arguement, that is, the hostility of gays against any critism of their lifestyle?

    You say: “So if someone does what Marin has done- reframe the conversation entirely in terms of friendships, relationships, listening, respect, understanding, etc-” But IMonk, it seems to me that very many gays are demanding that in order to have “friendships, relationships, listening, respect, understanding, etc,” they demand that we do away with our belief that to practice homosexality is sin. Their choosing to have friendship with us is contingent on our betrayel of our belief. I know, I know, there are exceptions. However, in the climate we live in now, that seems to me to be the norm.

    By the way—-I am going to buy the book. I do have much to learn.
    fishon

  15. >…they demand that we do away with our belief that to practice homosexuality is sin.

    Now are we talking about the ranting clowns that get paraded onto talk shows and Fox News or the actual real GLBTs you know in your life? The ones in your church and my classroom who hide and never mention it?

    Why do evangelicals have to act like everyone is a ranting circus act?

    I am sure there are plenty of the examples you cite.

    Marin tells stories of being rejected by gays he wanted to befriend. But he makes it clear that the defining experience for thousands of gays was their treatment by Christians, and that treatment wasn’t speaking the truth in love, commitment, perseverance and kindness.

    ms

  16. IMonk said, “I’m amazed to meet someone who is as quick to jump on blogs regarding domestic abuse and greed as he is those discussing homosexuality.”

    —–Oops, you got me. Though in my personal ministry I deal with those issues wayyyyy more often than the one being disqusts.

    And your proclamation that it is the evangelical community that is the victim of angry gays reminds me of all the evangelical youth I’ve met in my 30 years whose defining experience in life was rejection by gays.
    ———Hum, I don’t quite know how to address that. I, however, do not think we victims. To me a victim is one who can not or is not capable of defending him/her self. The Church is well able to defend her self, even when it is all blooded up. I suppose my idea of a victim is up for disagreement, though.
    fishon

  17. I think opposing sin is a waste of time.

    It does us absolutely no good to identify things to be against ‘because God is against them’ when the entirety of the Gospel life involves us loving God and each other and leaving everything else (including one another!) to His good judgment.

    Apologetics, ‘convicting people’, even evangelism itself is mere self-aggrandization if we don’t understand first and foremost that it’s up to God to defend US from sin, not the other way around. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we pray.

    If we mean that line, we don’t have to keep all these precious opinions on other people’s sins – we can leave it to God to purify others as we ask Him to purify us, all the while knowing how much WE CHRISTIANS constantly resist His graces and enjoy our sin.

    I think lots of Christians don’t trust God to send the gays to Hell though – He might pull a Prodgical Son on them and kill a calf for them anyways. Those among us who try so hard to keep the Commandments would be sooo mad…

  18. Such a complex subject, and I think it has to be broached with compassion, which is what it sounds like Marin has done … so I look forward to reading him.

    I do have to agree with Fishon above that while “respect” sounds terrific we also really do need to be sure our compassion and respect for personhood is fused with the difficult truths that run counter to our culture. Looking at the state of gay ministries n Roman Catholicism, and all the talk of respect and dignity that easily becomes a slogan for compromise, has been sobering and a a counterpoint I believe also needs to be weighed very thoroughly by Evangelicals.

    But am very glad to have the book recommend on what has been so trying an ‘issue.’

  19. iMonk said:
    {fishon said}…they demand that we do away with our belief that to practice homosexuality is sin.

    {Monk} Now are we talking about the ranting clowns that get paraded onto talk shows and Fox News or the actual real GLBTs you know in your life? The ones in your church and my classroom who hide and never mention it?

    Why do evangelicals have to act like everyone is a ranting circus act?

    ——Monk, good questions and fair ones.
    To a certain degree I am talking about those ‘ranting clowns’ who are paraded on Fox. It is a CNN news anchor that berated one of my kind the other night. It would be an Oberman and Matthews from MSNBC who mock anyone who would dare call homosexuality a sin. It would be a Barney Frank [Congressman] that can go ballistic on someone for calling homo… a sin. It is the liberal Hollywood crowd that mocks and paints a person like me as…you name it. It would be some in the US Congress that are trying to silence me. It would be those in Portland, Or during the gay pride parade that I would be talking about. And Monk, they are not just a few. They are the norm.

    Monk, I don’t claim that all gays are demanding I do away with my belief, so we can have a friendship relationship–but the fact is—-call them ‘ranting clowns’ if you want, but they are driving the process and it is they that are changing the climate towards Christians in our Country.

    Though you would have stopped me from being a part of this discussion if your moderator hat had been on, I am grateful to you for allowing me to continue in the debate. I have tried to be respectful. Thank you.
    fishon

  20. >…they are not just a few. They are the norm.

    I respectfully disagree, and I’d suggest that neither you or I are qualified to make that statement.

    Marin is qualified to speak to it. His research and involvement in the community has given him a unique perspective.

    Many gays are angry and hurt. Most of them were mistreated by people like me.

    peace

    ms

  21. Patrick Lynch said:
    I think opposing sin is a waste of time.

    It does us absolutely no good to identify things to be against ‘because God is against them’ when the entirety of the Gospel life involves us loving God and each other and leaving everything else (including one another!) to His good judgment.
    ——-Dang, I was going to duck out of this discussion, but I can’t quite yet.
    Gal. 6:1 “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently….”—That doesn’t sound like God expected us to leave one another to His good judgement.
    fishon

  22. Jon Trouten says

    I was referred to this blog entry via another blog. It’s been interesting reading.

    1. Hate crime legislation won’t send pastors to jail for speaking out against homosexuality. It makes for good, but inaccurate, rhetoric.

    2. I’m a gay Christian. I’m a married gay Christian (married in the church to my husband back in 1997 and soon to be legally married in my state of Iowa — mostly likely in January 2010). I’m a married gay Christian with kids, whom we jointly adopted through the foster care system last year.

    Obviously, we have different understandings of scripture than most of you. I don’t believe that homosexuality is sinful, anymore than heterosexuality is sinful. Sin comes with what we do to others and with our bodies.

    Frankly speaking, I would never enter any of your churches. The expectation that I transform from being gay or become celibate — or that I be transformed by relationship with patient Christian friends/mentors: What would that mean? The dissolution of my marriage? The abandonment of our children? It’s an expectation that no other group is asked to make in order to join the modern church.

    I’m positive that celibacy can be a wonderful gift when freely offered but not as a tax. Even Paul admitted that we’re not all meant for such lives. And yet the church almost universally insists that gay men and women maintain lives of undesired celibacy or into mismatched heterosexual marriages.

    As any married person knows, marriage is not just about sex. It’s about devotion, emotional support, bonding. Your churches want me to give these relationshional aspects so that I can fit some behavioral requirement that was established in your church bylaws?

    For what? So that I can look good in the pews, only to go home to an empty home after church while most of you go home to your own unsacrificed families? I don’t think so.

  23. “He might pull a Prodigal Son on them and kill a calf for them anyways. Those among us who try so hard to keep the Commandments would be sooo mad…”

    lol

    The book does sound very interesting. Gonna keep an eye out for it, most definitely.

    Just wanted to say that I have friends who are very conservative Christians and who do hold to the “sin” belief but are extremely loving to people of all sexual orientations indiscriminately. They give of their time, money, resources, love, you name it to all. Far more than I ever have and likely ever will. So I gotta give a hat-tip to them for that. What Fishon says reminds me of them.

    On the other hand, I’m not quite so certain that I’m reading the Bible properly many times so I’m not so quick to do the sorting of sins. Essentially, I’m still trying to learn to follow God’s lead like the rest of the Bozo’s on the bus. And I’m a really slow learner apparently. Small steps.

  24. Big John wrote: “So I gues I’m asking the 64 million dollar question. How can a church engage the gay community without affirming it?”

    I believe the answer is you cannot. I do not see any way for the Christian community to bridge the divide with the gay community without affirming the sexual orientation.

    From my own experience, it is the lack of affirmation that is, at least in part, one of the reasons why there is anger towards Christians.

    If there is to be reconcilation, there must also be some sort of affirmation. “Go and sin no more” will not work here.

  25. Patrick Lynch,

    +1. I am not gay (just a female who cared more about asking hard questions and helping others than passing judgment, and was silly enough to think she was called to ordained ministry as a girl), but I was shunned nonetheless for other reasons. And even though I’ve long since healed from that, I have too many kind, loving, and decent gay and lesbian friends to be able to morally live with myself if i gave my prayers, presence, gifts, and service to a religion where they were not welcome. Most of us X-ers and Millennials have openly gay friends who are neither promiscuous nor evil, and I think that if more people had the much more Christ-like attitude Patrick describes, the evangelicals would not be having the population crisis they’re now seeing.

    Fishon,

    What if we agreed that Liberals’ “Ranting clowns” were balanced out by Conservatives’ “Ranting Clowns” and move on to the real issues? I don’t think anyone in this thread is equivalent to Fred Phelps just because of their beliefs on this very challenging topic, and I think most of the gay and gay-friendly readers and posters on this blog, not to mention your evangelism targets, would be more receptive to your message if you afforded them the same courtesy.

  26. ProdigalSarah says

    “It would be those in Portland, Or during the gay pride parade that I would be talking about. And Monk, they are not just a few. They are the norm.”

    A lot of what goes on at the Pride parades is camp. It’s about having one day to let loose and be outrageous for the fun of it. I know people who go and the rest of the year you would probably not know they were gay.

    This is what I don’t get:

    A sports star or a guy in popular music can go on TV and brag about having sex with over a thousand women in his career. No big deal, right?

    Let two people of the same sex commit to one another and you would think it’s the end of the world.

    I think our concept of relationship a little messed up. No, a lot messed up. How can family treat their gay son or daughter, sister or brother as less than human? How can they slam the door and completely shut them out of their lives? How is this Christian?

    Know why so many gay people look forward to the Pride parades? Because everybody needs to know there is at least one place in this world where they can find acceptance.

  27. fishon,
    Forgive me if I have offended you.
    I speak only for myself.
    RL

  28. I recently had an interesting experience in my chaplain ministry. We had a young gay man who was dying of AIDS and cancer. He’d had some bad experiences with religion, but agreed to let the chaplain visit and also wanted to see an Episcopal priest a friend recommended to him. So we visited together. Turns out the priest is gay and living in a committed relationship. Also turns out that the friend is a transgendered nurse who attends the same church. So, there we were, an odd quartet, all naming Jesus and his salvation as our only comfort and hope in time of need.

    I’ve not quite known how to process this experience theologically, but I do know that I joined in to pray for my dying friend, and I appreciated the support of some sympathetic friends who knew more than I ever could what he was going through.

  29. Why do evangelicals have to act like everyone is a ranting circus act?

    Because they watch too much TV.

    I wonder why so many Christians have a dog in this race?

    Is the concern coming from a love of the truth and/or a love for the person committing the sin or is it just because we don’t want certain kinds of people doing certain kinds of things?

    I have some gay people in my family a a few friends that are gay and my own personal bias is that I don’t care who they have honest, consenting sex with. My only concern is that God seems to have an issue with it.

    Contrary to the nonsense you’ll hear from the culture warriors, people who are not forcing someone, deceiving someone, or betraying someone to have sex are relatively decent people. yes, I believe it is sinful to have sex outside of marraige between a man and a woman, but the guy who steals your parking spot at the mall is doing more damage to the fabric of society than honest, loving gay people.

    The only reason homosexuality is any sort of concern for me is due to my understanding of scripture, but if I could be persuaded that the verses that I understand of condemning a certain behavior meant something different, then I would be totally fine with it.

    Would the rest of us?

  30. I co-taught Sunday School with a lesbian and she was one of the more devout Christians I’ve met.

    (You’d never know, because she looks like the “church lady” from the old Saturday Night Live)

    I think there is something in being wounded by the world that can make one a better Christian, more likely to love the least of these because they’ve been there.

    Of course, it could go the other way, as we see with many gays who absolutely hate Christians.

    It does take great courage and some kind of call from God for a gay person to enter a church, let alone become a disciple.

    I don’t think that anyone has brought the marriage / child-rearing issue up, but at the risk of being off topic, one of the gay couples I know adopted two children.

    Both children were African-American babies with AIDS. Babies no one else wanted. Babies who will probably die and break their parents hearts.

    You will forgive me if I say they act more Christ-like than I have courage to be.

  31. I have a personal stake in this discussion (a child struggling with her orientation) and I’ll offer this: It has been a very painful and soul searching couple of years. I had to drop the party line real quick or I would have lost her for good.

    I have no definitive answers yet, but the one thing I keep coming back to is God’s sovereignty. For some reason He has placed me and my daughter in this situation so that we can both learn to be more like Christ. Maybe he has done the same thing on a larger scale in evangelical and homosexual communities. Both side have much to learn.

  32. The nearest city to me was once described as the “closet capitol of the East”. My college had a large gay community. I have found it very possible to communicate with gays and lovingly explain my personal theological opinions, and listen to theirs. I believe gay sex is sinful. My gay friends know that I hold that belief, and although they may think me a Neanderthal for those beliefs, at least I love them enough to share what is to me the Truth. They also know I love them and would do anything for them that would not compromise my own morals. Only Jesus was not sinful. I am to share the Gospel and show the love of Jesus to all. He did not come to condemn, and I dare not.
    If love is the main ingredient and motive , people who disagree wholeheartedly can still interact in meaningful ways.

  33. My heart hurts reading this. At one point, I thought I was homosexual, but realized I was acting out of the need for love and friendship, not orientation. I still have homosexual friends that I desperately want to know Christ. However, I cannot reconcile the act with Scripture. Paul and Moses speak against it, and Jesus says that he fulfilled the law, which leaves me with little choice in the matter, if I truly wish to follow Him. However, it is specifically the act that is the issue, not the heart. God never forbids loving another person. I do think that there is a crowd (both right and left) that have driven this issue, so that many homosexuals feel required (within the homosexual community, and by the culture) to IDENTIFY with their homosexuality, which automatically breeds an us versus them mentality. It is our identification WITH our sin AS being who we ARE, that is part of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians speaks to and against. If we identify with our sin, and not with Christ, then we have a problem.

    We are currently in a crisis of thought and discourse in our society, where rational discussion will rarely be heard, and the issue of homosexuality is only one very small piece of it.

    Lastly, it is not just with homosexuality that this issue of noting sin versus accepting it occurs. In a sex-saturated culture (even without the pornography issue), trying to help young people understand that sex outside of marriage is bad (including revealing my own failure in that area and the issue it caused) is getting harder by the second. In revealing my failures, I’ve gotten shrugs. Such acts are no longer viewed by many in the Christian world as a big deal. I am a “post-modern”, and I grew up in this (in the San Francisco Bay Area, no less), yet as much I just want to just let it go, I am (still) surrendering myself to scripture, and what it tells me that God doesn’t like, or what God hates.

    Jesus loves us so much that he loves us where we are, but he loves us so much that he doesn’t want us to stay there.

    ProdigalSarah: you had an excellent question regarding sex only for procreation. I think a good place to go is not Christians, but the Jewish tradition (http://www.mechon-mamre.org/jewfaq/sex.htm)

  34. Rob,
    You didn’t offend me. I just disagreed with what I thought you were saying. That’s all. I don’t offend easy.
    Peace brother.
    fishon [jerry]

  35. George C asked:
    I wonder why so many Christians have a dog in this race?
    ———Because Jesus put us into the race. Go and make disciples–baptize–teach.

    George asked:Is the concern coming from a love of the truth and/or a love for the person committing the sin or is it just because we don’t want certain kinds of people doing certain kinds of things?
    ——–Though I love my daughter in a different way than a stranger, it is the same concern I had for a prositute daughter’s eternal life as I have for a practicing homosexual. And I am not unique. Millions of other Christian care for the same reason. Just because there are a few wackos giving us a bad name doesn’t mean we are all guilty.
    fishon

  36. Jeff,
    Was I wrong for NOT dropping the party line with my prostitute daugter? Yes, it is painful, which ever way a parent chooses to go. I wonder, was a friend of mine wrong for dropping the party line when he would not except and condone the drug dealing and Meth cooking his son was doing? Tough stuff we all have to deal with. Sin, dang, when it happens it hurts many of it.

    Believe it or not, I have empathy for any parent that has to go through any of this stuff with their child. I have been there.
    fishon

  37. This issue resonates with me, because I’m a Christian who struggles with same sex attractions. Unfortunately, my faith has really been strained due to the lack of understanding and support from the evangelical community. (I can’t imagine telling any Christians I know about my struggle, because of the comments they have made to me about homosexuality, not knowing my struggle) I feel pushed towards the gay community, because of the understanding and acceptance (although, I have no intention of embracing the gay lifestyle).

  38. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says

    Maybe you’ll think this is a stupid question, but…why is everybody so sure that St. Paul is right about homosexuality? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that he simply absorbed the prejudices of the time, as with slavery etc.? Or are you all (except the Unitarian) committed to the idea that everything in the Bible (or just NT?) is correct? (“Even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff,” as Homer Simpson once said.)

    Somewhere, a bunch of gays are having a parallel discussion about evangelical Christians. And someone will make the suggestion that rather than simply confront you with rainbows and leather chaps and all that, they should take time to get to know you as people, and only then trying to drag you off into the bushes!

    I look forward to the day when evangelical Christians–heedless of the opinion of society as well as their own financial interests–kick out their divorced members in shame, and launch political campaigns against the legal recognition of remarriage.

  39. JoanieD says

    Thanks for the book recommendation, Michael. I will put that on my ever-growing list!

    I have a number of friends I went to high school with who happen to be gay or lesbian and I have some other friends I don’t see often who are also. What comes to my mind is that it is almost impossible to view them as being any different than they are. In other words, I cannot see them “learning” to be heterosexual. And for those people who say, “Fine, they are homosexual but then they need to learn to be celibate” I can’t help but think that a committed gay couple, raising a family, being good neighbors, helping each other to grow in love for one another, the world and God are people that we have no need to “fear” and no need to “shun” and no need to try to persuade to “repent.” Think of a heterosexual man having many partners, using women as disposable objects. It’s the people who USE people as objects that are the problem.

    I KNOW what the Bible says and I am going to choose to believe that it is the promiscuous homosexuals that Paul and others feel must repent. I could be wrong about that and if I am and Paul (and others) really feel that a person attracted to people of the same sex cannot be part of the congregation, then I will have to say that Paul was not perfect as he tells us many times and MAYBE, like a commenter says above, he was wrong. I know, I know…thinking anything in the Bible is wrong takes us down a slippery slope. But, if I am going to be wrong, then I am going to be wrong in an attempt to be loving towards all people. And I cannot believe it would be loving to shun people who are doing their best to know and love people and God. The people writing the letters to the churches that we find in the New Testament were still being perfected by God. They were not perfect. They were and we are on the road to perfection but they and we have not completed that journey.

    If we started kicking people out of the church who do any of the things listed in the Bible as being sinful, there would be no one in the church (or very, very few).

    For what it’s worth, that’s my two cents. I know this doesn’t make me a good Catholic. Again, it makes it hard for me to know what I am. I have been attracted to the writings of Anglicans like C.S. Lewis and N.T. Wright (and now I see from a recent post from Michael that I should read J.I. Packer too) so if I hadn’t been raised Catholic and feel that it is “home” despite problems that it has, I likely would be Anglican.

  40. Clay Knick says

    Marin is a missionary to a world many of us know nothing about. We need to listen, really listen, to him. Does that mean we have to agree with each and everything he says? Perhaps not. But we need to listen and listen closely.

  41. Memphis Aggie says

    Half the time my disagreements with someone are based on my misunderstanding.
    So when I first skimmed over this post I missed something crucial and that makes all the difference. Michael says “this combination of compassionate listening, repentance, passion for the Gospel … ” There it is: repentance. Now everything is fine.

    What I dislike when I hear or read about homosexuality outreach programs is the refusal to admit sin and repent. It doesn’t matter if this sin is worse than that one but it does matter if you ignore it completely. Since the elevation of Bishop Schori in the Episcopalian community it’s reasonable to wonder whether someone else is putting outreach and politics above the Gospel. My first question is: Is this another whitewash, another denial or minimization of sin in order to be more accommodating? This attitude is not rare in the Catholic world.

    Now I’m all for open doors and honesty and heartfelt outreach as long as sin is still sin and the need for forgiveness is still recognized. It’s perfectly normal to struggle with sin and have to go back, repent and confess and repent and confess again and again. I have no problem with that either, especially since I live that way myself. As long as it’s clear that this book isn’t espousing that we look the other way at sin, then I’m interested. It’s not real charity if it doesn’t include reconciliation with God. Some skepticism is warranted given the wide array of modern Christian practice and the build up in the above post about suppressing your knowledge of verses. However if this approach is authentically Biblical and effectively compassionate at the same time it really would be a treasure.

  42. rich w: you wrote

    I feel pushed towards the gay community, because of the understanding and acceptance (although, I have no intention of embracing the gay lifestyle).

    I’ve never had your temptations, exactly, but I’d ask you to find christians that will love you in the midst of your struggles. They are out there (both the christians and the struggles ….) You may have to look for awhile, but I’m praying God takes you there.

    Greg R

    Fishon: you demonstrate both conviction and willingness to learn and grow: hang in there.

  43. “I believe the answer is you cannot. I do not see any way for the Christian community to bridge the divide with the gay community without affirming the sexual orientation.”

    Two words for you: AIDS HOSPICE.

    A much tougher question: why didn’t you think of that?

    Lets forget about the ‘Christian community’ – that’s just a silly synonym for ‘church people’ anyways.

    The only thing about us that matters to Christ is our faith in Him and our obedience to His teachings – a faith which He alone knows. Calling ourselves the ‘Christian community is a dodge if we think we’re some kind of vanguard against sin: followers of Jesus aren’t in the business of affirming or disaffirming things.

    Fishon’s quote makes my point: “Gal. 6:1 “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently….” – You -who are Spiritual- not carnal, etc.

    Who among us is spiritual?

    The Christian has to know he isn’t in order to truly trust in God (and not the mere letter of the Law as written in the Bible!) as the foundation of his righteousness.

    And yes, if we can’t restore a person to right action AND do it gently, we can’t do it in the name of Jesus, and it would be better for us to wear millstone jewelry than to misdirect them with our fear of sin, contempt of them, and anger at failure in our midst.

    The spiritual people, the ones who don’t act like we do but whose thoughts, actions and personalities are reified in the Holy Spirit out of trust in Him, succeed where we fail. They correct others without sinning, and lead people to faith where we would drive them away with stones.

    Needless to say, these people aren’t ‘the Christian community’. We are. And it’s to us that all of Matthew 7 is addressed:

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matt 7:21-23)

    Tell me this: is our complete failure of imagination when it comes to loving one another not the sure Earthly proof that God DOES NOT KNOW US?

    Christians have cast out lots of demons, prophesied endlessly, claimed an infinite number of ridiculous miracles – and it’s gotten us basically nowhere or, worse, borne bad fruit. Why?

  44. On second thought, maybe you have a point..

    “I believe the answer is you cannot. I do not see any way for the Israelite community to bridge the divide with the leper community without affirming their grievous sins against God.”

  45. Memphis Aggie says

    Father Z’s site had the right formulation, although in another context. Christ calls us to be in the world but not of the world. That is to be actively engaged in the world but detached from the worldly. That’s the balance I hope is expressed in this book.

  46. One of the things I recognize in discussions like this (which I more often hear in a liberally-dominant environment) is how quickly people resort to stock phrases and caricatures, and how much those two are related. One side busts out their clichés which the other side immediately recognizes and uses to pigeonhole the first prompting their own stock responses. Off goes the dance. (Which is nice and healthy in this thread, but at least polite.)

    How do we recognize and break our own caricatures to genuinely understand the other person? How do we avoid tripping the caricature alarms in the other person so they hear what we’re saying and not what they think we’re saying?

    I tend to intellectualize things and think in terms of rhetoric. I’m assuming Marin goes deeper than this but along a similar vein. If so, I do intend read his work.

  47. Teenage

    May I suggest a thought experiment about your question about homosexuality?

    If it were an innate good, then good things would come out of it? Right?

    So just consider mental health, physical health and stable relationships.

    Are they, in either North America or Europe, about the same or better than heterosexuals?

    (I chose NA and Europe because of the relative freedom in both societies)

    From everything that I have read, the answer is negative in all three categories. This is not to say anything about an individual. I’m sure that there are homosexuals who are healthier and more stable than some heterosexuals. In fact, I probably know some.

  48. ProdigalSarah says

    “Was I wrong for NOT dropping the party line with my prostitute daugter? Yes, it is painful, which ever way a parent chooses to go. I wonder, was a friend of mine wrong for dropping the party line when he would not except and condone the drug dealing and Meth cooking his son was doing? Tough stuff we all have to deal with. Sin, dang, when it happens it hurts many of it. Believe it or not, I have empathy for any parent that has to go through any of this stuff with their child. I have been there.
    fishon”

    I am horrified that you would compare being gay with prostitution and drug use. Wow! No wonder so many parents are slamming the door on their children, if they are listening to pastors with your views.
    My gay son is the same person today as he was as a smiling little kid who loved to help me bake cookies.

    He has always been creative. These days he spends all of his free time working on his art. He doesn’t go to clubs or parties. He has never used drugs. He works. He goes to church and he creates art. Wow, I wonder how those Christians that have purchased his art would feel if they knew that it came from the creative hand of a gay man?

    It breaks my heart to think how easily families and churches can turn on their own. No wonder so many gay young people are driven to suicide. Can you imagine the pain of having your own family turn you out, to say that the person you are is no different from being a prostitute or drug addict? Can you seriously believe that any person would choose this pain for their life?

    Many of the gay young people I know are so creative. Perhaps God gave them to us so that we might have more beautiful art and music is this world.

  49. ProdigalSarah says

    “It’s the people who USE people as objects that are the problem.”

    Exactly!

  50. ProdigalSarah says

    “This issue resonates with me, because I’m a Christian who struggles with same sex attractions. Unfortunately, my faith has really been strained due to the lack of understanding and support from the evangelical community.”

    Rich,
    Please don’t let this lack of understanding touch your Faith. Christ is with you regardless of the understanding or lack of understanding from people. When I feel alone and misunderstood I reach out my hand and I know that although the hand that holds onto me may be invisible, it is there. It will always be there because it has always been there no matter how much I doubted.

    Do a Google search for gay-friendly churches in your area. You should be able to find a pastor that you can talk to. There are Christians that will listen, although you may have to seek them out.