This post is the first in a series of two describing my experiences with The Marin Foundation, Andrew Marin, and his book, Love is an Orientation. This post is more of an overview of my thoughts on the book and the work of The Marin Foundation. Part 2 will chronicle my visit with Andrew Marin which took place at the end of July.
Last week, Friday, on my way to visit friends and family down in Missouri, I had an Amtrak layover in Chicago.
Knowing that this was an inevitable part of my travel day, I sought out something to kill my 6 hours in the Windy City. But before I tell that story, I should give a little background.
A few months ago, I read Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation, and it had given me a lot of “food for thought”. Working in a Christian bookstore, I am aware of the typical fare for books talking about homosexuality and the church. The grand majority consist of warning the church of the “gay agenda” and touting “love the sinner, hate the sin” while stirring up so much fear as to render that mantra an impossibility. This book was different:
Andrew Marin’s life changed forever when his three best friends came out to him in three consecutive months. Suddenly he was confronted with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community (GLBT) firsthand. And he was compelled to understand how he could reconcile his friends to his faith.
In an attempt to answer that question, he and his wife relocated to Boystown, a predominantly GLBT community in Chicago. And from his experience and wrestling has come his book, Love Is an Orientation, a work which elevates the conversation between Christianity and the GLBT community, moving the focus from genetics to gospel, where it really belongs.
Why are so many people who are gay wary of people who are Christians? Do GLBT people need to change who they are? Do Christians need to change what they believe? Love Is an Orientation is changing the conversation about sexuality and spirituality, and building bridges from the GLBT community to the Christian community and, more importantly, to the good news of Jesus Christ.
Andrew Marin has been living in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago for the last 10 years. First on his own, and now through The Marin Foundation, he has been helping those who have rejected the church find Christ and work out what it means to follow Him.
When I first started to read Marin’s book, I was looking for the chapter when he would answer those hot-button questions. However, the book didn’t lay out simple yes/no answers to any of the yes/no questions that both the church and the gay community tend to ask of someone who stands in between.
- “Is homosexuality a sin?”
- “Do you think gays and lesbians were born that way?”
- “Can a GLBT person change their sexual orientation?”
- “Do you think someone can be gay and Christian?”
- “Are GLBT people going to hell?”
When Marin does address these questions, he answers them not with a yes or no answer but with deeper discussion that attempts to elevate the conversation. He has experienced that when someone asks these questions from either side of the fence it’s because that person wants to know which “side” you’re on. They want to know if you are an ally or an enemy. As long as we are thinking in terms of allies and enemies, then we aren’t building bridges and we aren’t loving those around us.
By the end of the book, I realized that I didn’t need to know Marin’s exact stances on all of these questions. Rather, I was left to keep thinking and wrestling with these ideas for months after I closed the book and passed it off to a friend. So often we desire books that will tell us what to think, what to believe, and how to believe it. Love is an Orientation is the rare book that encourages discussion and dialog to continue after you’ve set it down.
Since I finished this book at the end of May, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Through reading posts and interacting with folks from all across the spectrum on Andrew’s blog, I have had the chance to keep working out what this means for how I live and for how I love others. The blog has also been a good way to keep up with what The Marin Foundation has been doing in Chicago.
At the end of June, The Marin Foundation showed up at the Chicago Pride Weekend with a message that they were sorry for how the church had treated them. Their signs had messages like “I’m sorry for how the church has hurt you” and “I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe. Sorry.” You can read more about the “I’m Sorry Campaign” here.
While it was not their intention, this simple message from The Marin Foundation to the GLBT community gained national attention. In the time since then, Andrew and The Marin Foundation have received a lot of support and encouragement from folks world-wide who believe in what they are doing. They have also faced some criticism from both Christians and the gay community. Some in the gay community have accused Marin of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing seeking to lure them in and then force them to change their orientation. Some Christians have said that he is too liberal by not expecting orientation change from those he interacts with.
You can’t blame either side for being skeptical of what Andrew and The Marin Foundation are doing in Chicago. The gay community has been scarred by Christians who have treated them poorly and dehumanized them. The church is afraid that the things they believe in are under attack. However, Andrew’s goal is to build bridges between the church and the gay community where both sides can learn to relate to one another outside of the rhetoric of the culture war where both sides demonize the other.
As someone who has been a part of the church my entire life, the stories found in his book were eye-opening. Andrew loves gay people. He also loves Jesus, and he longs for those he meets to come to know Jesus in a life-giving way. This kind of love for the gay community is rarely expressed well, and I wanted to know more of what it looks like for The Marin Foundation to put this into practice.
This is why, when I realized I had plenty of time to kill in Chicago, I contacted The Marin Foundation to sit down with them face-to-face. I got in touch with Kevin Harris, a staff member of The Marin Foundation, and we set up a time to meet during my afternoon in Chicago.
To Be Continued…
Since this blog is always meant to host discussion, and I realize that a “To Be Continued…” is more likely to cause people to hold their comments until later, I’d like to add a few questions to this post.
- For those of you unfamiliar with Marin’s work, what are some of your first thoughts or first impressions?
- For those of you who have heard of The Marin Foundation or read Love is an Orientation, what are some of your thoughts on what they’re trying to accomplish?