December 13, 2017

Love Is An Orientation: Reader Reviews Part 2

3626Here are five more reader reviews of the IVP book Love Is An Orientation by Andrew Marin. Thanks to Chris Giammona for the book donation and to these readers for their good responses. Visit Andrew at LoveisAnOrientation.com.

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Andrew Marin left me with several take-aways through his book, Love is an Orientation. The most important was helping me see GLBT people as real people with real struggles, rather than as the enemy. As I read Andrew’s description of the account of John, who at avery young age realized he was attracted to other boys and asked God repeatedly to take the attraction away, I was able to actually imagine myself in John’s shoes. I remember what it was like to come of age and deal with confusing opposite-gender sexual feelings that I had never experienced before. To add the complication of same gender attraction on top of that already confusing time would have been too much to bear. Compassion has to be the foundation of any evangelical’s discussions with the GLBT community. This realization hit home to me in a very personal way. I had a gay roomate during my freshman year at a conservative evangelical university. When I discovered his sexual orientation, my attitude towards him changed and I was far from compassionate compassionate towards him. Even after I learned the facts about childhood sexual abuse he experienced, I isolated myself from him and basically cut off the relationship. I wish I could go back and re-do the way I treated him.  I wish I could have seen him as a broken creation of God, just like me, who desired to be in a right relationship with his creator (I happen to know he did desire this).
 
The second major takeaway is simply the concept of seeking to build bridges rather than de-homosexualize people. We have to realize that, regardless of whether same-sex attraction is genetic or environmental, the attraction is not a choice. So it is counter productive to start our discussions with the GLBT community with our arguments about why they should not be the way they are, even if we believe very strongly in our reasons. Our starting point with the GLBT community should be the same starting point that it would be with any other person or group: that God loves them and wants to have a relationship with them, and therefore we love them and want to have a relationship with them. Andrew makes the point throughout the book that our job is to love GLBT people and to help them see how they can have a relationship with Christ, and that we should leave any changing that needs to take place up to God. I found myself throughout the book wanting to jump ahead and say “but how does fellowship work with openly gay people who become christians…or what about standing up for biblical truth…or what about…”. But I think Andrew makes a valid point in saying that GLBT people, and christians in particular, are on a spiritual journey, just as we straight christians are. They can’t be expected to change overnight just as I can’t be expected to changed from my sinful nature overnight. Ultimately, I agree with Andrew that evangelicals need to have the faith that Christ will accomplish the work that he intends to accomplish in each of our lives, and that our job is not to try to force the change we expect in the timeframe we expect.
 
I am extremely thankful to have read this book. It has opened my eyes to the damage done by evangelicals over the last 30 or so years in mishandling the conversation with the GLBT. As Christ’s followers, we must engage with the people who Christ would engage with if he were physically present in our culture. No doubt this would include the GLBT community, and I believe his approach would be much closer to what Andrew Marin is advocating that the status-quo evangelical response to homosexuality in recent years. We have much damage to undo.

by Clay
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Many Jesus followers are clueless to the depth of pain and rejection the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual & transgender) community has received (I place myself in this camp!), often at the hands of those who are called Christian.  Much of the militant anger spewed out by some in the GLBT community is a response to this pain.
 
It is great to see a follower of Jesus reach out in love, acceptance, personal vulnerability and hope to these hurting children of our Creator.  Andrew Marin states: “all the GLBT community wants from God is (a) to have the same intimate relationship with God that evangelicals claim to have; and (b) to safely enter into a journey toward an inner reconciliation of who they are sexually, spiritually and socially.”  The key here is the word “safely”.  In order for them to enter into a journey, they need to feel safe.  As Andrew Marin tells us; our responsibility is to be bridge builders between evangelical Christianity and the GLBT community.
 
One final comment by the author I would like to mention.  He makes the statement that he found himself out Jesused by gays and lesbians when they turned out to be more compassionate and selfless than most Christians he knew.  It is important that we get to know “the other” in order to break down our own prejudices and misperceptions.
 
Love them.  Accept them where they are at in the journey – even if that journey leads them to the conclusion that they are gay and Christian.  Where this gets difficult is involvement in a local congregation and church membership.  Andrew challenged me.  Yesterday I invited a former teen in our church youth group who I heard is gay to become my friend on Facebook.  I am praying that he responds.

by Joe

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Ever since the prospect of Gay Marriage became a reality in our country, it’s safe to say that the Evangelical Church at large has been in full panic mode. In the last few elections “Gay Marriage” appears to become a litmus test issue for all involved, taking its place next to the time-tested Evangelical litmus test of abortion. As television, movies, and society in general have become more comfortable with characters and situations involved gay people, the panic seems to get louder. If it was difficult for gays and conservative Christians to talk about their beliefs before, in 2009 things seem to be as difficult as ever. I pray that this book and Marin’s ministry will continue to be a starting point for many fearful Evangelicals and distrusting gay people. We all have cliches about the other side. Evangelicals can point to parades of nearly-naked people kissing on the news, while gay people can point to protesters screaming judgment upon attenders of a gay person’s funeral. Both probably make us feel justified in our hatred, but the cliches can change when presented with real-life situations. That’s what happened to Andrew Marin after three of his friends came out to him.

I expected Marin’s book Love is an Orientation to either be a defense of someone staying in a homosexual lifestyle or the story of a man who ministered mostly to people with the hope that they’d go straight. The book was neither, and it is richer for avoiding this. Marin talks about his experiences in the Boystown neighborhoods in Chicago and the triumphs and setbacks he’s had when ministering to gay people. The constant theme in his stories seems to be demolishing stereotypes: on one hand helping Christians see the damaging things they believe homosexuals, the other helping gays see the Cross and Jesus without the wagging finger of the church. Also helping out this book are the subjects he refuses to address. If you’re wondering just what percentage of people are gay, if people are born that way, or if gay marriage should be allowed you won’t read about it here. As Marin rightfully points out, these are issues that deal little with the heart condition and a person’s relationship with God — they’re used to score points for one side or another.

Marin’s heart is on his sleeve in much of this, you can tell that this is a book by someone immersed in the world and people he writes about. Marin is not one who showed up just long enough to pray the prayer and bring home some cool pictures – Boystown and his ministry to gay people are his life. Years of ministering have gone into this, and it’s clear by the number of anecdotes he tells. A common theme he brings up is the hunger of gay people to know God, something that both stuck with him and even myself to an extent. Then I remembered his stories about young people who prayed for years a variation of the same prayer: Make me straight. I couldn’t imagine the years of begging God to take away a temptation the church told me would send me to hell if I entertained it once. It’s not that hard to think of the gay community as a place filled with people feeling rejected by God until a man with patience and Love agreed to hear them out. Marin reminds Christians to die to themselves, die to their personal fright and concerns, and to listen and love gay people. The point is that we’re not praying that they become straight, the point is that we’re praying they become followers of Christ.

The past few years of watching accusations fly between factions has been wearying enough for me as a bystander, I’m sure it’s a lot more draining to those who either are gay or work closely with gay people. For awhile I’ve started to wonder what all of our Marriage Amendment rallies and “Marriage = Man + Woman” bumper stickers would look like to a gay man who wanted to know Christ. For Christians to reach the gay populace to show them love, we’re going to have to do what Jesus told us to do: Die to ourselves (not our beliefs, but rather our comfort, our fears, and our desires to prove ourselves right), and follow him. I’m grateful for Andrew Marin’s book and his ministry so that they can better see Jesus in the midst of a lot of culture war rhetoric. This book is going to be passed around a lot in the upcoming months.

by Justin

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Thanks for the opportunity to read this book. It allows us to understand what the GLBT community experiences at the hand of the Evangelical church. We have done great damage and created a gulf between Christians and the GLBT community. This is not a book to teach us how to evangelize among them, though that comes in time. It teaches us how to build bridges toward them, to live among them. Andrew states that “God is the one to judge, the Holy Spirit is to convict, we are called to love.” Many gay Christians came from churches that judged them or removed them from the church. How can we expect the GLBT community to seek Christ when the church which is the body of Christ rejects them or treats them as “lepers”?
 
This book changed my ideas about the GLBT lifestyle, as it will anyone who reads it. He discusses the five Biblical texts that reference homosexuality and how it is interpreted. Many gay churches believe a monogamous relationship is OK in a biblical reference. Genesis 19 is the Sodom & Gomorrah story with the men at Lot’s door demanding the visitors come out for them; but Ezekiel 16 shows the destruction was due to Sodom’s injustice. The verses in Leviticus discusses all the rules in the Holiness Code and how Israel was to be separate from their neighbors. Romans 1:26-27 says how God gave them over because they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and did not acknowledge God.” He gave them over to their desires because they rejected Him, not because of any same-sex attraction (or any envy, murder, gossip, disobedient to parents, etc.). In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 we need to understand the city of Corinth at the time and the Greek definition of “male prostitute and homosexual offender. Here is where gay Christians try to prove Paul was talking about pederasty (sex with boys) and not committed monogamous same sex relationships. 1 Timothy 1:9-11 is often mentioned in homosexual discussions; but the Greek translation here is for “perverts” and not “homosexual offender”. These verses are the heart of the book, and we need to study scripture and not just pick out one verse to base our life mission on. I do not know Greek, and will study these verses better myself. I disagree with Marin on his translation of some of these verses. Or does he use the translation of the gay church?

Marin lived on the streets of Boystown for two years making relationships before being known as an Evangelical Christian. Sometimes it can take that long to be accepted. If he started “preaching” right away, he would have been rejected and forced to leave. I cannot imagine living and raising my family in that type of community. God chose Marin for this ministry, He prepared him and walked with him during the hardest times. The stories of many GLBT people who have been rejected by the church tore at my heart. I am thankful I had the chance to read this book, and writing this report helped me understand the GLBT community better.

by Gale
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Andrew Marin has done the Evangelical community a tremendous service in his
book, Love is an Orientation.   Homosexuality is a truly polarizing topic.
The loudest voices are either hateful toward gay people or uncritically
affirming of the lifestyle.  Marin bridges the gap between these two
extremes in a new and fresh way.  More than that, the lessons in his book go
beyond the topic of the book.  It really has more to do with how we interact
with others who may be living life outside the mainstream. It involves
turning the microscope inward and relieving ourselves of the need to be
hypercritical of others.

What should the attitude of Christians be toward those outside the
mainstream?  The answer is love and acceptance.  Marin has helped us
understand that the real issue is not whether homosexuality is a sin, but on
what basis does God accept us?  Based on the premise that all of humanity is
tainted with sin, including Evangelicals, the resulting good news of the
gospel is love and acceptance.  God, in Christ, has loved and accepted me.
I should imitate this love and acceptance by generously offering it to
others.  Having a thorough understanding of this truly good news will remove
the need to hurry along someone’s sanctification; gay or otherwise.  In
other words, we don’t need to quickly move from Jesus loves you to….you
need to change your orientation.  Instead, we are free to build
relationships, love people where they are, share Christ, and let the chips
fall where they may.  It’s not my responsibility to change a person.  A
cautionary note-we may not like where the chips fall, but our liking it is
not necessary.  Our role is to love and accept.  Let God do the rest.  At
the end of the day, I have to answer to God for how I’ve lived, not for how
my neighbor, homosexual or otherwise, lives.

I’m hesitant to offer any criticism for a number of reasons primarily
because I don’t review books often (who am I anyways?) and I think the
merits far outweigh anything negative.  As with anyone who is passionate
about what they believe and is immersed in their ministry, I think it is
important for Marin to remember that not everyone lives in “Boy’s Town” as
he does.  He gives the impression that all of us encounter gay people
everyday like he does.  Most of us in ministry have to balance our time and
energy toward a multitude of diverse people and function more as
“generalists” rather than “specialists.”  I’m not gearing up or preparing to
launch a “gay outreach” like Marin.  Nevertheless, this is one more tool in
my toolbox that will greatly assist me in my ministry.

by Mike

Comments

  1. A great blog dealing with these relational matters is ‘Bridging The Gap’ found at http://btgproject.blogspot.com/ . The subtitle is ‘conversations on befriending our gay neighbours’.

  2. I guess I’m going to have to read this book. The questions are driving me crazy, and I can’t stop thinking that if this were a book about building bridges to any other traditionally (as in: of the Church) unchaste lifestyle the reviews would be quite different.

    • If you mean that if the book were about building bridges with swingers that the reviews wouldn’t be as tolerant and compassionate, you’re probably right. I was part of the round 1 reviews and had a similar reaction to the reviews above. I think there is a big difference though. If a church leader was to speak to a promiscuous straight person about his pre-martial sexual behavior, it’s much different. The choices for that person wouldn’t be either change your sexual behavior or become permanent celibate.

      But the big difference is that other unchaste lifestyles haven’t generally been so challenged by the church (which is quite hypocritical). I’m hesitant to call them Christians, but the you don’t see the God Hates Fags people with God Hates Divorcess or God Hates People who Engage in Pre-marital sex signs.

      There doesn’t appear to be a need for bridge building with teenagers having sex with their girlfriends.

      • But what would we counsel a married man whose wife is in a coma, catatonic? I’m not RC, but it should be remembered that RC priests and nuns bear the same onus. What about China? Men have a real problem over there finding wives. What should we say to the them?

        “There doesn’t appear to be a need for bridge building with teenagers having sex with their girlfriends.”

        As a former teen father, my experience differs greatly.

        • Those are certainly difficult situations, but they’re not analogous. People aren’t generally telling the spouse of the comatose that they’re going to hell for having sexual feelings for someone besides their wife. There aren’t demonstrations and protests by Christians against them. They generally aren’t discriminated against or treated differently by the church.

          In most evangelical churches, even a chaste gay person would feel unwelcomed. We’re talking apples and oranges here.

          • I’ve been in a lot of churches, and I’ve never heard a church teach that someone with homosexual feelings is going to hell. As for what the news has shown: I feel safe in calling Fred Phelps’ following a cult–and a dang small one at that. Jerry Falwell admitted that some of the things he said were malicious, and ungodly. Beyond those two, it’s difficult to find any real anti-homosexual “movement”.

            “Unwelcomed”…that feeling was what brought me to my knees before God. I count it a blessing.

            I don’t believe we are talking apples and oranges, but I don’t believe in the uniqueness of any sin. Hannah Aredt’s “banality of evil” comes to mind. As I said, I’ll have to read it.

        • BB: You haven’t heard a church teach that someone with homosexual feelings is going to hell, because often the issue is ignored (from the pulpit) and such assumptions are generally accepted.

          I greatly respect Marin and appreciate the effort imonk has put forth in an attempt to ensure the success of Marin’s work.

  3. This issue tears at my heart and my comfort zone. To me, I am caught between two very real convictions.

    On one hand, I believe strongly that people are people and their humanity should be the primary focus of conversations and ministry. On the other, I have a deeply held and tested conviction that sexuality is so incredibly powerful in its effect that it cannot simply be left to trends, choices and attraction.

    So what do I do?

    I come to the very tough admission that I am powerless in the face of it all. The best I can do is break bread with people from all walks of life and pray that His spirit will use me to point them towards His love and desire for thier lives. And pray that He will do the same with them for me.

    • There are LOTS of issues, and sub-issues here, but one of them,and a very big one, is :

      what does the gospel of Jesus Christ say about homosexuality, and by extension, to homosexuals ? Yes, I know they are much more than a collection of sexual preference and expression…..the question still stands (for me at least)

      not making this a sermonette, here, but how we minister with and to the GLBT community will be shaped by how we answer this question, among others.

      the shed blood upon all of us broken, lost coins
      Greg R

  4. Tom Meacham says:

    I’ve known a number of people who knew they were Christian before they knew they were gay, lesbian or bisexual. Many of them are far more conservative than I am! Google Marsha Stevens, who wrote the song “For Those Tears I Died (Come to the Waters)” back in the ’70s.

    I was once part of a Lutheran church that was affirming and welcoming to LGBT people. We had Catholics and conservative Protestants who came because they felt shut out of the denominations they were brought up in. And some LGBT folks left their Unitarian church and joined us because they had been looking for a Christian congregation that would accept them.

    I know we will all defend to the death our interpretation of Scripture concerning homosexuality, but we are missing a mission opportunity — a lot of LGBT people are looking for a caring community and something to believe in. Also a pastoral opportunity, because a lot of LGBT people were raised Christian and still identify themselves as Christian. An awful lot of evangelicals, pentecostals and Catholic Christians wind up Unitarians this way. And the Unitarians do a commendable job of healing the wounds inflicted on LGBT people, both by the church and secular society.

  5. I hear that.

  6. I wish evangelicals would strike the phrase “the homosexual lifestyle” (or “the gay lifestyle” if they’re feeling charitable) from their vocabularies. Multiple reviewers above couldn’t resist that irritating turn of phrase.

    Gay folks, like straight folks, practice many different styles of living. There is no single, unified “gay lifestyle.” Some gays are celibate; some have many sex partners. Some gays are jerks; some gays are kind. Some gays go to the opera; some gays go baseball games. Some gays are Christians, some are secular.

    Regarding Marin, I remain quite skeptical. He seems like an inveterate self-promoter (e.g., he named a foundation after _himself_ at the tender age of 24). It’s also clear that he’s less tight with gay folks than he presents himself, as a recent Chicago Reader article about him made clear. My beef with his book is that he refused to feature gays who left Christianity and were happily secular (a large group of people).

    • What would you have named the foundation?
      As far as the article you are referring to, and the beef you have, Marin made it clear that not everyone likes him nor turns to Christ. Remember the part where he presented at a gay seminar and the two people at the back waited in line to talk to him? The woman appeared to not have any response at all (to Marin or his presentation), while the man did. And do you expect every single GLBT person in America to just love Marin (or any other Christian for that matter)? Also, seems to me there would be criticism to anything or anyone who is making a difference.

      One thing I loved about this book is that it could apply to any group of people, not just GLBT people. I think many people get caught up in little details, but I haven’t heard anyone who disagreed with the premise of the book–Love people and point them to Christ.

      • I would not have named it after myself, unless I’d already accomplished something in my life. The Nelson Mandela Foundation is fine, but when you’re a random 20 something who hasn’t really accomplished anything in life, naming a foundation after yourself reeks of shameless self promotion and arrogance. I’ve heard humility is a virtue among you Christian folks….

        If it’s Marin or Fred Phelps, I’ll gladly take Marin, but I mostly wish that Christians would leave LGBT folks alone. Also, Marin consistently refuses to say whether or not he thinks it’s okay for gay folks to be sexual with each other. He lets Christians think that he’s trying to “witness” to gay folks and get them to convert (and presumably stop being gay and/or having gay sex). He lets gays think that he is the rare evangelical who actually approves of homosexuality (though he refuses to say this).

        Hence, I accuse Marin of being a two-faced self-promoter, telling everyone what they want to hear. But there’s so much anxiety in the evangelical world about growing acceptance of gay folks that there’s surely plenty of money and fame to be had in his racket.

      • Also, I do disagree with the premise of the book.

        I’ll take the love (which has been shockingly absent from Christians toward gay folks for about two millennia), but please keep the Christ-pointing to yourselves. You lack any credibility to do among LGBT folks and best I can tell, your good news for LGBT folks is to be sexless and single, which most of us will take a pass on.

        • Thanks Todd. We’re going to keep pushing the book here, and my advice to you would be this: Maris is doing more good for your community among evangelicals than anyone you can find. You may disagree- and you might want to read the book first btw- but there’s going to be a lot less stupidity and hateful rhetoric because Marin has the spine to stand up and do what he does.

          If you want to be put everyone who disagrees with gay marriage in the same bin, go ahead. I get death threats…. fairly regularly, but I’ve decided that’s the nut case fringe. I’m assuming that the people who come to this blog and say “Thanks for being different and promoting a civil discussion” mean it sincerely.

          • As I said, I’d prefer evangelicals take Marin’s attitude than Fred Phelp’s (i.e., I’m not putting all evangelicals in the same bin). However, it’s rather sad that a message of basic human decency towards gay folks is considered so “courageous” and “radical” among evangelicals.

            If Marin can reduce rampant evangelical homophobia, good for him (and us gays), but his portrayal of gays in his book (which I have read) was deeply irritating to me. I did not see myself and the many LGBT folks I know and love–the majority of whom had some version of a Christian upbringing–in the people he portrayed. He systematically refused to portray any gays who were happy, well adjusted and secular. Instead, he fell back into the old missionary trope of broken, sad gays who really are longing to be just like him: Christian. Perhaps he had to portray gays this way for his (straight) evangelical audience to have sympathy for them, but to me, it belied a certain arrogance that comes with refusing to believe that others could lead hold radically different beliefs than yours and lead very different lives that are nonetheless happy, fulfilled, ethical, and deeply meaningful. Perhaps my basic beef is with exclusivist Christian soteriology and the attitude it breeds among some Christians about the possibility of happiness and fulfillment among non-Christian people.

            Lest I be the needlessly aggressive gay atheist interloper, thank you iMonk for hosting a civil discussion and working to fight evangelical homophobia. I do hope that my secular gay voice may offer a different perspective as well, and I apologize if I breached the bounds of civility in my above comments.

          • Sorry, but I happen to believe that the likes of Fred Phelps are more useful to the cause of equality than the nicey nice, civil people. Fred Phelps makes it harder for people to afgree with the premise that homosexuals should be denied basic human rights. He is a whackjob, and he makes the evil people who agree with him look like whackjobs. When you have a bigot in a suit, they are more dangerous.

        • Thanks for your honesty, Todd. I’ll have to admit I had you pegged as coming from a different perspective, but now I see your perspective more clearly. Though we may disagree on certain points, there is much value in looking at new or different perspectives, and I needed that! Thanks, IMonk, for a blog that promotes discussion on such a variety of issues with a variety of perspectives!

  7. I have an incredible amount of admiration for Andrew Marin’s work.

  8. If this book helps Christians to act with more compassion, support and understanding towards those with a homosexual orientation then it will have done a mighty good for the world. Not having read the book, I find the title worries me. Love is most definitely NOT an ‘orientation’ – in essence it is a person, or rather Person – God; and on a practical level for us it is always constituted by concrete actions of selflessness. Love is not a feeling, not matter how strong.

  9. Glenda -- a lesbian says:

    Michael — my computer acted a bit strange so I’m not sure this actually was sent to you yesterday. If you’re not posting it for a reason, that’s okay. 🙂

    I’m grateful for Michael bringing this book to my attention. I’ve read it, recommended it to others, and gotten my local library to purchase a copy.

    Marin never compromises that he believes homosexual behavior to be wrong, but his focus is always on compassion. I’m not hurt when people tell me that they believe homosexuality to be wrong. But I am hurt when people who have barely studied the issue assume that the answers are obvious and that of course I must know that what I’m doing is wrong. I don’t know; I’m searching. As with many issues, the more I study it the more questions that arise.

    It hurts when I’m reduced to a sin. I’m “that lesbian.” The church doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about my lack of love for others or about the doubts that plague my relationship with Jesus. Why is the most important thing about me my sexuality?

    It hurts when people tell me all I have to do is to decide not to be gay any more. I have no more idea of how to do that than to fly. How many Christians would still be in church if being a Christian meant THEY had to be celibate and to never have a partner to share life with?

    It hurts when I come to church struggling, but there’s no one safe enough for me to talk with.

    Marin doesn’t ask for compromise — only compassion. Trust that God is big enough to teach us and change us in his timing and his way. Please provide safe relationships where gays can explore and discover what God is about.

    • “How many Christians would still be in church if being a Christian meant THEY had to be celibate and to never have a partner to share life with?”

      Glenda, I’m one who believes that homosexuality is wrong, but I think that question you ask above is an excellent one.