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. â€œElevating the conversation with the gay community.â€ 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 weâ€™ve finished the exegesis and the explanation of the text, we have the challenge of walking with the God weâ€™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.
Weâ€™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.
Weâ€™ve invested hours and dollars in hearing over and over the assurance that these particular sexual sins are condemned in scripture. Weâ€™ve insured that our default idea of conversation with gay persons is being shouted out by angry advocates of hate. Weâ€™ve given the culture warriors the floor to say whatever they wanted in whatever way they wanted.
Weâ€™ve avoided the subject when it wasnâ€™t on our turf. Weâ€™ve made sure that our sources never came at us from a side of the subject we werenâ€™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 arenâ€™t supposed to have this book or read this book in most circles of Christian influence, but that hasnâ€™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.â€™
Marinâ€™s book isnâ€™t about exercising an agenda. Itâ€™s a book that grows out of the Gospel, out of the incarnate Godâ€™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.