On to the final catch-up book from that fated 2009 NPC experience. I won’t lie; this is by far the hardest of the three to write. I even half-suspect, like its author, I’ll catch it from both sides. A book with the stated goal of reaching out to the GLBT community will do that.
And yet, if learning how to live out Jesus’ love even when it goes against our grain isn’t part of discipleship, then not much else is either. And in the end, that’s why Andrew Marin’s book works for me, and big-time. Because all topicality and theology aside, that’s the gist of his book (and blog, for that matter). “Living in the tension” is what he calls it here and elsewhere. So let’s set aside all other scriptural pronouncements for the time being, save one — “love one another” — and see what happens.
It would be just as wrong of me to say “ignore the context of this book” as it would be to say “make it all about the context.” To be sure, the behavior-equals-identity issue is a problem on both sides, and one that’s addressed thoroughly here. There’s plenty of room to express one’s reservations here — and a lot have. But here’s what I got out of the book, and what you can, too:
First, a brief synopsis of Andrew’s testimony: Self-proclaimed “Bible-banging homophobe” gets mind blown when his three best friends come out to him in three consecutive months. After a lot of soul-searching, our hero decides to sincerely try to figure out what makes his friends tick, and as a result becomes “the gayest straight dude in America.” He follows a call from God to move into Boystown in Chicago, the first officially recognized gay village in the United States, and just by being there — and being willing to take the brunt of the suspicion and pent-up hostility toward Christians and nonetheless proving his love by coming back for more — opens up a dialogue that continues today through the work of The Marin Foundation. The points of the book and of his ministry, I’ll try to sum up here:
• “Right from the gate, you can’t relate.” All Johnny Cochranisms aside, he’s right. Thus, a lot of the book is devoted to bridge-building — from detailing the conflict between between gay and Christian (or the inner turmoil from being both) to outlining “gay theology” in order to understand where members of the GLBT community are coming from. Marin’s purpose here isn’t to settle a debate but to create room for interaction. Because if there’s no interaction, there’s little hope for change. Which brings us to….
• “[T]he intentional boldness that I am talking about is the same countercultural boldness that Jesus reflected throughout his time on earth—one rooted in discipleship. It’s easy to stand with a sign; it’s difficult and bold to intentionally live with another human to make a significant impact for the kingdom.” Which in turn brings us to: “Eternity doesn’t concern when [someone turns to Jesus], it concerns if.” I hope that speaks for itself.
• But, but, but, what about the Bible? There is a part of me that wishes Andrew had pinpointed where exactly he comes down on what he calls “the Big 5” Bible passages regarding homosexuality (Genesis 19 aka Sodom and Gomorrah, Lev. 18:22 & 20:13, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9-11 and 1 Tim. 1:9-11), although a) he makes the fair point that all of the citations in these passages are part of a bigger picture (i.e, we’re all sinners) and again, b)….
• Overriding even this is the attitude maintained throughout the book, summed up in the Billy Graham quote Andrew has adopted as his own mission statement: “It’s God’s job to judge, the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, and it’s my job to love.”
In first seeing him talk more than 2 years ago now, I couldn’t help but be impressed. This is a guy who’s lived out loving those scorned by a large portion of Christian society, and taken no small amount of scorn himself from people on both sides in the process. And in doing so and showing us what that looks like — no matter what your position on the behavior itself — Love Is an Orientation shows what a truly Christian response should look like. And that’s something we all need to learn more about.