Saturday, April 13, 2013


After a discussion on the issue of homosexuality and how we the church are to relate to the gay community, a friend gave me a copy of the book, Love Is an Orientation, which is being used in a study group in our church.

I found the book an easy read and feel it is a significant contribution to the discussion of Christian/gay relationships, though not of course, the final word.

The author, Andrew Marin, assures us right at the beginning, as well as a few times throughout the narrative, that he is "a straight white, conservative, Bible believing, evangelical male ... raised in a Christian home in a conservative suburb ... and grew up in a large evangelical church," and that he personally wanted nothing to do with the GLBT community (page 16).  He then proceeds to tell us how his world was rocked by the coming out of three of his closest friends within a three month period.

After these events and subsequent conversations, Andrew felt the call of the Holy Spirit to become completely immersed in this community, even moving with his wife to Boystown, a GLBT section of Chicago.  Eventually he began the Marin Foundation, a ministry to those of the GLBT community.

Marin recognizes the great gap that separates the straight evangelical Christian community and the GLBT community.  He seems to see a major part of his ministry as building bridges between the two.

Marin also recognizes the barriers on both sides and that each side has stereotypes of the other.  He apparently feels the need for himself and the Christian community to do their best to break the barriers by rethinking their behavior.

This book is as I said easy reading, though probably not that easy to absorb.  It is punctuated with stories and anecdotes about real people and real experiences; this is one of its great strengths.

The book's greatest strength, however, is the fact that the author doesn't home in, as many have done (myself included), on the barriers, on those questions that separate us.  He seems to be more concerned with simply listening to what those in the GLBT community have to say, and to be more concerned about exercising Christ-like love toward those to whom he's called to minister.

Too many of us evangelical Christians have limited our responses to trying to determine the why's and how's and what for's about these folks -- to come up with biblical or psychological answers to their condition.  Marin rather simply seeks to love them.

And this however, while the book's greatest strength, is also its greatest weakness.  There are real questions that need to be answered and these are not answered, or when they are, seem to be dealt with superficially.

One set of questions that were dealt with in this way were those the author refers to as "The Big 5" (chapter 7), the biblical passages that appear to unequivocally condemn homosexual behavior.  His principles for interpretation leave one wondering what they actually do say.

Marin writes however, not primarily as a thinker, but as a doer.  To read the stories and testimonies is a great encouragement.  Though one can find much to criticize in the book, we cannot deny the fact that Andrew Marin has a tremendous ministry to those in a subculture that most the of evangelical community has forgotten or would like to forget.  And he gets us started with some how-to's for beginning to come out of our warm little churches to reach out to these.

I recall a story I heard (possibly apocryphal) about someone who said of Billy Graham, "I don't like his way of doing evangelism," to which Graham was said to have replied simply, "How do you do evangelism?"  I believe we need that question in mind when critiquing Marin's ministry

While I don't feel called, as Andrew Marin, to minister to this specific group, reading this book has convicted me in a number of ways:
-- First I need to ask myself what I have done to erect barriers that would prevent me from relating to GLBT people, and to attempt to remove those barriers.
-- Many of the principles that Marin presents for relating to this one group of people are applicable across the board for relating to any group.  I need to adopt many of these in all of my relationships and ministries.
-- I need to rethink the whole theological and biblical basis for my position on homosexuality.  Am I interpreting and applying correctly the Scriptures that deal with these issues?
-- I need as always, to ask, what would Jesus do?

I plan to write more on these and related questions from both a personal and a biblical view in the near future.


Anonymous said...

Thought provoking blog as I am sure was the book you reference also. So many times we (old, white, evangelical Christians) act like the behavior is the problem.

But, unless I am reading Romans 1 all wrong, the behavior is the symptom, not the cause (more on that in a moment). So, we as western medicine MDs do with physical ailments, want to treat the symptom, not the underlying health concern. To which the LGBT community can rightfully say (as they do) "physician, heal thyself."
We focus on their sin of choice because it is not our sin of choice. When is the last time anyone heard a sermon on the sin of gluttony?

But, back to Romans 1: are not the two indictments (verse 21) that 1) "when they knew God, they glorified him not as God" and 2) "neither were thankful"? Every thing that follows are the consequences of those two willful choices.

How easily we fly right by verse 18 which warns us that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against ALL ungodliness and unrighteousness of men", (emphasis mine) and focus on the unnatural acts described in verses 26 and 27.

Then, just as quickly we ignore all the other symptoms described in verses 29 through 31 which are more likely to be things we have done. You know things like: fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; being full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.

Whoa! Some of those describe things I do or have done and or take pleasure in others doing. So let's sweep those under the rug and focus on what "they" do.

The bottom line is that it is only the Word of God (the living Son of God, Jesus, the Christ, the Creator - "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1), who is able to break through each of our willful rebellions to draw us unto Himself.

He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. And, he He calls us to be salt and light in a dark and dying world. He says that we will be salt and light by being His witnesses. Witnessing to what He has done in our lives. But, there must be something in our lives that makes the dark and dying world have some interest in knowing what makes us different. Perhaps this is what the author of the book you read is attempting to do.

But alas, most of us (professing Christians) are so much like the world that the world doesn't see any difference in which to be interested. This generation of believers is responsible for being salt and light to this generation of unbelievers. May God be merciful to us all! - Murray

Bill Ball said...

Thanks Murray. I agree completely.

Uni said...

Wow. When Bill read aloud Murray's comment on this post, I said to him, "Did you post this comment as Murray?" We've both said these things over and over. It seems like the only sermons we hear from the pulpit are those sins "others" commit, not the ones we do. Thanks Murray. Uni

Trent said...

Well Spoken Murray. Sin is an issue, and homosexuality is not a "special" sin that we should treat as though it is leprosy. We witness to murderers in jail, Adulterers in church, people living in immorality, and then when its a homosexual, we immediately focus on the sin instead of loving the person and trying to share the gospel. As a believer, then just like any other person who chooses to LIVE in sin, we need to deal with them biblically.

Grace and Truth

Dr. Harold Cooper said...

Bill ! I do not belive the homosexual can be saved according to the 1st chpt of Romans ,God has turned them over to reprobater that is to belive a lie and be dammed,, And that God help them to belive the lie

Bill Ball said...

Dr. Cooper: Romans 1:18-32 is not addressed only to homosexuals; it is addressed to "ALL UNGODLINESS AND UNRIGHTEOUSNES OF MEN". Homosexual sin and all the other sins listed are the result of man's rejection of the evidence of God in creation. Because of man's rejection of God, God "handed them over in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness..." I believe you and I fit somewhere in that list. As Paul says in 3:21 "All have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God."
But we all can be "justified freely by His grace" as we're told in 3:22. And this is through faith in Christ, whatever our sin or condition.