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.