What an intriguing title: Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.  Embedded in the title is the overarching theme of the book and a bit of an indictment for the evangelical church. Historically, the conversation about and with the LGBTQ community in the evangelical church has been at a level that is less than elevated. One might call it one-sided and often not very kind. I agree that it is time to elevate the conversation and I see that happening. Here we are, after all, discussing the topic in full public view!
Along these lines, Marin makes a valid point. “The purpose of elevating the conversation is not to answer those [difficult] questions for you, but rather to give you the framework for gays and lesbians to answer those questions with you…”  I’m sure you can understand how radical that is. There was a time in my life when I would have called those words heresy! It was that time when everything seemed so clear and it was easy to use the Bible as a “defensive literary tool, instead of a powerful book written by Jehovah” 
The answers to life’s most challenging questions are seldom wrapped up in a neat little package with a colorful bow that someone leaves on our doorstep for us to discover. Life itself is often messy, confusing and full of contradictions. And, more often than not the questions and subsequent answers these situations invoke reflect that complexity.
When I was a “younger” pastor I had all the answers. I gave advice (from my deep well of experience!) freely, and—regreattably for those who had to listen—without reservation. Life was a series of events and choices that if made correctly would turn out exactly as one wished for, hoped and prayed. The older I get, and the more experience I have with life, faith, and ministry the further I have moved from a monochromatic view of the world and God to a fuller-spectrum view. Now a few years down the road and a lot of water under the bridge, I sometimes refer to a line spoken by the character Father Cavanaugh in the movie Rudy. “In 35 years (40 for me this year) of religious studies, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and I’m not Him.” I’m not suggesting that there is no absolute truth, only that I am no longer the final authority on it!
I remember finding out that one of our close friends in Europe was gay. He was and still is a fine man and friend. I had difficultly—and truthfully still do—reconciling my doctorial stand and what I understand the Bible to say about practicing specific lifestyles and the acceptance of those lifestyles. However, I have a greater struggle when I see the pain and suffering caused by Christians who act less than Christlike. There are no easy answers, and acting less than Christlike is not one of them. In this way, I was not unlike Andrew Marin, who was faced with the reality that some of his closest friends are gay.
In an effort to engage with Marin, I must say that I grapple with the idea of “embedding” oneself into the LGBTQ community for the purpose of understanding and engagement for the cause of Christ. It is, however, what missionaries like me regularly exercise within cultures and people groups. I would struggle less if there were an expression of a call to a community and not simply the application of a buzz word for “evangelizing” or misunderstanding it as the only means of engagment—these are my words and not Marin’s. I believe Marin exhibits that call and I know of at least one other example of that clear call.
In the bigger picture, I struggle with the vitriol on both sides that leads to agenda that politicizes and diminishes people as well as their beliefs and values. This only serves to polarize, which some might prefer but is not a helpful preference. I’m not convinced that in this context the “us verses we” is the proper stance to approach engagement.
To get to the heart of what I wish to express, I am convinced that God is a God of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. I still must understand the Bible to say that the practice of homosexuality is a sin. But, I also understand Jesus to say, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…” (John 8:7) God is a God of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Second, historically, evangelical Christians have not generally acted in a Christlike manner. If we dare to call ourselves the Children of God then we must strive to look and act more and more like Christ. I am not convinced that the saying, “we love the person but hate the sin” is an adequate answer to justify mistreatment of anyone for any reason. In fact, for the Christian, there is no adequate reason for the mistreatment of anyone for any reason.
Finally, engagement is critical. Engagement is never one-sided. It is a conversation where both listening and hearing are taking place. It is a stance that seeks first to understand before being understood. It is a position of both respect and humility, a conversation in which one seeks to walk humbly, love mercy and do justly, in that order.
- Andrew Marin. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation With the Gay Community. 4.1.2009 ed. IVP Books, 2009.
- Ibid., 83.
- Ibid., 84.