I read a book a few months ago that really moved me, and I want to take a few moments to introduce you to the book and its author, Andrew Marin.
Love Is An Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (2009, IVP)
So many have written about it. Scot McKnight did a series of posts about it earlier this year. Tim Schraeder wrote a great post about it in August. Michael Spencer (aka The Internet Monk) wrote a brilliant review here. I feel like I don't have a lot to add. I agree with basically everything they've said. I first heard about the book on Scot's Jesus Creed blog and then my friend Tony Gapastione, young adults pastor at Peninsula Covenant Church, had Andrew come and speak at a young adults event.
So what's the big deal? Simply put, I think every follower of Jesus needs to read this and then probably to read it again. I think the culture war between Christians and the LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) community is truly tragic. It is keeping gays and lesbians from experiencing the real presence of the risen Christ. Our homophobia keeps people from meeting Jesus. You can argue all you want about whether Fred Phelps and his crew of haters actually represent average Evangelicals (For the record, of course they don't.), but the sad reality is this: If you ask the average lesbian or gay man what they think about when Evangelicals are mentioned, the first image that pops into their heads probably looks a lot like this:
Or even if they realize that most Evangelicals aren't calling for their death, they probably picture this... Something they saw a lot of just last year.
So to most LGBT folks, Christians want them to be dead or want to keep them from enjoying the civil rights that straight people enjoy. I am not arguing for legalizing same-sex marriage. That's not the point of this post at all. What I am passionate about, and what Andrew Marin articulates so beautifully, is building bridges. As followers of Jesus, we can agreee that Fred Phelps's "ministry" of hatred is doing terrible harm to the Body of Christ and our witness in the gay community. But the fact remains that we are looked at as haters, as ignorant bigots... if our beliefs about human sexuality and God's designs do not line up with theirs.
But, as Tim Schraeder, explains so well in his post, the perception problem goes both ways. Maybe their perceptions of us are off, but could it be that our perception is off too? What do YOU think of when you hear about the LGBT community? The average Evangelical immediately thinks of some of the more "fringe" elements of that community. We think of Gay Pride parades and drag queens, people flaunting their sexuality and going out of their way to offend.
So the question needs to be asked: How many gay people do you know? How are you working to advance the Kingdom of God in what may be a foreign culture to you? How can LGBT people find God if God's people hold them at arm's length... or avoid them altogether... or spend more time working against what they perceive to be an evil agenda?
Andrew Marin has an amazing story to tell, a story of waking up to a whole community in his hometown of Chicago. When three friends all came out to him within a short amount of time, he was plunged into a time of serious soul-searching. What emerged is a unique calling... that of bridge builder between the Christian community and the LGBT community.
The unique thing about Andrew's ministry is that it is really about listening, learning and growing. He is not trying to convert anyone to a particular belief system when it comes to sexuality. He's trying to remove the walls that have been built between these two seemingly diametrically-opposed communities. We all have a lot to learn from one another.
Please, please. Buy his book, read his blog, check out his organization, follow him on Twitter. Right now he needs a lot of support financially to continue doing what he's already doing so well. If you have a gay friend or relative, if you would identify yourself as LGBT (in or out of the closet), if you have any interest in seeing God's kingdom come and His will be done on this earth like it is in heaven... This is powerful stuff.
If you've got the time, check out this sermon Andrew preached at Newsong Church in Irvine, CA, last year: