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The Marin Foundation – still banging

“I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe. I’m sorry.” Thus read a sign carried by Andrew Marin of the eponymous Marin Foundation at the Chicago gay pride parade on Sunday. But despite his somewhat unfortunate imagery, Marin’s still out there banging … his Bible. He’s just keeping it on the down low.

And the Foundation’s display of “I’m sorry” merchandise (t-shirts available for $20!) went over swimmingly – just look at the tender moment captured on the sidebar. However, many, including noted columnist Dan Savage started to question the Foundation’s motives. As Savage put it, “I don’t want … to discover that these guys came to pride to deliver the same old love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin message …”

Sadly, while Marin is very coy on his website – sticking to feel-good rhetoric and a nebulous desire to improve relations with the LGBT community – his real views are never far below the surface. His personal blog includes a link to an infamous “pray away the gay” group – the Institute for Sexual Identity at Pat Robertson’s Regent University.

Marin’s allegiances become even more obvious while reading his book Love is an Orientation. Marin is clear that “Bible believing Christians” such as himself who take a “traditional Christian hermeneutical interpretation” of the Bible are “against same sex behavior of any kind.” However, he believes that “love the sinner, hate the sin” (a fully accurate description of his ministry) should be “remove[d] … from our vocabulary” because it might cause LGBT individuals to “build up their defenses.”

And this is Marin’s principle message throughout the book – don’t argue about things like civil rights, biblical interpretation, gay marriage, etc. because you’ll only make those sensitive homosexuals mad. And we’re trying to “elevate the conversation” and “build a bridge” between the LGBT and evangelical communities so that we can get them fixed and Saved.

And that’s what it’s about for Andrew Marin. That’s the endgame. Getting ‘em to repent, come to Christ, and change their ways. While he is very careful to sidestep the question of whether or not he believes that LGBT individuals can change their orientation, he does say that:

The metric of change in relation to a GLBT person’s faith journey … can cover a number of variables: secular to spiritual, non-Christian to Christian, sexually active to celibate, gay to straight …

In this vein, Marin provides many personal success stories where his love and encouragement has helped grateful LGBT folks make all of the above journeys. He says that “sticking to the facts” of these stories “diffuses the weight of opinion-based answers.” One might also add that no one has been able to reproduce the results claimed in his anecdotes in any peer-reviewed scientific study. But that would be a whole other article. And I’m lazy.

The one thing that all the LGBT folks he meets in his book have in common is that they are all miserable, and most of them have HIV/AIDS. They are prostitutes, junkies, burnt-out workaholics, depressed, often suicidal, with no meaning in their lives. Until their great savior (Marin, or Jesus of Nazareth, still not sure which) comes along and listens to their feelings. And treats them like a real human being. With a gayness problem, of course.

And they’re so grateful. In fact, Marin’s Foundation (which along with his associated book and speaking engagements provides most of his income) received a lot of its initial funding from the gay folks of Chicago’s “Boystown” neighborhood, where Marin lived and obsessively attended gay dance clubs at the urging of the Lord.

And just as Marin was kind to the gay bar patrons, the bars have in turn provided great opportunities for the Foundation – as my friend Luke says, “give, and it shall be given unto you.” Marin decided that other fundamentalist Christians should see how real and human the gays could be and organized a continuing event for Christian groups called “Out Night” where they could go down to Boystown and observe the LGBT community in a sympathetic forum they could easily relate to – good, wholesome fun like the Friday Night Shower Contest and Saturday Night Lube Wrestling (no, I am not making that up).

After the unqualified success of “Out Night,” many expected Marin to attempt to further heal religious tensions by taking Christian youth groups to experience “authentic” Islamic culture at a Hezbollah training camp, but he instead decided to continue “bridging the divide” by teaching a class on “Immersion into the Gay and Lesbian Community” at the fundamentalist Moody Bible Institute’s graduate school.

If the class is anything like Marin’s book, he teaches the kids at Moody not to directly criticize gay sex because “sexual behavior is gay identity”. All those silly, sensitive old gay folks get mad when you trash talk their buttsex because that’s all they do all day – it’s who they are. It’s not like they have meaningful, healthy romantic relationships or anything – they’re all miserable hookers. But because that would make them mad and stop us from working together to “make a difference for the Kingdom.”

Marin also spends a lot of time talking about “Gay Christian” and “Christian” theology so that his pupils won’t get fooled by sneaky homosexual deviations like original languages and historical context. And even though Marin realizes that “too much damage has been done on both sides for some quick patchwork,” he has some great tricks on how to get those pesky gays to listen to you. After you’ve stopped saying controversial stuff:

Find a gay church with a gay pastor; ask to get together with them so you can listen and learn … next, invite GLBT people to your church … and just watch what happens as that little step inaugurates life-altering redemptive conversations about the things of God with the GLBT community.

Inspiring, that. And I understand why Marin doesn’t want to talk about the icky parts of his theology. It’s not fun. But before anyone starts “elevating the conversation” with him, he needs to explicitly, and unequivocally confirm that LGBT individuals – and their relationships – have a place in his church and deserve equal protection under the law. Because you can’t really ignore the “tough questions” he wishes to avoid when they call your basic humanity into question. And Andrew Marin can’t change that simple fact. Even if he’s really nice. Even if he wears all the “I’m Sorry” shirts in (what he assures me to be) his massive inventory.

On a personal note, during my time in Mississippi I attended a bible study at a southern Presbyterian church with a lovely girl of African-American ancestry. We drew more than a few stares. And you know what, we deserved to ask for (and receive) the unambiguous, unconditional affirmation of the pastor before we engaged in any more dialogue with that community. And all the LGBT folks out there deserve that as well. I know, because I’m a Christian. As are the welcoming folks at the Epiphany United Church of Christ in Chicago, who are among the Marin Foundation’s many donors. Let’s all work together to truly make a difference for the Kingdom.

The author is a Baptist seminarian at the Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX.

13 thoughts on “The Marin Foundation – still banging

  1. Interesting post, I will have to do some more research on the Marin Foundation. I know some of the people involved in that organization, yet have been hesitant about giving it my support because of the said ambiguity on their website. Now that I know the information you have provided I will do more digging and see if this “foundation” is truly out for the betterment of LGBT/Church relations, or if it is, just as you have stated, a new twist on an age old message. Thank you for shedding more light on the topic for me.

  2. when i first saw the initial reports, my initial response (as a christian who happens to be gay) was, “WOW! can it possibly be that our straight brothers and sisters are FINALLY starting to ‘get it’?!?”

    sadly, this article confirms why we remain so skeptical. it will take us not only waiting for THEM to come into OUR community but we must be willing to go into churches…starting with those that welcome us and the ONA (open and affirming) congregations so they get to know US. there walls of suspicion and fear come down when we reach out to one another…

    go with love and a real desire to build bridges, not point fingers. remember: it’s impossible to shake a hand with either clenched fists or pointed fingers.

    THANKS, egon, for a BRILLIANT article.

  3. Thanks Kyle,

    I really think Andrew does want better LGBT/Church relations. He just doesn’t understand that this first requires the church to accept and affirm LGBT people, their relationships and their families.

    He says “reconciliation deserves more than a one-word answer” of affirmation. And it certainly does. But the process of reconciliation can’t begin without that affirmation.

    If you want to hear it directly from Andrew: here he is on the fundamentalist Lesea Network in June 2009 (http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/1609159), where he says some fairly stereotyping/insulting things about the LGBT community (it’s all about bars and sex shops), supports LGBT transformation to “celibates and ex-gays”, and explicitly says that he thinks being gay is a sin. The interview starts a little after the 28 minute mark.

    I hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

  4. Yes yes yes. This is exactly everything I thought when I read the book a few years ago. Thankfully I received an advance copy and didn’t have to spend money on it.

    I have heard from queer folks that this book has been helpful in the journeys of their friends and family. Frankly though, I’m not sure if it has helped them make any progress or just made things more comfortable.

    Does anyone else get the impression that whenever he wanted to say “homosexual lifestyle” he swapped in “GLBT community” because someone once told him that “homosexual lifestyle” was offensive. “Immersing myself in the homosexual lifestyle–I mean GLBT community.”

    And thank you for pointing out how he uses language to separate “Gay Christian” as something distinct from “Christian.”

    No queer person should subject themselves to this book and no straight person should be told to follow its model.

  5. This is helpful. I have suspected this was Marin’s intention, and this analysis confirms it. No doubt he is “sincere” in his intentions, but sincerity doesn’t cut it.

    Instead of immersing himself in gay fleshpots to find souls to “save”, he would do better to read or to talk to some serious gay lesbian or queer : see, for instance, Pioneers of Gay and Lesbian Theology
    at “Queering The Church”. These showed gay and lesbian Christians that instead of simply allowing heterosexist preachers to talk about us and at us, we have a legitimate religious voice of our own. We can and must find our own theological voice, and talk back, “reversing the discourse.”

  6. Pingback: Pride (in the name of love) | Sufficient Grace
  7. Thanks for the link Jim. Signorile’s piece explains exactly why people like Marin are so dangerous. We can be pleasant with people we disagree with — but he is covertly trying to do real damage to real people’s lives.

  8. You obviously have spent no time with Andrew. I have traveled to hear him speak before 700 evangelicals at Mariners Church in Irvine California and I have seen him speak before a group of GLBT & S Christians. His message is consistant with both. “The church owes the gay community an apology”.

    His book is a conversation starter. I’m gay, evangelical and part of the bridge-building movement. I know first hand that you will lose many pastors and christians if you seek to ram gay marriage down their throat when they haven’t figured out what gay is to begin with.

    If you were part of the bridge-building movement you’d see that there are many sides to this. There are those at the front steps protesting and then there are those of us who actually are let in the back to sit down and have safe, sane conversations.

    Andrew is a conversation starter for the church and how can that be wrong when they have refused to talk about this for thousands of years.

    Sad to see us try to kill our allies.

    Todd Ferrell, President
    The Evangelical Network

  9. Todd,

    I understand where you’re coming from. But a few points of order:

    Firstly, the modern concept of sexual orientation did not exist until the 20th century, so it’s not like the Church wouldn’t talk to LGBT folks for thousands of years. LGBT individuals and same-sex relationships (as they exist today) weren’t around then. I think it does the Church a disservice to say we have to apologize for thousands instead of tens of years.

    Secondly, I resent your assertion that I am not part of the “bridge-building movement.” As a straight, conservative evangelical and committed civil rights activist, I build bridges all the time. And you know what? You can actually walk over mine. Through the front door.

    And that’s the thing. The dichotomy you see there just doesn’t exist anymore. There are enough loving, welcoming and affirming churches that you can be an LGBT evangelical without compromise.

    Also, I am not trying to ram gay marriage (or anything else) down anyone’s throat. And I’m perfectly willing to deal openly and honestly with folks who don’t feel comfortable having gay weddings in their churches. And we have good dialogue and often make progress. And I have yet to change any pastor’s mind on the marriage issue, which is okay.

    But, in my opinion, Andrew is not open or honest (cf. me, Savage, and especially the latest Signorile article). I know he’s your friend, but he has a disturbingly consistent habit (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009) of making homophobic statements.

    I believe there are much better ways for the LGBT community to be spending its time and money. I’m always willing to have dialogue with him — friendly dialogue, even. But we need to remember that at this juncture in history, your basic civil rights are at stake (not even talking about marriage). And we need to remember which side he’s on.

  10. There are as many reasons for saying “sorry” as there are ways of saying it. Most of them are for the benefit of the apologiser rather than the one hurt.

    The church does indeed owe the LGBT community an apology, but not the one the Marin Foundation is offering. The apology should be for dehumanising us by treating us as if our lives were solely about sexual gratification. The church should apologise for allowing its fear of us to prevent it from really examining the doubtful translations and even more doubtful exegesis that have perpetuated the myth that being what we are is the worst of all sins. It must apologise to us for shutting us out. It must apologise for denying us our calling to full ministry within the church. It must apologise for giving the veneer of theological and moral respectability to the hatred we have had to endure.
    This apology does none of those things.
    Andrew Marin and the Foundation only want to build the kind of bridge that ends in a trap. Come to church, they say, we love you and want you to hear the message of salvation.
    But hidden in the love and the message is the hope – the requirement – that we deny who we are and become “straight” or at the very least celibate.

    Marin’s “sorry” is not an apology we can accept. We need some assurance of sincerity. Marin could go a long way toward that by publicly and in reality severing his ties with all of the ex-gay ministries and admit that his “traditional” hermeneutics are deeply flawed and are unquestioningly perpetuated in order to oppress LGBT people.

    Then we can talk.

  11. This isn’t accurate 🙁
    I lived in Chicago this summer and have numerous gay friends who came out through the assistance and support of the marin foundation. Marin is writing to an audience who does not necessarily agree with his views. He is attempting to highlight conservative Christianity’s need to LISTEN to the GLBTQ community with no agenda. He asserts this repeatedly: listen with no agenda except to learn. I am confused by how the author of this post could so grossly misconstrue Marin’s entire point.

  12. I’m late to this discussion. But I want to add my perspective. I am an open and content gay man, with no intention to change that fact, nor any belief that I could even if I wanted to. I was raised Jewish, but am currently all but an atheist. I don’t even call myself “spiritual.” I am pretty mundane, in fact. And yet, I LOVE a good theological debate!

    I heard about the Marin Foundation in two different contexts — one from the Dan Savage (whom I love) side of the debate. The other was in a very Christian context where I was working as a Sign Language interpreter, and from which I got a very different picture. Given these two conflicting perspectives, and given that the Marin folks meet just a few blocks from my home, I took my intellectual curiosity to their door. I arrived locked and loaded with 150 questions, and ready to metaphorically shoot.

    What I found was a group of gay and gay supportive Christians, dedicated to nothing more than creating a dialogue between the LGBT and Evangelical Christian communities. They occupy a very tricky space — but it is a space that is missing from the “cultural wars” — a space where people with differing viewpoints can come together for respectful discussion on controversial social issues. Period. They transcend the shouting and the pedantic in order to attempt to bridge what is thought to be an impossible divide. I find that a noble effort. Currently, I also find it to be a bit of windmill-tipping. But time is on their side. The younger generation, across the religious and political spectrum, doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about making the lives of gay people as miserable as their parents would like. The couple of generations after them will probably wonder why this was ever even an issue.

    But for now, is it a little frustrating that the Marin folks don’t take open stands on the questions we all agree on (gay is not sin, gay is not choice)? Maybe. Many Evangelical Christians are probably just as down on them for not taking the opposing viewpoint (gay is sin, gay is choice). And so, they become the gray area. They become the middle ground upon which everyone can overlay their own personal social/political agendas. They’re like a theological Rorschach test. Look at the ink blots — do you see angels or demons? In reality, they are neither. They’re just a group of people, creating a place for discussion. They are trying to help an angry, frightened church, and an angry, wounded gay community see eye to eye.

    It is what it is. Let it be. It’s fine. Take it from a gay atheist who still goes to their meetings for nothing more than a good conversation…..and also a few hugs, which never hurts. 😉

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