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RON SIDER

Called to Love the Gay Community

stories. John, the former president of the student body at one of the most famous evangelical universities, told Marin how he had prayed every night for 15 years that God would change his gay orientation, but his feelings never changed.This experience is shared by many of the people Marin has met; they eventually reject a God who, they believe, ignores their This summer I read Andrew Marin’s pow- fervent, desperate prayers. Evangelicals have gone to great lengths erful book, Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community to share the gospel with people of almost every culture. We study others’ beliefs, (InterVarsity Press, 2009). Marin has an incredible story. After move into their neighborhoods, and open his first year at a prominent evangelical our hearts to them so we can share the university, three of his best (Christian) goodness of Christ. We have done this friends told him they were gay/lesbian. everywhere, contends Marin, except in In response, Marin, a straight, thoroughly the gay/lesbian community. evangelical Christian, felt called by God Evangelicals have gone to to immerse himself in the gay/lesbian community. He decided to spend almost great lengths to share the all his free time there, listening and gospel with people of almost learning. He now lives with his wife in Boystown, a GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexevery culture — everywhere, ual, and transgendered) neighborhood contends Marin, except in in Chicago. For most of the last decade, he has spent thousands of hours listenthe gay/lesbian community. ing to, weeping with, and befriending A pioneer, Marin listens rather than these folks, trying to see the world from judges. He quotes Billy Graham’s response their perspective. As most of us know, a huge gulf sepa- to his critics for attending a meeting rates evangelical Christians and the gay/ with Bill Clinton after the president’s lesbian community. To a large extent sex scandal: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job because of our failures, they mistrust, to convict, God’s job to judge, and my despise, and are enormously hostile to job to love.” He avoids answering the evangelicals, viewing us as homophobic inevitable, closed-ended questions that come from both the GLBT folks (“Do bigots. But Marin discovered deep spiritual you think homosexuality is a sin?”) and longing in this community. By patient, the evangelical folks (“Can gays and lespersistent listening — even when wounded bians change?”). Rather than taking on people vented their anger at him because these conversation-stopping questions, of painful past experiences with evan- Marin reframes the discussion with quesgelicals — Marin eventually won their tions about God’s love: “How do you respect and the opportunity to share the think your genetic makeup relates to love of God in Christ. Many found com- God’s desire to be called your Father?” One weakness of the book is that fort in his friendship because, unlike both the GLBT ghetto and the Christian ghetto, Marin seems to lack an adequate underhe focused on their relationship with standing of the church and the communal responsibility of the Christian Christ rather than on their sexuality. Marin’s book is full of wrenching community for moral discernment and PRISM 2010

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mutual accountability. Marin says that when a gay person tells a Christian that God has told him it is okay to be gay, it is wrong to “defend a traditional interpretation of God’s posture toward homosexuality”— that is to “step in between the other person and God.” Instead one should let God speak to that person, “personally and individually telling each of his beloved children what he feels is best for their life.” That is simply too individualistic. On the other hand, Marin is surely right in stressing God’s timetable.We too often rush in to demand instant change rather than waiting for the Holy Spirit to move on the divine schedule. Whether or not one agrees with every line in the book, it is clear that Marin is strongly evangelical. He is unconditionally committed to biblical authority, and he longs to remove the barriers that prevent large numbers of gays and lesbians from embracing the gospel. His excellent suggestions on how to build bridges to the GLBT community make this is an enormously important book for all Christians — especially evangelicals — to read. Why? Because like the rest of us, gays and lesbians are made in the image of God and loved by the Father. Because the GLBT issue is one of the most controverted topics today. Because evangelicals are almost universally viewed as homophobic bigots. And because our lack of love, friendship, and understanding prevents us from sharing the gospel with this important community and also from making progress on other crucial agendas. I pray that ESA and PRISM magazine become leaders in a new kind of sensitive, listening dialogue with gays and lesbians. That doesn’t mean we’re changing our position on homosexual practice or gay marriage. Nor does it mean that we’re a neutral forum for dialogue. Instead, I want ESA to be a loving place where gays and lesbians can freely express their views even as ESA remains firmly committed to the biblical teaching that God’s will for sexual Continued on page 39.


bodaciousness — is barely audible. Jesus will transform this generation; he may even use indefinite rock bands to do it. As YWAM urges young people, “Be challenged in your relationship with God,” I might echo the band’s own (“Down River”) lyrics and encourage The Temper Trap to such boldness: Go. Don’t stop. Now go! J.D. Buhl is a regular contributor to PRISM’s music pages. His music writing can also be found in Valparaiso University’s journal The Cresset.

Ron Sider continued from page 40. activity is in a lifelong marriage between a man and a woman. I hope for ESA what Ed Dobson hoped for himself. Ed was Jerry Falwell’s vice president in the early years of the Moral Majority, but he became dissatisfied with Falwell’s harshness and left to pastor a large evangelical church, where he became involved in ministering to the gay community. They loved him, even though he didn’t hide his belief that any

sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage was sinful. Members of Dobson’s church attacked him for welcoming gays and lesbians to his church and ministering to AIDS victims. Dobson’s response: “When I die, if someone stands up and says,‘Ed Dobson loved homosexuals,’ then I will have accomplished something with my life.” Surely the ESA family across the country can do what both Ed Dobson and Andrew Marin do: listen to, learn from, and, above all, love gays and lesbians. God does. Q

I Don’t Like Evangelism continued from page 10. than a life that advocates for the poor. I remember the day we inaugurated the installation of a deep well in a village in the Philippines that was devastated by the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Residents of the community gathered around the well while the pastor of our partner church spoke of how hard life had been for these people, the lack of clean drinkable water being just one of many challenges. Depending on where their new dwellings were located, many of them, he reminded us, had to walk great distances to find water and carry it home. But then, he said, God had chosen to be good to them, unveiling the deep well. People gave thanks with tears and applause. The pastor asked me to pray over it, and afterward we let a child fill the first bucket. Then we all celebrated together over good food and music the blessing of water and the goodness of God. During the celebration, a woman came up to me to thank me personally for the part I had played in getting the deep well installed. In the native tongue, she said, “I’m not a Christian, but I see that the God you serve is about goodness and mercy.” I affirmed that and told her that God loves her and her family. Then she said, “I’ve never considered attending this church, but maybe this Sunday I’ll come and worship.” There is power in a message of goodness, mercy, and love that is backed up by acts of goodness, mercy, and love. To be active with kingdom activity is an indispensable life posture for responsible evangelism.

and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others, I myself should not be disqualified.” Paul understood here how integrity works. He recognized that he could tell others of this good news, but if he didn’t apply it in his own life, he himself could be disqualified. In other words, it matters how we live our lives. Just as tragic scandals (such as what happened to Jim and Tammy Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart in the ’80s, and more recently what happened to Ted Haggard) mar the credibility of the gospel message to an unbelieving world, so lives of integrity gain its credibility. A sincere inquirer of the faith once wrote to Pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick, “How can I believe when there is so much evil and so many evil people in the world?” Fosdick replied, “If you cannot believe because of all of the evil people, then what are you going to do with all of the good people? You see, if Christians have the problem of evil to grapple with,” he continued, “then atheists have the problem of goodness to grapple with.” Indeed there is authentic evangelistic power in our goodness, in our character, in our practicing what we preach. Grace, faith, and submission to the Spirit in our lives are, of course, absolute prerequisites for the good life. So we need to discipline ourselves in the Spirit to run the race so as not to disqualify ourselves by our disingenuousness and our sin. God finally calls us to pursue holiness and to uphold righteousness, to be good, and thus bear witness to Christ in the world. N

B E GO OD

Al Tizon is director of ESA’s Word & Deed Network and associate professor of holistic ministry at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

I find it fascinating how Paul concludes his line of reasoning in that same passage, saying, in v. 27, “...I punish my body

PRISM 2010

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Called to Love the Gay Community  

Ron Sider September 2010

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