Monday, September 14, 2009
Love Is an Orientation - Book Review
There are few issues these days that are a divisive and polarizing as homosexuality and Christianity. Most recently this debate was played out in front of the nation in typical fashion during the Miss USA Pageant when gay gossip columnist Perez Hilton asked contestant Carrie Prejean to give her opinion on same-sex marriage . When Prejean gave an answer affirming traditional marriage it reignited the debate in our country that has been growing for years over gay rights. This most recent culture battle reveals that while the rhetoric is getting much more inflammatory on both sides, nothing redemptive is coming from it. The most obvious fruit of this culture war has simply been greater division and deeper hatred of each other from both camps.
But what if the conversation could be elevated a bit from back and forth accusations that have characterized this issue? What if instead of shouting and condemning people from both sides there could be a different way forward based on love and respect and seeking to understand others? This is precisely what Andrew Marin is attempting to do in his book Love Is an Orientation.
Andrew Marin, who describes his background as Bible-banging and homophobic, was thrown into a world of turmoil and confusion when over the course of three consecutive months three of his best friends revealed to him that they were gay (Youtube of his testimony). The once distant cultural debate that had been played out in the media and in conversations had now become personal for Marin because these weren’t strangers or TV personalities or even simple conversations around the water cooler. These were his closest friends. Marin shares that after he got over the initial shock of his friend’s revelations he felt God inviting him into a journey of love and understanding. The journey lead Andrew Marin, a heterosexual, evangelical Christian, to immerse himself in the gay community of Boystown in Chicago seeking not to argue or convert people to his way of thinking but simply seeking to try and understand those in the gay community better. This cultural immersion had a profound impact on his life of faith and in the years since he began this journey he has gone on to start the Marin Foundation, an organization that is actively involved in trying to elevate the conversation between the Evangelical and Gay communities.
While books on homosexuality and Christianity are everywhere and while opinions on the subject are numerous, Marin writes in a way that doesn’t treat homosexuality as just another topic to be debated. Through story after story of people he has talked with, prayed with, and listened to from the gay community, Andrew Marin succeeds in rescuing the conversation from speculation, accusations and opinions and bringing it to the place where it needs to be discussed—the context of real people.
This will be a frustrating read for those looking for easy answers to hot-button issues because Marin offers very few concrete answers. Instead he offers a fresh set of questions and a way of dialogue that is based around building bridges rather than walls. The basic premise for Love Is an Orientation and the Marin Foundation is that Christians are not called to judge people or even to convict people of sin, that’s God’s job, instead Chris followers are simply called to love people the way Jesus does. This approach doesn’t ignore or gloss over the issues but engages them in a completely different way.
I found Love Is an Orientation both challenging and refreshing. While loving others by entering into their world is certainly not a new concept or even a foreign concept to Christianity (it’s kind of foundational to the life of Jesus), Marin’s application of this way of love simultaneously expands the evangelical horizon while at the same time making it much more personal. What’s great about this book is that Marin doesn’t just talk about the merits of loving others but rather gives some very practical teaching based on his years of dialogue with those in the gay community on how to actually go about doing this in real life. He also brings a much needed dose of humility to the conversation reflecting on the many times he has experienced greater love, authenticity, and community with gays in Boystown than in much of the church. I found the closing chapters of this book very helpful, not only for conversations on homosexuality and Christianity, but also for more redemptive ways of approaching any of the myriad of hot-button issues in our culture today.
I am grateful for this book for several reasons. First it has helped me to better understand homosexuality from the vantage point of those within the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) community rather than from the outside looking in. Secondly, this book has shed light on both the spiritual yearnings and the spiritual hang-ups of many within gay community. Finally I have found this book has managed to show very practically how love can transcend all kinds of arguments, hang-ups, and divisiveness in a way that is utterly redemptive and which points people, gay and straight alike, towards Jesus. In my opinion Marin has succeeded in elevating the conversation with this book and I can only hope that this approach to the issues at hand gains more adherents.