Saturday, September 24, 2011

God And Gays: Marin Foundation Featured on BBC World Service's Heart And Soul Radio Program

I was hopping around on Twitter this morning and learned that Andrew Marin was being featured on BBC World Service's "Heart And Soul" radio program.  Additionally, there was an online print focusing mostly on Marin and The Marin Foundation on BBC News Magazine:
Can one man build effective bridges between evangelical Christians and Chicago's gay community?

That is the hope of Andrew Marin - who has spent the last decade living in Boystown, Chicago's officially-designated neighbourhood for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) residents. He works to try and bring Christians and gay people together in open conversation about sexuality and spirituality - and that includes running a large-scale meeting four times a year at Roscoe's, one of America's most famous gay bars. That is no small achievement in a culture where openly gay people and evangelical Christians have long viewed each other with suspicion. But Andrew Marin's determination to bring polarised opposites together in dialogue has grown in ways he never imagined...

The early years were extremely difficult, he says, as he struggled to work out whether he could reconcile his friends' sexuality with his Christian convictions. "When I went to gay bars or events with my friends, I felt bad, because I felt that I should have been saying to people: 'You're wrong and you need to change.'" But rather than condemning local people, he decided that he should be an open-minded Christian presence. That decision brought with it some unexpected results - and an unanticipated nickname. "For the first three years, everybody just called me Straighty Straighterson - because I was literally the only straight male [they met]. People would start talking to me about God and church and the Bible - people would just bring their questions to me." So chance conversations in bars and clubs spelt the beginnings of what is now an organisation at work throughout the United States...

So does Andrew Marin's work in Boystown genuinely offer a way forward for Christians at war with each other over questions of sexuality? That may depend on how many Christians are willing to tolerate the Marin Foundation's refusal to define its own position on Christian sexual ethics. Andrew Marin admits it is a criticism he hears frequently, but he insists that his focus is on enabling gay people who wish to explore Christianity to be able to do so. He admits that some churches will continue to focus on "healing" gay people of homosexuality - while others will simply welcome and affirm gay people on their own terms. He says that the Marin Foundation simply wants to get gay people thinking about Christian spirituality in its broadest sense, without a disproportionate emphasis on sexual morality.
The radio show connects with the primary pastor at the Evangelical Free church where the Marin Foundation shares office space. It also spends time with a Chicago-based Anglican church that broke away from the Evangelical Church of the USA because of its inclusion of gay people. And there were other interviews, mostly coming from a perspective that homosexuality is universally sinful, that gay people should be allowed at church but celibate, and/or that gay people do not belong in the church.

It's an interesting radio program, but it's also kind of frustrating.  To be honest, it's been a frustration that has nurtured all week since reading Rachel Held Evans' "Ask a Gay Christian..." interview with GCN's Justin Lee.  I am past this debate.  But most people aren't.  Those interviewed in this BBC report support that assertion and most commenters in the "Ask a Gay Christian..." post support that assertion.  Most cannot grasp the idea that gay people can be Christian without seeking ex-gay transformation or without living a life of celibacy.  All gay sexuality is treated equally and there is no concept that the Biblical anti-gay clobber verses might have a different way to being looked at or that gay families can or should have a place in the church.  With this perspective, there is no difference between gay marriage or civil unions or serial monogamy or friends with benefit situations or random hook-ups or prostitution or prison rape or whatever.  To most of those commenting in the church, it's all the same.  More frustratingly, gay and lesbian marriage is frequently treated as the most sacrilegious expression of gay sexuality.  And yes, I'm rambling and reading a bit between the lines.  But I'm long past the debate.

But I'm always up for supporting my friend Andrew and his efforts at building bridges between the GLBT communities and the conservative Christian church.  You can read the full article here and I encourage you to sit back for a half-hour to listen to the accompanying radio program.

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