Friday, August 21, 2009

More on Evangelical outreach, and being bold

A few days ago I pointed you to a discussion of what GLBT people hear from Evangelicals. Over at the Changing Attitude blog, there is a similar discussion going on, based on a book review. The book under discussion is called Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community, by Andrew Marin. The author has a website where there is further discussion.

The book was reviewed by Andrew Goddard at the Evangelical Anglican site, Fulcrum .
[T]his is a book particularly written for and from the evangelical constituency. But it is a book like no other I know, a book which desperately needed to be written, a book which sadly very few people could write, a book which every Christian – or certainly every evangelical - who wants to learn about homosexuality and a Christian response to gay and lesbian people – should read.

The book is, however, really not ultimately about homosexuality. It is at heart about mission and in particular about what it means to be Christ-like towards a community which Christ’s followers have hurt and alienated, towards people we think we can tell the truth about and to but whom we basically do not understand.....
Now, I have not read the book (although the Fulcrum review is very detailed). I have participated in the discussion with the author at the Changing Attitude blog and at the author's blog. The author is trying to get across the same issues as the previous author: how to find a language between Evangelicals and GLBT people. Our friend Erika from Mad Priest's has been active in the discussion as has our friend Dahveed. I've been somewhat exercised in the discussion by the continued reduction of the GLBT community to a sex act. I'm still getting a "love the sinner hate the sin" vibe off the whole thing. Reading Marin's website, I find it rather condescending to GLBT people, as though we are little children, with no understanding of faith issues. But apparently on the other side, the author has been more successful in actually humanizing GLBT people to the Evangelicals.

The real question is, whether this will lead to any actual change. Are we just being tolerated, still looked at as unrepentant sinners worse than any others and targets for conversion? Or, are we really being seen as complete complex and intrinsically worthy beings with valuable and vibrant relationships?

Part of this comes back to the Lutherans. On this blog and at Father Jake's, the discussion has been whether the Lutherans' rather tepid statement about human sexuality is a good thing, since it validates basically every possible viewpoint, or whether they should be bold, institutionally speaking, and not validate exclusive views.

I'm of two minds. (Hey, I'm a Libra!) I can see importance in trying to build bridges and remain together, agreeing to disagree. So I think that overall, the movement by Andrew Marin and Michael Spencer to try to translate GLBT people for Evangelicals is a good one. More power to them. It's important to humanize those on both sides.

However. I'm reminded why I seldom venture into unfriendly territory blog-wise. I'm glad that some continue the argument, don't get me wrong! but I'm tired of being merely tolerated. I'm disinclined to continue in those discussions unless I have any indication that I'm respected as a thoughtful, intelligent, and moral adult who just happens to be gay. I find it personally demoralizing and degrading to be the continued subject of disagreement and toleration, still reduced to a sex act in someone's imagination, and required to constantly justiy who I am. PUt it down to my continued post-Prop8 funk.

Update: Jarred in the comments points us to some additional resources on this topic (Thanks, Jarred)
•Another, not so positive review of Marin's book with good discussion in the comments (update here)
Bridging the gap, also trying to connect with the GLBT community (but again, I find them setting off "Christian" and "gay" as though there aren't gay Christians!)
Nathan Colquhoun, also addressing sexuality from an Evangelical standpoint

15 comments:

seithman said...

Mind if I plug a few links? Blogger Joe Moderate has also reviewed Marin's book. He's rather critical of it.

For more discussion of evangelical-gay communication, I'd also recommend checking out Bridging the Gap, run by Wendy Gritter (currently on sabbatical, sadly) and Brian Pengelly. Especially check out some of the links in their sidebar from their synchroblog. You might particularly be interested in Nathan Colquhoun's contribution, as he somewhat redresses the tendency to look at same-sex relationships in terms of sex only.

-- Jarred.

seithman said...

Also, I would like to offer a suggestion to put this whole discussion in a slightly different perspective:

I am firmly convinced a lot of evangelicals fear that they may jeopardize the eternal well-being of their souls if they're not careful how they engage GLBT people and the topic of sexual orientation. As such, they find themselves feeling like they're walking a terrible tightrope.

The evangelicals I know are very big on the whole Biblical inerrancy thing -- and even "Biblical literalism" to some degree or another. So to them, to question what they've come to understand the Bible to say about homosexuality is to question the Bible as a whole. It's simply an all-or-nothing gambit in their minds in many cases.

That makes it hard to talk to GLBT people. Because if you start talking to them and find out that they and their relationships really don't fit those preconceived notions. And if that happens, well whatever things are going to start falling off their theology? What's going to be left?

As a point of comparison, let me give you a personal anecdote. When I converted to Paganism, I gave my sister a recommended reading list so that she could understand what I believed. During one of our...more heated conversations about a year later, I asked if she had yet read any of the books I recommended. She said she had not and when I inquired as to the reason, she indicated it was because she didn't want to read anything that might "lead her astray." To her mind, even learning about what I believed offered too great a chance of jeopardizing her own salvation. And I don't think that's an uncommon mentality among evangelicals.

Another dimension to this to consider is that many evangelicals tend to have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility for other people's souls. There's this idea that if they remain quiet about sin, they are somehow condoning it to the point of being complicit in it. So when the person they didn't "warn" is punished, they fear actually being held responsible -- and even punished -- as well.

I don't say any of this to defend evangelical's reticence, mind you. I'm simply trying to put things in perspective. Because I do think their fears of the potential consequences -- which may include damnation -- is one of the biggest obstacles in conversation. In many ways, those willing to communicate at all are taking huge risks in some people's minds. (And they're getting criticized for it as well.)

-- Jarred.

IT said...

Thank you Jarred, for the insights. They are helpful. I don't find the Evangelical mind easy to understand. There are so many examples where Biblical inerrancy is specifically disproven (Divorce being an obvious one). I also find the emphasis on converting others to be tiresome. And finally, the unwillingness to learn more lest one go astray ....that's one I simply can't understand. 180° opposed. It seems a faith-orientation based on fear.

My stepson's ex girlfriend is of an Evangelical bent. We took her to evensong with us one Sunday and she thumbed through the hymnal looking, as she put it, for "Christian" hymns. Apparently she didn't consider the Episcopal cathedral "Christian". WTF?

Good for you to continue to engage your sister....and the Friends of Jake. ;-)

Andrew Marin said...

For what it's worth, I'm not trying to change the evangelical church to tolerate you. I'm trying to show them how to unconditionally love you no matter what - just like they do so easily with most with every other population of people.

Length of time is not an easy thing to handle. But that's what this bridge building work is for.

Much love.

IT said...

Thanks for stopping by, Andrew. We appreciate the efforts at dialogue!

David |Dah • veed| said...

Unconditionally love the sinner, and unconditionally hate the sin.

'nuff said.

The psychologist in me has to wonder what the infatuation with this subject matter is about?

Paul said...

Thank you for posting the other reviews. I had heard about this book on another blog, but was not interested in going to Fulcrum for a review.

IT, it is not uncommon for conservative evangelicals to deny the label "christian" to quite a few of us. "Christian" apparently refers to a select few who think alike, rather than to the full diversity of Christian thought. And yes, this is something which has annoyed me for several decades.

The Werewolf Prophet said...

What continues to be missing from the Evangelical POV about GLBT folk is the concept that "gay" is FIRST about who we fall in love with, then a far second about who we fuck.

Case in point: my partner died from cancer a bit more than 8 years ago and I've been celibate since, initially due to grief but now due to age & health issues. But does my lack of "same-sex sexual activity" make me any less gay? Of course not! I still love my deceased partner in the same way that Marin loves his wife, and should I be lucky one last time, I'll love the new man in my life the same way, too.

Evangelicals have no clue that human sexual love has many variations because the cannot do shades of gray. To them, heterosexuality is not the norm, it's the only possible way to be and therefore homosexuality MUST be 1) deviant and 2) chosen.

IT said...

I agree, Wolfie. As I've said elsewhere, my marriage is not defined by a sexual act, and if we lost the sexual part of our marriage for any reason, we would still be joyfully two lesbians in love.

There is so much more to love than sex.

The Werewolf prophet said...

IT said...

"... if we lost the sexual part of our marriage for any reason, we would still be joyfully ... in love. There is so much more to love than sex."

My partner had been quite sick for at least 18 months before he died, so I've been down the road of loss of the sex act. Yet, four days before he was gone, we made love and neither genitals nor orgasm were involved, or even the intent!

I wrote about it over at Street Prophets in my diary To Make Love Before Dying: A Witness God Blesses Gay Relationships; I invite everybody here to read it, and especially Andrew Marin.

seithman said...

Street Prophets!

That explains why your username sounded so familiar, Werewolf Prophet! I believe I've read some of your posts before. Good stuff, as I recall.

IT said...

Thank you wolfie for a moving testament to what love really is.

Paul said...

It is a shame that, when heterosexuals attempt to understand same sex attraction, they seldom think to draw analogies to their own experience of heterosexual love.

IT said...

Wofie, may I add that I'm really happy you've stopped by here at FoJ.

Erika Baker said...

Brilliant post, IT, and an excellent comment thread!

What I would really like to know is what Andrew Marin means when he says that he "loves" us. Love is a completely devalued word when used by Christians (and have you noticed that he disappears from every blog he pops up in as soon as anyone asks more searching questions?).

I rather appreciate James Alison's theology that God not only loves us but actually likes us, and that's the only definition of love I will accept as valid.

But Christians have done awful things in the name of loving human beings - "cruel to be kind" must have been a Christian invention...

I agree with IT that I don't want to be tolerated, but I also have to accept that I need to speak to people who merely tolerate me in order to change their hearts about me. Especially if, like IT, you live in a country where the intolerant lot has a lot of political power over your life and changing their minds is of paramount importance.

The conversation has to happen. But with Dah-veed I think it's important that we know exactly who it is we're talking to and that we aren't blinded by superficial protestations of "love".