Friday, July 2, 2010

Hugging a guy in his underwear (Updated)

This blogpost is rocketing around the email lists and blogs. A guy named Nathan, who works for the Marin Foundation, has blogged about what happened when a group of Evangelicals went to the Chicago Pride Parade with T-shirts saying they are sorry at how Christians treat GLBT people. And a young man dancing on a float jumped off and ran to hug him in thanks. The story has gone viral, and I think speaks as ever to the great spiritual hurt felt by the GLBT community. (Nathan is still dealing with the aftermath).

We talked about the Marin Foundation last year, with what I will describe as skeptical encouragement. This is a group formed by Evangelicals to try to build bridges between the GLBT community and Evangelicals. Andrew Marin dropped in to comment and then dipped out again. On his blog and on the Foundation website, they prevaricate around the questions: are they pro or con? Do they really believe that GLBT people are, in the words of Bishop Gene Robinson, "beloved children of God" as gays, or do they see this as a way to promote "change"? Is this just a kinder, gentler "love the sinner, hate the sin"? Some of the concerns about the Marin group were their apparent misconceptions about what it is to be gay, reducing us to a sex act, and assuming we have little understanding of Christian faith.

For example, there is a lot more to the GLBT community than Pride parades, and handsome young men dancing in their underwear are a definite minority overall. But Tristan makes a much better publicity shot than, say, chatting with a pair of young dads pushing a stroller, or even meeting a lesbian couple at the PTA. Pride parades and gayborhood bars are representative of a very small slice of GLBT America, but the press and the public--and perhaps the Marin Foundation-- seem to think that's the whole pie.

My wife BP was moved by the story, as were several of her work friends (gay and straight). She calls me a cynic that I have doubts about the motivation here. I admit, I AM a cynic. I'm a victim of the Prop H8 propaganda. I'm a knee-jerk partisan on this topic. Remember I'm an anti-religion, ex-Roman Catholic only modestly tamed by my Episcopalian wife and my Episcopalian friends :-).

So, what do you think about Nathan's outreach? Is this a good new thing, a way of breaking down walls and building bridges? Or is it something cynical to lure hurting gay folks with the goal to "cure" them? And, even if it IS something cynical, can good still come out of it?

Picture from Nathan's blog.

Update: For another view of Christians at Pride, see this article in the Guardian: Queer, Christian, and Proud

Update 2: There is a spirited conversation going on in the comments to Marin's post on his blog (Marin is Nathan's boss). I wrote
there are authentic Christian communities who do welcome GLBT people, and call them to be people of integrity within their gay identity. I’m thinking of the UCC, or the Episcopalians. These communities are activists for GLBT civil rights. They march with GLBT folks in Pride, or in protest events. The work within their own churches for equal rights. Their clergy include have faithfully partnered gay folks and women as well as men. They aren’t just talking the talk. They are walking with us too.
Marin did not like that.

Another poster called Eugene wrote,
More importantly, there is no conflict between “gay” identity and “Christian” identity. A “gay” person is a homosexual person who is comfortable with his sexual orientation. This identity certainly doesn’t imply promiscuity or atheism, so it doesn’t negate the “Christian” identity in any way – unless you believe that Christianity is inherently homophobic.
Eugene also points us to a recording of Marin's talk to the Christian side about GLBT people, here (download it).
It’s a mix of Andrew’s good intentions, bad intentions, knowledge and cluelessness. In my opinion it’s pretty harmful, and surely isn’t pro-gay. It’s long, so here are the the most interesting parts:
03:30-05:30 “Their identity becomes wrapped up in being gay”
15:00-23:00 “Best friend Dan”
45:00-51:30 “I have what I call the continuum of change”
01:25:00-01:28:00 “There is a ton of hope for a person like that”
so go hear what Marin says with his own tongue.


Jarred said...

I tend to be an optimist and believe that anything that gets people talking to -- and more importantly, listening to -- each other can be a good thing.

Paul said...

I understand your suspicion. I don't know what this guy believes. Maybe he is just a "compassionate" reactionary. I can't see into his heart. Still, he seems to have moved a bit from mainstream evangelicism (is that a word?) and any movement in the right direction is a good sign.

it's margaret said...

I'm with you IT. Mostly because I distrust evangelical religion, it's motives, it's expression, it's foundation. So. Yes. I am doubtful and cynical about all this.... don't wanna be, but I am.

Episcopal Bear said...

I second & third the cynicism, and like Margaret, wish I wasn't, but there you have it.

Conservative Christians are masters of the hidden agenda e.g. stealth candidates for the local School Board or a soup kitchen where one must listen to a sermon before one can eat. In other words, conditional love, UNLIKE the way God loves us and asks us to love each other.

Also, as a 25 year veteran of a 12 Step program, I'm acutely aware just how meaningless "Sorry" is when not backed up by amends and REAL change.

When the Marin Foundation organizes a counter-protest of Fred Phelps, and loudly, publicly denounces legislation like Prop H8, then I might believe they're goal of reconciliation is sincere.

JCF said...

Considering how big the "Ex-Gays" are on hugging (Y'know, their theory that gay men are just lacked affection from their fathers, and that non-sexual hugging by other males can cure ya O_o), this picture, by itself, doesn't move me.

My question: how do they feel about gay couples? You either affirm/support them, or you don't. THAT is what I want to know about the Marin Foundation

Erp said...

I'm not sure the people in the Marin Foundation know where they stand yet. Where they are now is unlikely to be where they will be in 5 years time.

Andrew Marin has apparently attended marriages of same-sex couples (as a guest not protester). He was also very early in protesting the bill in Uganda.

LKT said...

Probably your best bet to get a better sense of where they are at is to read Marin's book, "Love is an Orientation." I haven't read it myself so I can't comment, but I've read the responses of folks, both liberal and conservative, who have.

On the lib side:

On the conservative side:

Reading the reactions on the conservative side leave me with the impression that he's more out to change the hearts and minds of Evangelicals than gay and lesbian people. And that it is having some effect.

Brother David said...

Since the work of the Marin Foundation is ultimately what Andrew Marin wants it to be, because it is his foundation, he controls it and it is his agenda, in the end what Nathan thinks or feels is irrelevant.

Andrew Martin has been accused by his former GLBT friends as being dishonest about his relationships with them as a means of forwarding his foundation and his agenda and himself personally during the startup phase of his foundation. On three occasions; once here and twice at Changing Attitude, over the last two years I have asked him direct questions regarding his agenda for GLBT folks who associate with his program. I have also point blank asked him to tell us his beliefs regarding godly GLBT relationships. After initially claiming to be available to listen and discuss, all three times he has slinked away, never to return to the conversation he claimed to be open to holding with me. He told me once that I was asking the wrong questions.

Every major US GLBT organization that I have approached and asked about their relationship with him and his foundation has distanced themselves from any further association with him after the initial interaction. They learned quickly that he is dishonest about his intentions and not to be trusted.

If you read through his foundation's website there is nothing positive about GLBT people or a GLBT orientation. If you read through their program for GLBT folks who participate at the foundation, it is a kinder and gentler reparative therapy for GLBT folks who are at their weakest, they are usually unhappy or despise their sexual orientation.

If you read through the program that they offer to Evangelical Christians, it is that with the current hateful behavior the Evangelical cause is loosing GLBT souls for Christ and if Evangelicals are going to be able to win GLBT souls to Christ and ultimately rescue them from their sinful and God despised sexual orientation Evangelicals need to learn a different conduct, a loving behavior. My Abuela always told me that it was easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar.

Because he has not been successful in North America with mostly US GLBT organizations, Andrew Marin has recently turned his eye toward the UK where his reputation is not yet well known.

Regarding Andrew Marin and the Marin Foundation, be afraid, be very afraid, there be monsters here.

IT said...

Dahveed, you make good points. I worry that they prey on people who want a spiritual connection, who don't appreciate that there are authentic communities who not only talk the talk, bt walk the walk, including TEC but also UCC and others.

People are also discussing this on Marin's own blog . I also cross posted at StreetProphets

Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

I would say that there is a law of "unintended consequences" that even if there is something sinister maybe God's power can move it to something dfifferent. That being said, I remember the line from Field of Dreams,

"Those first two were high and tight.
So what do you think the next one will be?
Either low and away or in my ear.
He's not going to want to load the bases.
So look for low and away.
But watch out for in your ear."

I hope this is not to cryptic but i would say, "Wathc out for in your ear".

Brother David said...

IT, I went to Marin's own blog and he refers folks to this above linked video for his answer as to why he refuses to answer questions such as those that I asked of him. This is why he told me that I am asking the wrong questions. After a really quick introduction, Marin is the first speaker on the video.

The short answer; Marin says that after reading the entire Gospel in one sitting he discovered that during his "three year public ministry" Jesus refused to answer closed ended, yes or no, questions. Marin refuses to answer the "Big 5" questions that GLBT folks ask him over and over and over;
1. Do you think that it is a sin?
2. Can someone change?
3. Is someone born that way?
4. Can someone be gay and Christian?
5. Are gay people going to hell?
because he says that Jesus would have refused to answer them.

That is a straight forward answer. I do not agree with his logic. What he says towards the end of his talk turns to gobbley gook and I am not sure if I cannot understand him because of my poor English or because it is really what it sounds like to me, double speak.

Asbury Park said...

Conservatives like Marin need to accommodate themselves to the growing reality of fully-welcoming Christian communities rather than insisting there's some kind of spiritual malaise among GLBT Christians. He projects his own uncertainties & doubts & then asks to be paid money to share them in "workshops."

Anonymous said...

People like Marin prey (as in birds of prey) on LGBT people who are desparate for straight approval. And gay people often fall for this bait. A lot of gay leaders sell out for this reason as well. Marin needed a market niche, and this gives him a good podium for his "personality cult" because it is all about him. You don't see lesbians take a public role on the website, and you don't see even a clue about his sexism, which is so rampant, most lesbians I know would feel nauseated to read this straight guy. We'd never put up with someone as smarmy at patriarchal as that guy.
I think he may even be a closet case, and it's mostly insecure gay men who seem to flock to him. No reputable gay or lesbian organizations I deal with have anything to do with his double talk anymore, and we need to warn the community NOT to give that man or his mealy mouthed organization one dime. Support the churches who are marching in the streets against Prop 8, support the people who actually ordain gay and lesbian clergy. Support MCC which is a gay centered church, and definitely could use our support or money in a recession. But don't give money to the straight man! Geez guys, don't fall for it.

IT said...

Dahveed and another have taken up Marin at his on blog. To his credit, Marin leaves it there (Nathan appears to be moderating), but they don't seem to have an answer to the question of whether their goal is to "cure" GLBT people (which a truly fundamentalist Evanglical outlook leaves as the only option).

Unlike REAL straight allies who actually walk the walk. And we know enough of those to know the difference.

Brother David said...

In case there are those who do not wish to venture to Marin's blog, here are two comments by guys who have also read through the Foundation's website and are concerned about the dishonesty on Andrew Marin's part;

(Emphasis mine. Dah•veed)

AdamN July 3, 2010 at 4:45 pm
Nope. The orientation recording made it really clear, the ultimate goal of this “bridge building” is making gay people change or be celibate. The ultimate goal for the church appears to be: lets be less homophobic when interacting with these people committing sin so we can reel them in and then convert them to OUR agenda. That isn’t a dialogue. He’s saying vague, wishy washy, happy, lovey dovey, non-committal things to gay people while at the same time promoting a strategy to the very people who wish to force us back into a closeted, pre-Stonewall miserable existence. That’s working against us.

Whats really alarming is that the orientation focused so much on gay kids as young as 13-15. Andrew repeatedly spoke about getting to these kids before the gay community did because (Oh Noes!) the community would accept them and say their sexuality is healthy and natural as opposed to the Church teaching them…well that part was very suspiciously left quiet vague but I’ll betcha its not all cuddly bunnies for us homos.

To preach this stuff to kids is absolutely dangerous, and in my mind, pretty much equal to child abuse. Gay kids are already incredibly vulnerable growing up in a homophobic society. The last thing they need is a church coming in and telling them their sexuality is sinful, that they ultimately need to think about being celibate or convert to heterosexuality. That is absolutely and totally inexcusable and horribly damaging to kids. (I think its really funny that fundies always talk about the monolithic gay community, as if there is such a unified entity, “converting” children when they try pull this nonsense. Projecting much?)

Eugene July 3, 2010 at 5:18 pm
Actually, I can’t fully agree that the recording makes the ultimate goal “really clear”. Still, Andrew says very alarming things. He says that gay kids shouldn’t self-identify as gay (and Christians should actively work to prevent it). He says that they shouldn’t come out. He wants them to self-identify as Christian – as if two aspects are mutually exclusive. And it actually appears to be consistent with the info on the Marin Foundation website:

“The Marin Foundation is here to… help shape a healthy identity wrapped in Christ, not an identity and worth system based only in ones sexuality.” (

It’s as if anyone who identifies as gay has an “identity and worth system based only in ones sexuality”. Doesn’t this nonsense remind you of anti-gay and “ex-gay” beliefs? How is it even possible, anyway?

And, no, being “gay and Christian” isn’t enough. According to Andrew, when a 15 year old wants to be gay and Christian, “there is a ton of HOPE for a person like that” because “you can’t be married and you can’t have kids” when you’re 35 years old.

Brother David said...

Earlier this year (APR) Colin Coward at Changing Attitude UK posted more praises of Andrew Marin. He had been in a meeting with Andrew and refuses to look past Marin's cuddly exterior. When I posted comments meant to give Marin's real aims and goals the light of day, the Revd Coward accused me of forensically dissecting the Marin Foundation website and denigrating Marin publicly.

Well, I think someone needs to do it because honestly, Coward is too enamored with cute little Andrew to do it himself and warn folks that Andrew Marin is a wolf in sheep's clothing, especially when it comes to kids discovering their sexuality and GLBT folks who are unhappy and depressed about their sexual orientation. Those are two identified prime targets of the Marinites.

Brother David said...

If you are interested in hearing Andrew Marin discuss how he really feels about GLBT folks and their sexual orientation and being Christian, here is the audio presentation he made;

I have downloaded it for posterity.

Erika Baker said...

And I'm still as torn about this as I was. I read all the links and other reports and I agree that Andrew's intentions are to find a gentle way to promote the same old anti gay stuff.
But I still believe that he is not in control of the conversations he starts.

Evangelicals haven't actually been listening to us and the welcoming churches who walk with us are all liberal.
So if someone like Nathan discovers that we're not as he thinks, who's to say that this doesn't eventually change his theology about us too?
Direct contact with lgbt friends may have turned Andrew into a woolf in sheep's clothing, but it can turn others into genuine friends.

I understand Dahveed's concern for the gay kids who are being deceived.
But again, the question is how we deal with that.
Is it more constructive to wash our hands of Marin and his foundation and to leave them to it, or is it better to engage with them alongside those kids?

IT said...

Erika, all good points. Talking about this yesterday with my wife and a friend at church, they came to the conclusion that you did: that once a door opens, once a conversation starts, there is the possibility of understanding.

I concede that, but I think it's important we keep a cautious, perhaps skeptical encouragement, and provide information about them as we see it. I just wish Marin et al were a little more transparent. And perhaps they will be, and perhaps they will learn from the gay folk to whom they attempt to minister.

Erika Baker said...

I agree with you, and I was encouraged by all the genuinely pro-gay Christians involved in the discussion on Marin's blog. At least kids reading the blog will get the idea that there's genuine acceptance out there too, and they may have their eyes opened about Marin sooner than they otherwise would.