When the Supreme Court of Iowa ruled 5-0 that same sex marriage was constitutional, many pastors like me were sent on a quest to understand the issue at hand. By the providence of God, Scot McKnight had reviewed a book titled Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. One click later, I was in business.
Marin is a straight, conservative evangelical who began his quest years ago when three of his closest friends came out to him. That series of events led him down a path which would eventually lead him to live in the Boystown Neighborhood of North Chicago with his wife and children.
Marin does a superb job helping the reader understand something about same sex orientation. He offers some statistical insights that provide clarity. For example, Marin suggests that anywhere from 1% to 7% of the American population is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender (GLBT). He goes on to report that according to his research only 7% to 15% of the GLBT community claim to have experienced some form of sexual abuse as a child. The average age of a person who becomes aware of same sex orientation in America is 13, and the average age of their going public with that information is 15.
An African American friend of mine says that prejudice is “being down on what you’re not up on.” As I read the book I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experiences ministering to the gay and lesbian community of urban St. Louis. As I think back, my pitiful offerings were gracious, but not helpful. The young men I remember in particular were deeply conflicted as the wrestled with their same sex attraction and their open Bibles.
The book reflects Marin’s ongoing conversation with the Gay and Lesbian community, including the formal and informal research he has conducted. His ministry has resulted in the establishment of a foundation as well as the publication of this book. Love is an Orientation serves its readers in several meaningful ways.
I appreciate that the author took time to help his readers understand the theology of those who claim to possess Christian faith and same sex attraction. Marin does so by dealing with the five major passages in the Bible: Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah); Leviticus 18:27, 20:13 (The Holiness Code); Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; and 1 Timothy 1:9-11. The GLBT community does not interpret these passages as being directed toward those in loving monogamous relationships. In the case of Paul, they interpret the prohibitions as condemnations of the practice of pederasty and prostitution. The silence of Jesus on the subject is also given significant consideration. While this is beneficial, Marin does not address Catholic theology regarding sexuality as it relates to procreation. Neither does he mention the bride and groom imagery in the New Testament between Christ and his Church.
The book is not an apologetic or a defense of same sex orientation. Rather, Marin’s goal is to provide guidance to the Christian community so that their response is appropriate and compassionate. Admittedly, the response of the “Church” has been anemic at best. For decades the “Church” has gripped the pew and closed her eyes tightly hoping that the issue would not come to their doorsteps.
In order to engage in meaningful conversation with the GLBT community, Marin challenges the Christian community to overcome two things. First, he invites the Church to step out of its entrenched position that same sex orientation is a choice and consider the possibility that natural same sex orientation does exist. He does not see this as the same as saying God created same sex orientated people.
The second challenge the church must overcome is to realize that it’s not their job to “fix” GLBT persons. He reminds us that we are to love all people, regardless of their orientation, and let God be God. Marin relates a story from the presidency of Bill Clinton. After the Monica Lewinksi story broke in the media, Billy Graham went to visit the President. After their conversation, Billy Graham was publicly criticized for going to visit and pray with President Clinton. Dr. Graham’s response was simple and to the point. Graham said, “It is God’s job to judge and the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. My job is to love.”
The subtitle of the book is “elevating the conversation with the gay community.” This is clearly the author’s goal. He points out that Jesus was asked 25 closed ended questions seeking a definite yes or no during his ministry, yet only responded to 1 question with a closed ended answer. If Christians are going to engage the GLBT community, they are going to have to shift from closed conversation to a more open dialogue. He challenges Christians to dialogue, discuss, learn, love, and ultimately leave the results to God. No one can experience transformation apart from God, and Marin suggests that believers have become obstacles by demanding transformation prior to engagement. Do we trust God enough to love as he loved, and leave the results to him?
I highly recommend Love is an Orientation. It could be one of the most important books published this year.