Evangelicals and Gays: A New Medium of Engagement
By Andrew Marin
This article appears as a part of the Consultation on Re-Envisioning the Relationship between Evangelicals and Gays. The Consultation invites a broad variety of perspectives on what that relationship ought to be, and how it might be made so.
Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation, a non-profit that builds bridges between religious communities and gay, lesbian, bisexual, trangender communities. His book, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community, has received more awards than any other individual book in the history of InterVarsity Press.
I write this article from Eastbourne, England, where I am on a month-long United Kingdom Bridge Building Tour working directly with the conservative Christian and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) communities through a variety of secular and faith-based organizations, churches, political groups, universities, and seminaries. These groups came together, in many cases for the first time, to join in constructive dialogue on a national level. This past month has taught me that neither space, nor culture, nor time separates the pervasive struggles between the Church and the GLBT community. Whether this disconnect is openly discussed, as it is within the American arena, or, as a British evangelical vicar says, "just seethes in silence around the UK," the answers sought on the path toward some semblance of reconciliation are arriving at a pace much slower than either group would wish.
Thus the culture war, in clamor or in silence, rages on. And it will do so until one of the communities finally gets over its pride and picks up the cross to bear the blame for both groups -- to bear the blame for the negatively imputed cultural perceptions, for the evil agendas, for everything that has been done in vain against the other. Yet both have proven time and again that they are too stubborn to admit that the whole system, created by each in visceral retaliation against the other, is completely wrong. And if the institutions cannot bring themselves to do it, what does it mean for courageous individuals to take the first steps into the unknown by humbly bearing the blame when the fault might not truly be theirs, yours, or mine? A commitment to bear the blame for the sins of both sides does not make the situation right. In fact it makes this whole thing that much more wrong. But my experience has shown me that it is necessary. Someone must bear the burden if anything is to change from this point forward.
"Wisdom," Jesus said, "is proved right by her actions" (Matthew 11:19). The conventional "wisdom" thus far in the narrative of the broken relationship between the GLBT and evangelical communities has been constructed through the cognitive intellectualization of ‘action.' The conversation has been dominated by abstract questions like "How should we interact?" and "How have we gotten to this place?" For far too long, the accepted paradigm of engagement has been entirely devoid of relationship. Yet I will not accept this "accepted" medium. It's not acceptable. And it's not working.