Andrew Marin: Straight Guy in a Queer World
Katherine Britton – Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
In high school, Andy Marin admits he was a Bible-banging homophobe who had a habit of calling people “fag.” All that changed in the space of three months, when his three best friends came out to him, leaving him reeling. Those revelations began an all-or-nothing pursuit to find a way to connect with his friends living the gay lifestyle while retaining the strength of his faith.
His pursuit took him to the heart of Boystown, Chicago’s gay community, where he and his wife live today. Immersed in the community, Marin formed relationships with gays, lesbians, transgendered and bisexual people that showed him the face of those who wouldn’t darken the door of most churches. Those friendships led Marin, the self-proclaimed homophobe, to a dynamic exploration of how the evangelical church and the gay community could better interact. It was time to elevate the conversation beyond the roadblock questions into something more authentic.
Marin’s book, Love Is an Orientation, is almost as much of a narrative as social handbook. Marin includes stories from gay friends, friends struggling with same-sex attraction, and his own experiences as a straight, white Christian in Boystown while sharing ways to build bridges to reach the gay community for Christ. Along the way, he deals with the inevitable questions of whether sexual orientation can change, how “speaking the truth in love” looks, and a host of other hotbed topics. His answers, however, go far beyond “yes” or “no” responses.
Here, Marin shares his experiences and concerns as a straight, white evangelical with a heart for the LGBT community.
CW: It sounds like your primary goal in writing the book was almost to rehumanize the gay community.
Marin: It’s very true. In the book I say it’s like both communities are working off a false model of the ideal situation. So it’s like, not only is the gay community trying to convince Christians that gay folks are right, and Christians folks are trying to convince gay folks that they’re right, not only are we just talking past each other.
We both—and this is within the broader culture war—we both have a like evil little caricature of each other that are in the back of our heads. So when we move forward in this, or see people, or see things on the news that don’t align with exactly where we’re at or what we’re trying to do, all of the sudden it becomes bad tension. And it becomes not constructive. And it becomes political hotbeds and it becomes us vs. them. What I’m trying to say with this is, we really need to take a chill pill when it comes to the automatic generalizations.
The neat thing is, I’m not trying to convince you to believe in something that you don’t believe. I’m just trying to reclaim what it is to be a “come as you are” culture. The same “come as you are” culture as we are with everyone else.
CW: What would you say are the top mistakes Christians make when addressing the issue of homosexuality – or even more personally, addressing somebody from the gay community?
Marin: I think the one thing where we kind of get it wrong right off the bat is, we think we understand. And what has traditionally happened with this, just like anything else, is someone will come up to us and say, “I have this or I’m that” and we will respond by saying, “Oh, I understand because…” and then we give a nice analogy to that that somehow relates we’re coming off on a level playing field. We’re all starting at the same place.
But when it comes to same-sex attraction, we have to understand that we can’t understand what that is like. If you think about it, when someone has a same-sex attraction, whether they act on that attraction or they don’t act on that attraction, they are automatically passive deviants to mainline Christianity. And I, as a straight, white conservative male, have absolutely zero idea of what it is like to be inherently passive deviant to mainline Christianity for any reason.
And I think this is the part that we’re missing – it’s the human component. It’s the soul component. We’re just looking at it from a heaven-and-hell context. Instead of looking at it as, what did God do to conform us to his image? How did God in his transformational power work within our everyday lives? And that is just getting stifled so much because we automatically think we understand.
I have this little slogan that says, “Right from the gate, you can’t relate.”
CW: Go ahead and explain that a little.
Marin: We have to understand that right from the start, we cannot – never, never, never – understand what it is to have and live with a same-sex attraction. You cannot understand what it’s like to be inherently passive deviant to mainline Christianity. And because of those two specific things, what we in the Christian community have to do – what has to be our first movement every time – is we have to start understanding the gay community through their filtration system, through their perspective. And until we humbly do that, without knowing what’s going to happen down the road, my belief is that nothing significant can happen from this point forward.
One of the things that I try to communicate that I think is so, so important is that, God doesn’t only work when we know what the outcome is going to be. And when it comes to homosexuality, that just doesn’t fit our paradigm! Because we think we have to know what the outcome is going to be.
CW: Somewhere along the way they’re going to change their orientation, is that we think we have to know?
Marin: Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God is going to tell us what’s going to happen at the end of the day in someone’s specific life. … God doesn’t always work when we know what the outcome is going to be, and that is just as applicable to the gay and lesbian community as it is for anybody else.
[This is a long Q&A that I did with Katherine a little over a month ago and it just got published. I’ve broken it up into a few easily readable segments instead of having to digest all of it one one-fall-swoop. I’m looking forward to interacting with your thoughts on what I said!]