Part 3 – Recent Crosswalk.com Interview

Andrew Marin: Straight Guy in a Queer World

Katherine Britton – Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor

Here is the final section to the recent Q&A interview I did with Crosswalk.com (CW). You can check out Part 1 and Part 2. This section focuses on bridge building experiences.

CW: What advice to you give to individuals who want to start building bridges but may not know how?

Marin: There’s two types of ways. There’s the type of person who already knows someone who’s gay and then there’s the type of person who doesn’t know anyone who’s gay – or they don’t think they know anyone.

I’ll start with the later. For someone who doesn’t think they know anyone who’s gay or they legitimately might not, that’s the wonderful thing about Google. You type in your town and you type in “gay” and pretty much any town in the country or a town close to yours is going to pop up a gay group of some type, whether that is a gay-straight alliance at your high school, whether that is an equality rights organization, an HIV/AIDS organization, there is bound to be some type of gay group or organization close to you…

Go find that gay group and then go. Go! Take yourself out of anything that you know that is comfortable and you go and you place yourself right smack dab in the middle of somewhere where you don’t belong and watch what happens.

The first time that I ever went to a gay club with my best friends after they came out to me, like 30 seconds after I walked into this place and everyone’s head is turning right at me. And I’m like, “What’s going on?” And my friends are like, “You ooze alpha-male, maybe you can turn that down a couple notches.” Thirty seconds later a guy walks up to me, taps me on the shoulder and says, “You’re not gay, are you?” And I said, “No, no, I’m not gay.” So he turns around to his friends and says, “See I told you! He’s not gay! Pay up!” They had made a bet. So he goes and gets his money, sticks it in his pocket, comes back, walks right up to my face and says, “Then what are you doing here?” And I was like, I didn’t know what to do I didn’t know what to say. It was a really stressful thing for me. And so we started talking.

By the end of the night, me and that guy and his five or six friends were sitting on couches in the back of this club – now this is the largest gay club in the city of Chicago; there are stripper poles around, porn on the TV, all this stuff is going on – and these guys and me are sitting on these couches and they are crying their eyes out in the middle of this club talking to me about their experiences with God and with faith and with religion and with their families and with all this stuff. I never expected that! That is the exact opposite of what I ever, in my wildest dreams, expected to happen. And it was only because – and this was when the big light bulb went off in my head – which was I became the most unique icebreaker by doing nothing other than going somewhere that I didn’t belong. And sticking out like a sore thumb is a brilliant, brilliant thing that the Lord has given us an opportunity to do.

It doesn’t matter who kicks us out or what they say to us because, just when we are known as Christians or conservatives or evangelicals or whatever, all the baggage that comes with it is going to be placed on us. And until we’re ready to claim that and work through it, how do we expect things to actually happen? We need to go back and back and back and prove that we are who we say we are. And I think that is the one thing that we have not done – we have not proven it. We keep saying it, but we haven’t yet proven it and the only way we can prove it is by being intentional and committed.

CW: How about for somebody who already has that contact [with someone who is gay] but isn’t sure how to proceed?

Marin: I know this is going to sound like a shameless plug, but one of the reasons I did write the book was so I could impart the last almost-decade of my life to a person who reads it. They can know my experiences and go through the main questions—the last section of my book is about how to answer the tough questions on homosexuality, what I call the five litmus questions, like “do you think it’s a sin” and “can you change someone,” etc. Those are all yes or no questions, but I use Jesus’ model to give alternative conversation starters. That’s a wonderful tool for people to have because it releases them and the puts it back on the author, saying, “Hey I was reading this book and here’s his perspective on how to elevate this conversation.” And here’s where the key is. “Because I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what to do and I don’t know how to figure this out.”

CW: So the first step is just being honest?

Marin: The first thing to do, without a doubt, is get back to “right from the gate, you can’t relate.” I tell people all the time, use that! Use that language, claim it as your own. Say “right from the gate, I can’t relate. I can never understand what it’s like to have a same-sex attraction because I don’t have one. And so unless you let me into your life, and we do this thing together, I’ll never know and I’ll never figure this out because I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to understand.” The moment we start putting ourselves as the humble learner is the moment that we’re already leap years ahead of so many others who think they know the answer or have the answer. The more we can do that, the more the defense systems and the walls that separate start to come down on both ends, because it’s authentic and it’s real.

One of the other things I talk about is the two T’s – truthfulness and transparency. I’m not asking anyone from either side or either community to be something that they’re not. I just want authentic relationships. And authentic relationships rooted in Christ are the only way this so divisive and complete culture war is going to end. And we in the Christian community have to be the first ones to take that step.

Why don’t we be the first ones to take that first scary step of faith? That’s the great wonder of faith – it’s the things that we hope for but it’s the things that we are certain that we do not see. We are certain of certain things even though we can’t see it and so we hope for them to happen. One of the greatest things of God’s system that he put forth is that he just doesn’t give us answers. He just doesn’t give us things, he gives us opportunities to figure it out with him.

CW: That’s great for individuals. There’s a whole other side to being an evangelical, and that’s being part of the church. Corporately, can you lay out something for pastors and congregations as a whole to start working on?

Marin: I don’t think the annual sermon on homosexuality ever works. I think it does more harm than good. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because churches will bring the topic to the forefront and then it’ll just end. A sermon is 30 or 40 minutes tops, you can’t even start to get into any depth or crevasses on homosexuality or the culture wars.

After someone does the annual talk on homosexuality, there are so many questions. There are so many things that people wonder about, there are so many people who come out of the woodwork to be like, “Hey, I’m gay” or “I have a same-sex attraction” and the problem is that churches never give a framework for follow-up and follow-through. They think the annual sermon on homosexuality—they’ve done their job, it releases them from their responsibility. It’s like, “Okay, now that’s done and I don’t have to deal with it for another two years.” But there’s never a framework for follow-up and follow-through, which is why The Marin foundation exists. We work with so many churches around the country who want to provide that framework so that when you bring it up, it’s not going to be another dead issue that you’ve just conquered and can wait another two years to hear again.

I don’t believe it’s difficult to get gay and lesbian people to come to our churches, yet it’s a whole different ball game to actually keep them in the fold. And why that is, what tends to happen is they come to our churches and the heads turn, the whispers begin and they never come back. They never come back. We’ve just spit on that opportunity to do something for the Kingdom in that person’s life because we whispered and we looked at them funny and they’ve never going to come back.

[W]hat happens when you have a gay couple who has a kid and they come to church? Are you going to kick them out or are you going to try to serve them as best as you can, serve their child as best you can? For me, this isn’t a topic that has to be talked about fifty-two weeks a year for ten years consecutive. It’s just a topic that needs to be understood and formulated in such a way that when gay or lesbian people do come to our churches, everyone is on the same page.

The hard part is, how do we live out our theological beliefs in such a way that we are able to serve our community that’s on the outside?

CW: You have been working with churches over the past few years. Do you have anything exciting that you can share about what’s been going on in some of them?

Marin: A couple years ago, I couldn’t have talked to you and said, “Hey, Katherine, I’ll give you all these exciting things happening in churches.” It was still a dream at that point. But today I can literally sit here and say there are churches all over the country that are doing great things for the Kingdom within their own local gay and lesbian communities that have never happened previously. For instance, we can even look at the church that I attend. We’re located in a predominately lesbian neighborhood in Chicago.

I had another church in San Diego recently and they were looking for a new building. And they said the Lord just kept impressing on them that they needed to reach their large gay community here in San Diego so they moved their church right into the middle of the gay community in San Diego and they have started involving a team of people who now – each one has a different gay organization that they go to on a regular basis and they go and they go back and they go back, and they keep saying, “This is the church I’m from. This is what I’m doing.” In essence, they’ve recreating my original immersion experience and all of the sudden gay and lesbian people are starting to come to their church and starting to involve themselves in conservative, evangelical Bible-believing churches. People look at them and say, “Why in the world would you go to that church?” and they say, “Because that church has finally figured out how to serve the community that’s been looked at on the outside for so long.” It doesn’t start or stop with just these little churches. There are some very large megachurches that have done significant things, for instance, Willow Creek and Newsong being some of them. They’ve brought me in and let me teach week after week, starting group after group.

It’s just amazing the different things that have actually happened. I don’t like to name drop churches because I don’t think my work is set in a Willow Creek or Newsong or anything like that, because ultimately The Marin Foundation, our goal is to systemically build a bridge between the broader gay and lesbian community and the church. And the only way for that to happen is for these small local churches all across the country to rise up and start living in a different way. Then bam, the movement has taken off.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Do you think, Andrew, that one of the obstacles to more churches welcoming a visiting gay family is wondering if they are sincerely seeking Christ or communion with fellow believers or if they might be there to push the envelope or make a statement?

    Two thoughts come to mind for me as I read the interview above. One is that you and others who "can't relate out of the gate" to the gay struggle could be a powerful tool in God's hands. You can do what I cannot, as one who can relate.

    The second thought is that there are some gay Christian organizations out there that also could make your work tougher. The most visible one has sent gay families to certain targeted mega-churches to dialogue, if possible, but also to be a show of sorts. I also recall that the gay couple who started that organization (they got a marriage in California while they were briefly legal) used to stand up at one prominent church (mine) in protest if anything touching homosexuality was said from the pulpit. They were right sometimes in that it ought not to have been brought up in the way it was, but at other times, they were in effect, trying to annul God's Word.

    I would hope this kind of thing would not become a more troublesome movement in the culture-war climate that still prevails and that is possibly being exacerbated by our current political landscape. I sense a great rumbling all over the country right now. Perhaps it can be offset in a meaningful way by what you are doing.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Debbie – as always, your insights and words so hit my core! Thanks. In response to your question "Do you think, Andrew, that one of the obstacles to more churches welcoming a visiting gay family is wondering if they are sincerely seeking Christ or communion with fellow believers or if they might be there to push the envelope or make a statement?"

    Here are my thoughts:

    I think that it is a very real obstacle for churches to discern between those two motives. However, I don't think a church should ever let whatever anyone's motives are, deter the chruch from being the church! AND, my thought is who cares what the motives are! Who cares what brought them to church that Sunday, they're still going to hear the same message and meet the same people as everyone else. Therefore, whether or not someone comes to church to fight or to listen, we better make sure we're on point with who we are and what we believe and how we treat people and build bridges with others because that is always Kingdom work – not just on Sunday. Though, if Sunday at church happens to be such a day for gay couples to either earnestly check things out or just make a scene, we should feel privledged either way that they even walked in the doors to our church. Either way, everyone is watching us and them, and that opportunity is a wonderful chance to show everyone what living out our faith looks like in real time.

  • Jon Trouten

    "Do you think, Andrew, that one of the obstacles to more churches welcoming a visiting gay family is wondering if they are sincerely seeking Christ or communion with fellow believers or if they might be there to push the envelope or make a statement?"

    I can imagine no church that would consider such motivations for any visiting family with heterosexual parents. How sad that a church or its membership would consider such motivations for a family with gay parents.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jon – You're a gay man with a family, what has your experience been like walking into church with your husband and kids? I think we all need to hear this first hand.

    Have you ever gone to a conservative church? What was that like? How about a more progressive church? Besides the obvious, what's the difference and how did you feel? Would you ever go back? What would, if anything, influence you to go back? What would you change with your conservative church experience, assuming that conservative churches will still see comitted monogamous relationships a sin?

    I know, it's a lot of questions. Feel free to answer if you see fit. Or, if anyone else has these experiences, let's here them!

    Much love.

  • http://www.thisischurch.net Mike Filicicchia

    Andrew, you are a man after my own heart. I'm a future pastor/church-planter who grew up in a gay household, and while I thought much of that issue was behind me, God keeps bringing gay people into my life, much like he did yours. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it all, but you're helping a ton. I love your approach. You are a breath of fresh air.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Please, do not think I am setting up a comparison between gay folks and vagrants in my last comment. Golly, these days every word we utter is subject to scrutiny and we feel we must always be clarifying. I was attempting to say that everyone will be visited in some way by someone who will push their discomfort button. Those moments will be opportunities to recycle God's grace. We cannot be "respecters of persons" in a judgmental sense. Sorry for the momentary paranoia.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    P-R-E-A-C-H it Seth – transform not conform!

  • http://Crosswalk.com/News Katherine Britton

    I had a great time talking with you and learning from you, Andrew. I hope the evangelical community catches this vision of bridge-building and radical welcome in the coming years. Amazing how we center on what Christ talked about only a few times… God bless!

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Actually, I can imagine other groups of (non-gay) people having to be considered in that very way, sadly, as you say, Jon. I want to give myself a lobotomy sometimes to forget some of the things I have witnessed and experienced in my life. I’ll have to settle for letting it be filtered through a God-lens.

    Andrew, thank you for your gracious and insightful answer. Yes, who cares or ought to? Real people, struggling to make sense out of some senseless stuff, that’s who. Our culture has brought much confusion to our churches.

    At any rate, your response is the same thing my husband and I have always said when we are approached by a vagrant asking for money. Who knows when we may be visited by angels?

    So, I am guessing your would recommend that I attend tomorrow’s Webinar for small-group life leaders in which Mark Howell, Bill Donahue and Greg Bowman are presenting. “During one of the top-rated sessions at The Leadership Summit, Gary Hamel challenged leaders to ‘escape the straitjacket of conventional thinking.’” I’m up for some of that.

  • Seth

    About “going someplace where you don’t belong,” that’s the working definition of an ambassador. Whether that’s a straight alpha-male visiting a gay club, a believer among non-believers, or a gay Christian family in a conservative church, we are called to transform the world, not conform to it.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    Transform not conform….good answer. I am assuming you are saying to show them love, but not show them tolerance, right? Not justifying the sin, but loving the sinner as Christ loved us?

    There is a problem with the militant section of that community. They go into churches just to cause problems.

    Unfortunately, their lifestyle makes my stomach too queasy. I cannot go into a lesbian bar or into that community. I don’t mind if they come here if their intentions are to learn about God. If they are honestly seeking change in thier life as in the case of someone who came to Soup Kitchen at our church and came to know Christ. She turned her back on her lifestyle and became straight. That is a miracle.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Nikole – I am soooooooooo excited you brought up the word “tolerance”!!! I am going to be doing a series on the blog, starting in a few days, about the Langauge of the Culture War. That is one of the four most heated words (along with Reconciliation, Affirmation and Homophobic). Can’t wait!!! Thanks.

  • Jon Trouten

    I’ll work on your questions as I have time this afternoon, Andrew.

    As to the rest, I really can’t imagine why I would come to most of your churches with my family and weather accusations of militancy, impure motivations, and general queasiness. Or if the only way our family would be welcomed long-term would be if our family was dissolved.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jon – If you could email me, I’d like to put your thoughts as full posts instead of comments. I think it would be a great conversation starter surrounding this topic. Thanks.

  • Jack Harris

    Hi Andrew,

    To answer your question, I cannot really see a reason why I would want to attend an evangelical conservative church. When you consider what the overall belief that is held by such a congregation/denomination with respect to homosexuality –upled with the fact that there are already so many other gay affirming churches out there–I mean honestly–why would I bother going? I think I would just feel uncomfortable regardless of how welcoming a congregation might be.

  • Jack Harris

    upled should read coupled…

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jack – I think you bring up a very interesting point; why would you go? I mean by all standards if I was you I probably wouldn’t want to either (hence The Marin Foundation’s work, and those within it both gay and straight). So here’s my question back:

    Besides a whole hearted change in theology, what would influence you to go to (even visit) a conservative church, if anything?

    The reason I ask is that I don’t know the answer, if there even is an answer? Either way I think it would be a great point/lesson for me to start bringing up in churches. Thanks!

  • Jack Harris

    Andrew,

    Well, I guess there would have to be a complete understanding that any discussion regarding my partner and I and our relationship was off limits. In addition to this, there would be no efforts to try to convert us or change us or constantly bringing up the topic of homosexuality being a sin.

    Although honestly for me, my decision to not attend a conservative evangelical church would go beyond the gay issue. I have other theological concerns. For me, I believe, for example, in women’s ordination and NOT a literal interpretation of scripture. So, for me, personally, that would cause me not to want to attend.

  • http://bridgeout.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/are-you-a-bridge-builder/ Wendy

    This article is one huge reason I am sure Karen at Pursuing God nominated you for the Bridge Builder Award. The best part of this award for me so far has been the other individuals I have been introduced to on the web via those other bridge builders. I am eager to check out more on this site, and already added you on Twitter.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there and building bridges!

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Andrew, I just wanted to report that I did attend the Webinar I mentioned in a comment yesterday — three-fourths of it, that is. I finally checked out because I felt it was not a fruitful use of my time. I had hoped to be able to say otherwise. It was an esoteric, flighty management kind of thing rather than any nuts-and-bolts help for a small group leader like me. This kind of say-nothing talk really drives someone who has been in the military crazy. The Church is suffering from an epidemic of poor communication and over-management!

    The Webinar centered around Gary Hamel's book, "The Future of Management." One tidbit that could have been the germ for so much more came in the form of mentioning a news article one of the Willow Creek guys (either Donahue or Bowman) has linked to on a blog. It essentially said that when we focus on connecting via e-mail, Facebook, etc. rather than going out among people in a tactile environment, we are trading the "complicated reality of friendship" for something far less in a virtual sense. Bingo! I thought of you and what you are doing in insisting on living in the community you felt led to reach.

    Mark Howell, who was the main presenter, then said something I didn't want to hear and I will always struggle to accept: "I know this is the direction things are going," meaning we have to learn to use new technology to create/maintain community and relationship within the church. Say it ain't so! One of the Willow Creek guys (sorry, I couldn't distinguish who was who) then gave an example of how if his wife has just had a miscarriage, he wants 10 people in the room with him, and not a bunch of e-mails. Yes!

    I bring this up because you have talked about Willow Creek a lot and you are involved with small groups yourself. I am not familiar with their Group Life program, but it sounded as if they were talking about more general, open-type small groups/fellowships. Recovery groups are a different animal, but with some of the same objectives.

    I was disappointed not to hear prayer mentioned once. It seemed more as if they were talking about a chummy gathering, but in the 30 minutes I listened, I could not get a sense of how they believed small groups should function in terms of folks ministering to one another's spiritual needs. If we cannot effectively communicate WITHIN the Church what a chief ministry should look like or do, how in heaven's name do we expect to be bridging the gap with those on the outside in a meaningful way?

    By the way, I indict my own church her,e too. It was our own leadership that recommended the Webinar. Andrew, you are in a highly tactile ministry. I can't see doing it any other way. We have various online communities via our blogs, Facebook, etc. We all "know" people we might even call friends in this way. But nothing can replace the effectiveness of real church, real community and real, personal ministry.

    Sorry. I just found the Webinar to be a bummer. What I can see of you, Andrew, leads me to believe you are not "one of those guys."

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    Jesus wants our all. He sees our sin and loves us, but He does not leave us in sin. Salvation does not legitimize sin. He wants us to have a relationship with Him.

  • Jon Trouten

    So you think that my husband and I should divorce. What should we do with our boys? Bounce them back and forth between two homes for the rest of their childhood? Just so I can attend your church?

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    The question I ask is: If you are going to church, why are you going to church if you are not going to change? The whole point of allowing Christ into your life is to be transformed into His image and this means changing your lifestyle. It can only happen if Christ is in your heart and soul. God does not leave us where we are and my life is a testimony to this. We study the WHOLE Bible and not just the parts we like. I like attending a church where the message causes me to examine every dark crevice in my life not, “Let’s try to sell God to the people even if this means compromising the Word of God.”

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    Not that I am saying you are doing this, Andrew.

  • Jon Trouten

    I get your point, Nikole. The church has no place for gay people or our families. Not unless we want to disrupt our families.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    Jesus never claimed following Him would be easy. The path I walked was never easy and it did disrupt my family, but I would do it again because He has blessed my life beyond what I deserve.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    When you love someone whole heartily, you keep following Him even when the paved path turns rocky and it becomes a mountain. On the otherside of the mountain is a beautiful valley.

  • Nikole Hahn

    Hi Jon,

    As a gay partnered man, I know that what Nikole says is hurtful. I think as Andrew has often quoted “Out of the gate, you can’t relate”. I don’t think Nikole is a bad person, she just can’t relate. Her experience is not our experience. Our understanding of scripture is different. This is what I have been trying to do with evangelicals. I try to love them even thought their beliefs about homosexuality are very hurtful. I try to turn the tables on them and take the mindset that I am “witnessing” to them as much as they are “witnessing” to me. :)

    My partner and I are living our lives in such a way that glorify God. I do not try to preach to them that I think their beliefs are in error because quite honestly, I am not going to change their mind, and they are not going to change my mind. Bridge building is difficult and I think engaging in a conversation with someone like Nikole, at least for now, probably isn’t going bear much fruit. (LOL) Sorry for the pun.

    Just keep your eyes on Jesus, He loves all His children gay and straight just as we are. Just my two cents worth. Peace, Jack

  • Jack Harris

    Jon,

    I agree with you 100% but like I said before they don't always have a frame of reference to work from when it comes to having these discussions. I am not letting her or other evangelicals off the hook BUT I do think we have to realize that they are never going to understand our perspective until both sides give each other the space to ask questions and to learn. As always just my 2 cents. :) Peace, Jack :)

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    Thank you, Debbie. I appreciate the response. I think you worded it the way I hoped my words would be taken. And as the M&M's commercial goes, "She does exist." lol. I'm not sure how Jack responded with my information. Odd.

  • Jon Trouten

    Condescension or not, the truth is that folks like Jack and I do indeed have different understandings of scripture than others like Nicole.

    The fact is that I am a Christian, as is my husband and (presumably) our kids, though they will ultimately need to maintain their individual journeys as they age. Our status as Christians, on the other hand, is repeatedly denied by other Christians. Not to mention, our permission to worship with most Christians is dependent on our willingness to break up our family. That's not cool and I really doubt any others here would seriously divorce their spouses and leave their kids in order to worship with other Christians. But that's what people like me are repeatedly asked to do.

  • Jon Trouten

    I don’t find her words hurtful, Jack/(Nicole?). I just think that she and others don’t really think through or care to think through what they ask or insist of gay people. Or why their invitations to evangelical Christianity are largely ignored.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Not sure how Jack’s comment could post as though it were Nikole’s. Is there a real Nikole? That aside, I find more condescension in the responses aimed at Nikole than the other way around (i.e., “Our understanding of scripture is different”, etc.).

    We must be careful when we accuse others of lip service or ignorance that we are not guilty of it, ourselves. I have a frame of reference that a “can’t relate out of the gate” doesn’t. I get your perspective, Jack. Does Nikole, too? Perhaps that’s what this means: “The path I walked was never easy and it did disrupt my family, but I would do it again because He has blessed my life beyond what I deserve”).

    “Or why their invitations to evangelical Christianity are largely ignored.” The invitation is from Christ to a relationship that seeks to know him completely. Not to evangelical Christianity. It’s not the system we ought to be caring about, it’s the man. Refusing that invitation doesn’t hurt my feelings. It’s an affront to Christ.

    This conversation does not appear to have been in the spirit this blog seeks.

    Yes, Christ loves and welcomes us as we are. Then the real work begins. God’s gay children have as much need for this work as his straight ones do.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    “So you think that my husband and I should divorce. What should we do with our boys? Bounce them back and forth between two homes for the rest of their childhood? Just so I can attend your church?”

    You are not changing just to abide by someone’s guidelines like my church or what not (and as previously mentioned, we have had a lesbian attend before and Christ changed her/not the church changed her, but God and only God), but to follow Christ. It is not my opinion I am spouting, but the Word of God. If you change, God will take care of your needs. But you’re right…I have never been a lesbian and I do not know your way of life. However, there are many like you who have allowed Christ to come into their lives and whose lives have changed because of it. Google it.

    May I reiterate…we have no such guidelines. We want people to come to know Christ. We welcome them to grow in Him. This means alot of hard choices as well as many, many blessings because of it. I know of hard choices. I had to make them, too. And once you let Him take the reigns of your life you’ll transform and you’ll find joy and contentment in everything and you learn to love more than you ever thought. I hope you someday know Him deeply as I have come to know Him and as many people who live your way of life have come to know Him.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I can't ask you to break apart your family, Jon. That die is cast. When children are brought into any household, the adults in charge have some grave responsibilities. Your children could be adopted or from a previous marriage. It's really none of my business. They have the same needs as all other children.

    Many are going to legitimately question how well same-sex parents can prepare children for a male-female world and their own future relationships when they cannot observe mom-dad interaction in their own homes. Many heterosexual marriages fail, and that is the ace many same-sex couples rely on as their justification. The justification ought to be positive instead of negative, child-centered instead of adult-centered.

    A society that is well on its way to accepting families like yours is not likely to reverse course. But you will have to likewise accept that not everyone will grant you equal status in their minds or hearts. I can love you and fiercely defend your Constitutional rights (if you are an American) or your God-given rights, yet also still believe that marriage is not meant to be what you have made of it. You have the same freedom to worship as I do.

    All this talk of "bridging the gap" means we civilly and lovingly regard each others' viewpoints and rights, realizing that none of has really walked in the others' shoes. I would just ask each of us to examine our lives before Christ and make sure we are not merely playing at church. A church body ought to be welcoming all comers and praying for and supporting their spiritual and physical needs. Loving is not affirming what is regarded as sin. You also must accord churches their freedom to interpret Scripture.

  • Jack Harris

    Jon,

    I kinda gathered from your last comment that maybe your family attends an evangelical church? The reason I ask is that you say that you are not able worship without being asked to break up your family. Was just trying to get a feel for what kind of faith community you were apart of.

    Peace, Jack

  • Jon Trouten

    Debbie: My family is my family. I have no control over the strengths or deficits of any family outside of my own. I don't justify the existence of my family through the dissolution of others' households.

    I accept that there are people and churches that don't accept families like mine. But I also think it's fair to ask those people what they expect us to do with our spouses and/or kids once we enter your church doors.

    Jack: I don't attend an evangelical church. I attend a small UCC church that, among other things, accepts and affirms gay people and our families.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    OK, Jon, I see why you said that. I don't doubt that you may set a positive example for other families to follow. Perhaps when you get some time, you could give your thoughts on some of the other questions/points I raised.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Are you sensing, Jon, that there is pressure from somewhere for you to attend an evangelical church? Just wondering as you keep bringing up a situation that may not exist to any appreciable extent.

    How many such churches specifically go out and look for gay-parented families to witness to or invite in? Not many, I would venture. Sadly, not many are likely to extend a hand of fellowship and a word of Christian love to such a family. That may be because of wrongful prejudice or just plain discomfort. Some just don’t know what to do. They feel they are between a rock and a hard place.

    Jesus told those without sin to cast the first stone at the woman caught in adultery. He then taught her that no man could condemn her, but also told her to “go and sin no more.” If a Christian takes that stance with a gay person, what response will he be met with? That’s a question I would put to you. The world views neither heterosexual adultery nor homosexuality as sin today. Would you condemn the adulterers in my church but want me to affirm the homosexuals in yours?

    Was also wondering about this statement: “My family is my family. I have no control over the strengths or deficits of any family outside of my own. I don’t justify the existence of my family through the dissolution of others’ households.” Are people really asking you to dissolve your family, or are you inferring that? Because if they are, that would be an insensitive thing to do.

    I can understand why many people want fewer same-sex parented families to form in the first place. Once they do, all of Christendom has a special responsibility for the children in these unions, over and above those it has for the adults. The rest of our responsibility is expressed in outreaches centered on strengthening the family and ministering in discipleship to struggling gays who may or may not walk away from homosexuality as an identity, whether or not they have partners and children.

    It’s bad enough to see children suffer when their parents stop loving each other. It’s beyond heartbreaking to see children raised by same-sex parents taken beyond that suffering to become pawns in an all-out war that pits two ideologies against each other if and when (and it is happening all over) one of those parents renounces homosexuality.

    God loves all His children the same, but He also disciplines us and looks for us to grow because He loves us.

  • Jon Trouten

    Just have a sec, Debbie, before I need to travel to Fayette. My last response to you was in response to this statement: “Many heterosexual marriages fail, and that is the ace many same-sex couples rely on as their justification. The justification ought to be positive instead of negative, child-centered instead of adult-centered.” Basically, I take responsibility for my family. I don’t justify its existence because others fail.

  • Jack Harris

    Debbie,

    I appreciate your comments, in fact I appreciate your plain talk. I like the fact that you are to the point about what you believe. Having said I feel like I should respond to some of the things you have said :

    1. It sounds as if Jon is attending a gay affirming congregation which I am sure is a safe place for he and his partner to worship without judgement. I was truly wondering if he was attending an evangelical church because I don't honestly think a gay or lesbian family could feel comfortable in such a setting.

    2.He then taught her that no man could condemn her, but also told her to “go and sin no more.” If a Christian takes that stance with a gay person, what response will he be met with? : I THINK IN MANY CASES THE CHRISTIAN CAN EXPECT TO BE MET WITH RESISTANCE. I FIND THAT WHEN I MET BY THIS STATEMENT BY EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS: I FIND THAT I TRY TO WITNESS RIGHT BACK TO THEM BY HELPING THEM UNDERSTAND THAT MY THEOLOGICAL BELIEFS ARE DIFFERENT AND THAT MY LIFE WITH MY PARTNER GLORIFIES GOD JUST AS THEIR LIFE DOES. SO I TURN THE TABLES ON THEM SO TO SPEAK.

    3.Would you condemn the adulterers in my church but want me to affirm the homosexuals in yours? — ONCE AGAIN THIS IS A MATTER OF DIFFERING THEOLOGIES. I WOULD NEVER SUPPORT SOMEONE COMMITTING ADULTERY AS I THINK THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING GOD WOULD NOT HONOR. HOWEVER, I BELIEVE THAT THE ARGUMENT THAT GAY AND LESBIAN BEHAVIOR AND RELATIONSHIPS IS COMPLETELY FALSE. YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WE THAT THERE ARE MANY OF US WHO DO NOT TAKE VIEW SCRIPTURE THE SAME AS EVANGELICALS CHRISTIANS.

    4.It’s bad enough to see children suffer when their parents stop loving each other. It’s beyond heartbreaking to see children raised by same-sex parents taken beyond that suffering to become pawns in an all-out war that pits two ideologies against each other if and when (and it is happening all over) one of those parents renounces homosexuality.–I AM NOT SURE WHY YOU THINK WHY SAME SEX COUPLES CHOOSE TO ADOPT SO THAT THEY CAN BE PAWNS IN A POLITICAL BATTLE. I KNOW MANY GAYS AND LESBIAN FAMILIES WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO ADOPT SO THAT THEY CAN PROVIDE LOVING HOMES TO CHILDREN.

    AND WHILE IT MAY BE TRUE THAT THERE ARE SITUATIONS WHERE ONE PERSON DECIDES THAT THEY ARE NOT GAY OR LESBIAN I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THERE IS HIGH PERCENTAGE OF THAT HAPPENING.

    I know you didnt ask my opinion but I wanted to chime in… :)

    Peace, Jack

  • Jon Trouten

    I’m back from a long day at work and then an evening spent doing the dad thing. Here are some thoughts on your earlier questions and comments. Warning: It’s kind of long…

    “Many are going to legitimately question how well same-sex parents can prepare children for a male-female world and their own future relationships when they cannot observe mom-dad interaction in their own homes. But you will have to likewise accept that not everyone will grant you equal status in their minds or hearts. I can love you and fiercely defend your Constitutional rights (if you are an American) or your God-given rights, yet also still believe that marriage is not meant to be what you have made of it. You have the same freedom to worship as I do.
    All this talk of “bridging the gap” means we civilly and lovingly regard each others’ viewpoints and rights, realizing that none of has really walked in the others’ shoes. I would just ask each of us to examine our lives before Christ and make sure we are not merely playing at church. A church body ought to be welcoming all comers and praying for and supporting their spiritual and physical needs. Loving is not affirming what is regarded as sin. You also must accord churches their freedom to interpret Scripture.”

    I already understand that churches have and practice their freedom to interpret Scripture and to interpret what is sin. I do take some umbrage with your statements, “marriage is not meant to be what you have made of it” or “make sure we are not merely playing at church”, to name two.

    1. I should accept the premise that others have the ability and the freedom to question our parenting skills. That boat already sailed. We’ve been home-studied twice. We foster parented for years. We had social workers in and out of our lives and the lives of our kids for years. We had judges and attorneys decide whether or not we were safe enough and stable enough and parent-material enough to permanently care for our kids. Most importantly, our adoption and our guardianship was supported by both of our kids (who were both old enough to choose other homes by the time permanency occurred) and by their birth parents (who knew by that point that they could not safely parent their kids full-time). Other peoples’ opinions about our parenting skills doesn’t really matter to me.
    2. We don’t “play at church”. If Mark was Marcia, our life paths would’ve been lauded by any Christian church community. We met. We dated. We established deeper ties with Christ and our local church community. We married. We grew in our chosen careers and saved for a home. We foster parented and eventually adopted two wonderful kids. We don’t drink. We don’t do drugs. We don’t go to bars or clubs. We’ve never been arrested. We’ve never been to rehab or had any need for any type of 12-program. No cheating. No nothing. We’re really quite vanilla. My life this week has consisted of church, Labor Day weekend with my recently-widowed mother and a birthday celebration in MN with my sons and one of my nephews, work, and shopping for soccer and birthday supplies for my son. The rest of the week will consist of homework, soccer, tai kwon do, more work, and more church activities. But Marcia is actually Mark and my wife is actually my husband, so we’re viewed as decadently sinful and our commitment to our kids and our faith is either false or insincere.

    “Are you sensing, Jon, that there is pressure from somewhere for you to attend an evangelical church? Just wondering as you keep bringing up a situation that may not exist to any appreciable extent.”

    I’m trying to do a few things. One of the things I observe over and over in interview comments both online and on the radio when discussing Marin Foundation’s efforts at bridge building between the Christian community and the GLBT community goes something like this: “I think what you’re doing is great. I have a gay brother/co-worker/neighbor that I’ve been befriending. So far, so good. But when do I get to tell them to turn or burn?” Marin Foundation and similar programs are being presented as missionary projects. I question what happens when people who tag onto this effort befriend their out gay friends, family, and neighbors and begin introducing them to their church communities. Not all of us gay people have dysfunctional lives or backgrounds. Most of us are not interesting in trying to become straight. A growing number of us have spouses and/or kids. I want to know what happens if you bring us to your churches and we don’t transform into heterosexuals or if we don’t break up our home relationships? Will you and your churches be content to welcome our families to your churches like any heterosexual family and nurture our family strengths and help us through life’s various speed bumps and otherwise encourage us in our collective Christ journey? If not, how do you see this bridge-building process evolving over time?

    “How many such churches specifically go out and look for gay-parented families to witness to or invite in? Not many, I would venture. Sadly, not many are likely to extend a hand of fellowship and a word of Christian love to such a family. That may be because of wrongful prejudice or just plain discomfort. Some just don’t know what to do. They feel they are between a rock and a hard place.”

    Your first sentences are very truthful and at the same time very sad.

    “Jesus told those without sin to cast the first stone at the woman caught in adultery. He then taught her that no man could condemn her, but also told her to “go and sin no more.” If a Christian takes that stance with a gay person, what response will he be met with? That’s a question I would put to you. The world views neither heterosexual adultery nor homosexuality as sin today. Would you condemn the adulterers in my church but want me to affirm the homosexuals in yours?”

    I guess I would question why people insist on equating adulterers with homosexuals. They’re not equal comparisons. If a wife were to cheat on her husband with another woman, that would be just as much adultery if she cheated with man instead. That’s a sin that harms her husband and her marital covenant, regardless of the gender of the person she’s cheating with.

    I have no problem and actually encourage teaching a model of chastity and marital commitment for gay people, just as we do with straight people. But that model should be practiced within a suitable and equally yoked model. We (both our secular and our religious communities) have wasted over four decades telling gay people that they have loose morals, they can’t commit, and they have no place in the church or in the family. We complain about bad behavior and then use that same bad behavior to punish those who actually have settled down and created family and sought communion with the Lord and the broader church community. It’s wasted time.

    If Pastor Joe Somebody came up to Mark and me and told us to go and sin no more, we’d tell him to jump in a lake. We are a family. We made public vows of commitment and love to each other and to God over 10 years ago. We’re not adulterers. We’re spouses. It’s not comparable.

    “I can understand why many people want fewer same-sex parented families to form in the first place. Once they do, all of Christendom has a special responsibility for the children in these unions, over and above those it has for the adults. The rest of our responsibility is expressed in outreaches centered on strengthening the family and ministering in discipleship to struggling gays who may or may not walk away from homosexuality as an identity, whether or not they have partners and children.
    It’s bad enough to see children suffer when their parents stop loving each other. It’s beyond heartbreaking to see children raised by same-sex parents taken beyond that suffering to become pawns in an all-out war that pits two ideologies against each other if and when (and it is happening all over) one of those parents renounces homosexuality.
    God loves all His children the same, but He also disciplines us and looks for us to grow because He loves us.”

    It’s sad when any couple stops loving each other and breaks up, but especially when there are children involved. I know of one prominent battle going on right now in Vermont and Virginia. A lesbian couple got into a civil union, intentionally created a child, and raised that child together. They broke up and one of the lesbians found God. She then jurisdiction-jumped to Virginia, one of the USA’s least gay-affirming states claiming that the non-biological parent should be denied any and all custody and citing that state’s DOMA law to deny the legal legitimacy of their civil union. It’s a huge mess that’s dragged on for years, with lots of gay people and Christian people trumpeting this sad case. The same thing happens between married straight couples, though few would blame heterosexuality itself for such abuses, nor would church communities or other unrelated groups rally around such broken families.

    I wish church communities would work with struggling gay couples to rebuild their relationships for the sake of their previous commitments to each other and for the sake of their kids’ well-being. But that’s me.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Jon, I really appreciate your responses to my questions/comments. Please know that I accept you as a sincere person. As I mentioned in a previous comment, you no doubt could teach other parents a lot.

    “But Marcia is actually Mark and my wife is actually my husband, so we’re viewed as decadently sinful and our commitment to our kids and our faith is either false or insincere,” you said. I assure you I do not jump to that conclusion about you and Mark. It’s obvious you’ve had to go way above and beyond the call of duty to prove your worthiness as parents, also.

    One way I can relate a bit, perhaps, is in remembering how hard I had to work as a woman Marine officer to convince my mostly male counterparts that I was worthy of being one of them. I knew many of them would never accept me, but others did. I must point out that I did not then nor do I now feel comfortable with women going into combat, though that’s what I was trained for as a military social experiment in the late ’70s. I could play out a fantasy on one level that I was part of a sacred brotherhood, but not being a man, I knew there would always be an asterisk beside my name in the annals of Corps history. I didn’t think of that as being unfair. It just was. I want men to fight our wars when we have no choice but to go there.

    One of my OCS classmates went on to become a general officer and to break new ground for women in the Corps. She is still serving. So, we all had our shot. I’m glad I chose to serve, but it wasn’t to prove some feminist point. It was because I wanted to do my part for my country. And it may surprise you to hear me say I think gays and lesbians ought to be able to serve, too. But, I am getting too far afield. That’s another topic.

    No, homosexual sex cannot be automatically equated with adultery, as you say (it is in the UCMJ, as Gen. Peter Pace pointed out a couple years ago, however, as it is officially viewed as outside the confines of marriage). I am well aware there are many families such as yours, with committed partners and loving parents. You know what’s tough? Despite the fine people like you and Mark out there, there is still the overarching principle we must be willing to examine: What is the best environment for raising children and teaching them how to be responsible and healthy adults one day, prepared to have families of their own? How much are we willing to dilute what even some honest gay folks say is still the best model for society?

    Plenty of kids are warped and sent astray by heterosexual parents who attend church, look good and can push all the right buttons. I am as sad and angry as you are that this is a fact. The Church has failed in this regard, and I have publicly lamented this for years. We do have some great marriage ministries that people can avail themselves of.

    I am not saying it is impossible for your children to know all they need to know under your tutelage or that they can’t be wonderful adults one day. They also will have to make their own choices, and they may reject your model for reasons you don’t know of now. Are we evangelicals being too harsh in automatically assuming children like yours will receive confusing signals about gender roles? How much does it matter? I know there are plenty of deconstructionists who will pooh-pooh this notion. But I think we must carefully examine what we could be doing to future generations if we don’t think long and hard about it.

    This is me thinking out loud, OK? Who am I? No more important than are you. A society certainly can function with differing gender roles in play. But is it wrong to encourage such a thing when we really can’t see far enough ahead to know the outcome?

    Some Christians have made up their minds to fold their hands and wait for the Lord to return. They do not engage in the tough stuff. What we are discussing here is the tough stuff. Yes, making the effort to get to know someone we may have previously misunderstood or distrusted can lead us to love that person and to care about his concerns and welfare. That’s a good thing. I have to believe Christ meant for us to do just that. For some, that means walking alongside each other, just seeing where the road goes, realizing that our Lord walks it with us … and sometimes ahead of us. Others automatically assume it means sharing or just being the Christ-light that leads to repentance and a new understanding. Ultimately, we all have choices.

    My “playing at church” statement was meant for all of us. We can play at anything in life. But it’s not a game. I know that when we come face to face with the living God, we open ourselves to the ugly truth about ourselves. We must at some point stand destitute before Him (“poor in spirit”) so that we can know Him fully.

    Caring people are going to wrestle with all these things, Jon. We can’t shove them under the rug, and we can’t dismiss others on the journey of life because we don’t understand them. I am willing to let God sort it out in the end, but I know I will have to make some tough decisions in the meantime.

    A side note: The heartbreaking custody case you cite — Miller v. Jenkins — is one that will set far-reaching legal precedent. I live in Virginia and am close friends with Lisa Miller and her daughter. I don’t think this was a random occurrence. I believe God meant for us to cross paths. This is precisely the kind of case that ought to make people think twice about such unions if they intend on bringing children into the picture. How can we say this child is a mistake? She became part of God’s plan in bringing Lisa back to Him. Now, two ideological sides are warring over it all. That’s what makes it different from other traditional cases. It is a stark pronouncement on the culture war. And an innocent child sits in the middle of it. One who loves God very much, I might add.


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