National Prayer Breakfast – Day 1

From Orange County I flew back to Chicago for about 10 hours and headed with Brenda, my wife, to Washington, DC for some congressional and international diplomatic meetings, as well as the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB). Even writing that makes it sound super official, and it’s still kind of strange I was asked to be a part of it all. Quite an honor. 

Many of the people and committees that we met with knew I am somewhat of a small-ish public figure who has a blog that more than a couple people read. Thus quite a few of them specifically asked me to not make any names or content of the private meetings public. So I am going to do my best to talk about each of them in as much detail as would not get me red flagged, in trouble or cause them to never trust me. :)   I’ll overview everything in a day-by-day order:

Tuesday:

Morning: We flew in to DC really early that morning and immediately met with a great friend (who we also stayed with most of the time), and super HIV/AIDS advocate on the Hill, Brad Ogilvie, who is founder of the Mosaic Initiative and now works for the William Penn House. Brad’s main thrust is prevention and Knowing Your Status. I believe in Brad and his work so much—and for those of you who are straight, white, upper class type folks; why is it important for you to know your HIV status? Because if testing is just the norm, the power structures make it easier for those under the hierarchy of privilege and power to feel comfortable getting tested as well because it is those minority (ethnic and social) communities in America that spread the disease quicker than any other. As Brad says, the highest infection rates and the most danger come from those who don’t know if they’re positive. And yes, because of Brad I got tested. And no, I’m not positive. The example has been set…  

Bren and I then went to the landmark Hilton Washington where the week long NPB events took place. We met with the intern assigned to us for the week, who gave us our itinerary, showed us around, introduced us to a few folks and then we hit the ground running with meetings right from the start.

Afternoon: We first met with a few African diplomatic liaisons to the United States where I had an opportunity to communicate an American evangelical perspective about the Uganda legislation. It was a very productive meeting in which I garnered quite a bit of insight. The one major take-away that I can say is that David Bahati, the man who presented the Anti-Gay legislation to the Ugandan government, feels backed into a corner by not only the back-lash from the States, but also taken by surprise how his own Ugandan government has started to side with America. He feels it’s a lose-lose for him either way; so he’s plowing ahead because he’s got nothing more to lose at this point. I think many American’s interested in this legislation look at Bahati as an anti-gay hate monger…I now see him more as a man who thought this legislation would sky-rocket his political career because no one would pay attention to it; overestimated his posture and is now clawing for anyone to join his side to keep his coveted influence that seems to be slipping through his fingers. And unfortunately, in some circles it’s actually working more than any of us would like to admit. This doesn’t seem to be a gay issue for Bahati, but rather a political stance to gain more influence. The sad part is that all of the crazies who do want to kill gays and lesbians are coming out of the woodworks making this guy some type of hero. And he’s riding it out as long as it can go to try and save face—recoup the damage this legislation has caused. Some folks close to him say that he feels if he wins this battle, he will regain the pre-legislation respect he lost. Sad story with the gay community caught in the middle as, literal, target practice.

Life should never be treated as a political maneuver!

Evening: Bren and I had the very unique privilege to have dinner with the infamous Wayne Besen. To say Wayne is a gay activist really doesn’t do him justice. In many of the conservative circles I run in, Wayne is looked at as an extreme enemy for how hard he constantly fights against everything conservative Christian; especially considering how much mainstream press he receives. I can’t tell you how many times I was warned to not meet with him. But that’s the point of building a bridge, right?

Wayne was also one of the organizers of the American Prayer Hour—a GLBT organized Anti-National Prayer Breakfast event held around the country. In light of me specifically being in DC for the National Prayer Breakfast, invited by its organizers, this dinner could have turned sour really quick. Yet it was not only a cordial dinner; but I have to give Wayne a lot of credit because he answered every single question I had with blunt honesty—and I did the same for him. And at least from my end, I respected the heck out of the fact that neither of us held up any barriers or walls of skepticism or distain that could have ended with us saying a whole lot of nothing; just talking around every elephant in the middle of the room. It was quite a freeing conversation, and for some odd reason I felt I could be up front and honest without having to be scared how every word out of my mouth was going to be used against me. We shared some laughs, and some serious moments. We disagreed on our ‘medium of engagement’ in regards to the culture war, but in the end it was a great first meeting, something we can hopefully build upon to see what systemic differences can be made between our communities. He’s a key player in this whole culture war, and has been for quite a while. It was exciting to have a few hours to interact with him on a very civil and productive level. As with many social media type people, they are a lot more nasty behind a keyboard than they are in real life. I was very intrigued by our time together, as well as very encouraged that one of the ‘most well known anti-conservative’ people was genuinely interested (at least from my take on things) in potential future dialogue. I’ll be honest though, sitting there at the table with him I kept thinking:

“This is nuts! How many conservative national figures have ever sat down with this man, broke some bread, and had an actual conversation about life and faith and sexuality? The answer is probably none. Amazing how God works.”

That is only the start to a crazy week filled with similar type moments.

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://dontoverthinkit.wordpress.com/ Josh

    Very interesting insight on the whole Uganda legislation and David Bahati. I didn’t at all realize the motivation behind what he was doing. I mean that legislation is definitely dangerous and a huge violation of human rights by just about anyone’s standards, but the fact he wanted it to launch his political career is pretty sick.

    And I can’t believe you met with Wayne Besen! Glad to hear you guys were able to have a civil discussion…I totally agree that people feel much more free to be outrageous/hateful when they’re behind a keyboard. Look forward to hearing what the rest of the week was like!

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    Good to see you back, Andrew! Did you do anything with the American Prayer Hour while you were there or hear much about it?

  • http://courage.ie willi stewart

    It is often only in the meeting and eating together that we find out about one another. Why does this scare christians so much ? Jesus on so many occasions seemed happy to met some fairly extreme people over meals. You set a good example Andrew for a new generation.

  • http://carleton1958.xanga.com/ Jeff S.

    I LOVE the fact that you met with Wayne Besen. Keep building bridges with those whom others would only criticize or condemn without even talking to them

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

    Jon – The organizers asked me to be a part of their Prayer Hour, however it was at the exact time as the National Prayer Breakfast. As far as media, I was so imbedded in our meetings that I didn’t have any opportunity to watch the news, read the papers or hear any commentary. I did have some interaction with them, through Wayne, as well as through another one of the other organizers; of which I was very interested to participate. But nothing official came about due to their subsidiary events took place at the exact times as the NPB’s subsidiary events throughout the week.

  • Seth

    Neither Herod nor Pontius Pilate were convinced that Jesus of Nazareth should die, but they were willing for the sake of political expediency–and to placate a noisy crowd in Jerusalem–let him become the Pharisees’ scapegoat. Cowards!
    I appreciate your take on Bahati’s political venture, and the possibility that he did not anticipate its consequences. Do you see the parallel here? Who would become the scapegoat in Uganda so that Bahati can save face? It’s just plain wrong. And it’s not the only example.
    I’m gonna stick my neck out and say this kind of thing happens pretty often. For example, remember in one of his early speeches, Pope Benedict XVI managed to offend countless Muslims with a single sentence? Politicians and commentators make dreadful statements, some unintentional, some not (think Rahm, Sarah, Rush and the R-word); then have staff members who “clarify” or otherwise soften or spin the language to address the unanticipated outrage. If you want to see some truly frightening “spin” on the legislation in Uganda look at how Andrew Wommack Ministries responded to the Boxturtle Bulletin: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2010/02/03/20027 . Atrocious!
    Perhaps we can attribute some of the public reaction–however transient–to press coverage, the more sensational the better. But at the end of the day (to borrow one of your favorite phrases), I really want leaders with this degree of influence (media-enhanced or not) to be thoughtful when they speak, congruent when they act, and to hold basic human rights above their political fortunes. Do you think that dialogue and bridge-building can advance this? Sometimes I wonder. But I love you for keeping at it and thank God for your vision and fire!

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

    Seth – Here’s the really unfortunate part about what you said: I totally agree with you. There are too many people in the political arena who do things like this solely focused on gain of political influence rather than dignify human life.

    And do I think bridge building can advance helping this situation? I think it can in 3 situations:

    1. A person comitted to building bridges gains political influence and can disseminate the message by weilding their power;

    2. There is so much public belief in bridge building that they either, 1) elect like-minded people or 2) vote out those doing such crazy things.

    3. I did a series on a New Way of Activism (http://www.loveisanorientation.com/2009/part-4-new-way-of-activism/), and if someone like that can get the ear of trust from political folks in power, there could be a huge difference made quite efficiently.

  • http://www.xanga.com/djfree Darren

    Andy,

    Thanks for the update. And thanks for your insight about Bahati. It actually helps to see him as human (whereas before, he just seemed anything but). I find it so incredibly saddening that he’s using people for political gain though. That is precisely the type of injustice and perversion that the Bible speaks against. I wish he wouldn’t hide behind the banner of Christ when he’s being anything BUT Christ-like.

    And gee, isn’t it interesting that despite how much Besen is demonized, you found him to be rather . . . human. With strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrows.

    I noticed you mentioned something about not feeling like you had to watch every word out of your mouth. Having grown up a conservative (much like you) this is something that I never noticed about my Evangelical world until I began to disagree with the status quo. And when you’re no longer lock-step, suddenly everything you say is exorbitantly scrutinized, and you just feel so . . . stilted . . . trapped.

    I don’t consider myself a liberal. I doubt I ever will. But I tell you one thing . . . if I had to be stuck on an island with either a staunch liberal, or a staunch conservative, I’d choose the liberal every day of the week. I feel so much more relaxed in a liberal environment. Not because they never take me to task about what I believe, but because they seem to do it in a much more humane way!

    I often lament how I never feel at home with my own kind . . .


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