Part 2: The Marin Foundation Featured on the 700 Club

Validation vs. Affirmation:

There are some who are very upset about my understanding of validation and affirmation. Here is a more in-depth explanation. I find these critiques strange because many people in both communities love, and I mean love to talk about being ‘inclusive’ or ‘focused on outreach’. What that actually means these days is that inclusive people or those focused on outreach get to choose who to be inclusive to or who to reach out to while keeping everyone not in their ‘target audience’ ostracized from the ‘in’ pack.

With The Marin Foundation, inclusion and outreach actually equals non-Christian LGBT, LGBT Christians, celibate, ex-gay, liberal and conservative straight Christians and non-Christian straight people, together and active in our stuff. And I can say that because each one of those categories is deeply involved in the everyday work, classes, gatherings and events of The Marin Foundation.

Since that is truth, how can I best describe the overwhelmingly peaceful and productive relationships we see on a daily basis with so many different theological, political, social and scientific ideologies combined in one group – where in the rest of culture those combinations of people just end up fighting? The only way I can think is by validating everyone’s journey/story/experience as legitimate to them—regardless of where they are on the spectrum, while everyone else still is able to hold on to their theological belief system—whichever liberal or conservative one that is. (For more info on my thoughts on the label Affirming, please read this).

If you don’t like my understanding of how I explain how the folks within The Marin Foundation get along so well, then give me a better description and I’ll use that. But here’s the problem, the majority of the people out there just want to critique and talk while The Marin Foundation is actually doing the ‘doing.’ That realization has become a safe-haven for my own soul recently. People love the labels of ‘inclusion’ and ‘outreach’ until the label has to become a reality.

Well, it’s our reality—validation and affirmation fit what we see happening everyday.

Much love.

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  • Sam

    Don’t let the comments bother you Andrew. You’re doing a great job!

    Over the weekend I was working on replacing my back fence and retaining wall. I was working in the hot summer sun. The neighbor and his father-in-law were sitting in the shade, having a drink, loudly critiquing my work – I was too slow, they could do better, etc. Later I realized that all they did was sit on their butts and make comments. Not once did they even offer to help. And so it goes with most critics, yours included.

    My mother (a nurse) was fond of saying that the people who know the most about rearing children are those who have never done it. There are those who have opinions, and then there are those who get out there and do something. You are among the latter.

  • Eugene

    I have a question.

    If a pastor is asked to marry a gay couple, but he believes that homosexuality is a sin, what is he supposed to do? Should he “validate” their marriage as legitimate to them?

    • No pastor or priest is required to officiate at any wedding ceremony. That’s been the situation before marriage equality became legal in MA and it continues today.

      Priests generally don’t marry non Catholics.

      Some churches don’t allow weddings for people who aren’t church members.

      Many pastors don’t wed gay couples.

      Some pastors refuse to perform ANY weddings.

      That’s their right.

      • Eugene

        I know.

        But I’m asking what he should do – in the context of Andrew’s understanding of validation, not what he is required to do.

        Yes, he certainly has the right not to wed gay couples. He also has the right to hate and condemn gay people – instead of validating their experiences. But it doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. 🙂

        • Maybe it comes down to a situation of relationship, in this situation.

          Would you really want a pastor who disagrees with the basics of your relationship to marry you?

          On the other hand, I could see a situation where a lifelong friend or family member who have reservations about gay relationships choosing to stand on the side of grace and wed that close friend or family member.

          • Eugene

            The thing is, the same pastor is presumably supposed to be nice to gay couples and “validate” their experiences in less explicit ways – instead of, you know, constantly saying, “You will go to hell for your sin” or “Perverts like you are not welcome in this church”. So it’s easy to see why the gay couple may ask the priest to marry them. Won’t his refusal feel like betrayal? At best, it will feel like a “bait-and-switch” situation (e.g. “Adam and Steve, I have known you for 5 years, but only now I can tell you that your relationship is an evil perversion, so I can’t marry you”. 🙂 )

          • I get your point, Eugene. Hopefully their relationship has evolved enough by this point where the pastor could explain why s/he can’t officiate at the wedding. And the answers aren’t always as simple as “you will go to hell for this relationship” or “perverts can’t come to this church”.

            If the pastor has known Adam and Steve for five years, hopefully they’ve had the opportunity to discuss whether or not the pastor officiates at gay weddings or whether the church allows them.

            Maybe the pastor can’t officiate, but wants to attend. Or maybe s/he can’t officiate, but can be involved in some other aspect of the wedding. Or maybe s/he CAN officiate, but not at the church. Or maybe s/he won’t officiate and won’t attend, but just wants to send the couple a nice card wishing them well.

            Sometimes it’s a matter of believing that a couple is a couple of perverts. Then again I can’t imagine a person truly developing a friendship with someone that they look down upon. More often than not, there are just lots of nuances in life and we do our best to navigate around them.

        • One other thing Eugene – You look at ‘validation’ as a nice thing to say or do, but it is actually just a nice coating on evil knowledge that LGBT are still going to hell, etc. That is not right! I’ve never said that, nor have I ever disseminated that message! If you would read my darn book you would understand that those are not my thoughts at all! I don’t know who gets to heaven or hell and have never claimed to know (Matthew 7:21-23) – that’s God’s to decide.

          I’m literally here living in my Kingdom Job Description of loving, not judging or convicting. I know that might be a hard concept to grasp, but it is the truth whether you believe it or not.

          • Eugene

            It’s not about you, Andrew. It’s about other people – the ones who think they know who goes to hell. Will they be able to accept your concept of validation and still be “able to hold on to their theological belief system”?

            Many of them surely think that the Bible says that “homosexuals” don’t go to heaven. That’s why it seems to me that they can only do two things:

            1) Pretend that they don’t know it and be “nice” to gay people – up to a certain point (e.g. a gay wedding or the next Prop 8).

            2) Re-evaluate their understanding of the Bible and realize that our understanding of the Bible is flawed, the text has been edited and translated many times, Paul isn’t Jesus and he didn’t really understand homosexuality.

            …But that’s a major change in their theological beliefs, isn’t it?

          • Eugene,

            2) is major BS. Paul’s understanding of human nature was equal to anything you or I will/can ever experience.

          • Eugene

            You mean, science is worthless? 🙂

            The whole “homosexuality” thing was discovered and defined in the 19th century. As you probably know, it’s an immutable sexual orientation. On the other hand, Paul seems to believe that people have homosexual sex because they lack moral boundaries. That’s an archaic understanding of homosexuality, and it’s obviously incorrect. Gay men love other men because that’s how they are, not because they don’t care about morals.

          • Did human nature change in the 19th century? Do you really think everyone who lived before the word “homosexual” was invented couldn’t pick out the same personality/behavioral patterns that the word “homosexual” refers to?

            We still don’t know what causes “homosexuality” (there might all sorts of developmental reasons why a person turns out gay). The only difference today is that we accept/believe people when they say “that’s how they are”.

            It’s also a bit of a stretch to say that in Paul’s day (in the midst of a culture that did not rule out same sex activity) the individuals who we would now label ‘gay’ were unable to express “who they are”. It’s quite easy to say “I only want to have sex with men” or “I’ve fallen in love with a guy” in Greek 🙂

          • Eugene

            Even today many Christian conservatives keep thinking that homosexuality is a choice. Only 30 years ago this point of view was dominant in the society.
            Even more importantly, it’s actually harder to pick out the “homosexual” personality/behavioral patterns in a culture that “did not rule out same sex activity” – because even “straight” men are capable of having sex with other men (e.g. in jail).

            So, no, I have absolutely no reason to believe that Paul’s understanding of homosexuality was adequate. Human nature certainly didn’t change in the 19th century, but our understanding of human nature certainly did.

    • Eugene – Validating a marriage as legitimate to a LGBT married couple, whether or not the pastor wants to perform the wedding or thinks it’s sin, is indeed the right thing for the pastor to do! I believe that for the following reasons:

      1. It is a legitimate marriage to the gay couple, whether done in a church or not. Who cares if anyone else (pastor or otherwise) thinks it’s legit or not? Ask Jon if he thinks his marriage is any less legit than my marriage (maybe a bad example b/c marriage is legal in Iowa, but you get my point).

      Understanding people through their worldviews and relating to them in that fashion is the most important part to bridge building. (Chapter 1 of my book). My rule of thumb, is “if it’s a big deal and legitimate to someone else, then it’s a big deal and legitmate to me too whether I agree or not. I will then respect and revere it as so.”

      2. Agreeing or not agreeing is not the issue. You’re still so stuck on yes/no/black/white. The issue is relationship. I was a best man in my best friend’s gay wedding to support him in that 21 year relationship between him and I – and we have another friend who is suuuuper against gay marriage and he was there too. It’s about relationship.

      3. The generalizable thesis behind your argument doesn’t work in relation to the generalizable thesis behind validation vs. affirmation.

      Taking the principle from your thesis that religous people, especially pastors to congregants, have to agree on what is sin in order to legitimize and dignify the other’s humanity and situation, think about the following:

      Even within a progressive LGBT Christian church, there is still a moral code of sin. No, it might not be regarding gay sexual behavior in monogomous relationships, but sin is still recognized as present within everyone’s life. By your argument, you are saying that there must be no moral code of sin – because the umbrella generalization of your arugment (in contrast to the text of what I wrote in the post) is saying that every LGBT person in a LGBT affirming church agrees on everything of sin and social constructs under the sun. If not, then there can be no ammicable relationship and everyone’s experiences are totally invalidated as not true to them and what actually happend.

      Is that true?

      If not, then how would you describe the thriving relationship of like-minded people who believe in Christ, yet still understand different sin to be present in each of their different existences?

      • Eugene

        Wow, that’s a great reply, Andrew! Very thought-provoking.

        No, I don’t think that “there must be no moral code of sin”. I just think that such a code is incompatible with your concept of validation.

        I mean, this concept surely works when the ideas and experiences are subjective and personal. You like chocolate ice-cream, I like vanilla ice-cream, let’s be friends! 🙂

        But the reason I’m “stuck on yes/no/black/white” is that some things actually are black and white. All of the elements in the culture war between gay people aren’t subjective and personal. The nature of homosexuality, the existence of God, the sinfulness of homosexuality – all these things are objective, and they affect us all. And I surely don’t think that people should “respect” false/evil/sinful things just because they’re important to someone else.

        LGBT affirming churches are thriving because they only disagree on minor things. More importantly, homosexuality is a fact, not an opinion, so you can’t “disagree” on it. You can only condemn it. Naturally, the blanket condemnation of homosexuality will never be a minor thing to gay people.

        A pastor (or a church) who “doesn’t want to” perform a gay wedding is effectively saying, “You relationship is evil, sinful, ungodly and unworthy of marriage”. This isn’t validation. So, no, I don’t think that “not agreeing is not the issue” – especially when it has a demonstrable effect on civil marriage equality and other things.

        I surely think that your concept of validation is a good thing. And it will surely make bridge building easier. But, in and of itself, it won’t turn enemies into friends.

        • I just want to let you know that I sincerely appriciate you always writing and challenging me. You, unlike many others, actually want to engage and not just critique from a distance. So thank you for that Eugene. On to your thoughts:

          1. The whole point of validation is that people can be empowered in their belief systems and moral code of sin, and yet still peacefull and productively engage with each other. This goes for both ends of the spectrum. The point is not to just be nice, it’s to learn and engage to change systems and structures to do the same. Changing cultural norms cannot happen through back-and-forth, which is the acceptable medium of engagement these days. Wonder why we get nowhere?

          2. I’m not saying that there is no such thing as black/white/yes/no. A few of my black/whites: Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of God. There is a heaven and a hell. I have a moral code of right/wrong, etc.

          3. I actually do think someone should respect false/evil/sinful things just because they are important to someone else. That doesn’t mean you agree, or even think they are worthwhile or healthy for the other person or for society at large. But spitting on someone else’s ‘their version’ of legitimacy in their life isn’t going to do anyone any good. Change in worldview or actions doesn’t come about because you see something in someone else’s life as sinful/wrong – e.g. your examples of nature and sinfulness of homosexuality, existence of God.

          4. There are many things to disagree on re: homosexuality that have nothing to do with condemnation. I know gay people who won’t have anal sex, but will have oral sex – and they call that having gay sex. In the same breathe I also know gay people who have anal sex, and they believe only that is considered ‘sex’. That’s a dissagrement within the community that has nothing to do with condemnation. What about those people who are celibate and still call themselves gay? I know a number of LGBT people who wouldn’t consider them gay, yet those same LGBT people have the same, same-sex attractions as the celibate person. Another disagreement that has nothing to do with condemnation.

          5. A pastor who doesn’t want to perform a gay wedding is not inferring that their relationship is ‘evil’. Some do, yes. But there are others who don’t think it lines up with their moral code, make no judgements of or on the relationship, and can still want the absolute best relationship possible for them together. As Jon says, “What would some pastors want us to do..break up and ruin our kids lives?” Some yes, some, I know for a fact, no. That doesn’t mean they would marry Jon, it also doesn’t mean that they think Jon and his partner are evil and are going to hell (Matthew 7:21-23).

          6. Validation won’t turn enemies into friends. That is true. Faithful commitment no matter what the outcome…that will. Validation is only one foundational piece to that.

          • Eugene

            Thank you for your replies, Andrew!

            I just want to explain my point about disagreement. Yes, regular disagreement may have nothing to do with condemnation – because it may be based on personal, subjective opinions and tastes (e.g. your examples of gay ‘sex’).

            But I was talking about “disagreement” in churches. As I said before, Christian morals aren’t supposed to be subjective:

            “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
            (Romans 12:9)

            That’s objective good vs. objective evil. How do you reconcile this with your concept of validation?

            Also, that’s why it seems to me that something that doesn’t line up with a Christian pastor’s moral code pretty much has to be ‘evil’ in the pastor’s mind. I mean, if he thinks that the gay couple’s relationship is good, why won’t he “cling” to it by performing a wedding?

  • Dora

    Mixed marriages go back in our family over 100 years, and it’s always some drama. My cousin, who is Jewish, married a Lutheran woman. The Rabbi at the temple would not do the marriage, but a friend who had gone to rabbinical school did do it, but at a resort. A Christian minister from the Lutheran church officiated as well. He was ok with the marriage, the Rabbi was not. So it wasn’t in a church. The resort was really nice, however.

    My Mom and Dad are in a mixed marriage, but somehow the priest agreed to marry them “on a side altar” of the Catholic church. There are about a dozen or so “marriage drama” stories in our family history.

    I wouldn’t want someone to marry me who didn’t want to. Just be upfront, say you don’t marry gay people, and I’m not going to get all that upset. I’ve had my relatives and family members rejected for marriage ceremonies too, so the drama and restrictions seem normal to me.

    Jon gets two bonus points for thinking that ministers can also be women!
    Yeah 🙂 My parents in law (heterosexual) were married by a lesbian UCC minister! Can anyone top that? 🙂

    • I don’t know if this tops that, but I was married (the first time) by a gay male UCC minister and was accompanied at both of my weddings by a poodle.

  • Y’all realize this is all an exercise in futility, right? I mean ultimately, nobody gives a crap because they’re too invested in us being pissed off at each other all the time! (Pardon my vulgarity.) I’m celibate. I chose to be celibate because I believe it is what best points me toward God. But, nobody cares. I tell my story all the time and they all still just look at me as queer. And, Dora’s right…no matter how much I argued with you on the other posts, you’re right. They look at us as second class citizens…we’re just queer, that’s all. So, it doesn’t matter. We can talk and scream and yell all we want. It’s never going to change because the people who can make it change are invested in keeping it the same….all of them…liberal, conservative, republican, democrat, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever…. Nobody really cares. Hell, I don’t even know if I really care or if I’m just in it for the fight…if that’s it then I’m done cause I’m too freakin’ tired to fight anymore.

    • ((Sans))

      • Drew

        Hey Sans,

        I think I understand how you feel. I feel very much in the middle, ready to to tip over to one side or the other with the slightest nudge. Mind you, it seems to me your balancing act is much more deliberate than mine. If so, I applaud you.

        The “fight” can be wearying. I don’t know you from a hole in the ground but I hope that you’re doing OK. I do appreciate how you’ve challenged those who trot out the Christiansims (?…!) without really unpacking what they mean.

        Take care!

        • Thanks, Drew. I’m tired….of fighting, of losing, of being lonely…I’m just tired of the noise!

    • Amy

      I hear ya, Sans. I really do. I, too, am T-I-R-E-D…

      • I’m sorry, Amy. I don’t want anybody to feel like this!

        • Dude, I’m worn the heck out too! The problem is that just means there’s much more to be done and understood beyond what we can effect. Drat 🙂

          • I know you are, Andrew. How could you not be? I really need a sabatical, but for some reason people in the commercial transportation industry don’t get them!! 🙂

  • I’m so proud of you my friend. See you in a few weeks!

    • Thanks! Seriously can’t wait to be there with you.

  • I am just so constantly blown away by The Marin Foundation. I always seem to expect much less out of particular groups, yet this group wildly exceeds my expectations. This is what I’ve been wanting to “do” for so long, and yet here you are, “doing”. And it’s so wonderful! Just fantastic.

  • wackywilliams

    I am not offishily part of the GLBT heading but my issues with being intersexed meet alot of the same resistence & accusations, I appaled 700 club for even attempting this kind of subject matter, & I appaled Andrew for being willing to trust them enough to do the interview! I agree with SANS to a degree becuse I faught churchs my whole life trying to point out issues in there theoligy & trying to find exseptince as well even when I didn’t know who or what I was let alone them knowing! but I am so bloody tired!! I have felt alot in the last 6, 7 months like giving up & just going “home” so I could rest, but God has kept me in the fight albeit on the critticly wounded list most of the time as of late, but FINLY I have been seeing the fruit to my labor! I thought I was going to get to move to Chi & maby even help andrew but alas that went up in smoke! I hit a VERY dark time for about 2 weeks not wanting to live one more seconed! but finely I asked a couple of friends if the invite to move to another part of IL was still open & it was! & in a weeks time I have a aprt, a bible study, church, helping plant two churches, & helping with a skatebord ministrey!! like my bro said to me maby I was hearing God partly right & it was right state wrong city or chi comes later & i need to be hear first, either way just incredibly thankfull to finly feel like I can have a freash start & be safe to be me! I think no matter where or how we find that in life as long as we find that SOMEWHERE all the other stuff God works out in his timeing!

    • It’s time YOU get fed PD! You’ve been helping everyone else for soooo long, you deserve to be happy and loved!!!

  • Dora

    I don’t know Jon, the poodle is stiff competition here 🙂

    Sans, just to send some cheer up stuff your way. First off, I don’t expect most straight people or most churches to really get much of anything. You might say, that I am really enjoying life as a post institutional Christian. And, while most straight people are clueless about our lives, and really don’t want to take the time to know us… well, curiosity is just not a part of it for a lot of people. Lots of really great people are, and I’m loving a much more open society… more open than at any time in my life 🙂 Ironically, it was the hateful hating christian right that most opened the eyes of a lot of my straight friends.

    The hate signs at our parades, Fred Phelps carrying “god hates gays” etc. at the funerals, all of this opened the eyes to plain old liberal straight people. AIDS opened the eyes of mothers, who were then dissed by fundamentalist churches when their sons got sick.

    The more hateful and condemning the christian right becomes, the more the rest of the world (even the Dalai Lama openly and proudly calls himself a feminist) sees us as worthy of civil rights, worthy of support etc. And they can “hell and damnation” all they want, but we have Tibetan Buddhist monks coming to our gay and lesbian centers now (I’m not kidding), we have MCC with 40 years of solid ministry to gays and lesbians. We have gays and lesbians writing incredible theology and teaching at the best universities. We’ve got lesbians running women’s studies departments… heck, we have women scholars really opening up the field.

    We have lesbian christians doing all kinds of wonderful things. So we can support our leaders, and love a tradition that is so long now, we have a third generation of radical lesbian feminists coming up, a third generation of lesbian ministers… We’ve only just begun 🙂 Break out the champaign, we’re winning Sans, we’re winning big!!

    • Dora – I wouldn’t use the Dalai Lama as an example for anything LGBT. He was quoted in the Telegraph Newspaper United Kingdom by journalist Alice Thompson as saying:

      “A gay couple came to see me, seeking my support and blessing…and asked me what harm could there be between consenting adults having oral sex, if they enjoyed it,” the Dalai Lama continues, warming to his theme. “But the purpose of sex is reproduction, according to Buddhism. The other holes don’t create life. I don’t mind – but I can’t condone this way of life.”

      Ouch. “Those holes don’t create life.” Wow.

      • “Those holes don’t create life.” How disappointing!

      • Well, not with THAT attitude…

      • You are probably distorting what the DL meant by this. It’s clear from that quote that he’s arguing from a perspective of “purpose”. He says “I don’t mind” if people act otherwise – so he’s hardly a big old homophobe. Are Buddhist’s supposed to reflect/focus on ultimate categories of “purpose” whenever do something? Why do Buddhist’s make a huge fuss over killing any kind of life, including plants? His quote might sound a little crass from a Western perspective but his fellow Buddhists might interpret those words differently.

    • Dora, thanks for pointing out the positives. I know there are many, but for some reason right now my life seems to be where dreams go to die!

      PS – I don’t drink champaigne…would sparkling wine work for you? lol

  • Dora

    So sparkling wine it is! Or did you mean sparkling water Sans?

  • Dora

    Long ago, I didn’t really have much respect for any non-gay person who said anything about what sin was for me.
    Yes, I see sin all the time, the sin of theft (men underpaying women in jobs),
    the sin of violence (domestic that is), the sin of rape (yeah go Soddom townsmen– go rape my daughters). Women who love women— sin? All churches have the duty to teach a genuine moral code, but this code is not an absolute.
    Marriage as we know it today did not exist in biblical times. The nuclear family is new on the scene. Marriage as we know it was emerging in the 12th century.
    Gay and lesbian marriage is fine with many denonominations now, just as women becoming bishops. I have to smile at the outrage over Mary Glasspool vs. the straight woman who was also consecrated as assistant bishop of Los Angeles. One woman is a shock “partnered lesbian” the other “straight.” We have come far when one woman is boring and ho hum, and the other gets conservatives all up in arms.
    Sin, departing from scripture? Marriage is simply thought to be unchanging, but it isn’t. Sin, well I’d say greed and gluttony are killing America. I see nothing but generosity and love in the gay world in the face of a horrifying hatred no straight white person can ever know. I feel more connection with black people and the intersection of how white people treat them, and straight people treat me, for example. At least they get it.

    I see gay men as nonviolent, I see lesbians as community organizers and leaders. I see us as living a gospel of welcoming the stranger, being out in the world to save souls…. we have our spiritual gifts that we share with one another.

    So rather than focus on negative straight homophobic ideas of who gay people are, I prefer to see what we give to the world. The content and quality of our work, our insights and intuitions that come from being oppressed.

    I see our need for true moral guidance. How do I overcome my overwhelming hatred of the oppressors, for example? How do I forgive my enemies, when I feel like shooting them in the head 24/7? How do I even begin to forgive those sexist rapist men in my office? How do I forgive the people who reject me socially, and make my life miserable?

    How do I gain social self-confidence to be open to straight support and acceptance? Those are my spiritual challenges. Sometimes I rise to the occasion and try to stop my knee jerk desire to bash my enemies with everything I’ve got. Hey, I’m physically strong, I could beat an elderly man to death for making a sexist comment. It would be easy, and that to me is an occasion of sin. I have to rise above this, have god intervene and protect me from actually doing something really awful.

    What helps me? A voice of god, naturally. That’s what I need.

    Spiritual direction, and gay centered christianity have really been invaluable to me in this way. Knowing that on any given Sunday or Friday evening, I can go hear a lesbian preach the Torah or the Gospel helps too.
    Knowing that I have people I can call if I need help, or who can model a truely god-like compassion also helps. Sometimes some angel just comes up and helps me. I’m not kidding, this happens a lot.

  • Dora

    And for that matter, we don’t know why people are straight either. The majority questions the minority, but the minority is not allowed to question the very existence of the majority.

    I believe that each person speaks for herself, and no outside person can know the inner life or love choices of another. When others interfere we have problems. Whether women choose to be lesbians or are born that way makes no difference to me. Women should simply not be forced into sexual relationships with men if they don’t want those relationships. That is called rape.