Part 3: The Marin Foundation Featured on the 700 Club

The Future of this Bridge Building Work

There was one quick sentence that the reporter Heather Sells said in the segment that was quite profound:

“It may take years to understand Marin’s impact on the Church and the LGBT community”

How true that statement actually is. In today’s on-demand culture there is an expectation of the immediate. People can immediately get news in real time on Twitter before it actually airs on TV. People can immediately voice their opinions on blogs in the exact moment of reading something. We can call, email, etc from anywhere at anytime. Hyper-connected, I think, is the official geeky term for our lives today.

The operation of the Church has fallen into these exact same negative cultural patterns. These days churches are working off of a success or failure model. But what is success? How do you define it? Numbers? Programs? People ‘saved’ by praying a prayer? No matter what someone believes is the correct definition, it’s all relative.

And none of it carries any weight in my book anyway.

Here are some thoughts on Success and Failure when it comes to Christianity and building bridges between the Church and the LGBT community:

Faithful commitment is Success

What if a LGBT person never agrees with a conservative interpretation of Scripture? What if they accept Jesus Christ and then pronounce they are a gay Christian? What if they say they hear God clearly tell them that living in a same-sex, committed and monogamous relationship is a blessed, God-ordained way of life? From a conservative perspective,

Have you not done your job?

Did you fail?

Are you not fulfilling even the most baseline of Christian standards?

The answer is that a faithful commitment to God is a success no matter what the outcome. Proverbs 16:3 says: “Commit tot he Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” The more accurate translation of Proverbs 16:3 is, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will be established“.

Success in God’s eyes is completely different from our modern understanding of the term.

The fallout from this incorrect alignment leads to a creation of false expectations for ourselves in comparison to God’s biblical promises. There are two main Kingdom differences between establishing and succeeding:

Establishing is rooting your motives and actions in God’s unknown process.

Succeeding is beating the competition with perceived outcomes that the mainstream (whether secular or religious) deems worthy.

Establishing is the spiritual understanding that there is personal contentment in faithful commitment. This is not an excuse to be lazy but it is the Kingdom parallel to the flesh’s second version of succeeding -

Succeeding is having contentment in knowing the outcome.

Both the Church and the LGBT community set themselves up for this disconnect because we use a model of Success vs. Failure – a model created with the rise of an ‘advanced’ Western mindset of philosophy, evolution and business. Each of those cultural metrics have since led us further from Christ’s metric of success. Hence the reason LGBT activist groups and religous right activist groups won’t be caught dead longing to establish anything with the other – because they both are trying too hard to ‘win’ the battle to see anything else.

The point of faith is not to beat up and conquer every other people group/belief system so we come out the ultimate winners. The point of faith is to establish Kingdom, here on earth as it is in Heaven, no matter what the outcome.

So do I know the outcome of what this bridge building work will look like in 40 years? Not that I know of. But 40 years down the road isn’t the point, and it’s not even in my remote focus. The point is to faithfully live out each day in relation to and relationship with those in my life, no matter what the outcome turns out to be four decades from now.

Faithful commitment is success. We will stop failing when we stop trying to succeed and start establishing Kingdom.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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).

  • Jack Harris

    I have to admit, I do not have a lot of interaction with evangelical christians. So, although I consider myself a bridge builder, I don’t think I really have anyone directly in my life that holds a different view of homosexuality than I do. The reality PROBABLY is, that I DO, I just do not realize it. So I try to operate from that perceived reality. I consider myself an activist at some level. I am fairly vocal (though not shrill) about support for GLBT folks both Christian and Non-Christian.

    I sometimes wonder if my “activism” hinders my ability to bridge build. I truly believe that GLBT activists need to find a way to talk about our civil rights without shutting down every method of communication with those who disagree with us. I am not sure how we do both, something tells me, those of us who are GLBT could probably do better at it. I do NOT believe that we should cease our efforts on insisting for civil rights,but rather we should try to find a way to do it that does not completely alienate those who disagree with us.

    As a partnered gay christian, I find all of this very concerning because I believe my faith teaches me that alllllll of this strife that we have with each other hinders our ability to reach out to a very VERY broken world. As a one who works in a counseling setting at a university, I am very aware of the quickly shifting opinions with regards to homosexuality–even amongst the most conservative christian student groups. Being gay just isn’t a big deal anymore to this emerging generation. So, in 40 years, my prediction is the landscape regarding faith and sexuality will look markedly different.

    Just my ramble for the morning…

  • Dora

    Troy Perry performed the first gay marriage in 1968, and from there it took 40 some years to get this far. Women were ordained in the Episcopal church in the early 70s, and it took that long to get perhaps 15 plus women as bishops. The Supreme Court has been around for over 200 years, but only starting in 1980, did even one woman get on that court.
    And it took the entire history of the nation before a black man was elected president.

    I can tell rather quickly if someone is homophobic or not… it’s a vibration.
    I can tell if men are sexist or not, again, you can feel it a mile away.

    Very few people even have the tools to analyze structural inequality, or even have the self knowledge to know they are racist, sexist or homophobic. It’s why when you do these opinion surveys white straight men always believe the society is better for everyone than it actually is.

    It’s why the most powerful force for change is when the oppressed become conscious and rise up.

    We would not be as far as we are on the gay marriage issue if Troy Perry didn’t just start performing them in 1968. You simply don’t wait for permission from the oppressors to do anything, you have to move forward, and let the consciousness change by concrete action in the world.

    No man is going to say “Shock, women aren’t being paid equally here’ you’re going to have to force them by legal action to change this, for example.

    I meet white racists all the time, who claim they are not racists. I meet men all the time who claim they are not sexists. Homophobes are just about everywhere, and when I meet a straight person who is very accepting of me, I can really feel this. Later it turns out they have daughters who are lesbian… it happens a lot.

  • Jack Harris

    Dora.

    I agree with a lot of what you have said. I would raise the issue that maybe by building bridges, creating awareness and channels of communication, we would might find some unlikely allies. If through communication and interaction with Evangelical Christians and others who oppose GLBT Civil Rights, we create an atmosphere of more trust and understanding. Please read here, I am not saying we would walk away from the table agreeing. What I AM saying is that it’s a lot more difficult to demonize someone you do not know rather than someone you DO know.

    I believe engaging your fellow Christian Brothers and Sisters in dialogue, can only create a way forward. Currently we are just “grinding gears” at this point.

    Jack

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

      Very good points, Jack.

  • Seth

    Wise words, Andrew. I agree fully. I am a gay man with an evangelical Christian background, and have a foot in both worlds. I am a living, breathing, walking, talking “bridge”–well, walking not so much. And there are plenty like me (look no further than http://www.gaychristian.net ). But you and I know firsthand that the tension between the two worlds can be profound, and sometimes more than I can bear. Guess which side loses when I can’t stand in the gap?

    My point is that there are really no “sides” here. Nobody wins; nobody loses. And, as you have observed, “success” is really something very different: it’s building the Kingdom one believer at a time. And for the believer, it’s growing toward Christlikeness (who was pretty much the opposite of every secular value in that day). Somebody said (Lewis Smedes?), “We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.” Even Paul considered it his goal and his prize, though he never claimed to have attained it.

    My hope is that in 40 years we won’t need to build or to be bridges, because we will understand more fully that we are members of the same body, and that we can’t do without one another. May it be!

  • Jack Harris

    Excellent Example : A student staff member came into my office today crying during our Safe Zone Training. We require Safe Zone Training for all our student staff on campus. She was in tears because her father is a pastor. She stated that she was taught to love everyone regardless of their belief. She felt that the training was too condemning of Christianity with regards to homosexuality.

    She did not want to be placed in the same vein as those Christians who persecute GLBT individuals. As I was processing this with her, it made me think of the post I just placed on this blog. The mantra that kept going through my head was “You don’t build bridges by demonizing others”. So, the challenge is already in front of me to find a way to talk about faith with student staff that acknowledges the harm that has been to GLBT individuals WITHOUT making them feel judged themselves.
    Just thought I would share…

  • Dora

    Nobody wants to be lumped in with Fred Phelps or right wing christian bigots. Every time you do a safety zone training, an anti-sexism workshop or a white people healing racism workshop, it is going to be uncomfortable for the majority people to learn about this stuff.

    Social change is not about what comforts people, it is about justice, and justice is hard. I’d be impressed if some straight man did start to cry over his complicity is vicious sexist structures, but I’ve never personally witnessed this.

  • http://www.mosaicinitiative.org Brad

    Nice piece, Andrew. I would add: Bridge-building is not just a work of faith, but takes a leap of faith as well – a leap from the mind to trusting our core truths (in your case, about bringing the Kingdom of God to the world; in mine, it’s truly believing that there is that of God in all people and things). If we really believe these unequivocally, than all else falls by the wayside in our pursuit and seeking of that truth.

  • http://www.jennyrain.com Jenny

    I think my biggest question is how do you fully value folks on both sides of the “bridge” (so to speak) – giving both honor and respect?

    Like, it is one thing to talk about it, but how does it actually happen real-time, in real-life where you care about BOTH sides a whole bunch?

    For me, there is an added element because it is not just the world of evangelical Christians and gay-males (mostly this is what I am exposed to), but also male and female – meaning… how do I find ways to communicate that express the heart of Christ in creatively loving ways, and also express it in a way that can make the leap from female to male communication?

    That is my challenge… just finding the words and context to create a safe environment for bridges to be built so conversations can start.

    For me, it’s one thing to talk about it in theory… but what does it look like in the real world? What does it look like, say, when you invite all of your evangelical friends to your b-day party and you invite your dad and his partner too? How do I look out for everyone’s hearts?

    Just thinking out loud…{again :) }

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

      In my mind, the theory-transformed-into-real-life IS about inviting all of your Evangelical friends and your gay dads to your birthday party and enjoying and nurturing all of those relationships on your special day.

      Maybe it’s just the Midwest in me, but why can’t everyone just come to a birthday party, behave, and enjoy some cake and polite conversation with each other? If someone’s behaving badly, pull them aside and ask them to chill out. If they don’t chill, pull them aside again and ask them to leave.

  • http://poemocracy.blogspot.com Evan

    A shame, that final comparison of homosexuality to prostitution. This is precisely what you’re up againt, Andrew– the sustained labeling of LGBT life as profoundly sinful, which immediately makes so many LGBT people flee from Christianity and/or devalue it as a medieval morality.

    We must spread the truth: that “sin” is a European word, and the original Biblical sense was of a “miss,” that is, we’ve missed our target and must continue trying to hit it. The idea of sin as “abominable” is, to my knowledge, not Christ’s, nor that of the Torah.

    Although many may claim to believe in no hierarchy of sin, it all being equal in God’s eyes, the glaring truth is that homosexuality is treated constantly as side-by-side with abortion at the top of the list of “what’s wrong with American morality.” That’s a horrifying comparison, and utterly illogical. A romantic and sexual relationship between adults is nothing like terminating a pregnancy. Preventing one, possibly…

    My point is that I laud you for continuing to avoid those conversation-stopping questions (sin? choice?). I have known so many LGBT people who would still be in the church if they hadn’t been violently rejected by it. Continue loving as God loves, or as closely as you can.


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