Crippling Messages & Our Liberating Reality

The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.

When we look to scripture, we see the way that God sees us in Christ.

Holy. Secure. Loved dearly.

Yet we do not have to search very far to hear the spiritually abuse and biblically unfounded messages that are communicated to Christians that are also a part of the LGBT community. They are all too familiar…..

Sinner. Abomination. Damaged goods.

I’m tired of hearing about and receiving messages from Christians (and those that used to be Christians) that believe that God hates them because of what they have been told by people in the church.

From those that are depressed and contemplating suicide…..

From those that have lost their faith…..

I’m thankful for the letters themselves as I applaud the courage and vulnerability entailed in sharing pain and searching for help, but I’m tired of the bad theology and the lack of compassion that brings them about.

In Luke 17:2, Jesus expresses the seriousness of causing someone else to sin when he stated “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. And though it might have almost caused us nightmares, a part of me is sad that Jesus did not continue to speak in hyperbole about what it would be like for someone to hurt one of his children in a way that contributed to them losing their faith.

In a recent sermon, my co-worker Nathan Albert shed some light on the use of the word “sinner(s)” as it is used in the Bible.

“There are twenty-eight uses of the word “sinners” and thirteen of the word “sinner” in the New Testament. Yet NONE refer to people who have come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus. NEVER is a person with a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ called a sinner. When we have a saving faith in Jesus, God views us if WE actually lived the life Jesus lived and died the death Jesus died.”

So how does God see you?

In Christ you are redeemed and forgiven of your sins (Colossians 1:14) and you can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12) to find grace and mercy when you need it the most (Hebrews 4:16). You are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2) and any charges brought against you (Romans 8:33-34) and nothing can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:35).

You are an adopted son/daughter of God (Ephesians 1:5), a witness for (Acts 1:8) and co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), and accepted by God (Romans 15:7) and hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). You have been justified (Romans 5:1), made alive with Jesus and seated with him in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6), united with the Lord and one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17), and are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and complete in Christ (1 Colossians 2:10).

You are a child of God whom holds you securely (1 John 5:18). You have been bought at a price and belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20) whom you have access to through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18).

You are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16) and a member of Christ’s body (2 Corinthians 12:27). You are a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20), God co-worker (2 Corinthians 6:1), and God’s workmanship (masterpiece, work of art) created in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). You are the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14) and a branch of the true vine (John 15:5) who has been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16).

You have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13) and can be confident that the good work God has begun in you will be brought to completion (Philippians 1:6).

If you are LGBT (whether you are a Christian or not) know that you are God’s beloved, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God and that God rejoices in and delights over you. May you rest secure in God’s love knowing that who you are is enough. You are loved as you are in all your beauty/brokenness. May that propel you towards God’s heart and the beautiful mystery that is a relationship with the creator of the universe.

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).

  • Brian Bates

    Now that’s the point. Identity. As God sees us. Makes me wanna know that God. Gheez, let this kid post more. How did you learn this stuff? O yeah. Your intimate relationship with God, who has convinced you of your standing with him. And you seek to honor God with your sexuality. Both exist. Go figure. Bless you Kevin!

  • Martha Harris

    Wow. this well written piece, awestruck!!!!! Your understanding of how snf ehy of Jesus life………it is echoed to the passages that you referred to.
    I have never understood the bible well, confused often and most oft felt rebuke coming from the words. Now I can understand that much of that was much confusion as to what the words truly meant and my perception of what I had been taught..
    You are impressive to the amount and heart of devotion that you have given this work, of course for the LGBT community, but also for many of us who have struggled and lost our faith deeply in this life. I thank God for the blessing now of knowing the peace and true love that God, Jesus through the Holy Spirit has given me. Not always strong in the faith, but much stronger than I have ever been. By the grace of God

  • Steven

    “You are loved as you are in all your beauty/brokenness.”

    It’s phrases like this that make my skin crawl.

    Without actually defining what you consider to be beauty and what you consider to be brokenness, you allow every bigot out there to superimpose his own bigotry on your words, while you pass yourselves off as the great mediators and peacemakers in the process.

    The Side A gay Christian views his homosexual orientation and the sex he has as part of his beauty. The Side B Christian thinks he’s beautiful because he’s gay but that having sex would be broken. Side X individuals see both the orientation and the sex as broken. And you stand in the middle playing manipulative words games to try and trick them into thinking they all believe the same thing and get them all to acknowledge what fine fellows you are for bringing everyone together.

    All you do with this deliberate kind of obfuscation is set the various sides up for more conflict when they realise just how far apart they really are. It’s counterproductive because it engenders more hostility rather than less.

    In fact there’s only one winner here and that’s the Marin Foundation. You can’t lose. Even when your facile attempts to get everyone singing Kumbayah fail, as fail they must, you can still say you tried. Blessed are the peacemakers, after all. But what’s good for the Marin Foundation turns out to be bad for just about everyone else.

    Anyone else feel exploited?

    Steven

    • Kevin Harris

      Thanks for your thoughts Steven. While my main purpose in writing the piece was to provide some assurance for LGBT individuals about how I feel that God sees them, I realize that I’m writing to individuals on both sides of the spectrum, including conservative audiences, and my intention isn’t necessarily to convince them of what they should believe about homosexuality, but to make them think twice about their words as they often cause much harm and to encourage them to take a step back and at least think about how God may view the LGBT community. For many, even being LGBT and Christian are seen as mutually exclusive.

      I realize that it pisses some people off, but I’m really more concerned about doing what I can to help foster a space where individuals can go on a journey and to help them along that journey when it comes to what they believe. At times I see the value in and find it appropriate to fully speak (our) truth and at other times I see the value in looking at belief systems as if on a spectrum where the journey is just as important as the destination and I’m trying to help encourage individuals to come one step closer to comprehending what I feel to be divine……beautiful…….truth…….one step closer to dignifying the humanity of another……..one step closer to Christ and writing in a way that I feel fosters such an atmosphere. In this post, while there may be some traces of the aforementioned, I chose to go with the latter.

    • Kevin Harris

      I do agree though that the post could have stood alone without the last paragraph and not necessarily be lacking in what I was trying to achieve with it.

      On another point though as it relates to engendering more hostility, I haven’t really seen that (although I could always be missing something). The Marin Foundation’s intention and my intention is not to try to confuse you or to make different sides think that they are really closer together than they are. Along with trying to shift what is seen as the acceptable individuals/corporate/political medium of engagement from back and forth, win-lose rhetoric (where neither side is really listening to the other except to gather sufficient information to prove them wrong and where each side typically only speaks and relates to others that already agree with them) we’re trying to getting Christians to incarnationally live out their faith with those that they see as different from themselves to allow their stories to be shaped and influenced by the stories of others. When individuals do engage with those that are different from themselves while attempting to have an open heart and mind in the process, I may be a bit naive in my optimism but I do not think that we can come away at least without be a bit changed in our thoughts/perceptions about who we deem as an ‘other’. When our lives become intertwined, something is bound to happen though I cannot always guarantee what the outcome will be other than I know that it at least humanizes (in this situation) a people group that may have been seen simply as an issue as they then become people/acquaintances/friends, etc. But in order for individuals that are more conservative to get to that point, they have to know that what they are not violating what they feel God is calling them to theologically speaking. And a large part of what we are trying to do is to give individuals theological permission to engage……..to incarnationally live out their faith with those whom they disagree with…….to journey and call into question assumptions/stereotypes…….to seek God’s heart on the matter.

      If I were to just tell you exactly what to believe about everything (though that would also be difficult considering that The Marin Foundation is made up of individuals that have different beliefs regarding faith and sexuality as we’re trying to embody the reconciliation that we’re encouraging others to seek), aside from being a bit intellectually arrogant, we would just be pandering to a subset of individuals (i.e. only those that agreed with us) as opposed to speaking to a broader audience in trying to welcome different sides into the conversation with one another.

    • http://www.serenitylongview.com Chip

      Steven,

      You obviously come to the table looking for things to take issue with as most of what I read in your posts is a stretch at best. If you don’t agree with TMF or Andrew why do you keep coming back to the blog? Just so you know, you come across as paranoid. The bottom line is that we are ALL beautiful and broken. Straight, GLBT, white, black, you name them….all are broken.

      The point of Andrew/Kevin’s commentaries is that our God loves us and accepts us right where we are, if we believe in Christ as our Savior. How much clearer can they be on this subject? I’m so sorry for the pain that’s been heaped on you by the evangelical community. They, in their brokenness, have made disastrously poor choices. It’s apparent that you’ve been deeply hurt by their dialogue or lack thereof and I’m sorry you’ve had to feel that kind of rejection.

      While I understand you might see every Christian as having ulterior motives, I can assure you we don’t. I’m a straight, white married guy with three kids. I have several friends that are gay or lesbian and their sexuality has zero to do with our relationship. They come to our church, they bring their partners and they attempt to grow closer to God just as I do and they do so in their brokenness just as I do. Not brokenness for being gay but for being human!

      If anyone needs to question their motives it’s you my friend. I would suggest stepping back and taking a deep breath so you can see that you are engaging in the very behavior you so vehemently oppose.

      Chip

  • Steven

    “At times I see the value in and find it appropriate to fully speak (our) truth and at other times I see the value in looking at belief systems as if on a spectrum where the journey is just as important as the destination and I’m trying to help encourage individuals to come one step closer to comprehending what I feel to be divine”

    Ah, so you do want to convert us all to Side B then.

    So why when I read the material on this site do I see an explicit statement of this fact NOWHERE?

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Other Side B organisations like GCN are just as devious in the way they pretend to affirm Side A whilst bombarding us with constant messages about the moral superiority of celibacy.

    I find your organisation morally offensive. Far worse than NARTH or FOFT. At least they’re frank and honest about what they believe and what they’re trying to achieve. No matter how twisted their philosophy, at least they do us the honour of being open about it.

    I applaud the attempts of people like Michelangelo Signorile and Dan Savage to warn the wider LGBT community about you. I shall be adding my voice, such as it is, to theirs.

    Steven

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

      I’ve never viewed GCN as a “Side B” organization*, give that most people who participate in that program don’t consider ourselves Side B and actively talk about our faith and our relationships. Also, TMF hasn’t struck me as a Side B, especially as I’ve gotten to know the people involved with the program, learned their stories, and shared my stories with them.

      TMF is certainly more open with its welcome than GCN (GCN doesn’t allow ex-gay conversations in its forums, for example), but they tend to reach out to people where they’re at. I’ve seen people from all perspectives on this blog, including those who advocate celibacy, those who promote ex-gay POV, and those who are in relationships and/or have families — as well as those not directly connected to the GLBT communities.

      The four staff at TMF all come from different places, but I’ve always found them respectful and supportive of my own family and my own journey. Asserting that they are “far worse” than groups like NARTH or Focus on the Family completely warps TMF’s message, its ministry, its history, and its programming, IMHO.

      *For those who don’t know:
      Side A Christian = belief that GLBT relationships are not contrary to their Christian journey.
      Side B Christian = belief that GLBT people can be Christians, but that GLBT relationship are contrary to their Christian journey.
      Side X Christians = ex-gay approach to GLBT Christian journey.

    • Sam in San Diego

      Steven, I am not gay and not part of the Marin foundation. I could not disagree with you more. I don’t get it. If you don’t like GCN and the Marin Foundation, then why do you hang out here? Why not find some way of building relationships and loving people and spend your time doing that instead of attacking people? You would be a happier person.

  • Kevin Harris

    Steven – After reading Jon’s comment it doesn’t look like I need to say much as it looks like he reiterated what I mentioned in a previous comment being that individuals that are a part of The Marin Foundation are coming from a variety of perspectives regarding faith and sexuality and the same is true for individuals that we invite to speak at our small & larger Living in the Tension gatherings (we invited Jay Bakker who is open & affirming to speak at our last gathering and Tony Campolo who is more conservative to the gathering before that) along with those that attend them. No one that is a part of The Marin Foundation has any desire to convert you, or anyone else for that matter, to being side B, nor do we ascribe to a side B philosophy as an organization.

    I went to a GCN conference a couple years ago and while I may have just got a limited view of who is all a part of it considering that most of their ministry consists on online forums, at the conference I perceived that a majority of the participants were Side A as is their President, Justin Lee. They are just trying to create a little more room for individuals to find community and journey with one another with it comes to their sexuality.

    Though we may not be on the same page (or even close in your estimation) your feedback is definitely welcome on the blog.

  • Steven

    In response to Jon’s comments, it’s clear to me that both TMF and GCN are Side B organisations that pretend to affirm Side A for the purposes of conversion by stealth.

    I have no direct experience of TMF apart from what I’ve read on this blog and in the press, but I know the situation at GCN very well having been a member there for a couple of years (banned now of course, as is everyone who finally tumbles to their game).

    New GCN members who look like soft targets are identified pretty quickly and drawn aside into a private forum, to which the general membership has no access. There they’re subjected to active attempts to convert them to Side B away from the public gaze.

    Convinced Side A members on the other hand aren’t actively converted. Rather they’re subjected to a constant barrage of Side B propaganda in the hope that continuous exposure will gradually soften them up and allow for an “awakening of conscience”. At this point, they’ll be encouraged to join the private forum where the brainwashing proper takes place.

    In order to dissimulate these nefarious activities, GCN pretends to affirm Side A and even claims that many Side B members who join move to Side A over time. This may seem paradoxical until you realise that they aren’t playing a numbers game. It isn’t about how many they can convert but rather how genuine those conversions are. I think they’re willing to lose ten of little faith in order to gain one whose faith is great, so it doesn’t really matter how many cross over to Side A. Attempts can always be made to reclaim them in the future. I mean, all it takes is one act of repentance, right?

    Now it seems to me that this is exactly what’s happening here as well. Your methods differ from those of GCN, but the intent is just as clear. Draw ‘em in with messages of affirmation and love, soften ‘em up with hugs and tears and hollow apologies and then when you’ve got ‘em just where you want ‘em, start whispering Side B nothings in their ears. Classic manipulation techniques that anyone who’s studied psychology (like, I believe, Mr Marin himself) will be familiar with.

    “Ministries” like this one and GCN have agendas. Your goal is to convert as many of us to Side B as possible. My goal is to make sure as many people as possible realise this and are not taken in by your deceit and dishonesty.

    Steven

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

      Steven: I’ve been a GCN member for many years, though not always an active member. Your experience isn’t anything close to my experience. But I accept that it’s your experience.

      All I’ll add is that if their goal is to convert as many people as possible to a Side B perspective then they aren’t doing a very good job of it.

  • Steven

    “I perceived that a majority of the (GCN) participants were Side A as is their President, Justin Lee.”

    Is he? Do you know that for sure? Have you met his husband? Ever spoken to someone with whom he’s been in a sexual relationship?

    Justin Lee certainly says he’s Side A, but we have no proof of this beyond his own words. My belief is that he’s Side B and is just maintaining a Side A front the better to lure Side A people onto GCN.

    I mean, he could hardly hope to attract many Side A people to his site otherwise, now could he? He’d have a massive credibility problem. Just like Andrew Marin.

    Steven

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

      Outside of people doing porn or doing it with you, it’s kind of difficult to prove that someone is and/or has been sexually active.

      Personally, it wouldn’t surprise me if Justin is chaste until he finds the right guy, given what I’ve read of his work and heard from him on GCN Radio. Then again, his sex life isn’t my business.

      As for Justin Lee living this elaborate longterm masquerade in order to lure in people who might be Side A in order for them to be converted? I have seen no evidence of that anywhere.

      • Jack Harris

        I have to agree with Jon. I really haven’t seen any evidence with GCN or TMF that they are trying to convert people to Side B. Although I did find one comment by Justin Lee to be a little strange he said something to the effect of “I have more in common with evangelical christians than I do other gay people”. I always wondered what he meant by that. I am VERY MUCH Side A, so I can assure you that I would be VERY QUICK to call anyone out on any effort to “lure people” to Side B if they didn’t really want that.

  • Blake

    I totally disagree with you Steven. GCN never tries to convert anyone, the vast majority are side A and they even now have a Side A support forum for ONLY side A.

    Having met Andy and Bren, he catagorically told me to my face TMF has NO agenda and I believe him completely.

    After a long trip he met me at 12am in the morning and gave me three hours of his time.

    If I was in Chicago, I know that Andy and TMF have been more loving christians to me than the VAST majority.

    And I’m side A. All he utterly advised was to stop hook ups! Wise advice!

  • Mrs T

    It saddens me to see the motives of TMF doubted, but that comes with the territory of being a public organization.
    What often divides folks in the discussion of religion/LGBT issues is that each person is so adamant in his own opinion, that he won’t listen to the other side. TMF’s job is to bridge that long-time gap. By staying neutral in various positions, TMF attempts to help foster understanding.
    Groups from the most conservative to the most liberal often cannot stand this & don’t trust TMF. Well, some of us do & we applaud the organization for doing something that is long overdue.
    We try to understand others in other areas of life, so why not more understanding in this situation. Many of us work with folks of many religions, races, habits, etc., & we get along just fine. So, logically, we need to get along with those whose sexual tendencies/orientations are different. Sadly, many religionists & secularists make this issue different than the others!! Hence, there is a need for TMF. If you don’t agree with his approach, go elsewhere.
    Someone said Andrew has no agenda. I think he has some agendas – to bridge the gap, help us to love one another, to be more tolerant of differences, etc., etc., etc.!!!!!

  • Steven

    “By staying neutral in various positions, TMF attempts to help foster understanding.”

    By staying neutral in various positions, TMF fosters doubt and suspicion.

    TMF’s so-called neutrality is completely fake. Andrew Marin has publicly stated that gay sex is sin. He’s also been quoted as saying that LGBT youth should be worked on in order to prevent them from developing a gay identity. His beliefs fall somewhere on a spectrum from Side B to Side X. Hardly a neutral position in this debate, don’t you think?

    All this talk of TMF’s neutrality is complete nonsense and you all know it. Yet you’re incapable of being honest about it and admitting that you want us to change and either stop being gay or wear chastity belts for the rest of our lives. What you really want is to make us suffer in order to appease the cruel, vicious and arbitrary power you worship as God (although I suspect that might not be his real name) and use our pain as coin to purchase your salvation.

    Are you people even Christians? Human sacrifice is a pagan rite, is it not?

    Steven

    • http://www.serenitylongview.com Chip

      Steven,

      Why do you spend so much time trying to tell people that what they’re saying, feeling, doing isn’t true? Can you read minds? Can you know someone’s heart though you have no relationship with them outside of this blog?

      I wouldn’t matter what anyone writes here. You read what’s written and immediately pass judgement even when you have people telling you point blank that what you’re saying isn’t true of them. They tell you what they think or feel and you say “no you don’t”.

      You have no credibility here because of your contrary, negative nature. I hope that you can find some serenity at some point on your journey.

      Chip

  • Brian Bates

    Kevin,
    Sorry your beautiful, innocent blog and motives got hijacked. I don’t know much about the ensuing debate, which has little to do with your blog (albeit a fascinating, feisty thread – would love to get these people in a room!). I do know I loved what you wrote, about finding my identity in how God sees me. Reserve your energies for more words and actions like that, I say. Cheers.


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