(un)Follow me.

This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation.

Often, we remember Jesus calling the twelve, saying, ‘Follow me.’ I’ve heard countless sermons on his calls to become ‘fishers of men‘ and can picture the growing crowds that chased after him in nearly every town he entered. The gospels tell us of times Jesus couldn’t even enter the cities, because the common people clamored for just a glimpse of this man and his band of misfits.

But I’ve rarely heard a sermon preached about the time Jesus lost nearly all of his Twitter followers – and didn’t seem to care.

 

‘(un)Follow me.’

Lots had happened.

Jesus had just fed the crowd of over 5,000 people, creating a miraculous buzz around this rebellious rabbi. The disciples gathered the leftover bread as the Christ had requested, filling twelves baskets of barley loaves. It appeared the excess was even more than what they had started with.

It was a miracle.

When the crowds had finished eating the bread, they began speaking to one another, wondering if he was indeed the Prophet foretold by the ancient sages of Israel. Jesus had just become the most popular teacher in town in a matter of moments. Handing out free food seemed to generate quite a following. The disciples wondered what Jesus would do with his newfound popularity boost. His new followers had multiplied just like the bread, and there was talk circulating in the crowd of crowning him king.

Knowing this, Jesus withdrew to a solitary place on the mountain and later crossed to the other side of the sea to Capernaum. He wasn’t one to seek fame, and didn’t particularly care for a large multitude of followers. Instead of continuing to perform tricks for the people, he escaped before their very eyes.

When the crowd realized that Jesus and his disciples had left, they searched after him. Upon finding him on the other side of the sea, Jesus interrupted their inquisitions with an accusation of their motives – he said they sought him because they were hungry. ‘You’re looking for more bread – more handouts – but I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger, and whomever believes in me will never thirst.’

They were indeed hungry – and all this talk of bread wasn’t exactly helping their appetites. Besides, it didn’t make sense. The crowd began grumbling at his audacious claim. ‘Isn’t this the son of that carpenter, Joseph? He says he came down from heaven – #sheesh!

Jesus again replied, ‘I am the bread of life. I’m the living bread that came down from heaven – if anyone eats of this bread, they will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the whole world is my own flesh.

Was Jesus promoting cannibalism? The crowd began to argue with one another.

Eat my flesh, and drink my blood – whomever does will live forever.

This was getting weird. ‘Who can listen to such nonsense? This teaching is too difficult to understand.

Does this cause you to stumble?’ Jesus replied. ‘The spirit gives life – the flesh profits nothing. These words I have spoken to you are both spirit and life…but there are some who don’t believe.’

The crowd began to thin out. Many withdrew from Jesus and were no longer interested in hearing his spiritual riddles and deciphering his teachings.

Jesus looked at his closest of friends – ‘Are you leaving too?

Peter was the first to respond. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.’

This passage has puzzled a great many theological minds, with multiple plausible interpretations of Jesus’ words to the crowd (as is the case for a good number of other passages). Most folks point to Jesus’ continued teaching of a kingdom not-of-this-world, with spiritual implications that far outweigh the physical realm we so often concern ourselves with. Others point to the rejection of the masses due to the fact that Christ refused to be a political revolutionary and instead emphasized the need for personal faith and salvation. The connection between the emphasis of bread on both his miracle and this ‘hard teaching’ should not escape our attention, but if we’re not careful we’ll miss another valuable lesson in the story.

There’s more going on here than meets the eye.

Regardless of the interpretation of Jesus’ mysterious words regarding eating the flesh of his body and drinking his blood in John chapter 6 – and their implications for our celebrating the Eucharist – what strikes me about this passage is his refusal to chase after the crowds. Multitudes followed him, even across the sea – and yet Jesus didn’t seem concerned when he was ‘unfollowed.’

In terms of the 21st century, it’s as if his Twitter account had thousands of followers and then dropped down to a dozen. With one or two tweets of 140 characters or less, the masses bolted.
 


 

His KLOUT score would have plummeted. And he didn’t seem to care. Jesus didn’t check who.unfollowed.me or raise a stink about the local celebrity who unfollowed him because of his most recent tweet or teaching.

He just carried on.

In the succeeding chapter, Jesus is again confronted with the grumblings of the masses. Some were saying he was a good man, while others were claiming he was leading the people astray (John 7:12). Not even his own brothers were believing in him.

And yet Jesus’ response was, in effect, ‘If you knew God, you would recognize Me.’ He didn’t attempt to convince or persuade the crowds that were leaving that he was indeed worthy to be ensued. He didn’t complain when he lost the majority of his followers, and he didn’t chase after those who had left.

Instead, Jesus continued to do the work he came to do, bringing grace and love and restoration and reconciliation in the least likely places to the most unlikely individuals.

Jesus understood who he was, and what he was doing. What everyone else thought was of little consequence.

That’s a lesson I often need to be reminded of. Particularly in the bridge building work that we do here at The Marin Foundation, the spaces of tension can often bring a pressure to capitulate to one ‘side’ or the other. Activists from both directions demand declarative statements in order to have a better understanding of whether we’re one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them.’ Some days, it’s tempting to give in.

Yet our mission of building bridges between the LGBT and conservative communities is more important. I am inspired by the example of Jesus, who knew who he was and what he came to do – and gave little thought to what others thought about him, even when he lost a bunch of followers.

What about you? What do you think?

Connect with Michael through his thought provoking blog, hit him up on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

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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://www.facebook.com/michael.danner Michael Danner

    [I'm really not harassing you, Michael]. But, again, in the passage you cited Jesus was unfollowed BECAUSE he took a stand. No, he didn’t chase after people. He told the truth and let the chips fall where they may. This is where your analogy breaks down. If you really don’t care if people follow or unfollow the work you do at TMF, then why not answer honest questions that are theologically and ecclesiologically important? Instead, you paint people that want to know where TMF stands with a broad, negative and “otherizing” brush. So anyone who wants to know what TMF believes about this issue are people who “demand declarative statements in order to have a better understanding of whether we’re one of ‘them” or one of “us”?” C’mon – that’s not fair. I’m sure there are some folks that fit that bill, but not EVERYONE fits that bill. There are genuine people of good will who are diligently seeking a way forward on this issue and would love to know what TMF believes as an organization that has engaged folks on both sides of the issue/question. What have you learned through incarnational engagement that might help us discern more clearly?

    As for Jesus language, my only consistent frustration is that you continue to selectively co-opt Jesus into your project. Jesus built bridges by taking stands that help illuminate and illustrate and – actually – bring to life the kingdom of God. No, he didn’t capitulate to the agendas of others, but he wasn’t shy about his own. If there is a limit to your approach it is that, ultimately, there is no clear vision as to the goal or end of your project (unless I missed it). Or, perhaps, the stated goal of building bridges is missing a few planks. With Jesus, this was never a question. What do you, at TMF hope to do, ultimately? If you could wave a magic wand and have your dream for LGBTQ folks and the church come to reality what would that look like? If it looks like the kingdom of God then there is no reason at all to hide that. In order to apply Jesus’ example in John 6 to your work at TMF, you have to share your dream and let the chips fall where they may. I’m not suggesting that you have to answer every question within the framework of the one asking. What I am suggesting is that clearly communicating your dream will help move the conversation forward. Sure, some will say, “We knew it all along! You are just…” But others will say, “That sounds like the kingdom to me. I can get behind that.” If it truly is a kingdom dream than Jesus’ people will recognize it.

    • Albert

      I’m really not harassing you either, Mike D., but it’s really not fair to tell TMF that their approach is wrong when you haven’t seen the work they accomplish. (Unless you have, in which case call me out and I’ll apologize for my assumption.) Please be open minded and take time to actually see for yourself the work they do, THEN judge their approach.

      And yes, I have.

      • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

        much appreciated, albert.

      • Ford1968

        Hi Albert –
        It seems like the local ministry is helpful. And I know from others like yourself, who have personal relationships with Andrew and others at TMF, that the work is very positive. But, not for nothing, TMF is indisputably, widely misunderstood (or not understood at all) outside of Chicago. Even Andrew Marin’s staunchest supporters in the latest kerfuffle publicly expressed misgivings about the “take no position” approach. And clearly there is distrust within the gay community – in my view, there is legitimate basis for it. At what point does TMF admit that the onus is on them to create understanding about their work? Blog posts continually defending this practice don’t seem to be creating any greater clarity.

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

          Ford – A few thoughts:

          1. Don’t ever underestimate the words of the LGBTs who support us. You write their words off like it means nothing. And PS- the people in my response to Savage who did go public with support, if you actually read it, come from all over the country. Few were from Chicago. Please get your facts correct before writing something that does nothing more than perpetuate a very false rumor.

          2. I could care less what people who have no interaction with us, think about us. There is no two ways about that. Opinions are a dime a dozen and pretty much mean nothing outside of relationship.

          3. Your reference to Tony Jones is curious, because Ford, you think it’s a negative. Why is his assessment/frustration of/with us a negative? Let me let you in to a little secret…Tony and I don’t have to agree in order to love each other and have each other’s backs. Foreign thought, I know. But truth none the less.

          4. As for your “distrust” in the gay community statement. Yeah, by some extreme activists, the same as by some extreme conservative activists as well. A quick Google search shows how much both activist extremes really hate us.

          I could go on to justify how GLAAD supports our work and promotes us; or the ACLU, or HRC, or the dozen LGBT community center’s I’ve taught in over the past few years, or…. The list goes on.

          Oh, you didn’t know that?

          Not surprising, probably because I don’t need to obsessively talk about who is on our side vs. who is not on our side because it doesn’t matter to me.

          If we weren’t doing good work that both the LGBT community and conservatives didn’t think worth while, we wouldn’t be so busy speaking and teaching around the world in both communities. The proof is in the pudding, not in a paragraph or two from those who don’t know us, don’t care to know us, and/or only love to drop drive-by-bombs (Savage, et. all).

          With Sincerity,

          Andrew

          • Ford1968

            Hi Andrew –
            I think you misjudge both my understanding and intent. I am not uniformed as you suggest. And I’m engaging in the dialog because I, like you, want to make the Church as safer place for gay people. My goal is not to offend or make you feel personally attacked – my sincere apologies if that’s how I come off. Feedback is a gift – I offered mine freely. You can either consider it and accept it, consider it and reject it, or dismiss it out of hand without considering it at all.

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

              Ford – I do very much appreciate your engagement with our work. It is through these types of interactions we are all pushed and grow, ultimately, and hopefully, together. Much love.

        • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

          ford,

          it’s certainly true that there are folks who don’t fully understand or support the work of The Marin Foundation, and that there are others (from both camps, as andrew pointed out in his response as well) that post/tweet/speak about it regularly. the unfortunate reality is that most if not all of those voices are from folks who’ve refused to sit down with us face to face, to see the work that is done and to admit that the voices of LGBT folks who DO support our work (from all over the country, as was evidenced in the response to the savage post) have legitimate things to say on our behalf.

          just yesterday andrew and i had over an hour long conversation with a mother who had a lesbian daughter – and didn’t know how to love her well. she condemned, warned, prayed, cried and fought with her daughter telling her she was going to hell and was wrong and all of the stereotypical, hurtful things you could imagine.

          then she read andrew’s book.

          then she heard andrew speak.

          then she started checking out our Living in the Tension gatherings and events online.

          now she and her daughter have an amazing relationship. through the course of her changing the way she engages with her daughter, she’s learned (in her own words) a better way in which to engage with all of humanity – not through condemnation or judgment, not through conviction and conversion, but through LOVE.

          and she’s not from chicago.

          in the midst of all of the folks who misunderstand, accuse, misquote, disbelieve and doubt the bridge building work that we’re doing, there are literally COUNTLESS stories like this mother and daughter – whose relationship has become reconciled as a result of it.

          from someone who has supported the organization and andrew on the outside, and is now on the ‘inside’ as it were, it amazes me how many incredible stories of reconciliation like the one i shared above go unspoken, unnoticed and unshared – because they’re literally part of our every day life.

          as i shared this week on my blog in this post (http://www.mjkimpan.com/no-time/), the work we’re doing on a daily basis is far too important to spend our time trying to chase down every false accusation lobbed by folks online who don’t understand – and likely don’t want to understand – what it is we’re doing. ‘ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.’

          there are multiple organizations and individuals fighting for people to convert to one side or the other – on both sides – each operating under the false belief that at some point EVERYONE will come to their preferred perspective. there are few folks in the middle, working to find peaceful and productive ways in which both ‘sides’ can engage one another in the midst of disagreement. that is where we reside, what we’re committed to, and where we literally live in the tension of the two preferred worldviews.

          and that mother i mentioned above? over half of the conversation was spent on the beginning stages of her beginning to do the same thing in her context, outside of chicago, building bridges between her church and the LGBT community.

          and it was her idea.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      michael, forgive me if i appear to be painting with a broad and negative brush toward those who ask for clarification – certainly not my intent.

      i believe that you are one of those you say are ‘genuine people of good will who are diligently seeking a way forward…and would love to know what TMF believes as an organization.’

      regarding that very question, and the comments about jesus taking a stand – we strive to follow jesus’ example as we read it in the gospels… particularly as it relates to the yes/no one-word questions that so often serve as a litmus test for this conversation (one example is the gay marriage issue, which andrew addressed in a two-part series here on the blog).

      the most obvious example of how christ engaged with these tension-filled, yes/no one-word questions would be the conversation about paying taxes. ‘should we pay taxes, or not?’ seems pretty simple. and to be fair, the roman oppression certainly was unjust to the jews toward which the question was geared.

      rather than saying, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – both of which would have had dire consequences to the ministry of reconciliation to which jesus was called, he responded by asking for a coin and then stating, ‘give to caesar what belongs to caesar and give to God what belongs to God.’

      i’m sure that some were dissatisfied with his answer and claimed that he was not standing up for the jews (who were no doubt oppressed by roman taxation). but he was elevating the conversation to a higher kingdom principle while avoiding the accepted method of engagement by refusing to answer with a yes/no, one-word, polarizing response.

      our stated goal of building bridges between opposing worldviews, creating actual (as opposed to cultural) reconciliation where two parties can learn to respect and dignify one another regardless of agreement or disagreement is our way of understanding how to best follow jesus into the tension filled spaces between the LGBT and conservative disconnect. to me, that looks very much like the kingdom of God – very much like following the example of jesus. neutrality does not equal silence – we’re not silent (in fact, one could argue that we’re actually quite vocal!)

      regarding the practical, on-the-ground applications of these principles, i’d first recommend andrew’s ‘love is an orientation’ if you haven’t yet read it – and then one my book is published, i’ll recommend that one right alongside it. ;)

      in the meantime, i encourage you to consider albert’s suggestion of coming to one of our Living In The Tension gatherings here in chicago. it’s not too far, and the invitation is always there for you. hope to see you soon.

      • Ford1968

        Hi Michael –

        I hope by now that you and I can trust we are both operating from a place of positive intent in this discussion. I fully understand Michael Danner’s comments and concerns, and to a large degree I share them. I know we’ve had this conversation in person, but I’d like to represent my position in this public discussion as well.

        The essential issue I have with the building bridges paradigm is that it necessarily legitimizes a toxic theology that has done immeasurable harm. You can argue that the way the church has lived into that theology is a problem, and you’d be right. But those harmful actions flow naturally from the underlying theology itself – that people who are gay are unworthy of even the possibility of romantic love (or suffer from a depraved illness), that by living our lives authentically we are separating ourselves from God (or living in open rebellion against Him). This theology is doing emotional harm to the gay kid in the front pew. We must treat the cause, not just the symptoms. If the Church is serious about loving people who are gay better, we must change our theology; we must believe differently.

        While I can always do better in loving those people with whom I disagree, I cannot respect or dignify their harmful, anti-gay beliefs any more than I could respect or dignify the belief of a well-intentioned parent that brutally beating his child into submission is for the child’s ultimate good.

        Your silence about your own views is tacit approval of all world views; including the ones that are doing harm. It’s perfectly legitimate and helpful to build bridges between the abused and those who once abused them (see Rwanda for a beautiful example of real reconciliation happening). It’s not OK to sanction the continuation of abuse.

        With sincerity,
        Ford

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

          Ford – We are not “legitimizing” any toxic theology or sanctioning abuse. If you’re referencing in that statement a Christian who has a conservative view of Scripture, that is not toxic or abusive. That is a conservative view. They might also suggest the same about your more progressive view, which is not toxic either. It’s just progressive. The dehumanization of the ‘other’ in differing beliefs is getting to a numbing level. If anything is toxic or causing harm, it’s people who continue demonizing everyone else for different views. That, Ford, is what we don’t stand for. And unfortunately, it’s exactly what you are doing. For us, it’s less about what someone believes, and much more important what they do with what they believe. If one uses their belief for extremes against the other, that is something we don’t stand for, and have spoken out against over and over. But if someone has a belief, and is working through how to best love with what they believe, there is nothing wrong with that. At all.

          • Ford1968

            Hi Andrew –

            “If you’re referencing in that statement a Christian who has a conservative view of Scripture, that is not toxic or abusive.”

            In that sentence lies the crux of our disagreement.

            Here’s where we agree: I agree with you that dehumanizing people with whom we disagree is causing a cultural crisis on a number of fronts, including this one. I’ve been saddened by the recent efforts to use junk science to paint conservative Christians as intellectually inferior or emotionally unstable. That’s no better than the vile lies that have been spread about people who are gay by organization like the FRC. I’m personally committed to calling that and other attempts to stigmatize conservative Christians out when I see them.

            I don’t agree with your assessment that I’m engaging in dehumanizing behavior (and, candidly, find it to be a patently unfair judgement of who I am and how I operate in this discussion).

            I also don’t agree that conservative theology is, in and of itself, not emotionally damaging. That’s not to say that people who hold it have a malicious intent. It is to say that the belief, and the interactions informed by it, cause harm.

            Think about the gay kid in the front pew of that conservative church. Think about all of the important relationships in his life – very possibly entirely wrapped up in his family and this church. Then think about what he is told: that he is deeply flawed and unworthy of even the possibility of romantic love. He’s told that he must live his life alone or be separated from God; and possibly even risk his eternal salvation. He’s told that Christians who are gay and partnered are living in open rebellion against God Himself. What happens in the emotional and spiritual life of the gay kid who grows up in that church? How does he view himself? How does he envision being viewed and treated by others if he were to come out?

            In my experience, conservative theology about homosexuality engenders self-loathing and detachment in people who are gay. There is no doubt that conservative theology has encouraged many Christians who are gay to retreat to the closet – with its attendant isolation and depression. And how many stories do you hear of people who are gay who tried to live a celibate life and, in the end, decided that they had to leave the faith because the loneliness was soul-crushing. Sincerely held beliefs by well-intentioned people can still be damaging. This is such a case.

            If the church is going to love people who are gay better, we must believe differently. I’m encouraged by religious voices like Rob Bell and Steve Chalke who have recognized and articulated this very point (I’m sure with more grace than I have expressed it).

            My sincere best to you –
            Ford

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

              Ford – Thanks for your continued will to engage with us! As for the “gay kid in the front pew”… I am assuming you are born in 1968, as your handle might suggest. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

              For a gay kid sitting in the front pew in 1968 there was no internet, no LGBT resources widely available, no other dominant worldview present (progressive). Oh how it is a different world right now! Research suggests the average age of someone who realizes they are LGBT is 13 years old. 13 year olds today have smartphones, computers, are very internet savvy, and everything is at their fingertips. Even the gay kid in the deep South can access a whole wealth of information that they might never hear from their church, parents, etc.

              This new access allows them to start engaging in thoughts, critiques, and arguments that are very progressive from their first moment of LGBT orientation realization. There are chat rooms at the Gay Christian Network, downloadable resources, PDFs, books, all out there proclaiming gay is not a sin, born that way, etc. 2013 brings a whole new world into play.

              It is then, not rightly so by the way, on that kid’s shoulders to ask, explore, question, seek God and learn who they are, what they believe, and where they feel the Lord is taking them. And this is the extreme need of The Marin Foundation, as we do a lot of work with those conservative churches and pastors to not have to feel the pressure to buy-in to extreme activist mentality, and say some really harmful things. As Michael always says, it’s that darn addiction to answers we’re trying to help the church move away from!

              Thus, it allows that gay kid in the front pew to actually engage with what he is learning about online, openly and transparently with his pastors, parents, etc. And instead of a one-sided adult/kid conversation, it’s an open dialogue based in love, not in fear accusations from one side to the other.

              Hope that helps.

              • Ford1968

                Hi Andrew –

                Yes, if I were a car, I would now be considered “classic” (sadly).

                And, I agree, technology gives us new ways to interact with the world. The interaction we’re having today is “exhibit a”. And, yes, that’s potentially really, really helpful to the thirteen or fourteen year old gay kid who’s trying to figure things out.

                However, while greater access to helpful resources might mitigate the harm done by conservative theology, it does not render that theology harmless. Non-cyber, human relationship still carries significant weight (as you’ve rightly pointed out on numerous occasions). Conservative sexual ethics are taught today like they were in the early eighties when I was growing up – with complete moral certitude and no room for dissent. That means that the kids parents, pastors and friends are all reinforcing this damaging view that God created this kid deeply flawed and unworthy of giving and receiving romantic love.

                It’s time for us to believe differently. In this case, what you’ve characterized as “cultural reconciliation” is not a bad thing.

                Best regards,

                Ford

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

                Ford – That is a nice ideal world one day. But I’m not trying to live in a not-yet-ideal, nor strive to have that become the case (e.g. There is no such thing as a conservative church). I’m living in reality; a reality that conservative churches exist, and thus, trying to figure out how to help them function in the reality of LGBT people, gay Christians, and gay marriage. So the main question then, is, do you want to also help them along in this path by working with them, or help them along this path by ranting, calling them names, etc–in which case they will never listen to you? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2013/05/im-tired-of-being-blamed-you-make-the-choice/

                It doesn’t make sense to me that a progressive person like you, who also then inherently promotes a pluralistic environment, would then argue for alignment to one belief system. Seems a little double-standard, doesn’t it?

                So I guess I’m asking, what would you like to see happen? All conservative churches disappear, and only progressive theology in existence? Not sure the outcome of your argument?

              • Ford1968

                Hi Andrew –

                Thanks for taking the time to engage in this discussion. There’s a lot to unpack in your questions. Forgive the length of this response.

                The Church has the capacity to change sincerely held, traditional beliefs. Not too long ago in our Church history, we used the Bible to justify a lot of ugly things that most Christians across the spectrum now consider reprehensible. The struggles of ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and women are all unique; but there is a commonality in the way that church leadership has attempted to maintain the status quo by oppressing and denigrating these groups – and justifying it with tradition and scripture. With the luxury of time, we rightly look back and cringe at our actions. In the case of civil rights or slavery, would it have been appropriate to respect and dignify the beliefs of racists or slave owners? I imagine that there were well-intentioned, sincere, loving people who held a high view of scripture and believed with all their heart that God created white people as superior. Although sincerely held, that belief was harmful and, ultimately was not tolerated. We learned to believe differently.

                You ask if I want to see all conservative churches disappear. Of course not. I think it lacks imagination to say that, in order for conservative Christians to hold different beliefs about homosexuality, they must abandon a conservative approach to scripture. Change is happening (presently and quickly) in the conservative Christian world. There are some who are embracing a new view of scripture. They are not changing their belief system, rather they’re using that system to reexamine their beliefs. Some on the leading edge are, of course, being dismissed as heretics; but I think their prophetic voices are important. In my experience, there is a disconnect for many conservative Christians between their lived reality and the traditional view of scripture. Those within the community who are taking a new view are giving others a way to believe differently. The Holy Spirit is visibly at work here and that’s truly awesome to witness.

                Further, it’s not really accurate to discuss Christian beliefs about same sex relationships in such a binary way. It’s not just “fully affirm” or “fully reject”. There’s a whole
                spectrum of belief in between, and any movement along that spectrum towards inclusion is movement in the right direction. There are theological beliefs that fall short of full affirmation yet still validate the worth and dignity of people who are gay and the relationships we form.

                I wholly agree that “ranting, calling them names, etc.” is neither helpful nor a Christian approach to change. I’m not sure if you’re trying to imply that I’m doing that – I don’t think I am. I am happy to help people along the path any way I can. But, for the reasons mentioned previously, it is not OK to “agree to disagree”. The stakes are too high. The moral case is too compelling. The damage wrought by
                traditional beliefs is undeniable. It’s possible to be honest about the damage that conservative beliefs about homosexuality have done and at the same time be kind and respectful.

                You ask what I would like to see happen. I would like the Church to understand the harm we have caused, humble ourselves, admit that somehow we got it wrong, and pray for God to show us how to believe in a way that doesn’t
                cause harm. Change is happening; I would like to see that change happen as quickly as possible. Failing to recognize or ignoring the inherent toxicity of traditional beliefs about homosexuality will hinder change.

                So that’s a lot of words to say: It’s time for the Church to believe differently.

                I’m happy to continue this dialog if you have any interest. Michael Kimpan has my contact information.

                Best –

                Ford

              • Ford1968

                Hi Andrew –

                Thanks for taking the time to engage in this discussion. There’s a lot to unpack in your questions. Forgive the length of this response.

                The Church has the capacity to change sincerely held, traditional beliefs. Not too long ago in our Church history, we used the Bible to justify a lot of ugly things that most Christians across the spectrum now consider reprehensible. The struggles of ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and women are all unique; but there is a commonality in the way that church leadership has attempted to maintain the status quo by oppressing and denigrating these groups – and justifying it with tradition and scripture. With the luxury of time, we rightly look back and cringe at our actions. In the case of civil rights or slavery, would it have been appropriate to respect and dignify the beliefs of racists or slave owners? I imagine that there were well-intentioned, sincere, loving people who held a high view of scripture and believed with all their heart that God created white people as superior. Although sincerely held, that belief was harmful and, ultimately was not tolerated. We learned to believe differently.

                You ask if I want to see all conservative churches disappear. Of course not. I think it lacks imagination to say that, in order for conservative Christians to hold different beliefs about homosexuality, they must abandon a conservative approach to scripture. Change is happening (presently and quickly) in the conservative Christian world. There are some who are embracing a new view of scripture. They are not changing their belief system, rather they’re using that system to reexamine their beliefs. Some on the leading edge are, of course, being dismissed as heretics; but I think their prophetic voices are important. In my experience, there is a disconnect for many conservative Christians between their lived reality and the traditional view of scripture. Those within the community who are taking a new view are giving others a way to believe differently. The Holy Spirit is visibly at work here and that’s truly awesome to witness.

                Further, it’s not really accurate to discuss Christian beliefs about same sex relationships in such a binary way. It’s not just “fully affirm” or “fully reject”. There’s a whole
                spectrum of belief in between, and any movement along that spectrum towards inclusion is movement in the right direction. There are theological beliefs that fall short of full affirmation yet still validate the worth and dignity of people who are gay and the relationships we form.

                I wholly agree that “ranting, calling them names, etc.” is neither helpful nor a Christian approach to change. I’m not sure if you’re trying to imply that I’m doing that – I don’t think I am. I am happy to help people along the path any way I can. But, for the reasons mentioned previously, it is not OK to “agree to disagree”. The stakes are too high. The moral case is too compelling. The damage wrought by
                traditional beliefs is undeniable. It’s possible to be honest about the damage that conservative beliefs about homosexuality have done and at the same time be kind and respectful.

                You ask what I would like to see happen. I would like the Church to understand the harm we have caused, humble ourselves, admit that somehow we got it wrong, and pray for God to show us how to believe in a way that doesn’t
                cause harm. Change is happening; I would like to see that change happen as quickly as possible. Failing to recognize or ignoring the inherent toxicity of traditional beliefs about homosexuality will hinder change.

                So that’s a lot of words to say: It’s time for the Church to believe differently.

                I’m happy to continue this dialog if you have any interest. Michael Kimpan has my contact information.

                Best –

                Ford

        • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

          ford,

          i don’t have much to add to andrew’s great response below, other than to graciously disagree with this statement you made ::

          ‘Your silence about your own views is tacit approval of all world views; including the ones that are doing harm.’

          i know we’ve had this discussion via phone (as you pointed out above), but as you’ve made it public i feel it deserves a public response as well ::

          The Marin Foundation is NOT SILENT. neutrality does not equal silence. we have, as andrew said in his response, spoken out against ANYONE who uses their beliefs (whether conservative or progressive) for harm against the other. we’ve never been silent on that – but have been quite vocal on pertinent issues like bullying, teen suicide, even the marginalization of LGBT people by conservatives or conservative people by progressives. both are a misuse of belief.

          what we don’t do is demand and dictate what it is that people believe – that cannot be the answer. merely not claiming a ‘side’ does not equate our position with one of silence; rather, it places us in a position to best facilitate conversation between the two as a bridge building organization.

          hope that makes sense.

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

      Michael Danner – I am wondering, when you say “Jesus built bridges by taking stands”, what exactly in the gospels are you referencing? Can you provide some examples? That would be very helpful to me so I can further study and look into what you’re saying.

    • Ford1968

      Michael –
      For what it’s worth, I understand your positions and I think they have some merit. it’s a conversation worth having.


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