What Conscious Evangelicals Want You To Know

The following post is from Jason Bilbrey, our Director of Pastoral Care at The Marin Foundation. You can contact Jason with inquires connected to pastoral care at jason@themarinfoundation.org.

Here’s what I’ve heard countless times from conservative folks who email me asking for help: “I want to support _________ (my trans daughter, gay marriage, the queer community, etc.), but I don’t want to _________ (preach a watered-down gospel, be soft on sin, approve of that lifestyle, etc.).” I would estimate that about 60% of the emails I get as Director of Pastoral Care here at The Marin Foundation are from folks who feel prohibited from loving their neighbor because of the Bible’s seemingly hard-line stance against homosexuality.

If there’s one defining characteristic of Evangelicals, it’s our reverence for the Bible–the “Word of God,” as we call it. It can get a little extreme. In some circles, any argument you might make, without some kind of appeal to the authority of the Bible–a practice known as “proof-texting”–would be deemed “worldly.” That’s why the debate over creationism and evolution is, well, a debate. Conservative circles generally don’t accept arguments from science, no matter how much empirical evidence support them, if those arguments seem to contradict the literal interpretation of Genesis to which they ascribe.

Some Evangelicals feel emboldened by the Bible’s moral pronouncements. Others feel imprisoned by them. One of the metaphors that the Bible uses to describes its own role in the believer’s life is that of a lamp illuminating a darkened path. That light is pretty garish to some. Blinding for others. I’ll be the first to admit that being an Evangelical is really not much fun. So often we feel a pressure to profess our love for and adherence to the Bible, when, really, it frustrates us when we actually read it.

This is the predicament that many Evangelicals find themselves in when they contact me. They know queer folks, and actually like them a lot. “If only I was not a Christian and could fully embrace them,” they think, before shaking their heads with a quick prayer of contrition. These Christians actually feel threatened by their own affection for the LGBT community because it seems like a competing allegiance. The Bible, after all, warns against the seduction of worldly influences.

I get the impression that the Evangelical church is filled with silent masses who let the fundamentalists among them, the soldiers in this ‘culture war,’ do the talking. But they secretly love their ‘enemies.’ Which is a sentiment that’s actually pretty Christ-like, if it could only find an expression.

This is really where we come in here at The Marin Foundation. We want to give this secret love a very vocal expression. That’s what the I’m Sorry Campaign is about. Of course, the obvious message of the I’m Sorry Campaign is directed to the LGBT community: “We, the church, have been persecuting you for years, and that is not okay. Please forgive us.” But there’s another, more subtle message, and it’s directed at Evangelicals: “We can’t stay silent about this. Are we really going to let a handful of contested Bible versus dictate whether we show this community the love that Jesus commanded us to embody?”

Of course, those handful of Bible verses on homosexuality are important too. I spend a lot of time here at the Foundation detailing the full range of interpretation on these verses, including that of Pro-Gay Theology. It’s not black and white. I feel like half my job is just replacing answers with questions.

But that’s OK. Evangelicals don’t need to have all the answers in order to fulfill two greatest commandments, according to the Bible: love God and love others. That means standing in solidarity with the oppressed. Like Jesus did.

In order to influence Evangelicals, you have to play the proof-texting game. Your argument will be immediately dismissed if it does not appeal to the authority of this sacred text. It’s hard work, I know. The good news is, you have a lot to work with.

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).

  • Arc77

    Thanks for this message today, I literally prayed about this very thing (my heart ache over the Biblical stance on this issue, I struggle with whats right and not right a lot, am confused) so todays message from Jason is.. truly an answered prayer. God bless you.

  • americanwoman343

    My continuing circle-around is to get back to Jesus. I was surprised, as I grew, at how little evangelicals actually quote *Jesus*! Or read him. We are led around in the minor prophets and the epistles, and encouraged to believe that every word of the Bible is equal to every other word of the Bible, but Jesus himself countered that kind of thinking. If we call ourselves Jesus-followers, then let’s get behind him! That doesn’t resolve all my problems on this issue, but it undermines a lot of them.

  • drdanfee

    Thanks for the hard work you must be doing. I’m deeply saddened to hear that a sizeable percentage of ‘evangelical’ aka ‘conservative’ Christians (who hold the Bible in reverence) have no ear to hear anything much from the empirical sciences. It is those sixty to seventy years of empirical science which have provided much of the solid public evidence that questions, contradicts, or transforms most of our legacy ‘flat earth’ notions about LGBTQ folks aka Queer Folk. To leave that eloquent, compelling voice out of the conversation is a remarkable omission; and if I’m on the right track with my lasting suspicions that (like Copernican Theory backed up by Galileo computations, and as it turned out, a great deal else?) just as the cosmology could not be read simplistically, directly from revered scriptures, neither can the modern details of human nature and sexuality in all its ordinary variance or thriving. Roles, identities, behaviors, relationships, and the fruits of all that lived life among real queer folks simply cannot be reduced to the closed categories which most of the believers on the nay-saying sides still prefer as their ultimate, bottom lines. Finally, let me wrap up on an odd personal note, having grown up in a farm town in the USA Bible Belt. I’m in my late 60s, and began to have stress injury flash backs three years ago, a large portion of which involved my ten adolescent years of ‘trying to be straight or I guess we would now call it, ex-gay, for Jesus’. That near decade destroyed so much inside me, so deeply, that I can no longer attend faith meetings anywhere. It’s all meanness and trash talk to me, and right now I’m plenty enough convinced beyond and below all words – deep down in my aging and sick body – of my Abomination Status. The enduring gut conviction that God has given me up has (in retrospect) defined and damaged far more of my hard working adult life and relationships than I can spell out in a blog comment. I suspect I am not the only one damaged in this difficult way. Without access to science and lots else, I don’t foresee the harm stopping or lessening, any time soon. Best wishes, drdanfee


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