This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation. You can read more from Michael at his blog here – and his book, Love Never Fails :: Building Bridges Between the Church and the Gay Community will be available for pre-order soon (Fall 2014, IVP).
Last summer, I wrote something similar to what I’m about to write here.
Yet the message is just as important now as it was then.
Maybe even more so.
Living in the tension of building bridges between opposing world views often brings out the best – and the worst – in a lot of folks. People from both sides of the cultural divide often lob labels and accusations in our direction in an effort to ‘figure out’ what The Marin Foundation is all about or to elicit a response of ‘Yes’ or ‘No‘.
Apparently for some, our efforts to live and love with the same counter-cultural, unconditional love Jesus did and does – for all people – are confusing.
It seems to me that word - unconditional – should be pretty straightforward. Whether gay, straight or otherwise, in a relationship or not, christian or not, whether people ‘change’ their perspectives or not – we are convinced we’re simply called to love – and we will continue to press the Church that claims to take their cues from Christ to do the same thing.
Engaging in relationships where such an expression of unconditional love is possible takes time. Quite understandably, many within the broader LGBT community are inherently skeptical of anyone or anything associated with ‘the church’ based on their own personal experiences, hurts and pains. I’ve heard countless stories of rejection and a purely conditional love with damaging and even damning results. As a result, developing a trust that when we say ‘I love you‘ we mean it – regardless of personal conviction or belief, and regardless of another’s choices or behavior – doesn’t happen overnight.
Because of our commitment to building bridges between the LGBT community and the church, a great deal of my time is spent within the gay community. Boystown – the gay neighborhood of Chicago and recently voted #1 gay neighborhood in the entire world – is where we literally ‘do life’ :: it’s where I have my haircut, where I get my groceries and consume an absolutely ungodly amount of coffee. I spend time in the same stores and shoppes and restaurants and gay bars day in and day out, getting to know the servers and owners and patrons and developing trustworthy friendships with them, girded under the premise and promise of unconditional love.
This takes time.
In more recent days, my inbox has flooded with a number of folks whom I’ve never met, asking questions of me and The Marin Foundation. In many of these conversations, accusations have been made about who we are and what we stand for. Seemingly countless ‘you’ve never said…‘ or, ‘I haven’t heard one word from TMF about…‘ have taken up an inordinate amount of my time in crafting appropriate responses.
Some folks have been satisfied; others, not.
Even as I’ve engaged in these online conversations, I’ve wondered what genereated the recently increased interest in my and our opinion. Was it me speaking at the Gay Christian Network conference here in chicago? the heated comments about The Marin Foundation over on Rachel Held Evan’s blog (continued here and here)? Was it through our own blog? Was it fall-out from a piece I’ve written on another platform, such as this or this?
What I do know is that the not-so-subtle demand in an online forum was for me to convince these folks of things that can’t be proven with words. They can’t be proven online. They need to be proven in real life, in real time, with real people in the contexts of real relationships.
And I’m confident we do that.
This recent upsurge in the ‘prove-it-to-me’ d̶i̶s̶c̶u̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶s̶ demands reminded me of an earlier conversation we had this summer. Our team at The Marin Foundation had the pleasure of sitting down with Peterson Toscano – a self-described ‘Quirky Queer Quaker’ whose performance at the LGBT Center on Halsted in our neighborhood was a brilliant look in between the lines of biblical stories in which characters transgressed or transcended gender boundaries. The insightful and challenging one-person-play entitled ‘Transfigurations‘ was nothing short of mesmerizing.
The following day, Peterson and our team at TMF sat down for a few hours – which he blogged about briefly here. Our time together fell on the heels of what at the time was the most recent media hullabaloo concerning The Marin Foundation and illegitimate and unfounded accusations that had been made on a public platform, to which both Andrew and I (and a number of our LGBT friends from the neighborhood and around the country) responded.
As we discussed the then-recent-drama, Peterson offered a few observations concerning those who attack the work of The Marin Foundation from both the far right and the far left, essentially saying ::
‘There is so much work to do in engaging the church in an effective dialogue around LGBTQ issues. You’re doing it. Forget about the opposition. The work you’re doing is far too important. Don’t spend time, energy, or resources on responding to those who aren’t going to sit down with you face to face and see firsthand the great work you’re doing. Focus instead on your work. Spend your time there.’
I think Peterson is right. There will always be folks who misunderstand (and misrepresent) the work of TMF – some of whom are willing to engage in peaceful and productive dialogue to hear and see what our work looks like as we seek to live and love like Jesus within the gay community. Others will insist we have a different, hidden agenda – that our neutrality is silence or that we’re somehow working in cahoots with either Satan and his liberal demonic legions, or with the über conservative groups to fight against LGBT people (isn’t it funny that we receive accusations of both on a weekly basis? I think it’s telling).
The fact of the matter is, neither is the case. We stand committed to our work of bridge building – standing in solidarity with the Other for the purpose of reconciliation. Our table is open for any and all who would desire to better understand that work, regardless of their perspective or identifying label as a ‘progressive’ or a ‘conservative’ – whether straight or gay, christian or not. We’ll talk with and journey alongside anybody.
But for those who don’t want to engage in an actual dialogue, but are rather content to cast stones – from either side – our work is far too important to spend time, energy and effort attempting to coerce a correction or understanding.
In other words,
‘ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.’
What do you think?