Does Neutrality Equal Silence?

Does Neutrality Equal Silence? November 27, 2013

This post is written by Andrew Marin, President and Founder of The Marin Foundation

I woke up this morning in beautiful Scotland to an email with a link where someone wrote the following:

I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” -Martin Luther King, Jr

I’m looking at you, Andrew Marin

To no one’s surprise, the person who wrote that heartfelt statement about me is quite an outspoken partisan activist. In essence, the impetus for their thought process is that I have not advocated for the policies in which they deem the only acceptable policy in the only acceptable means to obtain it. I’m not going to give this one more ounce of energy that it deserves, but I do feel it needs to be briefly addressed because I’m tired of the every-so-often misrepresented critique of the work of a bridge builder.

Because one does not take a hardline stance advocating for partisan policy, that either end of the worldview spectrum so desperately yearns for the bridge builder to take their side, does not make the bridge builder neutral. Or more importantly, it does not make the bridge builder silent.

In his book Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf explores the key structural elements of how to measure and quantify “successful reconciliation.” This is the beginning of that exploration (italics his):

“For Jeremiah (9:4-6) and Paul (2 Cor 4:2) the point of speaking the truth, as proposed to deceiving, is not to win the contest in whose “mind” can better correspond to the actual “facts,” but to name adequately what transpires between people. Recent epistemological discussion suggests that no more than that seems possible because all experience relies on prior interpretation and all interpretations are offered in particular languages and guided by particular interests.

Merely telling the truth will not suffice, however. One must do truth…

In the terminology of Michel Foucault, because knowledge of truth is never “pure”—at least it is not pure when it comes to the kinds of knowing that are more significant than knowing the phone number of your grandfather—but always already immersed in the multiple relations of power that shape the self.”

And let me make this very clear: When The Marin Foundation “does truth,” our truth is quadruply-layered in response to the author of the email’s link in how they define “times of moral crisis”:

The Marin Foundation’s four-fold work of doing truth:

*Facilitating peaceful dialogue with both sides of the culture war present, in person, at the same time, such that one has to face their enemy, producing a shared sense of humanity;

*Helping both sides of the culture war understand their differences with their other, such that it produces a shared, more humanlike quality, to those considered one’s enemy;

*Living into an overarching worldview of loving those that one perceives as their enemies; and finally,

*Strongly advocating for the legitimacy of one’s dignity, and the humanity for their life’s story, because it is valid, legitimate, and it has led them to their current point. Indeed, one’s life story will always be as such–just as real and raw as each of their brothers and sisters’ understanding of theirs.

That is how we “do truth.” 

Dictating cultural normalcy must never be about worldview dominance, but about oppressor and the oppressed working together to create a holistic system, an actual holistic system, that is based on the sustainability of bipartisan ethics, rather than the train wreck mess of engagement (if one can actually call “it” engagement?) that we have today.

Much love.

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10 responses to “Does Neutrality Equal Silence?”

  1. I absolutely agree that constructive disagreement only happens in the context of relationship. It’s hard to take issue with that. We are mutually transformed by knowing one another.

    However, there’s something curiously absent in the way you frame this conversation. There is no acknowledgement that conservative theology, in and of itself, causes harm. In essence, it pathologizes people who are gay and says that their suffering is necessary for the flourishing of humanity (i.e., “being faithful to God’s design for human sexuality”).

    I can, and do, have productive exchanges with traditionalists regularly. While one might believe that the suffering of gay people is necessary for the sanctification of the believer or for their salvation, it would lack integrity to deny the suffering caused by the theology itself (and the harmful practices that flow naturally from it).

    You mention the oppressor and the oppressed. To tell a church “it’s OK to hold traditionalist theology” is to say “I believe that the suffering of the fourteen year old gay kid in the front pew is right and just”. Reconciliation depends first on ending the harm being caused by the oppressor. In order to do that, the Church must learn to believe in a way that doesn’t cause harm. The onus of reconciliation falls first on the us the Church – not on those who have been (and continue to be) harmed by it.

  2. Oppressors and the oppressed must work together? To what end? To agree on the nature of the oppression we are subjected to? To make our oppressors feel better about their bigotry? This is some serious malarkey being spewed here.

    • And since your post was a quote by MLK do you really think he would have felt he should have bridge builders between him and segregationists. He was on the right side of history. He did not need to reach out to them. What he needed was his equal rights.

  3. Mr. Marin, I cannot tell if you are a church leader. If you are, your most important role, as is any Christian’s, is to guide any…all into a deeper relationship with Christ. It is not nearly as complex as your four fold plan. It is pretty simple. 1). Opening up a conversation that allows your visitor to understand s/he has sin. We are born with it. We see it around us every day. 2). At the Holy Spirit’s call, encouraging that visitor to ask Christ into his/her heart and turn from sin. Homosexuality is a sin. It needs to be addressed as that. In a loving, non-judgemental way, sure. But just like any other sin – it needs to be addressed, and as Christ said to the woman at the well, “Go and sin no more.” You are accountable to these men and women if you are giving them a pass on their sin. I can’t tell from the article if you are or not – so no condemnation from me – just a mirror. So, Can homosexuals change their orientation. It appears so, as evidenced by Peter LaBarbera. Peter LaBarbera is the President of Americans for Truth which is a organization which counters the homosexual agenda. LaBarbera stated the following regarding Christian ex-homosexuals who reported being transformed by the power of God:“Another factor from my experience as a close observer of the “ex-gay” phenomenon is that many former homosexuals do not linger in “reparative therapy” programs, or participate in them at all. They attribute their dramatic and (relatively) rapid transformation to the power of God, and likely would not show up in a study of this kind. In fact, these “unstudied” overcomers would appear to be the most successful ex-homosexuals because they’ve moved on with their lives — as “reborn” Christians move on after overcoming any besetting sin.[10]”

    Peter LaBarbera’s statement above concerning overcoming homosexuality certainly has some evidence supporting it. For example, in 1980 a study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and eleven men participated in this study. The study reported that eleven homosexual men became heterosexuals “without explicit treatment and/or long-term psychotherapy” through their participation in aPentecostal church.[11] The results of this study are not surprising since Christian faith has shown itself to be effective in combating drug addiction. Here is the website:

      • Could you please be more specific? In what areas of my comment do you think that I am mistaken? Thank you.

        • I can’t speak to the fluidity (or lack thererof) of female sexuality but I can tell you both from personal experience and from reviewing NEUTRAL research that male sexuality is essentially immutable. If god exists, can he, in theory, change sexuality? I suppose. But god hasn’t seen fit to grow new limbs for those born without them or change the brain chemistry of schizophrenic. You have the right to hold any opinion on the “sinfulness” of certain behaviours but it’s cruel and unChristian to set up an expectation for change that is impossible to meet. Can you alter YOUR sexuality? As for your sources: Convservapedia? Peter LaBarbera? Give me a break. The loving and Christian LaBarbera has said that he finds it “reassuring” that the gay community is impacted by STI’s and voilence as if confirms to him that God believes homosexuality is an abomination. Charming. What a delightful witness for Christ. Why don’t you get to know some gay people? You’ll find out we’re not all slobbering, wild eyed animals. We’re people just like you looking for connection, belonging, and purpose.

    • I used to think like you Debbie, but I wonder how many LGBT people you have friendship with or in your family. For me one view changer was when I learned what my preacher taught about Sodom being destroyed because of homosexuality was deception (in Ezekiel it was arrogance & unconcern for poor & needy, lack of hospitality), and if Gen 19 were about sexual orientation, Lot wouldn’t have offered his daughters. I invite you to read Prebsyterian minister, Jack Rogers’ book on this issue. I’ve heard gay Christian believers agreeing about the need to turn from sin to Christ, but they tell me sexual orientation is not something that changes – no more then we can change left or right handedness. And relationships are more than sex; they are companionships of life support. But we straight Christians have expected them to live in closets, or stay celibate (lonely) not being real & genuine (a form of mask wearing, of forcing conformity into what makes us comfortable). Videos by Dr Cynthia Chappell at link helps explain the Biology & Science of sexual orientation.
      One of the first to receive the gospel was an Ethiopian eunuch (a black gay man) & Jesus mentioned some eunuchs “born that way.” But Jesus never preached against them nor is it in the10 Commandments.
      The bigger concern I have are the homeless gay youth disowned by religious parents & the LGBT people that the church has driven out & guilted into committing suicide (see ). But if I err, I will err on the side of the law of love & not on the rule of law. I see so many LGBT going to other beliefs because they are not treated like everybody else in church.

  4. Any time I post a comment about the GLBT issue, no matter what I say, I regret it! I’m attacked by people who quote reams of scripture to prove how wrong I am — and in the end I just want to retreat because it’s either that or charge into the fray, brain firing and blood pressure spiking.

    I think I understand what Andrew Marin is trying to do, and why he feels the need to retreat. A bridge spans the space between two sides. It belongs to neither side and yet both sides at once. It is the space in the middle. It is the point of connection between the two sides. It’s supposed to be a neutral space, not representing either side, simply connecting them. And it’s so necessary, because we humans make everything complicated as we argue for what we each ABSOLUTELY KNOW is right. I’m right! You’re wrong! Where can we go from there?

    “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” Like maybe our pride? Our ignorance? Our lack of understanding? Our many, many flaws and failings and shortcomings? Shouldn’t humility and love be our default settings? Peace, Andrew.