Dan Savage vs. Andrew Marin

Dan Savage vs. Andrew Marin April 15, 2013
Dan Savage and Andrew Marin

I don’t know Dan Savage. I like what he does, I think that Christians have a lot to learn from him, and I’ve gotten a couple Twitter responses from him, but I’ve never met him. I’d like to. I think we’d have a good conversation.

I do know Andrew Marin. I know him well. He’s a good friend whom I get to see a couple of times per year. We email and text a couple times a month, and I last saw him in January.

I have mixed feelings about some of the things that Dan Savage does and writes. His It Gets Better Project is really, really good. It’s Kingdom-of-God good. Some of his sex advice makes me a bit squeamish, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But when it comes to the Christian faith, Dan is blinded by his own upbringing and by the pain that he has seen inflicted on GLBT persons by those claiming the name “Christian.” While I can’t blame him for the anger he harbors, he is an outspoken atheist — an atheist with an axe to grind against all who claim the Christian faith.

I have mixed feelings about the work of Andrew Marin and the Marin Foundation. They are avowed “bridge builders” in these tense days, as many Christians and churches are still trying to figure out how they deal with the increasing acceptance of GLBT persons in society. As such, both Andy and the Foundation have refused to take a public stance on the questions, “Is homosexuality a sin?” and “Do you support marriage equality?” I don’t agree with this stance, but I do understand why they’ve taken it.

When I last saw Andy, last January, it was at a mega-church less than a mile away from my house. This is a PC(USA) church that is large, white, affluent, and increasingly evangelical (I wrote about the church here). It’s a church that used to regularly have Brian McLaren to speak, but now wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot-pole. When I went to hear Andy speak on a Sunday night in January, the sanctuary was standing room only. The crowd of over 1,000 sat in rapt attention for his talk, and after his talk, many audience members publicly confessed their bigotry against gays and asked for forgiveness. Andy’s books sold out within minutes of his talk.

I can tell you without a doubt that if a gay Christian would have delivered that message — wait, let’s be honest, a gay Christian would not have been asked to speak at that church. I wouldn’t be asked to speak at that church.

Whether or not we like that Andy has remained neutral on some of the questions that are so important to many of us, he is getting a hearing in places that many of us aren’t. It should be noted that’s he’s also losing opportunities to speak as a result of his neutrality — late last year he was uninvited from speaking at the United Nations in New York, and he was replaced by vocal gay rights advocate Jay Bakker.

Over the weekend, Dan Savage reviewed a book by Jeff Chu in the New York Times. I met Jeff in the course of his research — he sat in my living room late on a Sunday night after spending the weekend with one of the subjects of his book. Savage writes about the man with whom Chu had spent that weekend,

Particularly heartbreaking is Kevin Olson, a “homosexual but not gay” man living in Minnesota. Olson chose a life of celibacy and community musical theater. He’s never had a boyfriend. He’s never had sex with anyone. But Olson’s honesty about his sexuality makes his Christian friends uncomfortable, so he no longer attends Bible study, and he stopped performing in musicals because of questions — “voiced and unvoiced” — about his sexual orientation.

“Sometimes, I do feel cheated because I haven’t been able to experience certain things in life, but then I remember that it’s not about me,” Olson tells Chu. “As a believer in Christ, you accept that this isn’t all there is to life. There’s a life to come. That will be a happy time.”

Savage’s next two paragraphs show exactly why he should not have been asked to review this book (or at least been edited better):

Olson attempted suicide in 1997 after his twin brother died and he developed a crush on a male co-worker — two events that Olson seems to view as similarly traumatic.

Suicides don’t go to heaven, of course, but some gay kids are convinced they’re going to hell already because they made a choice to be gay — a choice they don’t remember making and can’t unmake.

OK, that’s bullshit. That’s a remnant of Savage’s upbringing, but it’s patently false. Fully half of the world’s Christians — Protestants — have never thought that suicide victims go to hell; some corners of the Catholic Church used to refuse Christian burial to suicide victims, but none do anymore, and the Catholic Church has never taken a stance on who is in heaven and who is in hell. This was cultural Catholicism, not church doctrine. Savage shouldn’t have written that, and the Times shouldn’t have printed it.

My point in this is that asking Savage to review a book by an evangelical like Chu is akin to asking Bill Maher to review my book on prayer. Savage has so much antipathy toward active, faithful, believing Christians that he cannot see past his vitriol to write something with even a modicum of objectivity.

Which brings us to his treatment of Andy and the Marin Foundation. In the literary climax of his review, Savage stops writing about Chu’s book altogether and takes up arms against Marin. He’s done this before — Savage has attacked Marin many times in the past, but doing so in the Times is a new low. And this time Savage overreaches entirely, undermining his entire argument and book review — and, I must say, making a mockery of the supposed seriousness of the Times — when he writes,

The more you learn about the Marin Foundation, the more it looks like Westboro Baptist in the drag of false contrition: God hates you — now with hugs!

That is flat-out ridiculous (Marin has replied). Disagree with Marin and his tactics if you wish — and, at times, I do — but to compare The Marin Foundation to Westboro Baptist shows conclusively that Dan Savage has no business writing about a book by an evangelical Christian until he gets some therapy for his own hatred — hatred of Christians.


Postscript: Last night at Solomon’s Porch, we were reflecting aloud on the work of Brennan Manning, who died last week. One man in the congregation told how Manning spoke at his evangelical college in 2003. An undergrad at the time, this man approached Manning after the talk and challenged him on his use of the Bible and on his message of “easy grace.” As he told it, Manning responded with grace and a smile.

Two weeks ago, this man married another man at Solomon’s Porch.

Not everyone is ready for the full-frontal attack version of gay rights. Some people need some grace and some time. Sometimes a gracious response and a smile is just right.


Post-postscript: I have been abundantly honest with Andy that I do not think neutrality is a long-term solution. It is inherently short-term.

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  • Bonnie

    I have heard Andrew Marin speak a few times….his wife is from our church. I have experienced him as thoughtful and courageous. He is humble and loving and does not claim to have all the answers. He is a paridigm shifter. I am in my 70’s so don’t live in his world: he has helped me to see it and respond to it with Christ’s eyes and heart.

  • Well-said sir, on many levels. As pastor of a Baptist church in the semi-deep south (yet with deep south ultraconservatism), I’ve been called to pastor an urban church with a strange mix of senior adults (VERY senior, 80 and over) and rather young adults (35 and under). We’re much more open than other churches around us, but we’re not nearly ready to make any definitive statements on the issue. We have a great variety of opinions and interpretations. But, like their pastor, they are listening and learning and struggling to move forward. Slower than we should? Maybe…probably…but progressing nonetheless.

    I’ve sometimes been frustrated by you, in what seems to be your lack of understanding and charity towards those who are on the ground floor in traditional church communities. It’s a slog more than a leap on many issues. But this was refreshing, and perhaps I’ve misinterpreted your thoughts in the past.

  • I have a good friend who has worked cross-culturally in his ministry, who told me that in dialogue with people from different perspectives, the first ground rule to establish is “I won’t tell you what you (& your group) believes, and you agree not to tell me what I (and my group) believes.” Let each speak for themselves, and then listen. May even work in political dialogue too.

  • DJ

    To be fair, Tony, I don’t believe that Dan Savage “hates” Christians. I’m sure even he would agree that he hates particular kinds of Christians, but I don’t know that he’s ever made sweeping statements about all Christians (my guess is he would be fine with me, you, and John Shore as Christians, for example, even though he vehemently declares he doesn’t want anything to do with Christianity for himself).

    I do agree that he was a certainly ungenerous and unfair of his critique of both Chu’s book and Marin’s organization. I’ve never met Dan Savage, so I’m hesitant to make too many judgments about what he wrote in the article, but from my reading of it, he seemed to be to be projecting a lot of his spirituality issues onto Chu and Marin. I also agree he probably wasn’t the best person in the world to review the book…not by a long shot.

    • You’re right. He probably doesn’t hate Christians. Jeff Chu just emailed me saying the same thing. But Jeff also reminded me that the Marin Foundation only merits two passing references in the book (I merited one!), making it all the more confounding that Savage makes Marin the climax of his review.

      Savage basically used Chu’s book to attack Marin, because Chu’s book on its own didn’t give Savage that ammunition.

      • As I have commented elsewhere – I think both you and Marin miss the fact that Savage was not attacking The Marin Foundation, but was criticizing Chu for engaging in apologia for groups that are explicitly anti-gay, like Exodus International and Westboro Baptist Church, or (in Savage’s view) implicitly anti-gay, as he characterizes The Marin Foundation while ignoring explicitly pro-LGBTQ Christian voices such as Metropolitan Community Church and others.

        • DJ

          Actually, Ekhym, I think you miss the fact that Dan Savage was indeed attacking the Marin Foundation (how else would you explain his equating the foundation with Westboro-like “God hates you – now with hugs!” snipe??)

          This isn’t merely some minor critique of Chu’s book, but rather another side swipe at Marin. Savage has been public before about his mistrust (disdain?) for the Marin Foundation (see for example: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/dan-savage-does-not-hate-you/news/2011/10/08/28114) which was written LONG before Chu’s book even came to print).

          So it’s not either/or here Ekhym…it’s both/and. He was BOTH critiquing Chu AND attacking the Marin Foundation. I think he certainly has a right to do so…but let’s not get it twisted: the FACT is, Dan Savage doesn’t like what Andy Marin does. I’m sure he would tell you that directly. He doesn’t split hairs 😉

          • There were ample criticisms of my book—as well as some praise!—but there’s no question that Dan took the opportunity to slam Andrew and the Marin Foundation. @ekhym, have you read my book? I don’t think I castigate LGBTQ people who have a different takeaway at all. I see a difference between trying to understand what people believe and why, and “engaging in apologia” for them.

            • Mr. Chu – no I have not yet had an opportunity. I do intend to however. I am aware of Dan Savage’s opinion of The Marin Foundation. But in this case, I am simply providing my reading of that particular text within the context of the entire review. I am not saying Savage is correct in his perceptions, but merely placing it within the context provided.

              @DJ – If Dan Savage’s criticism’s are valid, then frankly I would agree with him. And I say that as someone who owns, recommends, and loans Marin’s book “Love is an Orientation”. And frankly, given Mr. Marin’s actions and words since this was published, I am not reassured or persuaded that Savage is that far off on his read of Marin and his motives.

              • DJ

                That’s all fine and good, Ekhym. I was merely correcting your mistaken (naive?) perspective that Savage was not attacking Marin. He was.

                Whether that attack has merit is a whole other issue. As I said previously, Savage certainly has the right to do so. I just think that he needs to be careful about his words (he’s prone to hyperbole). If you’re going to make a statement equating Marin to Westboro, you run the risk of making Westboro’s extraordinary kind of cruelty meaningless. To me it seems baseless. If you think Marin is anywhere CLOSE to Westboro (i.e., you don’t think Savage is “that far off”), then you too need to provide some basis of support for such sentiments. Otherwise it’s borderline slander, and is the type of truth-stretching that irks me about conservatives (particularly when the issue of homosexuality is brought up) … I used to think that liberals were more sensitive to this type of speech considering it’s been used against us for so long…but the more polemic and divided this country becomes, the more I see that it’s all the same on both sides of the spectrum.

                • DJ – reread what I said. Based upon Marin’s actions – specifically slandering me by censoring my comments then blocking me from presenting my side in which I correctly note that none of his material counters the statements Savage makes – his actions and his refusal to rebut or respond other than calling Savage a liar (and presenting lots of people saying essentially “oh no, Marin is really a nice guy) – these are misleading and every bit as ad hominem as you seem to think Savage’s comments are.

                  Also, you may perceive my opinion as mistaken or naive – no I see it as a nuanced part of a critique of what he perceives as the authors different treatment and apologia for groups like Westboro, Exodus, and The Marin Foundation. I don’t think there is any controversy with Savage’s characterizing the first two as anti-gay. So he is presenting a case as to why The Marin Foundation is worthy of inclusion in that triad. Additionally, he is not the only person who has found the dissonance between what he claims his message is, and his comments when speaking to those who are prejudiced against the LGBTQ community.

                  It is not building a bridge to tell me I should ignore him telling those who want to deprive the LGBTQ community of civil equality because of their religiously based bigotry because they won’t listen to him if he doesn’t. It is telling me that he is willing to endorse or empower those who would deprive us of civil equality in return for book sales, speaking fees, and acclaim.

                  So tell me again, how those things are not consonant with a gussied up version of “separate but Equal” and “Get to the back of the bus” mentality? And please explain to me how that is not simply a “kinder gentler” form of discrimination.

                  If anyone seems mistaken or naive in one’s understanding, sir, I really must say it is you.

                  I was willing to allow Marin to make his case as to why Savage was wrong. I will read Mr. Chu’s book to determine for myself if Savage’s review of the book is accurate or not. In the former case, Marin not only didn’t make his case, but doubled down on the same double speak and intellectual dishonesty that makes people like me feel he is not apologizing for discrimination but merely because it has been “too mean” as if any discrimination is acceptable at all.

                  So, yes, based on this reasoning I do not think Savage is too far off to see what Marin is doing as homophobia with a hug.

                  • DJ

                    Ekhym, as you seem to be a little slow on the uptake here, let me just use verbatim quotes and make it simple for you.

                    You said: “…I think both you and Marin miss the fact that Savage was not attacking The Marin Foundation, but was criticizing Chu for engaging in apologia…”

                    I said that was mistaken and perhaps naive, b/c it was BOTH a critique of Chu AND an attack on the Marin Foundation. I gave evidence for why this was an attack.

                    Aside from whether or not you think the attack was justified, are you still maintaining that this was not an attack on the Marin Foundation? Or were you wrong about that (perhaps even naive)? Because everything you’ve said since then has been about justifications for why he said what he said, which seems to me to be an implicit agreement that this was an attack (and thus you were wrong).

                    • DJ

                      In other words, in order to make the “nuanced” point you seem to think he’s making, he has to build a case for it, which required attacking the Marin Foundation explicitly. Notice how in the article he goes much more into detail about Marin than he does with either Westboro or Exodus. And considering he’s done this before (long before Chu made a point), I find it hard to see that this is not an attack on the Marin Foundation.

                      I will add that there are legitimate critiques to be made (even attacks perhaps) about Marin’s refusal to give his personal stance (for the reasons enumerated by the Jim Burroway article I linked), but calling Marin a homophobe in disguise is, I believe, a misunderstanding of the man and his cause.

                  • DJ

                    You know what? I’m being an idiot. I’m getting angry and snarky, and that’s not the way I want to converse with people. Forgive me. What I should have said was: “I see what you’re saying, Ekhym, but I disagree with it.” If that makes me naive, then I’ll wear that gladly. There are worse things in the world than to be naive. Again, I apologize for being offensive in my defensiveness.

                    • Funny – you start angry and snarky when you accuse me of being naive. I assure you I am not. I don’t think you are an idiot. however, I do think you are so invested in only seeing this from your view, that you don’t see this as one paragraph in a very lengthy review.

                      This very defensiveness – this striking a nerve – in the response of those like you that would leap in outrage at Savage’s opinion, which again – I will still point out – is more an attack on Mr. Chu’s book and his treatment of the subject than it ever was about attacking Marin or his foundation. And make no mistake – this is only personally attacking Marin because Marin has so personalized it.

                      Quite frankly, I find it tedious and mendacious. Just like I find Marin’s actions and responses to be so over the top that yes, I do believe he is at best a patronizing popinjay preening about how noble of him to have moved past his own position – as he himself notes in the opening pages of his book – of being a bible thumping homophobe – that he can’t see the arrogance of his presumption and why can’t those awful homosexuals just be grateful that he speaks out for them to not be tortured before the burn forever.

                      So yes, I see him as now as little different than Westboro Baptist Church who at least are hot in their damning of fags because as Revelations 3:16 says “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

                      So, sir, I will foist you on your petard and declare once again you are both naive and mistaken and may very well also be an idiot. I neither want, nor need your apology any more than any of us need Marin’s modern day rending of his clothes, casting ashes on his head, and his figurative sewing of scripture in the hems of his garments which is precisely how I view his actions.

                    • One last point – I think you, Marin, and others do want this to only be about a disagreement or spat between Marin and Savage, because then you don’t have to look at the bigger picture which is precisely how intractably intertwined anti-LGBTQ prejudice and discrimination are with Christianity. And if Marin won’t speak that truth in the temples and sanctuaries, then he is neither a friend nor a helper of the LGBTQ community.

                    • DJ

                      Ekhym, I think I deserved that, so I’m not going to respond in a tit for tat. You have a right to say and feel the way you do. I’m not going to argue with you. If you think me naive, mistaken, and an idiot, then so be it. I’m also arrogant, feisty, and judgmental. You can add that to your ammunition if you so choose. Not sure where it gets us though…

              • DJ

                P.S. For an example of what I think to be the most accurate, level-headed, truthful, balanced, and non-hyperbolic interjection of this subject, see Jim Burroway’s take on Box Turtle Bulletin here: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2013/04/15/55383

                • DJ – I’m not trying for a tit for tat, either. I’m simply trying to get people to look beyond the Savage vs. Marin prize fight mentality.

                  As I tried to say to Marin in my comments on his Facebook post and on his “Response” article – just answer the questions:

                  -What have The Marin Foundation and Andrew Marin, the individual, said and done that make what Savage said to be lies?

                  -If anything stated by Savage is true as relates to the past, but is no longer true, what and how as it changed?

                  -Apologize if any of it is true as relates to either the past or the present, and then amend the actions and words of The Marin Foundation and Andrew Marin, the individual.

                  It really is irrelevant if Savage meant to attack Marin or not. Because in this case, the response is far more telling to me than anything Savage said or wrote or believes. After all, doesn’t Luke 6:28 say “bless them that curse you and pray for those which spitefully use you”? I see nothing Christian or bold or bridge-building in Marin’s response.

                  I am as prone as any to jump at the bait of red herrings as any and have done so several times in this discussion. But if we can’t even agree about what we are discussing, can we really have a discussion at all? Or are we all just engaging in polemical talking at each other instead of with each other?

                  You and I shouldn’t be on Team Savage or Team Marin. We should be on Team Human.

                  • DJ

                    Ekhym, I’m neither on Team Savage, nor Team Marin. I just happen to think that Savage is wrong on his take on Marin. I have in the past and continue to disagree with Marin on many of his tactics and flaws as well. To me, this is not about teams or sides…just accuracy in judgment.

                    In your eyes, Marin hates gay people but hides it. To me, that sounds at best hyperbolic, and at worst utterly ridiculous. I have no deep desire to move you from your position. You’re happy with it and convinced of it. Not to mention that I am naive, mistaken, and very likely an idiot to boot. I’m having a hard time seeing what (if anything) merits further discussion…unless I’ve missed something along the way. But I don’t think I have.

                    • Marin had a chance to make a case about this, but instead, in what I think is likely a pattern from him (and is partly reflected in his book) he chose to make this about himself even though Chu and Savage both only provide the briefest mention of Marin in their respective writings. Indeed, I wonder how many people would have even paid that paragraph much heed without Marin trying to make it about Savage vs. Marin instead of about Chu’s book.

                      This is what I think you have missed and/or been mistaken about. It also is what changed my opinion of Marin from one of slightly presumptuous and unctuous individual with a mixed message into my current opinion that Marin is much more concerned with self-promotion and a potentially damning failure to ‘speak truth to power”.

                    • DJ

                      Hey, Ekhym. Yeah, I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I get what you think I missed. But as I said, it’s not that I missed your point, it’s simply that I don’t agree with you. Considering Savage’s previous pattern of inserting Marin into conversations where his name need not be mentioned, it’s clear to me that Savage has a personal issue with Marin. (I do not mean to insinuate that this is another needless mention of Marin, as Chu does apparently mention him in the book – I’m talking about his previous mentions of Marin in public settings, and his – what I consider – misunderstandings of Marin and his cause. It’s not Marin only, really. Savage makes things personal with several other people on his little naughty list. In most of those cases, I generally agree with Savage, but in the case of his attacks on Marin, I happen to think he’s wrong.

                      As I also mentioned previously, I am not unaware of Andy’s faults either. As I’ve followed him over the past 6 years, I’ve realized he is a very sensitive guy and he does tend to blow certain things out of proportion. He can get very defensive and riled up. I too have a fragile ego, so I can relate to it. I would probably be equally dysfunctional were I in the public eye, or my name thrust into the public sphere. I have seen him grow out of this a bit, but I imagine this character flaw of his is something that is ingrained in his personality, and he’s got a lot of growth to do in that area yet.

                      But again, that’s not something I’ve missed. I saw this in Andy 6 years ago. I don’t agree, however, that he is “much more” concerned with self-promotion. I think he genuinely loves gay people (i.e., he’s not a Westboro-like hater in disguise), I think he’s genuinely concerned about the way the Church has treated gay people, AND I think he’s got a very fragile ego, so does not take criticism well. More still, I think that his self-esteem issues do often cause him to (as Burroway states in his article) confuse himself for the bridge. It’s almost narcissistic in that sense, but not classically so. As I said, I can relate to that. It’s hard for me not to get a swelled head when I do what I’m gifted at (e.g., counseling people). Having taken much abuse from classmates and such as a youngster for being gay and “different”, my ego and self-esteem still have never fully recovered. I am prone to making it all about me and how great I am, a compensatory mechanism for feeling deep down inside that I’m really *NOT* good enough. It does not mean that my passions and gifts are negated though. Nor does it mean that I don’t genuinely care about the people that I counsel, their well-being, or the beautiful process taking place between us. But I have good people around me to remind me that I’m not the shit, and it’s not all about me 🙂 I think Andy struggles with very similar things, and that’s why I think Savage is wrong about him…I think that’s what Savage (and perhaps even you?) are missing when it comes to Andy Marin.

                      And for the record, I did take umbrage to the Marin mention even before Marin publicly stated his own displeasure. I’m sure a lot of people did, simply because he’s made these accusations so many times in the past. There was a lot in that article that made me bristle, frankly. So for me, this is not a Marin vs. Savage issue…it’s just that not having read the book, I don’t feel I have a right to give voice to my other misgivings, because Savage could be absolutely correct about those things. I will revisit my perceptions after I’ve read the book.

                      As for Marin making it Marin vs. Savage, I understand why he has taken it so personally…I think he’s tired of being misrepresented by Savage. To be fair, I don’t entirely blame Savage for it…Marin has chosen to be silent on certain questions, and thus opens himself up to multiple interpretations of his words and actions. It’s no wonder to me that people would attack him. So in some sense, I don’t think he has a right to be righteously indignant about it…that’s the nature of taking a public, silent stance. I just happen to believe he is not so evil and plotting as some (like Savage) make him out to be…

            • Mr. Chu – one amendment I will make to my comments. I should have more correctly stated Savage was presenting what I understood to be exposition on what he characterizes (although not using that word) as “your apologia” for these various disparate groups which he perceives (along with many others) to be anti-LGBTQ.

              I apologize for the sloppy language and any misapprehension or distress caused by my poor word choice.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful take on this, Tony. It’s been a while since anyone called me an evangelical. It felt like a trip back to another era of my life!

    You know I’m not bothered by Dan Savage reviewing the book. We all bring our biases and our baggage to these kinds of discussions, and if it had been reviewed by someone on the more evangelical-Christian part of the theological spectrum, I expect he or she would have found something different in the book to rant about. Also, I think it has opened up some conversations that might not otherwise have happened. More people, from different precincts, read the review because it was by Dan Savage, and maybe a few of them will end up reading the book too. It can only be a good thing to have more people aware of the diversity within Christianity and more voices—thoughtful and careful and gracious ones, we hope—in this conversation.

    • Jeff,

      That you would respond in such a fashion speaks multiple volumes of your character! Such only makes me like you more. I cannot wait to purchase and read your book! The Lord bless.

  • Kenton

    Last night my wife, my son and I attended my dad’s baptist church to hear him speak about a church he’s planted in Ethiopia. He had lots of great stories, but at one point my dad made an out of place comment about how he was against gay marriage. My son mentioned his disappointment on the way home, and we had a discussion on how change sometimes happens generationally. (Attitudes to race was what my son offered as an example.)

    I think Andrew Marin and Jay Bakker and yourself are all trying to faithfully follow Jesus. You all seem to be bringing grace to the conversation and that’s what is sorely needed. I think the Good Lord is honoring that. To that end, I’m slow to criticize any of you. If one is further away and another is further behind, I figure the one that is further behind is there for people of my dad’s generation, the one that is further ahead is there for my son’s generation. And grace to all of them.

  • Robin Pippin

    Thank you for this, Tony. I read the Times review also and was very disturbed by it. You have articulated the reasons why very well.

  • I disagree with your point that Dan Savage is projecting his hatred in his review or that his exposition on The Marin Foundation is spurious. It was made in the context of Chu’s apologia for groups like Exodus International, Westboro Baptist Church, and The Marin Foundation while castigating such groups as Metropolitan Community Church and individuals’ experiences as Christians who happen to be LGBTQ and have a different takeaway from that of Mr. Chu. Further, if Andrew Marin’s true message is simply one of “poor gays – going to hell, but lets be nice to them before they go there (hoping they will change so they don’t,)” while still denying civil equality; how is that inconsistent with Savage’s condemnatory conclusion?

    Further, when challenged on his failure to address the specifics (and not just the debatable and inflammatory conclusion) of Savage’s bill of particulars regarding The Marin Foundation, Marin deleted doubled down. He accused me of not having read his article and the articles to which he linked (which was false). When I pointed out that I went back and re-read all of the material, and for good measure used Google Chrome’s search feature to conduct key word searches of the various articles and still found no rebuttal of Savage’s accusation, beyond calling Savage a liar; Marin deleted those comments and blocked me both from his Facebook page and from commenting on his blog here at patheos.com

    Now Mr. Marin may have his reasons for not wanting to make direct comments regarding his position – but to censor comments and make such an inflammatory charge as calling someone a liar without rebutting the alleged lies – which could be done simply by saying “I don’t believe this”, “I have never said that”, etc – it does make me inclined to believe Savage when he charges Mr. Marin as selling homophobia with a hug.

    What really saddens me in all of this is that I own ‘Love is an Orientation’ and have recommended it even though I have reservations about parts of it – including to young gay friends who are struggling with their feelings regarding Christianity and spirituality. I was really hoping Savage was wrong and that Marin would explain how and why. Instead I got intellectual dishonesty – and my comments manipulated to give a false impression about me. And to me that speaks volumes about who is telling the truth in this dispute.

  • Tony-

    As a fan and supporter of Marin and his work and as someone who is excited about the progressive wave of support that we are starting to see, I appreciate your words in this post. I do however want to briefly try to muster up some sort of defense for the church that you briefly talked about.

    Last night, following the evening Table service, around 50 people gathered for our first “Living in the Tension” Group at this church. These groups which are attempting to replicate the Marin Foundation’s model, are being held monthly now at CPC and are designed to invite all individuals into a safe and loving context to dialogue around the relationship between the church and the LGBT community.

    Of the 50 that showed up for the debut last night, I was grateful for the sexual and spiritual diversity that became present in our groups. In our group alone, we had straight, conservative, evangelicals exchanging stories and laughter with progressive christian lesbians. In the hour that we spent together, there was an incredible meshing of lives where we were too busy getting to know each other that we forgot all about the differences that we carried in with us. And on top of it all, (brace yourself) there was a gay Christian that set the tone at the beginning by sharing his story through speaking in front of the entire group.

    Last night was a special night where stories were exchanged and lives were honored. I understand that this church has a ways to go, but give us grace and time and we just may surprise you. God is moving and doing some good things. I would love to have you in it with us.

    Appreciate your work.


  • I heard a broadcast of a speaking event of Savage’s on the radio a number of months ago, and he spoke of his Catholic upbringing with nostalgia and almost reverence. Hating anti-gay rhetoric (and policy) rubber-stamped with God’s name is not the same as hating Christians by a long shot. That’s a pretty big leap, and your friendship with Marin would make it tricky to claim objectivity yourself.

    There was an in-depth piece up at the Advocate years ago about Marin and his foundation, which did not paint him in an admirable light at all. Savage is hardly his only critic, and Marin’s own piece yesterday likening himself to some sort of MLK figure was jaw dropping in its straight-‘splaining audacity.

    Not only is “neutrality” not a long-term solution, it’s not altogether honest. The Marin Foundation may not be Westboro with hugs but is their subject-changing and power-blind moralizing much different than status-quo-with-hugs? He can “interpret” for gay people to evangelicals (and there can be something worthwhile in that) but the bridge-building shtick strikes me as ineffective at best (toward facilitating real change or reconciliation) and disingenuous at worst. People can agree-to-disagree about sin and theology all day long, and that’s fine, but agreeing-to-disagree about civil rights is not a morally neutral position to take. What does it matter if the Marin Foundation is “nicer” about their lack of commitment to equal rights for LGBT people?

  • I find myself agreeing with Wethered in this discussion. The church, evangelicals in particular, and that tall-steepled PCUSA mega-church specifically, have done great damage to individuals and their families with their soft version of homophobia. I’ve been mislead (lied to?) and been yelled at by the senior pastor of that specific PCUSA church over “the gay issue.” Marin’s approach does little to move anyone along. He is simply perpetuating the embrace of misplaced doctrinal stances over embracing the clear command to love people. People’s lives, loving them, must trump doctrine.

  • Fred

    Quite honestly, I wish Andrew had been around when I lived in the Chicago area years ago. I attended a Christian college and, when it was discovered I was “struggling” with my sexuality, I was urged to join a support/discussion group in the city. Really nice people (not the stereotype of “conversion therapy” by any means), but it didn’t solve the problem. Anyway, it seems that in our highly polarized culture, someone like Andrew is going to take potshots from the extremes. I’m sure I wouldn’t agree with everything he says, but I applaud him for taking the risk of actually trying to get people to talk rather than join in the snarkiness that so easily entangles.

  • T.S.Gay

    Trying to keep on a bigger picture here. LBGT has been successfully placed into an equality category. Good move in the USA, where liberals hunger and thirst for this righteousness almost exclusively. Not so much in many other cultures. But we all instinctively realize that sexuality is more of a pure in heart/ lust issue. LBGT are not to my experience any more or less on one side of this divide than others, but not all people think like me. I would like us all to focus more broadly on the chastity realm. It is way more about purity of heart, being honest with oneself and others, having some wisdom( please look up the gloss for the virtue and see if this isn’t true). You know that the eastern spiritual nondualists say that the way to bliss is through realization and renunciation. Jesus says that blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Blessed has bliss roots….purity in heart has chastity written all over it…..chastity has some refraining aspects but also some realization of wholesomeness.

    I’m saying that as we interact with more and more people who are of different stripes than ourselves, we notice that the ancient truths of beatitudes( this is where the virtues come from) overarch other issues such as race, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, and so many more differences. We are all complicated mixes of virtues and vices. Please see the Kansas State geography department map of the vices in the USA to see their predominance in the Bible Belt. I think wisdom dictates the Christian community needs to focus on chastity and realize LBGT is no more or less pure in heart (with the ability to see God) than other sexual orientations.

  • I appreciated the raw passion of this response, and then the response to others responding in the comments section. We need more transparency — transparency I wish I, as a gay Christian, would have been willing to express years ago. Oh . . . the journey . . .

  • I realize this does not speak to the ultimate point of your post, but reading it helped me solidify why I’m uncomfortable… well, actually why I dislike, Marin and his organization. Thinking about all those churchy book sales you described is irksome, because Marin is not gay, but earns his break & butter by speaking to church groups about doing their job (loving others) and making himself some sort of “bridge” figure, when he has little theoretical knowledge and zero personal experience. I am not gay myself, but I can image my discomfort level if, for instance, a man started an organization and made money speaking about how women who’ve had abortions should be embraced by the church. It’s just not his story to tell, ya know? Unfortunately, Marin has an explosive temper when confronted by any criticism as well, and I’ve seen it on his blog personally. I have no doubt that Ekhym speaks the truth above. For those reasons, I never endorse his organization to anyone nor would I purchase a book or in any way support him. Now, as to why he was brought into another person’s book review I don’t know, but I can see why many are angry with him.

    • From my (gay Christian) perspective, I would just like to confess that I’m happy when anyone, Christian or otherwise, encourages Christians (and others) to treat the LGBTQ community as they should — as human beings (and from my perspective, human beings created in God’s image). Andrew and his Marin Foundation seek to do so, even if they are not all some wish them to be.

      I haven’t really witnessed Andrew’s “explosive temper” on-line or elsewhere, but I also realize that perspective is king. Dan Savage appears, to me at least, explosive whenever he speaks or talks about religion and/or Christians. Again, though, I have little doubt that it seems as such because of my (perhaps skewed) perspective.

      • (… “speaks or talks” was meant to be “speaks or writes” …)

  • OK how about some Savage apologia from a queer from Seattle? I am not exactly a fan of his, since Dan’s kinda a prick and very rigid in his views. I have never met him, but I have seen him debate folks on stage here and he *never* backs down. But every movement needs its strident crusader. When you consider where he stands, he makes much sense:

    You have to understand that in our gay community, church and all Christians are not on our side. The differences in brands are UNKNOWN. I am a member of two Mainline churches myself, but before 6 years ago I had no idea there were gay-positive Christians; most of my friends do not know this either, nor are they interested in it for the most part. Every gay person I know has some history with church, and nearly all of it is negative: we don’t even get to the kind of church they know about. Debating theological points is like taking a cat to the opera. You see, when the dominant voices of the larger society use their own or popular religion to justify a WIDE cultural disdain for gays, you quickly learn to discard religion in general. We do this all the time: our existence is made up of staying within our tribe, trusting very few outside of it. Closets used to house a great majority of us, this is important.

    Consider also what Savage is exposed to. Note he runs an alternative paper here in Seattle, The Stranger, whose “savage Love” column is Dan’s claim to fame. THOUSANDS of YOUNG people have written to him for YEARS with all their deepest secrets, ALWAYS revolving around that angst of Who am I, Why do I FEEL this WAY? As I welcomed mostly refugees to the bars of San Francisco in my 20s, folks from middle America just trying to SURVIVE, Dan has gotten MOUNTAINS of mail from people DYING to be who they are, just SURVIVING. Queers DIE from this kind of popular bigotry, I have dead friends from AIDS to prove it. WE ALL DO. This is why the NYT is a fine place for Savage to break all the “rules.” That is all he ever does!

    When you are exposed to news of despair, murder, beatings, suicide, abuse, parental cruelty, on and on for years, it makes a crusader out of you. It is no surprise to me that he spearheaded the It Gets Better campaign, no doubt having passed on many other such proposals over the years. My sense is he is all about one thing: letting youth Be who they Are. This is why his editorial focused on young people, and why he will not surrender them to folks with bad theology and UNWANTED apologies.
    For heaven’s sake, who are these people who beg forgiveness for their gay bigotry in a room full of straight people? Who invades a gay parade with hugs from strangers who want ME to spontaneously receive THEIR guilt pennance? We have no relationship to enable any real exchange of grace from your self-induced act, certainly sincere but greatly misplaced.
    You see, if you have to embrace strangers or people elsewhere to act on your regrets, you’re Doing it Wrong. How to say You’re Sorry to gay people? Relationships. Be normal and yourself around gay people. Go shopping or clubbing with us (it’s a hoot!). Be sure and point out anti-gay BS in front of others. Get to know me and you’ll learn how to pay it forward. But give me something I need, not what you feel you have to do for yourself using me as a prop. Human being here.
    The maddening thing about Marin is he has relationships with gay people, and still won’t even acknowledge their humanity. That’s a shitty relationship. It’s hollow and SELF-SERVING. Sound like popular Xianty to you? Doesn’t matter his perhaps tactical reasoning for holding that view. NEWSFLASH: WE DON’T CARE WHY YOU HATE US!! Especially when you SAY you LOVE US! YOU walk on those “bridges.”

    Savage simply cannot abide anyone who gives cover to ANY organization who will not do one simple thing (the only thing Dan asked on Twitter today, you notice?): accept us for WHO WE ARE. When you can’t accept someone’s humanity, well HELLO that is kinda a non-starter.
    He is less and less apt to accept anything less now, that the wider culture has moved on, and now Christians are having to explain why THEIR views are out-of-step. Savage has nothing to lose since he doesn’t need to please Christians: He NEVER HAS.

    I appreciate everyone’s sweet & thoughtful take on this “tense” topic, as you put it Tony. But honestly? It ISN’T tense for gay people. It’s just who we are. Most of us have LITTLE patience for people’s journey, since few gay people I know have had the experience of how real dialog can make this better for everyone. Most gays don’t get that far: we reject bigots, and move on. Convincing others of who you are is just TOO MUCH WORK, and in our experience is very often not worth the undertaking, esp. w/strangers. I don’t agree with this, but most of my friends have no need to build bridges, less and less so now. We just befriend the younguns, they get it.

    Ekhym posted this link from FA that really nails it:


    Thank you for reading. I’ve been a big fan for a long time, Tony.

    • toddh

      Ben, it’s helpful to hear your perspective, thank you

    • Gillian

      Well said.

  • mud man

    Dan is entitled to speak as an oppressed person, by me. Shun nuance, make the point starkly. Are you SURE his sex doesn’t offend you?

    As to the Times, they publish Ross Douthat. Appropriate balance here.

  • Tony, Thanks for speaking up on behalf of someone you disagree with at times. I would prefer for Andrew to answer the questions but then Im not the one paying the price for the answers. Given his leaders fixation with love I find his tactic of “defining himself while staying connected” to be very important work in and of itself. Im also deeply appreciative of Dan Savage for dramatically elevating awareness of The Marin Foundations work. I have come to believe that each of us chooses consciously or not to be either a liberal among conservatives or a conservative among liberals. Andrew has chosen to focus his life being a liberal among conservatives. Whoever focuses wins. Everybody else shouts

  • There’s a lot of talk about Andrew and The Marin Foundation answering some questions. I wonder: why do we think we’re entitled to demand him and the Foundation to answer our questions? Also, what will his and the Foundation’s answer do for us? Do they establish what is right and wrong, even from a “biblical” perspective?

    Even if he and the Foundation admitted that, from their perspective, the act of homosexual sex is considered a sin, would they, then, be thought ineligible for bridge-building? If there is to be a bridge, there must be two banks, opposing sides which require a connection. That is what Andrew and those of The Marin Foundation are attempting to accomplish. They want to hold the hands of LGBTQ-affirming individuals and the hands of their opponents for a civil conversation on the sensitive issues that divide them — both theological and sociological — nothing more and nothing less.

    • Kingson

      “If there is a bridge, there must be two banks, opposing sides which require a connection.”

      But where is this requirement for connection coming from? It certainly isn’t coming from the LGBT community. Or, as far as I can see, from conservative Christianity. As a gay man I would be perfectly content if I never had to see or talk to another conservative Christian as long as I live. And I should imagine that most conservative Christians would be quite happy never to have anything to do with me. So why do we need to connect?

      It’s quite clear to me that the only people agitating for this connection are a few self-promoting individuals who’ve spotted a career opportunity in engineering a confrontation between two mutually exclusive viewpoints. The resulting clash gives their ministry careers a kick-start, raises their media profiles, lets them present themselves as mediators and peacemakers and, most importantly of all, leads inevitably to a lucrative book deal.

      Andrew Marin, Justin Lee, Jeff Chu – as far as I can see they’re all just snake-oil salesmen whose primary concern is self-advancement. The only effect that buying their books will have is to feed their egos and their bank balances. It will do nothing to bring about reconciliation. It can’t. The two points of view are irreconcilable. Why not accept that and let everyone move on with their lives?

  • Tony, you are in a unique position to talk about this debate. Thanks. Excellent.

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  • First, I would like to applaud Tony on an excellent, accurate, and honest review of both parties involved. Secondly, Is homosexuality a sin? Jesus would say as he hid in Mark 7: “Nothing outside of a man can make him unclean, but what comes out of a man’s heart/spirit is what makes a man unclean.” To take this verse a step further, homosexuality could be sinful/wrong for one person and not be sinful/wrong for another person. For example, If I, a heterosexual male who innately desires women, were to perform a homosexual act for money even though I know it is “wrong” for me in my heart, then the homosexual act would be wrong/sinful for me as the intent for performing the act was greed and not performed out of love. My happiness, joy, and peace would suffer as a consequence. On the contrary, there are more than likely many homosexual males and females in heterosexual marriages because of the fear of being judged by their family or society. Living a heterosexual lifestyle is sinful/wrong for someone who knows in their heart that he or she does not desire a heterosexual lifestyle as you can’t live in much love, happiness, peace, and joy when you are living a lie!

  • Ogre Magi

    This “build a bridge” strategy seems to be a common technique. It’s yet another in the bag of tricks that stealth evangelism uses. The link above is just one example, but it’s pretty exemplary. They base this whole technique on what they call “felt needs,” i.e. providing a secular service with the purpose of evangelizing during, or immediately after, providing the service. Rick Warren, one of the modern gurus of evangelicalism told how one church used a “potty training” seminar as a front for their evangelism. It looks like this Marin guy is up to the same sort of antics.

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