Friday afternoon, speaker and author Andrew Marin gave a presentation to over 100 Wheaton College students, faculty, staff, and visitors about how conservative Christians can better love LGBTQ individuals. His main points to the conservative Christian audience were to talk less and listen more, and to not be afraid to “live in the tension” of understanding another person's story, pain, and journey through life - even if their belief system is different than yours.
Marin’s story was that he was a white, homophobic evangelical Christian teen in suburban Chicago when three of his best friends came out to him as gay or lesbian consecutively over the course of three months. “Don’t tell anyone,” they each said to him following their confessions. He was afraid, so he cut ties with them and ran away “like a dog with a tail between his legs.” After a while, he felt “the Lord convicted him,” and he eventually made his way back to his friends, apologized for leaving, and decided to dedicate his life to building bridges between the LGBT community and the Church.
Marin published an award-winning book called Love is an Orientation in 2009 about his life in Boystown, Chicago, where he has lived for over a decade with tens of thousands of homosexuals. Upon arrival in Boystown at the age of 19 in an apartment with two of his lesbian friends, Marin was pegged by locals as “Straighty Straighterson,” and began having conversations with gay men and women at bars, clubs, grocery stores, and on the streets who were curious about Marin's Christian faith, straight orientation, and residency in a neighborhood where 95 percent of its residents identify as LGBTQ.
What began as one man taking a leap of faith and moving to the only officially designated “gay neighborhood” in the United States has now evolved to become a nonprofit outreach effort called The Marin Foundation. The foundation's work in Boystown has inspired a book (Love is an Orientation), major media coverage (BBC), and recognition as Buzzfeed's #1 Reason to Restore Your Faith in Humanity. The foundation hosts structured faith-based conversations all over the city called “Living in the Tension Gatherings.” They are defined as gatherings for Christians and non-Christians, homosexuals, LGBTQ individuals, and straight individuals to talk about sexuality and spirituality in an open and safe environment at various venues including Roscoe’s, a nationally recognized gay bar.
“I want to be part of something redemptive in this neighborhood, and this is it,” club manager Shawn said to a BBC reporter on assignment in 2011.
Shawn opens up his club four times per year for Marin’s “Living in the Tension” gatherings, even though he identifies as gay and atheist. His story was captured in BBC documentary “God and Gays – bridging the gulf”, and written about in print article “Why conservative Christians flock to a Chicago gay bar.” His story is also just a small slice of the progress the Marin Foundation is making to close the gap between conservative evangelicals and work in the city. The foundation is a Christian effort that encourages people to walk with Jesus through life in close proximity with those who need Him most. For people who are wary of Marin’s ministry, know he lives by this mantra:
“It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict; God’s job to judge; and my job to love.”
Marin’s lecture, called “Are We Loving the LGBTQ Community?,” fell on the same week as the launch of the college’s same-sex attracted community group for students, “Refuge” (for details on the group, read yesterday’s blog post, “Wheaton College Provides ‘Refuge’ For Same-Sex Attracted Students”). To hear more about what's currently happening
Here are some of the questions Wheaton students asked following Marin’s presentation, along with brief snippets of his answers (for more detailed opinions, visit the Marin Foundation’s website):
Q: When people ask, ‘Do you think homosexuality is a sin?’, what should you say?
1) Don't answer yes or no
2) Apply a kingdom principle that’s universal to all humanity:
- Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”;
- James 2:10: “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it”; and
- Matthew 7:1-5: We aren’t called to judge: instead, we’re called to love the sinner and hate the sin in our own life.
3) Drive the point home by making it socially relevant
Q: Should we judge within the context of Christian community?
A: Don’t speak until you earn the credibility to speak. Faithfulness is the most effective language of love.
Q: When someone who identifies as gay accepts Christ, do we encourage them to pursue celibacy?
Good discernment comes in community. As a straight white male with a wife, it's very easy for me to dictate what path is best for someone else, but I can't dictate God’s best journey for someone else. But I can say, I want to know you and I want you to know Jesus, and I want to help you know what that means for your life. Whether that becomes you wanting to enter into a heterosexual relationship or a gay one—I can't say what’s right. But I can encourage them to walk with Jesus through it. If not, we still want to walk with them through life and stick together.
Q: How can we love our LGBTQ classmates, neighbors, and family members?
A: It's about proximity. You can't make an impact if you're not in close proximity to whose lives you want to make a difference in. Also, Christians talk too much. Be intentional about sitting in someone's pain—live in the tension. Bring conservatives and progressives together for conversation, and be intentional about pursuing the dialogue now. Don’t wait until you graduate.
See photos from the lecture and city outreach here: