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mjkimpan  —  March 8, 2013 — 8 Comments

amazingbridge

every once in awhile (and with ever-increasing-frequency) i receive calls, emails or texts from folks who’d like me to clarify my position – or the position of The Marin Foundation – on hot-topic-conversation-starters surrounding the LGBT and conservative communities.

earlier this morning, a friend was listening to my LIVE radio interview from last night on the Frank Pastore Show (which you can hear here – beginning at 15:45 after the download).

as she listened, she wrote ::

‘So, I’m listening to that interview you just did and… I mostly agree but it seems like, it’s really important that the LGBTQ community knows it’s affirmed and loved and I really don’t know how Christians can do that while believing being gay is sin (I think there’s a question in there but I don’t know how to word it)’

welcome to my world.

she continued, saying a number of her friends from the LGBT community ‘express mistrust’ of The Marin Foundation because we don’t drive a stake in the sand declaring we do or do not believe that homosexuality is a sin, or whether we do or do not support marriage equality, or any number of closed-ended || yes/no || win/lose questions (i mentioned the top six questions we encounter on a daily basis in the interview).

we get the same compliant, with a different perspective, from many in the conservative community. here’s one example.

andrew is fond of saying,

‘the thing about being a bridge is you get walked on from both sides.’

when you are the entity (such as The Marin Foundation) intentionally working with BOTH sides of a conversation – whom are inherently skeptical and untrusting of one another – BOTH sides become inherently skeptical of you and your work simply because you’re in relationship with the perceived ‘Other.’

and everybody wants to pin you down.

‘are you on our side? or are you on their side?’

as we have said before, there is a difference between cultural reconciliation and actual reconciliation. cultural reconciliation is when the conservative world or the LGBT community only sees reconciliation as ‘the Other’ dropping their personal worldview and picking up a full set of ‘correct beliefs’ that brings everyone to only one side. actual reconciliation seeks to connect and dignify two different groups of people whether they are in agreement or not.

we live in a culture where the imputed expectation to create sustainable, peaceful and productive dialogue dictates agreement in order for something significant to happen.

we desire – even demand – to convert the opposing worldview to our own.

we often refuse to accept the reality that there will always be an opposite perspective – and we push back against the idea that coexisting in a world with diverse opinions can actually be beneficial – even necessary – for society.

when our demand for acceptance simultaneously demands conformity to a certain viewpoint, it is no longer equality we’re after – but conversion. if we’re unable to coexist with others whom may or may not disagree with our worldview, we’re pushing some sort of twisted theocratic dictatorship, entirely dependent upon our (whether conservative or progressive) interpretation of what is ‘right.’

our insistence upon uniformity demands conformity of belief, not just adjustment of behavior. i am convinced that’s not only unrealistic, but unhealthy. the beauty in diversity comes when we can accept other perspectives and each side can learn to live and love in a way that creates room for sustainable dialogue and provides opportunity for significant things to happen in the context of relationship, regardless of whether or not i agree with someone else.

does the church need to change their behavior toward the LGBT community? absolutely.

does that change in behavior necessarily dictate a change of belief? i don’t think so.

we must realize there will be disagreement among people of faith about whether or not gay relationships should be celebrated and consecrated by the church.

churches disagree on a lot of things. that’s why we have so many of them.

i’m not asking that people give up their convictions.

but we desperately need to change our culture.

when our churches become places defined by our political or theological positions on secondary issues rather than the ‘come as you are‘ culture which jesus created, something needs to change.

yet to demand conformity to a preferred set of beliefs is not only unhelpful – it is unrealistic.

after a continued back-and-forth text conversation with my friend, she sent the following ::

‘Y’know, come to think of it, I’m not sure you have ever given a definitive answer for whether you think being gay is sin or what you believe about marriage equality. I’ve made a bunch of assumptions, given statements and your attitudes, but then – who knows, maybe i’m way off base here and there goes my thesis.’

my response?

ain’t that part of my charm. :)

what i believe doesn’t matter. how i behave matters a great deal. christians from either side – whether conservative or progressive – need to do a much better job at loving each other – particularly those with whom we may not agree.

that, said jesus, is how the rest of the world will know we’re actually following him – not a ‘correct’ belief on culturally divisive topics.

what do you think?

  • Ford1968

    With due respect, what you believe matters. The Marin Foundation literally refuses to practice what it preaches. You refuse to participate in the conversation you wish to elevate.

    I obviously have a strong set of beliefs here. This is a life and death issue for Christians who are gay. That’s not hyperbole. And, yes, I seek conversion and I don’t apologize for it. The emotional and spiritual abuse of gay youth has got to stop. They are children of God, created in His image and worthy of the blessings that flow from loving and being loved romantically. Anything short of this declaration is abusive. The Church cannot continue to contribute to the detachment, depression and self-loathing of gay kids. We cannot continue to drive families apart when a person who is gay decides to live authentically. We cannot continue to drive people away from the cross.

    With that said, I believe that the most productive conversations happen when we are honest and transparent about our positions. I don’t agree with Warren Throckmorton about the sinfulness of covenant same sex relationships. But I certainly trust that his heart is in the right place. The work he has done to end the damaging practice of reparative therapy is commendable. And he is the only evangelical I know who is fighting the insanely unjust anti-homosexuality law in Uganda. I can be in constructive disagreement with people like Dr. Throckmorton.

    Andrew Marin, on the other hand, is on record as having delivered at least one patently anti-gay speech (and who knows how many others) just a year or so before his book was published. He advocated early intervention for gay kids before they made a choice to live life as an openly gay person – a “decision” the consequences of which that youth couldn’t possibly understand. His defense of that speech was basically “I misspoke and my words didn’t mean what you thought they did”.
    Is there any wonder that there is mistrust for him in the gay community?

    I can’t be in constructive disagreement with Andrew Marin precisely because he hasn’t shared his heart. I don’t know Mr. Marin personally, but I’ve heard too many endorsements from openly gay people to believe he is the anti-gay crusader some in the gay community believe him to be. Still, how much more powerful would his story be if he said “this is what I believed, and this is why I do or don’t still hold this belief.”

    The whole “it’s for God to judge and for me to love” line lacks integrity because it does absolutely nothing to affirm the personhood of people who are gay. This is quickly becoming version 2.0 of “love the sinner but hate the sin”. And it is employed exclusively by non-affirming Christians who feel like being gay is something to be judged.

    In one man’s opinion, the Marin Foundation would be better served modeling the behavior you wish to see in the Church. If your staff truly has a diversity of opinions about the sinfulness and morality of gay relationships, demonstrate for the world what constructive disagreement looks like. Openness, sincerity and integrity are not things we should be shying away from.

    • Albert

      Ford1968,

      I don’t think you meant to be confrontational, but there are many statements you make in your reply that just are not true regarding the Marin Foundation and deserve to be corrected. For the sake of disclosure, I have personally met and have had hours of discussion with both Andrew and Michael. My partner and I are financial donors to the Foundation because we strongly believe in what it is doing.

      From what I can gather, you may have taken Michael’s post out of context of other things the Marin Foundation and he have said in the past, as well as a fair degree of misinformation that may have been acquired secondhand.

      Statements that I found difficult to read:

      “The Marin Foundation literally refuses to practice what it preaches.” “The Marin Foundation would be better served modeling the behavior you wish to see in the Church.” The Foundation requires that its employees live in the LGBT neighborhood of Chicago so that they are fully involved with the
      community they are serving. You may have meant this statement in regards to how the Foundation engages in the “conversation” only (which I’ll address at the
      end), but if so, then you misspoke.

      “I can’t be in constructive disagreement with Andrew Marin precisely because he hasn’t shared his heart. I don’t know Mr. Marin personally…” I think that last phrase is telling. If you have met him, read his book or been to his speaking engagements, you would know all he does is share his heart. Andrew and his wife Brenda have given up lucrative careers to do what they do full time, and as a result, have committed their lives to this calling. Having met Kevin, Laura, Jason, and Michael, I wholeheartedly vouch also for the outpouring of their hearts and lives to this endeavor.

      I think the Foundation would agree with almost everything you stated in your second paragraph, which is why it exists. But from what I understand, the Foundation probably would somewhat disagree with your statement
      that “I believe that the most productive conversations happen when we are honest and transparent about our positions.” Two points: First, how often have
      these conversations been productive? What solutions have been reached?

      Second, there is an assumption inherent in your statement, that the positions that have to be defined are whether one is pro-gay or anti-gay. This is a pivotal point. The Foundation asks whether the more important position to determine is who is invited to the foot of the Cross and who is not. You may be agreeing on that point, and that whether one is gay is therefore important. Sadly, that has been the dialogue with unfortunate conclusions. However, if one considers the human condition in light of the Bible, everyone is a sinner and therefore inherently unworthy. We are all sinners, whether we are gay or not. Even if one takes the point that being gay is a sin, all the straight people are nevertheless as much sinners as the gays. Even if being gay is not a sin, you’re still a sinner! So what good does asking whether being gay is a sin or not accomplish? THAT is why the Marin Foundation does not take a pro-gay or anti-gay stance.

      Lastly, although you dismiss the statement as lacking integrity, it IS for God to judge and for us to love. Because what we think does not change God’s standards and how we judge is not necessarily how God judges (no matter how adamantly we feel we are right), in the end our judgments against each other are just words. We will not know the complete truth of things until we are gone from this world. So why use these as impediments to loving each other?

      I hope this helps.

      • Ford1968

        Albert –

        I’m not intentionally trying to be confrontational. I’m trying to be open and honest about why I believe this tactic of non-disclosure around the core issues of their ministry is sewing seeds of mistrust, and why it doesn’t resonate with me personally (which was, after all, the question posed in the post). I’m not sure how that is taking anything out of context.

        If we can’t understand where we disagree with one another, how do we ever move the ball forward in the conversation? Expressions of disagreement may be confrontational at times, but they are not necessarily attacks; viewing my comments as such is a symptom of the problem with the public conversation. And, you underscore my earlier critique perfectly.

        I believe that my personal conversations with Christians who hold to a conservative sexual ethic have been very productive.

        By openly sharing my personal story and articulating why I believe the non-affirming theology to be emotionally and spiritually abusive, I have seen others start to look beyond the origin and intent of their beliefs and actions and see the devastating impact that these beliefs and actions have on people who are gay.

        For my part, I have come to deeper understandings of the complex cultural and theological underpinnings of conservative beliefs (that go well beyond the clobber verses) – I know for many Christians, it is a lot more complicated than “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”. I have also come to understand how someone can hold seemingly contrary positions that they love people who are gay and that they are compelled to advocate against them.

        Most importantly, I am often reminded that anti-gay bigotry is not usually born of malice or hatred.

        These are important reminders for me as I share my faith in the gay community which is often understandably hostile toward Christianity.

        In the greater public conversation, there has been a sea change in the way that Christians of all stripes view people who are gay. That has not happened through polite disagreement or evasions. That has happened through very difficult and direct conversations. I think that the team at the Marin Foundation would agree with me on this point.

        And, with all due respect, it matters immensely if one believes being gay is sinful. That single belief has life-altering consequences. Of course we are all broken, we are all sinners – but not because we are gay. Are you suggesting that if one decides to live his life authentically, that the conservative Christians in his life would simply shrug because, after all, we are all sinners? To ignore the enormity of the impact of this belief in the sinfulness of homosexuality is at least naive and misguided if not overtly disingenuous.

        You are spot on when you say “what we think does not change God’s standards and how we judge is not necessarily how God judges “. And, as Paul put it so beautifully in 1Cor – now we see in a mirror dimly. I have faith that God is working in all of our lives; even those with whom I disagree. I believe it is possible to both disagree and love – disagreement does not have to be an impediment to love.

        More than anything, I’m saying is that it is not OK to agree to disagree here which is what the Marin foundation seems to be advocating. The stakes are too high. The damage to flesh and blood people is visible all around us – the self-loathing, the suicide attempts, the families ripped apart, the toxic environment where bullying becomes OK, the marriages and kids destroyed when a parent finally comes out…These are the fruits of a theology that says gay people are disordered and are not intended for romantic love.

        I am compelled, as we all are, to live out my faith and follow the example of Christ. Part of that, for me, is to seek an end to the emotional abuse of gay people and their families at the hands of the church. In these responses, I’ve articulated how I think that the Marin Foundation can more effectively work toward that end too. That is my only reason for engaging in this conversation.

        My sincere best to you.

        • Albert

          Ford1968,

          There is obviously a lot more dialogue that needs to take place to come to an understanding between our divergent perspectives. And to be honest, my view may not coincide precisely with Michael’s. I agree with Michael, that this is probably not the ideal forum in which to engage in these tougher conversations. I’m glad for Michaels’ offer to speak further with you and your willingness to take him upon that. If my involvement in that conversation seems appropriate after you guys start, I’d be happy to come on board, as I’m able.

          Albert

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      i normally try to stay away from commenting on my blog over the weekend, but i didn’t want to leave your comment without a reply for that long.
      i really do appreciate you engaging and sharing your thoughts – yet it seems to me that we would be better served by actually having a *real* conversation – voice to voice or face to face. i can’t say i’m surprised by your response, based on our latest interaction on my previous post. if you’d be willing, let’s set up a time to talk on the phone or skype!
      a few points to which i’d like to briefly respond for the benefit of others, however ::
      • to claim that The Marin Foundation doesn’t practice what it preaches because i’m not answering the yes/no question the way you’d like is a little dishonest. *i am answering your questions, just not the way you’d like.* were andrew or i to say, ‘THIS is what i believe,’ one side or the other would be able to say, ‘aha! see?!?! he’s on OUR side,’ while the other would say, ‘aha! see?!?! he’s on THEIR side.’ we, as a peacemaking organization, don’t ‘take sides’ but rather focuses on how to peacefully and productively shift the medium of engagement by intentionally partnering with BOTH sides and bringing them together.
      • re: ‘practice what you preach’ :: on our staff we have both hetero people and LGBT people – some whom are conservative and some whom are progressive – some gay people committed to celibacy and others who are in relationship – some who are dating and some who are married. *that* is us living out our message of living in the tension of working to build bridges between opposing world views fighting to dictate cultural normalcy on a daily basis… we have always said, if we can’t do it in our own offices or our own neighborhood, how on earth could we have any credibility in asking for others to do it in their life?
      • re: uganda :: andrew has repeatedly and clearly spoken out against the uganda anti-homosexuality bill (one recent example is herehttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2013/01/i-just-got-uninvited-from-speaking-at-the-united-nations/) and was one of the authors of an open letter sent on behalf of LGBT ugandans by 46 american christian leaders (including tony campolo, brain mclaren and others) as i wrote about here http://www.mjkimpan.com/uganda/
      • re: reparative therapy :: from a post andrew wrote :: ‘since it’s inception in 2005, The Marin Foundation, nor any of its past or current employees, promote, recommend assist or have assisted any LGBT people in ‘reparative therapy.’ The Marin foundation does not believe in the merits of ‘reparative therapy’ and have seen first hand, including by some of our LGBT employees, the extreme shame and damaged caused by such ‘therapy.’ for more on this, read the rest of this post – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2013/01/i-have-been-implicated-again/
      • finally, re: andrew’s speech back in 2008 :: i would really encourage you to read what he wrote in response to the questions he was asked about that talk here – a much more in depth treatment of the talk than merely ‘i misspoke and my words didn’t mean what you thought they did’ as you state in your comment ::http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2010/07/part-3-note-to-skeptics/

      i would love to dialogue further with you if you have any questions or would like to continue the conversation. i hope that as you read the above links (and even the initial blog post) you will see our heart is not merely to ‘avoid answering’ the questions, but to engage in the conversation differently.
      as i said – i’d love to flesh that out further with you via phone or Skype. please send me an email at mjkimpan [at]themarinfoundation.org and we’ll set something up!

      • Ford1968

        Michael –

        Those who know me best know that when someone asks “what do you think”, I tell them…

        We have some serious disagreement here. Please know that I have visited those links before commenting; my thoughts were not uninformed.

        I would very much appreciate the ability to speak with you live and I sincerely thank you for actually caring enough to invest in a personal conversation. I will email you my contact information and look forward to the discussion.

        My best to you.

  • Zane

    Micheal,

    I want you to answer in a yes or no answer. No talking around the answer I want, strictly YES or NO.

    In a Biblical reference, is homosexuality a sin?

    YES or NO.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      hi zane – thanks for your question. i haven’t seen you comment here on my blog before, so… i’m wondering if you ::

      • read the above post.

      • listened to the podcast.

      in the podcast (http://pastorecentral.com/2013/03/07/frank-pastore-radio-show-20130307-hr-3/) i actually responded to this question at length in the second segment and talked about it for over 6 minutes (29:24 – 35:45).

      as a bridge builder committed to the message of reconciliation, i’m not interested in engaging in closed-ended || yes/no || win/lose || one-word answers that divide folks into a my team/your team scenario – *we’ve done that for far too long* and it’s proven to be neither peaceful nor productive.

      i find myself again looking at the example of jesus – who refused to be pinned down in culturally, politically and religiously divisive dialogue but instead *elevated the conversation* for the greater purpose of reconciliation.

      more on that here :: http://www.mjkimpan.com/answer-me/

      that may not be the answer you want or are looking for, but it is the answer i’m compelled to give. i hope that makes sense?