speaking of time…

mjkimpan  —  February 5, 2014 — 10 Comments



last summer, i wrote something similar to what i’m about to write here.

yet the message is just as important now as it was then.

living in the tension of building bridges between opposing world views often brings out the best – and the worst – in a lot of folks. people from both sides of the cultural divide often lob labels and accusations in our direction in an effort to ‘figure out’ what The Marin Foundation is all about or to elicit a response of ‘yes’ or ‘no‘.

apparently for some, our efforts to live and love with the same counter-cultural, unconditional love jesus did and does – for all people – are confusing.

it seems to me that word – unconditional – should be pretty straightforward. whether gay, straight or otherwise, in a relationship or not, christian or not, whether people ‘change’ their perspectives or not – we are convinced we’re simply called to love – and we will continue to press the church that claims to take their cues from christ to do the same thing.

engaging in relationships where such an expression of unconditional love is possible takes time. quite understandably, many within the broader LGBT community are inherently skeptical of anyone or anything associated with ‘the church’ based on their own personal experiences, hurts and pains. i’ve heard countless stories of rejection and a purely conditional love with damaging and even damning results. as a result, developing a trust that when we say ‘i love you‘ we mean it – regardless of personal conviction or belief, and regardless of another’s choices or behavior – doesn’t happen overnight.

because of our commitment to building bridges between the LGBT community and the church, a great deal of my time is spent within the gay community. Boystown – the gay neighborhood of chicago and recently voted #1 gay neighborhood in the entire world – is where i literally ‘do life’ :: it’s where i have my haircut, where i get my groceries and consume an absolutely ungodly amount of coffee. i spend time in the same stores and shoppes and restaurants and gay bars day in and day out, getting to know the servers and owners and patrons and developing trustworthy friendships with them, girded under the premise and promise of unconditional love.

this takes time.

in more recent days, my inbox has flooded with a number of folks whom i’ve never met, asking questions of me and The Marin Foundation. in many of these conversations, accusations have been made about who we are and what we stand for. seemingly countless ‘you’ve never said…‘ or, ‘i haven’t heard one word from TMF about…‘ have taken up an inordinate amount of my time in crafting appropriate responses.

some folks have been satisfied; others, not.

even as i’ve engaged in these online conversations, i’ve wondered what genereated the recently increased interest in my and our opinion. was it me speaking at the Gay Christian Network conference here in chicago? the heated comments about The Marin Foundation over on rachel held evan’s blog (continued here and here)? was it through our blog? was it fall-out from a piece i’ve written on another platform, such as this or this?

who knows.

what i do know is that the not-so-subtle demand in an online forum was for me to convince these folks of things that can’t be proven with words. they can’t be proven online. they need to be proven in real life, in real time, with real people in the contexts of real relationships.

and i’m confident we do that.

this recent upsurge in the ‘prove-it-to-me’ d̶i̶s̶c̶u̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶s̶ demands reminded me of an earlier conversation we had this summer. our team at The Marin Foundation had the pleasure of sitting down with peterson toscano – a self-described ‘quirky queer quaker’ whose performance at the LGBT center on halsted in our neighborhood was a brilliant look in between the lines of biblical stories in which characters transgressed or transcended gender boundaries. the insightful and challenging one-person-play entitled ‘transfigurations‘ was nothing short of mesmerizing.

the following day, peterson and our team at TMF sat down for a few hours – which he blogged about briefly here. our time together fell on the heels of what at the time was the most recent media hullabaloo concerning The Marin Foundation and illegitimate and unfounded accusations that had been made on a public platform, to which both andrew and i (and a number of our LGBT friends from the neighborhood and around the country) responded.

as we discussed the then-recent-drama, peterson offered a few observations concerning those who attack the work of The Marin Foundation from both the far right and the far left, essentially saying ::

there is so much work to do in engaging the church in an effective dialogue around LGBTQ issues. you’re doing it. forget about the opposition. the work you’re doing is far too important. don’t spend time, energy, or resources on responding to those who aren’t going to sit down with you face to face and see firsthand the great work you’re doing. focus instead on your work. spend your time there.’

i think peterson is right. there will always be folks who misunderstand (and misrepresent) the work of TMF – some of whom are willing to engage in peaceful and productive dialogue to hear and see what our work looks like as we seek to live and love like jesus within the gay community. others will insist we have a different, hidden agenda – that our neutrality is silence or that we’re somehow working in cahoots with either satan and his liberal demonic legions, or with the über conservative groups to fight against LGBT people (isn’t it funny that we receive accusations of both on a weekly basis? i think it’s telling).

the fact of the matter is, neither is the case. we stand committed to our work of bridge building – standing in solidarity with the Other for the purpose of reconciliation. our table is open for any and all who would desire to better understand that work, regardless of their perspective or identifying label as a ‘progressive’ or a ‘conservative’ – whether straight or gay, christian or not. we’ll talk with and journey alongside anybody.

but for those who don’t want to engage in an actual dialogue, but are rather content to cast stones – from either side – our work is far too important to spend time, energy and effort attempting to coerce a correction or understanding.

in other words,

ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

what do you think?

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    I think this is very wise:
    “what i do know is that the not-so-subtle demand in an online forum was for me to convince these folks of things that can’t be proven with words. they can’t be proven online. they need to be proven in real life, in real time, with real people in the contexts of real relationships.”

    David Blankenhorn, who I have a lot of respect for, calls this “achieving disagreement”. Disagreement is mostly unproductive if it’s not grounded in true understanding and acknowledgement of agreement. But that takes hard work. And we’re lazy. And we’re in the habit of communicating with strangers in a way that often lacks kindness and grace.

    I think you and I have achieved disagreement (correct me if you feel differently). Even if I still have qualms with TMFs approach, I give you a ton of credit for seeking to understand and inviting me to do likewise. You’re actually doing the hard work. Thank you for that. It’s commendable.


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

      thank you so much for the kind words, david. i have found in our conversations that you too are doing the hard work of seeking to understand and be understood – and do so with grace and kindness.

      for your patience in that endeavor, and for your friendship, i thank you.

  • Rod Wallace

    Michael and Andrew – please keep doing what you are doing, and being who you are called to be. Your work is invaluable. Believe me, if you’d thought that I would be endorsing The Marin Foundation a few years ago, I’d have said you were deluded. But with the young son of a pastor of the church I “attend” coming out to me a couple of years ago, I was forced to look at my prejudices, my preconceived ideas, and realize – to my shame – that I had nothing but evangelical judgements and biblical literalist positions to offer him. So it was him – who could quote scripture up the wazoo – who was responsible for me digging in to how Jesus would want me to be for him. For that I am SO grateful. And another friend suggested Love Is An Orientation – so helpful – and so my journey to go deeper into what the Kingdom of God really is has progressed. I am LOVING it, as difficult as it is. Yes, all kinds of misunderstanding and labeling going on … but my goal remains the same, “How would Jesus walk with those that the Father brought into his life?
    So thank you, guys, for your ongoing encouragement, challenge and vulnerability. I – along with thousands of others – deeply appreciate you and all you are doing.

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

      thanks for this, rod!

      so often it takes a ‘waking up’ such as someone we know coming out to us – in the words of pastor/professor/author james brownson, ‘the conversation changes when your son is gay.’

      my hope is that our work at TMF can enable people to begin to think and speak and behave differently even *before* such a circumstance takes place.

      as we take our cues from christ i am convinced we’ll be better equipped to engage those with whom we have differences, even those with whom we may disagree with love and grace.

      glad you’re digging into ‘Love Is An Orientation’ – maybe by the time you’re wrapped up with it my new book ‘Love Never Fails’ will be available for pre-order and you can gobble that one up, too!

  • manlambda

    I will bite because I am one of those mean critics. First after a post on Rachel’s blog you encouraged me to reach out to you. We exchanged 2 maybe 3 e-mails on why I held the views I did about Marin. Nothing was mean or personal Here is my and other friends criticisms.
    One the Marin Foundation has never taken the position that GLBT people are deserving of equal rights. Let me be clear we are not talking about marriage equality but simple equal rights. The 2 defenses we have heard are one that Marin is taking a neutral position or 2 they aren’t an advocacy group. Let’s address each one. First no one is saying that The Marin Foundation should be an advocacy. Making a simple statement as part of their beliefs is what is needed no more no less.
    Second no one has explained to me how in any way not saying that GLBT are entitled to equal rights is a neutral position. That would be like a group saying they want to bridge the gap between African Americans and racists but not saying that African Americans deserve equal rights.
    The second criticism is if you are trying to be a bridge builder between the GLBT and evangelical communities you are going to get criticism on occasion. The best way to build distrust is to block people from commenting who disagree with you. I personally know of 5 people who have been blocked on posting on Andrew’s blog including myself. Of those 5 1 did cross the line and got nasty and personal and I can understand the ban. But you do yourself no favor in the trust department by stiffling criticism.

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

      thanks for reading and commenting…i don’t really think you’re a ‘mean critic’ as you describe yourself; however, it does seem that you have a particular agenda in engaging in conversation with me and that you’re not willing to listen to my responses.

      honestly, i’m still at a loss for how you perceive TMF (or myself) to be taking a position that LGBT people are *not* deserving of equality. in our email correspondence when you mentioned equality, i pointed you toward a number of articles both andrew and i had written surrounding marriage equality, and you stated (much to my surprise) that you were not speaking about marriage equality, but general equality – in essence, being treated as *human*.

      though this is my personal blog, i have the responsibility, opportunity and privilege of speaking on behalf of our organization – so that there’s no confusion, allow me to state it bluntly ::

      we believe that ALL people are created with inherent worth and dignity, in the image of God; and that as such, ALL people – regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability or any other basis that could preclude discrimination – deserve to be treated with the worth, dignity and respect with which they are created.

      this is not a new statement from The Marin Foundation, nor is it inconsistent with anything we’ve said or written in the past – so i’m a little befuddled that you’d continue to insist that we are in any way working against the equal treatment of LGBT people (or any other people group, including conservative voices). perhaps the critique would be more valid if we were a group of straight evangelicals speaking about the LGBT community, but that’s not the case – as you know, our staff includes people across the spectrum of both faith (theology) and sexuality (orientation). those who support us in our work (philosophically, vocally, publicly and financially) are also representative of diverse perspectives and backgrounds.

      regarding the blocking of individuals on our blog, it would seem the consistent badgering of andrew or any other staff member or the constant barrage of invalid criticism that cannot be reasoned with is, in fact, deserving of being blocked from *our* website.

      for example, here on my personal blog, my comment policy is quite clear :: http://www.mjkimpan.com/comments-policy/ || particularly germane is this bit ::

      ‘you are welcome to disagree with me. an important part of conversation and bridge building is having two sides to an argument. but here’s the ask :: if you disagree with me — or anyone else, for that matter — please do so in a civil manner. if you’re constantly negative, a troll or hater and make consistently poopstain-like comments, you will get banned. sole discretion of the definition of those terms is mine.’

      additionally, there’s this bit ::

      ‘• i reserve the right to delete or edit your comments. this is my blog. if you feel very strongly about publishing your comments and i don’t let you do that here, start your own blog. i’m pretty lenient about allowing conversation, but if i have to delete your comment, i will. specifically, i’ll delete your comment if you post something that is, in my opinion :: libelous, graphic, offensive, unkind, abusive, uncivil or spam. for further clarification, see above.’

      i don’t know the specific 5 individuals of which you speak who’ve gotten blocked from the TMF website, but i do know quite a few folks have violated pretty simple standards of engaging in conversation, and as a result were blocked. in my opinion, to suggest that The Marin Foundation attempts to quiet all folks who disagree with our perspectives or approach isn’t quite intellectually honest. we receive and welcome criticism often, and repeatedly engage in conversations with folks who have questions about who we are, what we do and how we do it.

      on a daily basis.

      but as i wrote in the above post ::

      ‘…for those who don’t want to engage in an actual dialogue, but are rather content to cast stones – from either side – our work is far too important to spend time, energy and effort attempting to coerce a correction or understanding.’

      does that make sense?

      • manlambda

        And I appreciate your response here but for the record myself and others have approached Andrew and asked about this and we never got an answer and those posts were deleted. I am glad that this is the stance of The Marin Foundation but you are the first from the Marin Foundation that has ever answered that way. It is not posted anywhere on the foundations website unless I am missing it but I am glad that this is the official stance.

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

          i’m glad we were able to find resolution on it. thanks for sticking with me. ;)

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    You completely misrepresent what Zack & Peter were discussing by just referencing the very end of that podcast. U don’t address the ex-gay connection to Yarhouse & the ex-gay woman Peter met working for you. Marin has never owned up to the audio clips of him advising xians to “prevent” gay kids from “developing a gay identity” & the other anti-gay theology he apparently holds but will never admit to. So you have zero credibility in the gay community & frankly we resent your duplicity.

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

      hey there. a couple things in response ::

      • actually, i had peterson read the entire draft of this post previous to its publication – the only change he wanted to make was the spelling of his last name.

      • the ‘ex-gay connection’ you speak of with the ‘ex-gay woman’ who you think was working for us is actually a clinical psychologist from california who self-identifies as a lesbian woman (she doesn’t work for us, she’s our friend).

      she’s been on a journey for the past several years and spoke with peterson about the days she worked with yarhouse and was on the speaking circuit with exodus (by the way, here are some comments from TMF about exodus closing || http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2013/06/andrew-marin-on-alan-chambers-and-the-closing-of-exodus-international/ and our response to so-called reparative’ therapy’ || http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2013/01/i-have-been-implicated-again/ ) .

      she is no longer engaged in ex-gay reparative ‘therapy’ in any way, nor does she identify as ex-gay. but if she did, we’d still love her. because she’s our friend.

      • regarding the supposed ‘expose’ audio clips purported by signorile from years ago, andrew has repeatedly addressed these, as he did here in 2010 :: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2010/07/part-3-note-to-skeptics/

      • regarding our ‘zero credibility in the gay community’ i don’t even know where to begin to respond. although we may not have credibility with you (and i would humbly suggest this is because you know very little about us and don’t know us personally), the claim that we have zero credibility in the broader LGBT community is simply false.

      but as i state in my post above, these disagreements aren’t things that can be solved in the comment section of a blog. they can’t be proven with words. they can’t be proven in an online forum.

      they need to be proven in real life, in real time, with real people in the contexts of real relationships. i’d be happy to talk with you over the phone or skype, should you decide you want to engage in peaceful and productive conversation for the purpose of reconciliation.

      if you ever get to the point where you’d like to come and see who and what we are for yourself rather than trusting the voices of folks who have intentionally positioned themselves against us and our work based in the interwebs, i’d be happy to have The Marin Foundation pay for your transport, host you in my home, have you ask all the questions that you want of us and allow you to meet the many LGBT friends we have.

      i can understand the suspicion which many in the LGBT community have of folks who identify as both straight and christian – there has been much harm done in the name of christ toward the gay community, and it’s a damned shame – it is, in its very nature, un-christ-like.

      regardless of your faith background (or lack thereof), i hope you give us the opportunity to live out our own faith in loving you and the broader LGBT community the way in which we believe jesus would and does – unconditionally and completely, without qualification or condemnation.

      hope to hear from you.