Book review: Love Is an Orientation

Considering I’m neither queer nor Christian, you may wonder why I would promote a book written by a self-proclaimed “straight, white, conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical male” who is sympathetic to the Queer Question. Even so, Andrew Marin’s Love Is an Orientation strikes me as a brave discussion on the civil rights struggle between various Christian sects and the greater GLBT community in the United States. Impressively, Marin has devoted his entire career to building bridges between these communities.

Love Is an Orientation book

Perhaps it’s because I used to be a straight, white, conservative, Bible-thumping, ultimate Frisbee-playing, evangelical neophyte (and I still play ultimate from time to time), I almost feel as if I’m siding with the enemy. In opposition to my own views, it’s clear that Marin’s main focus is to see people become better Christians. As a Christian radio interviewer said to Marin, “When was the last time a conservative evangelical Christian was given the opportunity to share their heart and passion for God with hundreds of radically political GLBT people and not have anything violent or bad occur?” (p. 189)

I’ve read people’s complaints on Amazon that the book is not scholarly enough when it comes to the Biblical exegesis of “The Big 5” passages on homosexuality (Chapter 7). While I can see the need to expound upon these literary passages, such an exposition may have proven superfluous in a book intended to be an intimate first person narrative. Marin means to motivate, not lecture. He makes it quite clear that he doesn’t have singular answers to every issue—no one does, and he presses that point. Marin shares that, rather than pontificating on absolute truth, he has learned how to take divisive comments and turn them into meaningful conversations.

I thought I had learned something from being immersed in gay culture for the past three and a half years, yet in every chapter of Love Is an Orientation I found eye-opening ideas worthy of sharing. Here is one of them (p. 33):

Unless you have been sexually attracted to someone of the same sex you can never fully grasp, as a heterosexual Christian, what that means. So don’t pretend like you know, because that is the quickest way to lose credibility in a GLBT person’s mind.

and another (p. 163):

Extending yourself to someone does more to shatter negative perceptions than any amount of oratory. Even so, I have had many gays and lesbians say to me, “OK, now that you listened to me you can tell me that I’m a sinner and I should change my behavior.” They expect it, they dread it, and for the most part they cannot focus on anything else. Therefore incognito attempts at open-ended questions—whether to see if you’re able to do it or not, or in an attempt to more quickly lead a person to heterosexuality—are counterproductive. No relationship can be built on fear, and true relationships do not have a hierarchy; so don’t create one.

I’m happy to pay it forward.


The Love Is an Orientation Amazon page has a searchable version of the book and you can read the Introduction and parts of Chapter 1 there, as well. From the official website:

Andrew Marin (@Andrew_Marin and www.facebook.com/Marin.Andrew) is the President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org), a non-profit organization that works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Church through biblical and social education, scientific research and diverse community gatherings. Their unique approach strategically partners with both religious and LGBT organizations to make a sustainable difference in today’s religious and secular cultures. The Marin Foundation is also conducting the largest national scientific research study ever done in the LGBT community regarding spirituality and religion. Andrew has appeared on various national radio and TV programs, and his sermon Homophobia and Bridging from within the Evangelical Church—given on Capitol Hill the night before the Inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009—is archived in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. Andrew blogs daily at www.loveisanorientation.com and is the author of the award winning book, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (InterVarsity Press, 2009), which has has won more awards than any other individual book in the long-standing history of InterVarsity Press. He and his wife, Brenda, live in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago.

Here is one of his videos: Carlos Whittaker asks Andrew Marin to Respond: Fat, Church, & Gay

  • Very cool. I don’t play ultimate frisbee, I guess I thump a Bible ap on my Droid (well, I don’t really thump it, I just read it), and I WHOLE HEARTEDLY AGREE WITH THIS MAN! Kudos to him for going up against the “Christian” machine to spread Jesus’ true message…LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.

  • Vino

    And, you’re still white.

    • Yes, I’m wondering why you didn’t catch that earlier, my otherwise fantastic editor.

  • Greg Wright

    Hi JJ, this looks like a useful book. The author’s approach reminds me of something my own pastor says: “People do not care what you know until they know you care.” The author seems to be saying Christians should build bridges so God can reach out to the people in the GL community, and once God reaches them, he will lead them regarding how they should live. But from my own world view as a Bible believing Christian I must ask these questions: How does God lead? Is subjective spiritual interaction the only way God leads? Does he not also lead through loving confrontation from believers? I must agree with the author that love exercised through bridge-building must come first, but is that the limit of Christian effort? We must build bridges; love unconditionally; speak the truth in love; leave it to God to change the person’s heart; and be willing to keep loving, even if the person never changes. Those are my thoughts. Thanks for being willing to hear from someone with a different world view.
    Regards,
    Greg

  • Greg Wright

    Hi JJ, I keep thinking about that book, and again, I am grateful that you brought it to my attention. My two biggest takeaways are (1) The GL community is offended by the term ‘homosexual’ and (2) Gays see their gayness as a fundamental aspect of who they are, so that if you reject what they do, they see you as rejecting them as people. This observation got me to thinking about labels, which reminds me, I appreciate your own resistance to labels. For there are labels outsiders seek to impose on people, and there are labels people impose on themselves. Sometimes I think people allow the label ‘gay’ to be imposed on themselves too early. There is same-gender attraction, same-gender sexual desire, and same-gender sexual pursuit. I would not say a person is gay unless he engages in same-gender sexual pursuit. Therefore, the pastor who got fired at the beginning of the book did not need to label himself as gay. Sometimes people assume they are gay merely because they have a same-gender attraction. They get caught when, for example, they look at someone too long in the shower in phys. ed. class. Then when they are harassed, humiliated, and bullied they feel pressured to join the gay community. But should such a person feel compelled to label himself as gay. I would say: not unless he wants to. In fact, do we not all have a variety of inclinations we do not want? Sometimes that unwanted same-gender attraction is merely a symptom that the young man is insecure in his own manhood. (not always, but sometimes) But who is there to encourage him when it is too dangerous for him to share what is going on in his heart? I submit that a person with same-gender attraction who does not want to be gay can be rescued from that lifestyle if people can reach out to him early enough, but how? Who can he tell? Who can he trust?
    Regards,
    Greg

    • I mentioned in another thread on this website that we can continue this conversation via e-mail, but for anyone else curious to know my public response, this will probably be my last comment on the topic.

      Presupposing that people can or should be rescued from a gay inclination is clearly one of the biggest controversies in the LGBT debate. It sounds like you’re saying that if we were able to strip the “gay” label, people would naturally drift back toward a common heterosexual lifestyle. The ancients didn’t have labels for sexual preference, but the behavior still persisted.