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.
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