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The Problem Of Lukewarm

A commentary

Jim Burroway

April 15th, 2013

Dan Savage’s New York Times book review on Sunday takes Jeff Chu to task for his new book, Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America. Chu was raised Southern Baptist, became an accomplished journalist, married his husband (his mother refused to attend the wedding and cries herself to sleep because her gay son is “lost”), and still admits, “There are still moments when I wonder whether my homosexuality is my ticket to hell.” Chu spent a year traveling across America, meeting with preachers and ministers across the religious spectrum, and with gays and lesbians who struggle to reconcile their faiths with their sexualities. As Chu recounts those stories, Savage accuses him of going soft on the more hateful elements of Christianity while reserving his “sneering takedowns” for other Christians who embrace people in all of their sexualities:

There were moments when I wanted to throw this book across the room. In fact, there were moments when I actually did throw it across the room. Chu’s nuanced and surprisingly sympathetic portrait of Westboro Baptist Church — which rose to prominence protesting the funeral of Matthew Shepard, with members waving signs that read “God Hates Fags” and “Fag Matt in Hell” — sits in sharp contrast with Chu’s sneering takedown of Metropolitan Community Church, a gay Christian denomination founded in Los Angeles in 1968. While Chu succeeds in humanizing the members of Westboro Baptist (a minor miracle), he dehumanizes the members of M.C.C. He complains bitterly about an older man at an M.C.C. service who winked at him; another hugged him a moment or two longer than necessary. If encountering a couple of creeps in the pews means an entire church can be dismissed, what do we do with the Roman Catholic Church, where ordained creeps have molested countless children?

Chu goes easy on Exodus International, the largest “ex-gay” ministry in the country, despite the harm the group does to vulnerable gays and lesbians, particularly gay children. He gives an approving nod to the sneakily homophobic Marin Foundation, an evangelical group that shows up at gay pride parades holding signs that say, “We’re sorry!” and offering hugs to paradegoers who have been harmed by religion. But Andrew Marin, the group’s founder and public face, has urged his followers to target Christian teenagers struggling with “same-sex attraction” because they’re easier to talk out of being gay. Marin has refused to say that gay sex isn’t a sin, and he seems to believe that gay people can change their sexual orientation. The more you learn about the Marin Foundation, the more it looks like Westboro Baptist in the drag of false contrition: God hates you — now with hugs! Chu blasts M.C.C., but Marin gets a pass.

It’s that second paragraph that drew a very quick response — not from Chu but from Marin. Marin’s work has focused on building bridges between the LGBT community and conservative Christians. But as a self-described bridge-builder, Marin has pointedly refused to answer some rather critical yet simple questions about his beliefs: Is homosexuality a sin? Is being gay a choice? Can gay people change? Should gay people change? His refusal to address those questions has naturally raised a lot of red flags among many in the gay community, your’s truly included. After all, these are some pretty fundamental questions which are not difficult to answer for most of us. But Marin argues that if he were to answer these “yes/no questions,” it would destroy his ability to remain in that middle space, which he calls “living in the tension” between full LGBT acceptance and condemnation. Marin’s response to Savage’s remarks is, characteristically, quite charitable before Marin contrasts his methods to Savages’s:

Dan and I have two completely different philosophical approaches to social change; both with the same goal–-that everyone, regardless of orientation, gender, race, color, creed or religious affiliation (or not), will be able to live safe, loved, dignified and cherished lives. I feel the crossroad lies in the view of what is deemed as an “acceptable medium of engagement.” This is not a new debate throughout the world’s history. Two of the more well known examples:

Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the only way for sustainable, structural societal change to happen was to build bridges between the oppressive white folks and his African-American community. And although later in life Malcolm X’s framework for social change began to align more with MLK, the majority of his public rhetoric was was strongly advocating for the necessity of African-American’s to overthrow the oppressive white “devil” and implement the same system of oppression upon whites as they had done to his people for centuries.

Nelson Mandela believed that the only way for sustainable, structural societal change to happen was to build bridges between the oppressive white Afrikaners and his black African community. His wife, Winnie, is famously noted for completely disagreeing with him. And during the intense years of apartheid, she strongly advocated for an overthrown white Afrikaner government where black Africans could then implement the same system of oppression whites had done to her people for centuries.

In neither of these examples am I suggesting a comparison between the American Civil Rights movement, the South African Apartheid and the modern LGBT equality struggle. I am rather viewing these examples through a lens of cultural engagement. I am also not saying that I am MLK or Mandela, and that Savage is Malcolm X or Mandela’s wife. But what I am saying is that for centuries culture wars and societal disconnects are perpetuated by these same two ideologies — both of which have their movement’s leaders and followers passionately believing their medium of engagement as the best way forward, thus causing many public disagreements. [Emphases in the original

Marin denies that he’s comparing himself to MLK or Mandela, or Savage to X or Winnie, and I’ll take him at his word. I’ll also set aside his completely misguided reading of the gangster thug Winnie Mandela, who cheered vigilante “necklacing” and who has for decades been implicated in the murder of two young activists in her home. But Marin also gets it very wrong when he describes King as a bridge-builder between “oppressive white folks” and African-Americans. If King had followed Marin’s example of bridge-building in 1963, we would have expected him to express no opinion about segregation, to say that both sides have valid points about voting rights, and to argue that while the kind of change African-Americans were seeking might be inevitable, the time might not be right.

But of course, King said none of that. He had some very strong opinions about all of those things and he possessed no qualms about expressing them. And he expressed them most pointedly in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, which he wrote exactly fifty years ago this week. The entire letter is worth a read, but I want to direct your attention to the section where King addresses white moderates — who saw themselves as “bridge-builders” of the day, and their reluctance to engage in the most fundamental questions:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

These aren’t the words of an on-the-one-hand-this-on-the-other-hand-that bridge-building guru who lets everyone be right and refuses to allow anyone to called out on their bigotry and who, above all, just wants everyone to get along. King was not a bridge builder, certainly not as Marin defines it.  King was a fighter, fighting to take that bridge so he could walk to the other side to the land of freedom.

And I think it’s instructive that King speaks of the tension between the fight for civil rights and the reactionary forces aligned against it, much as Marin speaks of “living in the tension” and has even named his blog for it. But King described that tension as being a “necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace… to a substantive and positive peace,” and he directs his frustration for white moderates who would suggest that the tension is an acceptable status quo, for now. Marin seeks our appreciation for committing to live in that tension, perhaps forever, rather than hastening its transition to positive peace.

I appreciate that Marin’s goal, which he expressed so eloquently, is for everyone, LGBT or otherwise, “to live safe, loved, dignified and cherished lives.” I do believe his sincerity when he says that he loves, without question and qualifications, his many gay friends — of which he really does have many who are willing to make themselves known (quite unlike so many others anti-gay folks who claim to have “many gay friends,” who wind up remaining invisible). Apologizing to gay people on behalf of others who aren’t apologizing, as Marin has at Chicago’s Gay Pride parade, is a nice gesture despite its obvious limitations. If Marin can challenge conservative Christians to rethink their approach to gay people, whatever their motives may be, then that is, as they say, a step in the right direction. And if Marin can provide a non-condemning and authentically Evangelical experience for LGBT people, whatever the depth of that acceptance may be, well that, too, is better than the way things were before.

And who can argue that building bridges between the LGBT community and conservative Christians is not a laudable task? I couldn’t, but that didn’t keep me from feeling uncomfortable and distrustful about the whole endeavor. And until now, I’ve been unable to articulate why I felt so distrustful.

But thanks to Marin’s invoking the examples of MLK, now I can. And it’s the problem I have with a lot of people who try to build bridges. Too often, the bridge is treated as a destination when it’s really just a way of going from one side to another. But I think Marin doesn’t just see his bridge as a destination, but he confuses himself, the bridge builder, for the bridge itself. A bridge is an inanimate, unthinking thing, with no values, no conscience, no answers, no sense of purpose except one: to go from one side to another. And so Marin, like a well-built bridge, thinks that it is his duty to remains as mute as that bridge. Bridges are useful conveyances, and even though their utility is limited, I use them whenever I can. But there are two things we must remember about bridges. First, after we cross them, we leave them behind. And second, the only bridge we remember from the Civil Rights era is the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Marin’s example shows us that the problem isn’t a lack of bridges. Bridges are metaphors and we aren’t lacking in metaphors. What we are lacking is clear and honest communication, based on mutual respect (which doesn’t have to include mutual acceptance) and aimed toward the goal of mutual understanding (which doesn’t have to include mutual approval. Sorry, but there are some things I just won’t approve, but I can understand them much better than I do now.). This is the kind of communication which begins with some very hard but honest answers to very important yes/no questions. And by the way,  just because the questions are in a yes/no form doesn’t mean the answers have to be. They can be “maybe,” “it depends,” or even “I don’t know,” as long as the answers are honest. But refusing to answer altogether comes across as sneaky and manipulative, as though that person was following a strategy to achieve a goal he won’t reveal. We’ve seen this pattern too many times before to dismiss it just because Marin wants us to.

I disagree with Savage when he says Marin is “sneakily homophobic,” only because I don’t believe that is Marin’s intent. And I don’t believe the Marin Foundation is “Westboro Baptist in the drag of false contrition,” although I get where Savage is coming from. If Marin believes that homosexuality is a sin and sinners go to hell — two questions Marin hasn’t answered — then the only difference between him and Westboro is that Westboro built their own bridge directly linking the starting point of the first premise with the destination of the second. I don’t believe that Marin believes those things, but only because Marin himself is willing to allow me to believe anything about him, including something that may not by true. And this conversation is far too important to be misled by falsely-held assumptions.

And this brings me to the real problem I have with Marin. He is much too lukewarm to be praised or condemned, “neither hot nor cold.” Instead, we see him giving refuge to those who “love the sinner/hate the sin,” which, when you think of it, is just another way of telling people where “their place” is. The “sin of Sodom” and the “curse of Ham” are only four chapters apart in Genesis, and millions have suffered because people spent centuries weaponizing those two chapters. And they were helped along, sometimes unwittingly but sometimes tacitly, by others who were neither hot nor cold. I wish he were one or the other, because then I could at least know who I’m talking to. If he is on the side of the angels, then he’s in danger of getting on the Angel of Revelation’s bad side, who also didn’t like lukewarmedness: “I will spit you out,” that angel told the Church of Laodicea, as one would spit out lukewarm coffee. King didn’t think much of those lukewarm whites of his day either: “Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection,” he wrote from his jail cell. And so they were lost to history, spat out, as it were, as will be their modern-day counterparts.

Comments

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Steve
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

The Westboro comparison goes too far, but Marin has said some very homophobic things in the past, when doing his favorite thing of tailoring his message to his audience. With friends like him you don’t need enemies.

I don’t even think some kind of reconciliation is truly his goal. His goal is to get everyone to believe in Jesus together. He is a true evangelical seeking to recruit people for the faith (or in this case prevent them from leaving). The “bridge-building” is just a tool for that.

The worst thing with him is that he enables the oppressors. He treats both sides as equally having equally valid, viewpoints and wants everyone to just agree to disagree. It’s really disgusting.

Karen
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

If he says homosexuality is not sin, the conservative or evangelical church would no longer have anything to do with him. And if he says homosexuality is sin, the LGBT community won’t have anything to do with him. I used to be really annoyed that he didn’t give an answer, but the reality is he cannot do what he does by giving an answer.

His objective is to foster humane engagement between people who disagree. That is a different purpose than fighting for a cause. Its good to fight for a cause. But his point is that we all live on this planet and have to share it despite coming from very different viewpoints. We will never all agree. And what happens when people don’t agree? They get ugly with each other. They build walls that foster even more animosity. That is what has happened between conservative Christians and the LGBT community.

Each side can keep hoping for the utopian unanimity, each side can keep hating the other. Or, if Marin’s work is effective people can learn to treat each other with kindness despite disagreement.

I think what both sides don’t like about Marin’s lack of response is because both sides want him to fight for a cause and that is not the purpose of Marin’s work. The purpose is to help opposing groups–amid their opposing causes–to treat each other like human beings. This is also the goal of Sustained Dialogue, a method use in war torn regions between opposing factions. The goal is not agreement, but respectful engagement with the Other.

Some people might not be able to tolerate that notion of engagement with people one so fundamentally disagrees with and that is why people eventually kill each other–quite literally. We may feel too much is at stake with fighting for our cause. But one does not have to give up a cause in order to engage in sustained dialogue. One does not have to give up a cause to treat the Other as worthy of our kindness–not because we agree or because they deserve it, but because they are human beings and when when we treat the Other as human, we become more human ourselves.

TampaZeke
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

Jim, I believe that this is your best work ever.

Karen, did you even read Jim’s essay?

Karen
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

PS–I will say that perhaps the most ideal way of doing sustained dialogue between opposing groups is having representatives of both sides come together. If the Marin Foundation had two directors–one from each side, it would probably be more effective. There would be acknowledgement of beliefs (and thus not the frustrating lack of transparency). I think the problem is that Marin started this as an individual and he was trying to represent both sides. Perhaps the Foundation can move away from him as a single point person to more of a two person team with greater transparency of views. This would actually be closer to true sustained dialogue because you cannot intentionally love across borders if there is no acknowledgement that the other person has a different position. True sustained dialogue is when you know the other person has a view that is greatly objectionable and yet you still choose to engage, you still choose to treat the Other as a human being despite knowing what you know. That is even harder work. Its the kind of hard work that people are working toward in other parts of the world–like between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, etc.

Karen
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

TampaZeke–I did and I don’t know what your question means.

Steve
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

And Karen is showing *exactly* what I said above. She just wants everyone to agree to disagree and get along. Never mind that both sides aren’t equally right. One of them is wrong. Never mind that one side has all the power and oppresses the other. So she just keeps up the status quo by keeping the oppressors in power and the oppressed in their place.

Karen, you need to stop treating this as a “disagreement”. This isn’t some academic ivory tower debate where one can have a friendly chat over coffee or tea. We are talking about the civil rights of millions of people here.

F Young
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

Very eloquently stated, Jim.

Michael Bussee
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

I don’t think Marin is being truthful. He does believe that homosexual behavior is “sin” — or at least he seems to say so in this youtube video, at about 1:30 into his remarks.

He says that “SSA” or having a homosexual orientation is not sin, but that the “behavior is the sin portion” and that this is his “baseline”.

When I challenged him about this, he became rather defensive and said he was only expressing the “conservative position” and not his own opinion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di8LT6W3Xc0

Karen
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

Hi Steve, no I didn’t say that both sides are right. In fact, I specifically said that fighting for a cause is good and that one need not give up fighting for a cause to treat someone in a humane fashion. The goal is not agreeing to disagree. The issue is how human beings treat each other.

You might better be able to understand the context of what I am saying if you are familiar with peacemaking initiatives in war torn regions. For example, see this website on Sustained Dialogue: http://www.sustaineddialogue.org/

Graham
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

For my part I think Marin’s tactics, and for that matter Chu’s experiences, are rather emblematic of the modern predicament that monotheists now find themselves in in regards to the issue of homosexuality: their personal intuition that gay people and their relationships are not evil conflicts with the demand of their god to accept that they are. I think it’s important to point out that these feelings of sympathy or justice towards gays are themselves the results of the steady erosion of the monotheistic dogma in western society; these appeals to personal feelings are made ‘around’ the religion as it were, not through it. In the olden days entertaining those sentiments would be seen as opening the door to satan; you’re supposed to accept the revelation of the Bible, not try to figure things out with your own reason and intuition. But I think what’s happened really is that people don’t want to live in a world where they have to hate, or in many of the manifestations of monotheism kill, people they love, they just can’t accept that. And so we have the tension, which in my opinion will only be resolved when we just admit that the monotheistic revelation was no revelation at all.

Marcus
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

Steve, I’m not sure I understand you. If civil rights shouldn’t be talked about at academic ivory tower debates and friendly chats over coffee or tea, when and where should they be talked about?

Peter
April 15th, 2013 | LINK

Everyone in the south should send Senator Landrieu the MLK quote. I doubt she would be brave enough to change her stance, but it may confront her cowardly choice.

TomTallis
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Once again I am made so thankful that my parents raised me without religion. I have no superstitious belief system brainwashed into me that I somehow have to reconcile to one of the basic parts of who I am and then write books parading my, completely unneccessary, conflict to the entire world.

Thanks, Mom and Dad…

David Malcolm
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Karen the problem with the dialogue that Marin is trying to put forward is that when you keep telling conservatives they’re not wrong, they just get more comfortable having gay friends while treating those gay friends like crap and looking down on them. So instead of just having a bigoted “Christian” who sucks at loving their neighbour from afar, you have a bigoted “Christian” who sucks at loving their neighbour up close.

To be honest one of the only people who’s opinion I ever changed who I didn’t previously know didn’t have her opinion changed because I explained my position rationally and went over every biblical passage explaining why you don’t have to read the Bible in an anti-gay fashion. Rather I told her that she was a monster who contributes to a world that makes children want to kill themselves. I told her she was probably a very nice monster most of the time, but still a monster.

In the end she listened to the Matthew Vines video and we go back and forth every now and again. She still objects to the way I told her off. But sometimes especially with socially conservative people, you have to flat out tell them that they’re sinning before they’re ever going to admit that you might not be.

sue
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

it seems that mr. marin has either never read king’s writings, or did not understand the key concepts of non-violent action as a tool for social change that King speaks of. more the texas text book version of the man, rather than the real human being

Steve
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

@Marcus
It’s a metaphor. The point is that people need to act like this isn’t a theoretical debate, but that this is a real issue affecting real people. They need to realize that many people are harmed, right now.

What Karen said and what Marin does is the opposite of that. For him the goal is some nebulous state of just getting along with each other and being nice. As Jim said, for him the bridge is the destination, not the other shore. The end result is that the status quo hasn’t changed, that the legal situation hasn’t improved and that people are still being harmed.

Steve
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Btw, it’s the same as with the Republicans recently saying that they just need to be nicer about their message (which hasn’t changed), or that members should be welcome despite not agreeing about everything. Again, that’s completely trivializing the harm they cause. And letting churches get away with their actions (and hide behind “I have gay friends”) is doing the same.

Boo
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Marin also doesn’t seem to have the first clue what Malcolm X actually stood for.

Karen
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

David,
You write: “To be honest one of the only people who’s opinion I ever changed who I didn’t previously know didn’t have her opinion changed because I explained my position rationally and went over every biblical passage explaining why you don’t have to read the Bible in an anti-gay fashion.”

Again, the goal is not agreement. Agreement is wonderful when it can be reached but its not a realistic goal in this world for everyone to have the same opinion. And we have to share the planet. If its not about same-sex relationships it will be some other issue people strongly disagree about.

How should human beings treat each other when they cannot come to an agreement? Some people resort to violence with bullets and bombs. Some people resort to violence with their words.

I believe in fighting for causes while treating the Other humanely. That is a very difficult thing to do which is why the whole idea of doing so is dismissed.

I think there is much ground to be had even when agreement cannot be reached. For example I know many conservatives who do not believe homosexuality is God blessed who *do* believe that gay people should have equal civil rights. And you can bet they didn’t get to that place by someone treating them in a disrespectful way.

The reality is not everyone will agree. So what do we do? How will we treat the Other when they fail to see our side of things? Hate them? Build walls? Yell at them? Will it help to be hostile? Will it help us be better human beings?

Seriously, I would be interested to hear from you and Steve how you think the LGBT community should treat those who do not believe same-sex relationships are blessed by God. Specifically, how should gay people treat these conservatives in daily life?

Boo
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Karen- what do we do? We do exactly what is being done. We engage with people who are not desparate hate mongers to marginalize the desparate hate mongers. We change the politics so that gay people are treated equally under the law and the social environment to the point where the hatemongers stop spewing their hate so much, not because they fear punishment of the law, but because they anticipate social condemnation. And we keep an eye on the violent fringe. In other words we do exactly the same thing that was done with racism.

MattNYC
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Jim, your phrase, “millions have suffered because people spent centuries weaponizing those two chapters” is brilliant. I think that’s a very insightful and immediately recognizable way of putting Bible/Torah “abuse”.

Jay
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Dan Savage is a national treasure. Marin is not worth spending so much soul-searching over. He’s just another charlatan. As for Chu, what a sad sack.

JB
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Karen,

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Anti-gay rhetoric is dead wrong, but what interests me is not in being right, it’s in being happy—indeed in lessening human suffering across the board.

We cannot transform what we do not engage. There are over 2 billion self-described Christians in the world today. By refusing to engage with them, or by calling them crazy, we lessen our power to transform their beliefs.

Do we need staunch pro-gay (read: “Being gay is A BLESSING, not a sin.”) people leading change? Yes.

Does Marin have to be one of those people to help us affect real change? No.

About David Malcolm’s comment above: your conservative friend changed her view, it seems, because of Matthew Vines’ video, not because you called her a monster. Matthew is working like a dog to foster a deeply respectful (and fiercely pro-gay) conversation. Read the letters he posts on his Facebook that he has received from the families of gay children saying he has changed their minds.

I was raised in an intellectual liberal household by two avowed atheists. I’ve lived in New York City for almost ten years now. I have been conditioned to think that all religious people are fuzzy thinkers. This is such a fundamentally fuzzy and unintellectual position to take. Emerson, Thoreau, Gandhi, MLK. Without the thinking of these men, driven by profound insight arising from the religious sphere of life, our world would not be the same today.

It is impossible to have a universal theology, but a universal experience of peace is not only possible, it is necessary.

Let’s start creating the world we want instead of going insane destroying the one we don’t.

MattNYC
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Dante Alighieri – “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

I think this is what MLK had in mind and what Marin fails to understand.

MattNYC
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

BTW, I fully understand and agree with Karen about the need for this approach. I just don’t necessarily see Dr. Marin’s philosophy matching the Sustained Dialogue ideals.

I don’t care what anyone chooses to believe–as long as they don’t block equality/civil rights based on those beliefs.

If you are not part of the solution–and that doesn’t include JUST providing space for discussion that leads to nothing–then you are part of the problem. He enables and gives cover to the haters.

I don’t think I could agree more with Jim’s analysis (although I will probably always give Dan Savage a bit more leeway, even when he goes over the top).

Timothy Kincaid
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

I have not yet written my review of Chu’s book. I will. It will surprise no one that it will not mirror Savage’s.

Ninja
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

“Evangelicals, and conservative Christians in general, need to let go of the same-sex marriage fight and invest in figuring out how to love like Jesus regardless of what system is in place.” That’s Marin on the record from his Patheos blog article, “Would Jesus Fight a Legal Battle against Same-Sex Marriage?”
If Savage considers himself an activist for the civil rights & marriage equality of LGBT people, he doesn’t need to worry that Marin will fight against his causes. If Marin secretly believes gay sex & relationships are sinful,as long as he doesn’t fight against marriage equality, so what? Gays and lesbians want LEGAL equality of their marriage, but sin is a religious concept.Perhaps church denominations will split over whether they should bless same-sex marriage or not. But that’s none of the state’s business. Church and state are separated.
If some Christians, e.g., Santorum, wants to legislate his Christian understanding into the marriage laws and Savage fights back, that’s one thing. If Marin believes it’s sinful, but he doesn’t want to legislate anything EITHER way, then who cares?

Priya Lynn
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Particularly insightful comments by Steve, Graham, and David Malcom.

As for Marin, anyone who hides his positions and pretends to be neutral is irrelevant to me, and irrelevant to the cause of achieving equality. As Steve said, Marin’s priority is to get everyone to Jesus, ultimately he doesn’t care whether justice is achieved. People like him feel this life doesn’t really matter that much, all injustices will be righted in the afterlife.

As Steve said, Marin’s goal is to just get everyone to be nice to each other and leave the injustice in place.

Karen says this is the right approach because the Sustained Dialogue model works in war torn regions but the situation with gay rights is not analogous to a war torn region. In such regions you have situations where each side has killed loved ones of the other side, where each side makes claims to ownership of land and resources which can’t be easily verified. In such a situation there isn’t one side that’s clearly right and one that’s clearly wrong and so sustained dialogue may be the most one can hope for. In the gay rights movement one side is clearly right and one side is clearly wrong and that can be established rationally and logically. In the gay rights fight, one side has inflicted great harm on the other and that side hasn’t been harmed in any way. Unlike in war torn regions, the war over gay equality has a clear moral actor and a clear and logical path to justice so the Sustained Dialogue model is inappropriate and just leads to the unnecessary perpetuation of injustice.

Randy
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Fantastic post. I wrote something about the bridge building metaphor in a private communication that I will post to my blog a little later but I agree with you, the only way to honor someone, even if you disagree, is by being honest. Especially when directly asked.

MattNYC
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Just to echo something that Priya said and that I had in my head but lost earlier, Sustained Dialogue seems to work in places with a real or “pseudo” Zero Sum Game (where people can’t or feel they can’t physically live side-by-side the “other” or are literally fighting over the same piece of sod).

ME is NOT a Zero Sum Game. Our increase in equality does not reduce anyone else’s equality (other than the freedom to treat people unequally, which cannot be a valid POV in a “free” society).

Robert
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

MattNYC-

Good observation except for the fact that your own definition:

“where people can’t or feel they can’t physically live side-by-side the “other” or are literally fighting over the same piece of sod”

is exactly what some of the most extreme religious people believe.

Over at WND there is a new article by Pat Buchanan calling for civil disobedience of Gay Rights Laws by the Christian Right. To them this IS exactly a situation that the extreme amongst them can’t abide. Not to mention the New Manhattan Decleration that also calls for civil disobedience and ignoring the LGBT rights laws, that has over half a million signatures of support.

For the sane Christians, there are some-despite protestations to the contrary-this isn’t an issue and they can accept and even support LGBT Rights.

I agree with your view that ME is not a Zero Sum game, at least not for US.

Now,in regards to the review, I have not yet read the book being reviewed, so I can’t comment on the review itself, but I can say that I don’t have much animus towards this Marin character as I do not know much about him, but I have found that his approach to us a community, is better than what we recieve from other parts of the Evangelical Community. Better to call for dialouge than to cut it off completely like Buchanan and the signators of The Manhattan Decleration. It begs the question: If you do something “good” does it really matter what your motivation is? Something “good” was accomplished.

Also, I always wonder, what difference does it make if someone believes that there is nothing moral about our lives, as long as they are able to support our right to live them?

Equality has to do with the legal rights we deserve, as citizens, as HUMANS. It doesn’t require Moral Approval.

We do not require or need moral approval, we require and need Equality under the law.

People of a religous nature believe in sin, some here do not, but that doesn’t mean we get to take away the right to see anything they wish as sin, as long as it isn’t codified in law or abridges our freedoms. As long as they hold their moral codes to mean only them and allow others to live their own lives by their own moral codes (and I am talking about this issue specificlly, not that everyone run around ignoring the common good and laws that benefit society, like murder and rape and things of that nature…I’m not advocating anarchy as some will try to suggest, again…)

Robert
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

I didn’t post the Pat Buchanan link, sorry about that. Also, the article he wrote also talks about this book, this issue, and Dan Savage, thus it’s relevancy to be mentioned.

http://www.wnd.com/2013/04/is-civil-disobedience-on-marriage-imminent/

Priya Lynn
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Robert said “Good observation except for the fact that your own definition:

“where people can’t or feel they can’t physically live side-by-side the “other” or are literally fighting over the same piece of sod” is exactly what some of the most extreme religious people believe.”.

Oh, bullsh*t. There’s no comparing having to live next to neighbours who’ve killed members of your family or burned down your house with living in the same state with married gays and lesbians. A few such christians may rant about how they can’t live next to married gays but none of them sincerely believe it. Many of the people making such a claim the loudest are living figuratively side-by-side, if not literally.

The culture war is a metaphor, there is no comparing the metaphorical war over equality with a literal war. There’s no comparing christians saying “I can’t live side-by-side with married gays” and Hutus saying “I can’t live side-by-side with the Tutsis that killed my family members.”.

Priya Lynn
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Robert said “People of a religous nature believe in sin, some here do not, but that doesn’t mean we get to take away the right to see anything they wish as sin,”.

Stop it. Just stop it. I can’t and have never tried to take away your right to see whatever you want as sin and no LGBT person can or has ever tried to take away any religious person’s right to see anything they wish as sin. You have a right to freedom of speech, you don’t have a right to freedom from criticism. Somone criticizing your backwards ideas doesn’t force you to stop believing them. And, yes, you have told that lie about me.

Priya Lynn
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Priya out.

Robert
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

Priya Lynn-

Once again on the attack, and can’t have a rational discussion or allow anyone an opinion that contradicts with her high holy knowledge. I’m tired of your constant attack.

You can believe what you wish, but there IS a battle brewing with some of the far right religious organizations, and you seem blissfully ignorant of that fact. You live in Canada where things are pretty different, but here in the USA you can hear the drumbeat of desperation, and people like Buchanan and Brow and Barber and Perkins and Maggie are all in a pretty desperate place, and are willing to foment hatred that might just lead to action. You ignore that the same violence is happening in France as we speak, and somehow think my point isn’t valid.
You might have your own valid rationale, but you INSIST on ignoring what the actual opposition believes, and you seem to think that for some reason these people live by YOUR logic.

Wait and see, Pat Buchanan, and THe Manahattan Decleration are steps in a conrontation that may be inevitable without mediation by some group. Your problem is all you want to do is tell, tell, tell people what to do, you don’t want to look at what the realities are.

And I’m pretty tired of your constant attacks on every single thing I say on this site. YOU have some pretty big issues, leave me out of them.

Robert
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

I made no allusions to you, Priya Lynn in my first post. There are many atheists on this site and they don’t believe in sin, YOU take everything I say as if I’m talking to you, even in a post in respose to another poster.

Stop jumping on me for things you THINK I’m saying. Evidently what I actually DO say you have issue with, so no need to fabricate a confrontation out of whole cloth.

Ben in Oakland
April 16th, 2013 | LINK

There is a lot to respond to in this. Jim, Beautiful column in just about every way. I have a somewhat different take on all of this, so I’ll write about that.

As I have often said, we’re probably never going to reach those people irretrievably poisoned by hate, fear, prejudice, stupidity, religious faith, the lure of power and money and dominion, or– I am increasingly convinced this is quite possibly THE major problem– their own very dark, and darkly obscured pain and desires. Haggard desires, you might call them. That is the nature of the word “irretrievably.”

The only thing that ever reaches them is a rhetorical 2×4, swung hard, upside the head. I always think of Mary Griffiths, whose intransigence led to the suicide of her son, Bobby. Nothing else reached her, or even got close. That particular conflagration was the only thing that burned a hole through the self righteousness and her over-identification with that monster of the Old Testament, the desert storm god formerly known as El.

Also, as I have often said– and this because I came to maturity in the days just post stonewall, and had Holy St. Harvey as my spiritual guide in the the early, heady days of gay liberation in San Francisco– I don’t really think that the enemy is the church, the religious reich, the power-and-money obsessed NOMnuts, the extreme right, the homo-hatin’-homos, or even the batshit crazy Third Eagle of the Apocalypse and his ilk, though there is plenty of ilk to be had.

Oh, we have to fight them, of course. They are a threat, and mean to harm us if they can, or at least accrue as much power, money, superiority, righteousness, dominion, and self-serving deflection as may be available. But I don’t think of them so much as the enemy as a distraction, a necessary (but completely unnecessary) evil distraction.

The real enemy, in my opinion, is the enforcement mechanism of the Right–the closet. The closet door hides us from our loved ones and our neighbors and our churches– and frequently from ourselves as well. The closet teaches our loved ones to hate and oppress us, and worse, teaches us to hate and oppress ourselves. It’s the closet that we ultimately have to fight. St. Harvey taught us that. Coming out is the single most important thing we can do, for ourselves, for our movement, for the multitudes of our spiritual children– the kids who are going to grow up gay, and will do it either easily or difficultly, depending upon what WE DO TODAY.

And what we MUST do is come out, everywhere, to everyone, in every way, as soon as possible.

I haven’t read Chu’s book, and don’t intend to. But it sounds like he has internalized the self hatred that oppresses us as a community. With his desire to be fair to those who have no intention of being fair to us, he is also being unfair to those who are on his side. Dan savage was 100% right on calling him out for that. I can appreciate Chu’s inner struggle, while at the same time having no patience for it. Grow up. Grow a pair. Stand for something, or at least, stand for yourself.

How do I see Andrew Marin in all of this? Pretty much as I see John Chu– unable to be one thing or the other, and thereby not really being much of anything at all. But also with this crucial difference: he’s not without power or influence. He CAN make a difference. But is he? We often say “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Apparently, there is a fourth alternative. “I think I’ll be a bridge.” And this is where I think Jim has it exactly right. Steve put it very clearly: “The worst thing with him is that he enables the oppressors. He treats both sides as equally having equally valid viewpoints and wants everyone to just agree to disagree.” Why can’t Marin say this: “you’re free to believe homosexuality is a sin. You’re not free to make up shit to justify that belief.” After all, the same passage that allegedly condemns homosexuality is just as clear about reviling, and who gets to go to heaven. Why isn’t that as big a scriptural concern for him? It’s not just us that are going to hell, after all.

Someone said, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” If someone else won’t proclaim the truth, exactly who is going to be free?

The antigays– they are NOT pro-marriage, seeing as divorce, support for hetero marriages, and illegitimacy among heterosexuals are not a part of their agenda– have no respect in them, and we have their many statements to prove it. Gay people who just want to live their lives are morally, socially, and humanly inferior in every way to even the worst heterosexual.

Civility? We have been called perverts, sick, child molesters, a threat to marriage, family, children, faith, freedom, and western civilization. Is is a part and parcel of their arguments. Bryan Fischer, tony Perkins, Frank Schubert, all use these kinds of terms when describing gay people. That’s not civility, it’s hate said with a smile on the face and a knife in the back.

And frankly, I don’t see the “love the sinner, hate the sin” shtick as all that much better. It’s also an assertion of the right to dominion. Same smile, same knife. Don’t tell me you love me. Let me guess” is what I often say. When someone loves me, I assume they want the best for me. Not what they might think is the best for me, absent my input, my knowledge, and my reality. But what I know to be best for me, with their support.

A certain class of so-called Christian is happy to tell me they love me, but nevertheless, wish dominion over my life. “Love the sinner, hate the sin, blah blah UND blah ad nauseam.” That isn’t love, it’s narcissism. And coming from someone who says it with a smile on their face, and a knife for my back, it’s betrayal, spiritual arrogance of the worst sort. It’s a way of infantilizing me and my life– an assertion that the alleged grown up knows what’s best, not me. White people have done it to black people, men to women, for centuries.

Telling me they love me, while asserting their need for dominion over my life, is a way they have of making themselves feel good about the damage they’re doing. Its a get out of hell free card, paid for in religious Monopoly money–the easy coin of other people’s lives. They harm my life, and the lives of millions of people like me, and excuse themselves with “it’s because I love you.”

You love me? Excuse my temerity, but what the hell kind of an excuse is that?For your behavior, for your smarmy assertion of self-assigned but completely imaginary superiority? Is Marin loving me when he gives them a toll-free bridge?

A civil conversation between two sides of any issue is only possible where there is respect, civility, and a commitment to the truth. On that basis, there is no civil conversation possible with a good portion of the religious reich. As Steve said, the failure to say anything about it means nothing of any value is being said at all. Let’s make nice was the spectacular FAIL of the No on 8 campaign. By failing to talk about the real issues– faith, children, and bigotry– they talked about nothing. And we lost where we should have won.

This is Marin’s failure, why he is a bridge to nowhere. He may be accomplishing some good with what he is doing. But ultimately, I think he’s just making himself feel better.

Reed
April 17th, 2013 | LINK

OH, this is good, Jim. I think you’ve knocked this one out of the park.

JCF
April 17th, 2013 | LINK

“[Marin's] many gay friends — of which he really does have many who are willing to make themselves known”

Does he go to their weddings?* That would demonstrate actual friendship to me.

* And I don’t mean in order to object when the “If anyone can show just cause…” question is called!

@Karen: “If he says homosexuality is not sin, the conservative or evangelical church would no longer have anything to do with him. And if he says homosexuality is sin, the LGBT community won’t have anything to do with him.”

“Homosexuality”, per se, isn’t any more at issue than “heterosexuality” is. [Certainly your ConEvs are going to stipulate many kinds of heterosexual sin!] I always speak in terms of same-sex couples, or (better yet) same-sex spouses. Put in those terms, treating all couples/spouses w/ EQUALITY becomes a far more natural response (and intimacy is properly seen as belonging TO those spouses, and no one else’s business but theirs!).

Mark
April 17th, 2013 | LINK

I’m gay, married, and Buddhist, so I don’t have an ideological stake to defend Andrew Marin’s case. I have met the man, though, and been to a few of his Living in the Tension meetings, most notably one where he invited John Corvino to speak about the book he co-authored with Maggie Gallagher.

While I don’t necessarily agree with Andrew’s no answer tactic, I think he’s actually accomplishing his goal of engagement between the Christian community and the gay community and I think that engagement leads to lasting good for both. As we’ve been told by many an out celebrity, coming out to people is probably the most profound thing you can do to change their minds, not debating them, not evangelizing the, just coming out. I think Andrew helps this process happen and I think he’s changing minds in a very tangible way, even if it’s not in take no prisoners rhetorical combat.

Mark
April 17th, 2013 | LINK

To put it shortly, I think Andrew Marin walks the walk and does good work, even if he doesn’t talk the talk we might want him to.

Ben In Oakland
April 17th, 2013 | LINK

Mark, everything we do is good becuase everything we do is a repudiation of the closet.So, although I have little faith in Marin’s process and place, it’s stil something.

Soren456
April 17th, 2013 | LINK

Hey, Ben in Oakland:

Nice essay. It’s that point of view, and that stance that have got everything done. Everything. People like Marin, and his philosophy, are obstacles.

Ben In Oakland
April 17th, 2013 | LINK

Thanks.

Robert
April 17th, 2013 | LINK

Ben In Oakland-

“Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

One of the greates clarion calls the world has ever heard. Thanks for the reminder.

Daneen Akers
April 19th, 2013 | LINK

I really appreciate your nuance and thoughtfulness in this piece, Jim, which I found totally lacking in Dan Savage’s remarks (which seemed hyperbolic to me).

I recently returned from a screening tour of our film in Australia where Andrew Marin was also speaking–our schedules overlapped a lot, and not only did I spend some personal time with him, but I saw him speak several times.

The one thing I have to say in Marin’s defense is that the ONLY reason he is allowed to speak in most conservative circles is because he is not on the record about whether or not he personally believes that same-sex relationships are sinful.

And, because he is allowed in those spaces, I have seen truly amazing paradigm shifts happen with very conservative religious groups.

When you say above, “If Marin can challenge conservative Christians to rethink their approach to gay people, whatever their motives may be, then that is, as they say, a step in the right direction,” I can assure you that I’ve seen that happen. I get how hard it can be to just see the small step when there is a huge journey ahead. But it is an important step.

I was told by a long-time activist in the work for full inclusion and affirmation for LGBT people in faith communities to remember that people move from open opposition to silence to tolerance to acceptance/affirmation to advocacy. And they don’t usually skip steps, and they each take a great deal of time. I see Andrew working on moving people from the extreme end to middle–and that’s a very, very important work in this whole movement. It’s an audience that I can’t reach. But he helps deeply religious people feel Biblically justified in simply engaging in an orientation of love–without caveats or performance clauses.

That’s why I’m ultimately comfortable with his work. It is effective. I’ve seen first-hand how it works–on people in my own life. And, usually once people open themselves to just loving the gay people in their life, they get to know them better, and that’s when they are motivated to change their theology. It doesn’t usually happen the other way around.

Thanks!

Daneen Akers
Producer
“Seventh-Gay Adventists”

Donny D.
April 19th, 2013 | LINK

Karen, you’ve talked a lot about fostering dialogue with the other side and bringing both sides together. But can you tell us how Andrew Marin is doing this?

As far as I can tell, he isn’t even doing shuttle diplomacy. He isn’t carrying messages or sentiment from one side to the other, just telling each side what they want to hear. i see NO effort on the part of Andrew Marin to get both sides talking.

Blair Martin
April 20th, 2013 | LINK

Tell me if you think Andrew Marin is the equivalent of Westboro Bapist Church:

http://www.4zzzfm.org.au/podcasts/culture/queer-radio-interview-andrew-marin-part-one

http://www.4zzzfm.org.au/podcasts/culture/queer-radio-interview-andrew-marin-part-two

http://www.4zzzfm.org.au/podcasts/culture/queer-radio-interview-andrew-marin-part-three

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