So remember when I promised to write about whether or not homosexuality is a sin and then I disappeared? Sorry about that. I am constantly drafting the post in my head, but it’s not ready yet. In the meantime, I’d love to hear the Mere-O community’s thoughts on this Christian demonstration at Chicago’s Gay Pride parade. Is this a message you’d like to be a part of?

A Different Kind of Christian Demonstration at Gay Pride

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Posted by Cate MacDonald


  1. Cate – I guess I’ll be the first. I’d definitely want to be part of a group with that message. I’ve spoken with several friends about Marin’s book and they voiced some reservations with it (one has a book coming out on the issue related to Christians and the gay community: but I’d love to see us pushing more toward that kind of interaction instead of the ones we’ve been pursuing for so long.


    1. JAKE: What are your friends’ reservations about Andrew Marin’s book, Love Is An Orientation?


  2. Ms. MacDonald: I look forward to hearing your exploration on whether homosexuality is a sin. I’ve read extensively on this subject from traditionalists and revisionists. Ambiguity was the result of my reading, not clarity. When I was younger, I would have persisted for clarity. But as I get older, I’m learning that ambiguity is an intractable and even salutary condition of life. Faith, as I conceive of it, is not about getting the answers but living with the questions. Jesus Christ helps me to live with the radical indeterminacy of our tragicomic world.

    I highly recommend these books on homosexuality:

    • Lewis Smedes, Sex for Christians: The Limits and Liberties of Sexual Living

    • Oliver O’Donovan, Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion

    • William Stacy Johnson, A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics

    • Judith K. Balswick & Jack O. Balswick, Authentic Human Sexuality: An Integrated Christian Approach

    • Robert A. J. Gagnon & Dan O. Via, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views

    I wouldn’t want to be a part of the “God Hates Fags” crowd or the “I’m Sorry” crowd. I applaud the spirit of reconciliation that’s behind The Marin Foundation, but the t-shirts, which sport a fuzzy message (sorry for what?), strikes me as cheap evangelism rather than costly evangelism. Isn’t it much easier to show up at a Pride Parade with a t-shirt that says “I’m Sorry” than befriend a homosexual person? Although I risk the appearance of judging the participants, I’m compelled to ask this question: Who were the t-shirts for? Ostensibly they’re for the gay community, but I wonder if it isn’t conscience-cleansing for the Christian community.

    See my Mere O blog post, “Should the homosexual person elicit disgust or rejoicing?” and the comment I wrote to Christof where I describe what it might mean for me to rejoice in my homosexual neighbor.


    1. Christopher,

      So sorry for my very late reply. I’ve been away from the internet and most likely will continue to be for most the Summer, but I hope to check back in here when possible.

      I am thankful for the spirit of the demonstration, though I too wonder how effective it will be to the long-term evangelism of the gay community (but hey, it is surely a lot better in that regard than any more negative demonstration). What I worry about the most is that in trying to apologize or make-up for the wrongs of the church, we will diminish her power. Of course, that is not to say that we should not apologize for the wrongs of the church, but do it in such a way that encourages people to come back to her, not laugh or lord over her. This is actually a challenge I’ve felt myself in wanting my non-Christian friends to know that I understand and dislike the failings of the church without communicating to them that the church herself is irrelevant, unimportant, or (at worst) ungodly. The Marin Foundation had a short message, perhaps too short. On the other hand, theirs is one of love and if that gets communicated to homosexual people, God bless them in it.


  3. Christopher – My friend wrote a review in Books and Culture of the book: (For what it’s worth, he also has a book coming out this fall called Washed and Waiting – Reflections on Christianity and homosexuality.)

    In terms of Marin’s work in the gay community, I think it’s prudent to acknowledge that improving the relationship between Christians and the gay community is something we must grow into. I don’t think we can equate Marin’s attitude toward same-sex behavior to that of more liberal Christians. Marin’s explanation in the book is basically that when most gay people ask a Christian if homosexuality is sinful or not they’re not asking the question with a sincere interest in discussion. Rather, they’re asking it as a litmus test. They’ve been hurt by so many Christians over the years, that when they meet you and find out you’re a Christian, they’re initial impulse is to not trust you. They ask the question about the morality of same-sex behavior as a way to judge whether they can trust you. So Marin isn’t avoiding the question because he’s cowardly or ashamed of the Christian tradition. He’s avoiding it b/c he feels that, at this point in our history with the gay community, it’s a bad question.

    Whether that approach is right or not is another question (in the above review Wes argues that it isn’t a good approach) but I don’t think it’s fair to Marin to equate his beliefs to those of more liberal Christians.

    Cate – I like your comment about the difficulty of apologizing for the church without weakening the church. It’s something I’ve had to think about a lot as well b/c of my own messy history with Christianity. I’d be curious to see you flesh out those thoughts a bit more in a separate post.



    1. JAKE: Does the relationship between Christians and the gay community need to be improved? Absolutely! That’s why I argued for a different emotional response to gays in my blog post on disgust and its role in the same-sex marriage debate. Where there has been disgust, there should be love. Is the reputation of an abusive relationship between the church and gays exaggerated? Probably. The culture wars are responsible for this exaggeration. While I’m not trying to diminish the pain and alienation that many gays have experienced because of the church, I would like to see empirical proof (studies) of how the church has persecuted the homosexual minority in America. Would we find out, as William Cavanaugh tells us in his new book, that the reality of religious violence is a myth? Let’s face it: gay activists have a stake in the myth of religious violence while they pursue legal equality.

      I’ve researched Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation. His incarnational ministry (being “a little Christ” to gays) is admirable, but his equivocation on the ethical and theological questions seems irresponsible and misleading. Progressive evangelicals (Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, and Brian McLaren) dodge the straightforward questions – Is homosexuality a sin? Should the church/state support same-sex marriage – because they claim justice requires them to bracket those questions until the rights are wronged. In the meantime, there aren’t guides through the sexual wilderness we’re living in. Instead of clarity, there’s confusion, Instead of healing, there’s a “conversation.” Does a moratorium on the straightforward questions hurt or help the situation?

      Marin envisions himself as a “bridge-builder” but as far as I can tell he’s only got the vote of confidence from progressive evangelicals whose position on homosexuality is no different than liberal mainline Protestants. Where are Marin’s endorsements from R. Albert Mohler, James Dobson, and John Piper?

      All that said, I do think it’s an unfortunate sign of the times when the straightforward questions mentioned above are used as a litmus test to determine whether the interrogated is “with us” or “against us,” as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, writes in his essay “Knowing Myself in Christ”:

      Ours is a time in which it is depressingly easy to make this or that issue a test of Christian orthodoxy in such a way as to make wholly suspect the theology of anyone disagreeing on the issue in question; in other words, the possibility is neglected that Christians beginning from the same premises and convictions may yet come to different conclusions about particular matters without thereby completely voiding the commonness of their starting-point. It is really a matter of having a language in which to disagree rather than speaking two incompatible or mutually exclusive tongues. Of late, attitudes to sexuality have come to be seen as a clear marker of orthodoxy or unorthodoxy in many circles; and it is true that there are plenty of people for whom the casting off of “traditional” or even scriptural norms to do with certain kinds of sexual behavior is part of a general program of emancipation from the constraints of what they conceive to be orthodoxy, part of a package that might include a wide-ranging relativism, pluralism in respect of other faiths, agnosticism about various aspects of doctrine or biblical narrative, and so on. However, it seems to me that the [St. Andrew’s Day] Statement, beginning as it does with proposed principles for theological discussion, recognizes that the assumption that revisionism on one question entails wholesale doctrinal or ethical relativism is dangerous for the future of reasoned Christian disagreement of a properly theological character (qtd. from The Way Forward?: Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church, edited by Timothy Bradshaw).

      Here’s the key question: Does The Marin Foundation begin with “the same premises and convictions” as the “Great Tradition” of the Church? If we don’t have a common starting-point, we’re in trouble.

      You and I probably agree that a change of method – not message – is needed. The change offered by Marin doesn’t really seem like a change because it conforms to the Christian Left way of doing things. I’m no advocate for the Christian Right way of doing things either. Is there a third way? Following James Davison Hunter’s argument in To Change the World, the third way is what he calls “faithful presence” – faithful to scriptural truth, faithful to love the neighbor, faithful to the mercy and justice of God.

      NOTE: I encourage the Mere O audience to read the St. Andrew’s Day Statement (1995) that Williams references. Matt Anderson, a fan of Oliver O’Donovan, may or may not be aware that he signed this statement. Do a Google search on “St. Andrew’s Day Statement” and a PDF is available to read. I would sign the document.


  4. Cate, I haven’t read it myself, but I’ve also had this book highly recommended:

    The author has spent nearly 50 years engaged in ministry to homosexuals.


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