My friend Andrew Marin of Love is an Orientation fame has turned the book into a DVD curriculum for small groups, which is the publishing industry’s stamp of being a bonafide publishing rockstar. The book, in case you haven’t heard, sold a lot.
Marin’s effectiveness as a communicator is on full display in the DVD’s, such that I’d be tempted to recommend them to someone over the book. Andrew has an infectious cheerfulness that is pleasant to be around and that is almost un-self conscious.
Andrew’s ministry is premised on the ambiguous idea of “elevating the conversation” between the gay and Christian communities (granting that those are sometimes overlapping descriptions). I’m sometimes tempted to give myself over to my cynical, cranky side and joke about how Andrew just wants everyone to hug. But then I realize that if anyone could make that happen, it’s probably this guy (the clothed guy, that is–Andrew).
But the DVD’s and the corresponding booklet, which I take to be an excellent model for the genre, reinforced my lingering questions about Andrew’s approach to this issue.
For instance, Andrew comes close to giving up on the possibility of persuasion altogether. At one point in the DVD, he says that he grew tired of people trying to convince him what to believe and that he needed to know how to engage the issue without persuading others. I understand that he is standing against the clumsy approach that folks might have deployed in the past. But then, many of my friendships with folks in the gay and atheist communities began not in a moment of validation of the other person’s narrative but of disagreement over the truth of their beliefs. We need not jettison persuasion, in other words, so much as show a more excellent way toward it.
This sort of looseness is reiterated later on when Marin suggests that moving forward in a dialogue is impossible if you’re stuck on believing you’re theology is right and that others need to agree with you if you’re right. There are some loose moments in the DVD, as Marin seems to be speaking from notes. So I offer the concern with that qualification. But we have no other option than believing our theology is right, and while we ought to give others and ourselves plenty of freeodm to be wrong, it’s not clear to me that the conversation needs us to downplay our convictions in this way to go forward well.
In short, love may be an orientation, but it also has a direction. Consider Marin’s rules for conversation, which are straightforward and fairly simple:
- We’re not here to convince.
- Everyone’s story is legitimate in their own eyes.
- Everybody needs to talk.
Perhaps I’m too much the Platonist, but it strikes me that the best sort of conversations are those where both people are inquiring and oriented toward the truth and that when one person has found it everyone else follows. Those sorts of conversations aren’t divisive: they are central to the development of genuine friendships, especially with those who we disagree with. Yet they have a direction, a goal beyond the conversation and the participants that orders them both together.
Still, Andrew sits in a unique space within the evangelical world and that makes him an interesting interlocutor and more qualified observer of these things than I. Whether you agree with him or not, his work and devotion to his mission contain much that is commendable. And in this DVD set, those virtues are on full display.