Saturday, 10 April 2010

Love is an Orientation review

Despite being a straight American conservative evangelical Christian, Andrew Marin was one of the first to speak up against the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill and he organised a day of prayer, which was taken up by LGBT affirming groups such as Changing Attitude. It was this positive action, when so many other remained silent, that got me interested enough to buy his book Love is an Orientation , a publication that had caused some debate among conservative evangelicals.
Marin is currently visiting the UK , he has been speaking at Spring Harvest and will be moving on to events organised through Courage later in the month.
In Love is an Orientation Marin says he wants to aim to elevate the conversation between fundamentalist Christians and the LGBT community. He identifies the impasse we have reached in that the Lesbian and gay community (secular and Christian) and traditional conservative Christians are unable to communicate , locked in intransigent attitudes , fearful of conceding anything to the other side and crippled by negative assumptions. In short, there is an inability to listen or to love that characterises so much of the debate.
Marin argues that it is beholden on the Christian community to be the ones to generously initiate bridge building, partly because those within the LGBT community are the ones who have been and are misunderstood, hurt and rejected and who understandably do not feel “safe” with Christians or in a Christian environment and also because this is what Christ would do.
However, Marin’s approach is not to win people around in order to change sexual orientation or behaviour, simply to win them around purely to show the love of Christ. It is here that his message becomes unpalatable to so many fundamentalist Christians, who feel that nothing has actually been achieved unless people conform to a conservative mindset and renounce their relationships and their sexual identity. Marin writes,
“Throughout the entirety of Scripture the Father is calling his sheep to realise this radical way of life. But still few are able to find it – to leave the judging to God, to leave the convicting to the Holy Spirit and to embrace the orientation of love. To worship with, go to church with, explore difficult questions with, be real with and be intentionally committed to live life with people who are honestly open to the call of God on their life... these choices are not about gays and lesbians, they’re about us.”
I think Marin is right, Scripture does teach us that our concern should always be with our own behaviour - the plank in our own eye - not with policing the personal morality of our fellow human beings. I do not think it is a message that will go down too well with many fundamentalist Christians because it takes away power and asks them to substitute this with a love that has relinquished power and control. Marin also writes that,
“It is more important for people to know that we are honest and vulnerable than that we are Christians” and, “From moment one we must be genuine and authentic, there is no room for thinly veiled agendas.”
I can see why Marin’s approach frightens fundamentalists and I can see why his refusal to give a rubber stamp of approval to homosexual practice might anger some liberals. The slogan of the Marin Foundation is “Be Bold”, but the boldness he advocates is not strident or aggressive but a leap of faith that it is right to truly respect and understand other human beings, to love but not count the cost.
Love is an Orientation is also well worth reading because Marin has immersed himself in the community he serves, choosing to live in a predominantly gay neighbourhood in Chicago. The stories he tells about the range of perplexing, myth busting individuals he has met and situations he has encountered show the importance of insight, lived experience and genuine human encounter over the aridity of arguments, theories and sound bites.


  1. Been waiting,patiently ofcourse, for this review. Good book, Good review. It's refreshing and importantly, offers a mechanism for dialog that is badly needed especially in these times where shouting at each other has become fashionable! Kudos to Andrew Marin, we need more of him.

  2. Sorry...and thanks for your patience and kind comments. The Marin like approach could help so much.

  3. Good review Sue. I think you've captured the essence of what Marin is and isn't about.

  4. Canon Andrew Godsall11 April 2010 at 13:54

    I found this a really helpful review and synopsis of a seemingly intractable problem. Thank you for it. I wish we could somehow model the kind of conversation he calls for. It is not easy, but not without willing participants and I'm grateful that you echo the call for it.

  5. Thanks for this. This seems like a book I need to read. I'll recommend it to friends too.

  6. There are lots of good books out there. This one is worth reading because of the impact it has had/ may have on the conservative/ fundamentalist approach. It may offer a "way forward" that appeals to both sides - and is more truly Christ like and close to gospel values IMHO.