Love is an Orientation
Andrew Marin tackles a topic that is dear to his heart and his ministry. He tells stories of his interactions with people in the LGBTQIA community and suggests ways that the church can work on building bridges with people who identify somewhere within this spectrum, both inside and outside the community of faith.
March 25, 2009
Author: Andrew Marin
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Genre: Nonfiction- Christian Testimonial
Growing up in an evangelical context, Andrew Marin never gave much thought to the LGBT community, other than through condemning sermons and snide remarks — until three of his closest friends came out to him in the course of three months. Those experiences started him down a path of wrestling and reconciliation that led him to start The Marin Foundation, a Chicago-based organization that seeks to unite the LGBT community with the church in civil and life-giving conversation. Love is an Orientation combines personal testimonials with practical advice for straight believers seeking to engage in what Marin calls “elevated conversations” with their LGBT friends and family.
Language/Crude Humor: N/A
Spiritual Content: Marin is a Christian, and his approach to this topic is informed by the way he interprets his faith.
Sexual Content: Marin does not shy away from discussing sexuality, as it is a central topic of this book. However, he does so in a respectful and humanizing way. There is nothing graphic or profane in his depictions of sexual situations.
Drugs/Alcohol Use: Unfortunately, some of the people in Marin’s anecdotes struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. These things are not glorified or excused, however.
Positive Content: This book takes a very heated debate within the church today and — with humility and love — brings it back down to its most basic Christocentric form.
I picked this book up from the school library out of curiosity. Growing up in conservative Christian schools and churches, I never really understood the complexity and diversity in the conversation between the LGBTQIA community and the church. It all seemed pretty black and white to me. However, I interacted with other nerds and geeks online and at various events who are also members of the LGBTQIA community. These fellow fans dispelled any notions of simplistic, cut and dry answers to the questions and issues that surround the church’s interaction with this community. Andrew Marin’s Love is an Orientation answered some of my questions and left many more of them unanswered — both of which were entirely necessary to my thought process.
Marin and I grew up in similar circumstances. The issues seemed very cut and dry to him as well. God and gay were directly opposed. The LGBT agenda was out to uproot the church and destroy the culture. Then, over the course of three months, the hard-and-fast lines that dictated his thinking were smudged and smeared when three of his closest friends came out to him.
He soon found himself leading a popular Bible study which, though originally intended for the athletically inclined, ended up attracting people from all over the LGBTQIA spectrum, regardless of their interest in sports. Today, Marin lives in Boystown (Chicago’s gay neighborhood) and operates the Marin Foundation, which is committed to bridging the gap between the LGBT community and the church. They do this through peaceful dialogue and shared events that cultivate understanding.
Through many unexpected encounters and conversations with LGBT friends and acquaintances, Marin came to the revelation that people in the LGBTQIA community are not some threatening, ambiguous “other.” They share the same needs, hopes, and fears with the rest of humanity — the greatest of those needs being reconciliation through Jesus Christ.
The book is mainly anecdotal in nature, with Marin telling one great and captivating story after the next. However, this format makes it a little hard to pick out a structure or argument to the book. Sometimes, in jumping from one subject to the next, Marin seems to repeat himself. What seems like it was supposed to be a big revelation in one chapter was taken for granted in the chapter previous. Also, Marin mainly focuses on gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in this book. He does go into much detail about transgenderism or other gender identities.
The most important thing that Love is an Orientation did for me was that it started me thinking. Marin does not try to answer all the questions that you will ever have about interactions with the LGBT community. He doesn’t spend much time on the common Bible passages cited in the debates about gay marriage and transgenderism. He encourages people to discover what is similar about all of us, rather than focusing on what is different between us.
If you’re coming to this book hoping for Marin to outright condemn or affirm homosexuality, you will be disappointed. If you want to know right off the bat whether he thinks being gay, lesbian, bi, or trans is natural or a choice, you may want to read another book. I hope you don’t, though. I hope you stick it out through this one and find answers to the questions you didn’t know you should be asking.
If you have questions about the LGBT community and want to see ways that other believers are reaching out (and reaching in to those within our own church bodies), I suggest picking up Andrew Marin’s Love is an Orientation. You might find yourself frustrated at first. As the introduction warns, he will not say as much as you want him to say — whichever side of the debate you fall on. Keep reading past this frustration, though, and you may just get a glimpse into the exciting work God is doing in the lives of many in the LGBTQIA community.
+ Very timely
+ A thoughtful and compassionate look at a controversial topic
- Slightly scattered format
- Mostly overlooks the conversation with the transgender community