Marin’s Our Last Option

The new book by Andrew Marin is out. It’s titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility Can Save the Public Square. It is published as an e-book and is a straightforward and accessible read.

imageAs someone who spends a lot of time promoting (and participating in) dialogue among people who view the topics of sexual orientation and identity differently, I found the book extremely interesting. Marin has lived in Boystown (a predominantly gay neighborhood in Chicago) for years and launched The Marin Foundation to promote dialogue between the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and the evangelical Christian community. It has been noted that the strengths of Marin’s first book, Love Is An Orientation, were his ideas for how to build interpersonal bridges and enter into more more constructive and meaningful discussions.

So when Marin offers ideas for promoting civic engagement, I think it’s important to read what he has to say. Given the context in which Marin cultivated and practiced his commitment to relationship-building, it comes as no surprise that LGBT issues play a central role in the book. But that topic is illustrative. It would be a mistake to limit the book to that topic. There are many applications and a much larger vision on display throughout.

Marin introduces the reader to his model for civic engagement in a pluralistic culture. He refers to it as the Composite Engagement Model (CEM). It has four principles: 1) A Proper Implementation of Reconciliation; 2) Practice the Countercultural Act of In-Person Interaction; 3) Build Bridges Instead of Armies; and 4) Fidelity Leads to Sustainability.

His opening chapters set the stage. Most of the book is dedicated to unpacking and illustrating each of these principles. The remaining chapters cover models of civic engagement and the application of CEM and religion and CEM and politics.

I hope people will read Marin’s book and consider his thesis, as well as other perspectives that may be a part of moving forward in a diverse and pluralistic culture. After all, many Christians have expressed concern that recent and pending rulings may restrict religious liberties in the U.S. in the years to come. Some conservative religious readers may question if Marin concedes too much in the culture wars. I can hear that concern, but the concern is often expressed by those who believe Christians should oppose each and every instance of divergence (away from a Christian ethic). Marin is at the very least asking Christians to think that through in light of a culture that has changed dramatically.

I believe Christians could benefit from thinking outside the box of the current models of cultural engagement. I was recently listening to Doug Laycock, a respected religious liberty attorney discuss some of the differences in the role of religion and the public perception of religion in the French Revolution and in the U.S. I will not be able to do the argument justice here, but let me say this: In part because religion does not have a positive cultural association in French history (as contrasted with the positive cultural associations in the U.S.), we see a very different contemporary relationship with organized religion in France. If Christians continue to engage in the culture wars as they presently do, will we be at risk of losing positive cultural associations and good will that have long been a part of our history?

If this thesis is right, would Christians benefit from thoughtful reflection on alternative models of engagement? I think it is worth careful analysis, and Marin places a model on the table for our consideration, and it’s one he has tried to live out and apply to a particularly divisive topic.

11 thoughts on “Marin’s Our Last Option

  1. “Alternative models of engagement” for what purpose? To make conservative Christianity more palatable to LGBT people so they can be evangelized or lured into programs where they can be convinced to either choose celibacy, enter into mixed-orientation marriages or attempt a change of sexual orientation?

    To form a more friendly and “welcoming” variation of the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach? Building bridges to where? Trying to establish some sort of truce where people who support equality under law and those who oppose it can join hands and raise their voices in a rousing chorus of “Kumbayah”?

    Marin and many of the new fad of “bridge-builder” organizations tend to be conservative, Christian groups (often led by straight evangelical Christians) who refuse to state their opinion on the “sinfulness” of LGBT relationships, for fear of alienating their conservative Christian donors. They also refuse to support the basic Constitutional and human rights principle that ALL people deserve to be treated equally under law.

    No thank you. Not the sort of “bridge” most LGBT people are interested in crossing.

    • Ummm, have you visited the Marin Foundation blog??? – it’s FILLED with gay & Christian stories. The most recent is a married Christian lesbian giving her point of view. Sin wasn’t mentioned once. One of many frankly. He doesn’t want anything to do with anything concerning:

      “Turn or burn. Stop the evil gay agenda. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Outlaw same-sex marriage. Culture wars. “The Bible clearly says.” Fire gay teachers. Keep gayness as a mental illness. Come to Jesus. Deliverance. Criminalization. “Change is possible”. Celibacy is possible. Mixed-orientation marriage. “You can become ex-gay”. Exodus. NARTH. RHN. Reparative “therapy”.

      When is the last time you saw him advocate ANY of the above? He wouldn’t be caught dead endorsing any of that. He doesn’t believe in any of that. He has PUBLICY said he doesn’t endorse reparative therapy. His blog has mentioned that a few times. One of his team just spoke at the Gay Christian Conference. He’s flung the doors wide open for gay people to follow Christ in their homosexuality, pro-gay theology perspectives, gay christian interns AT the Foundation, gay believers thank him openly, gay affirmative ministries like him for the work he’s doing. Does that sound like he’s failing at reaching out? what more proof do you need??? He has to keep the appearance of neutrality otherwise his ability to convince the “conservative” church would be shut down if that was totally exposed.

      What you want is what he won’t give you, a public “endorsing” of gay & chrisitan, yet he’s already doing it. Read the blog man, it’s clear where he leans.

      • Alec:

        You obviously misunderstood my comment about the various “models” that conservative Christians have tried to “engage” the LGBT community. Please read it again. I said that conservative Christians have tried the approaches I mentioned — and failed miserably. I did not say Marin himself endorsed them.

        What I did say is that he refuses to support the basic Constitutional and human rights principle that ALL people deserve equal treatment under law.

        That said, I do suspect you are correct that Marin has to “keep the appearance of neutrality”. Otherwise, his ability to “convince the conservative church would be shut down if that was totally exposed.” LGBT people would applaud him if he supported equality under law, but he would certainly lose conservative church funding.


      • By the way, I do read Marin’s blog. I have watched all his Youtube videos. I am quite aware of where he stands. It’s where he won’t stand that troubles me. I have no problem that he is trying to convince the conservative Church to be less fearful and prejudiced towards LGBT people. In fact, I applaud that. And contrary to what you wrote above, I am not asking him to give a “public endorsing of gay & Christian” — although that would be wonderful.

        I am asking him to say publicly that he supports the basic idea that ALL people deserve to be treated equally under law. That he steadfastly refuses to do — and I think you are correct as to why he will not. Endorsing that basic idea wouldn’t alienate LGBT people. But it would definitely cause him to lose the support (financial and otherwise) of the conservative Christian side of the “bridge” he is trying to build. He doesn’t seem to be as worried about the other side of that bridge — LGBT people who deserve to be treated equally.

  2. The answer to your question, Mark is yes. Already, we see that Christianity is losing (perhaps even lost, depending on your vantage point) its positive associations, particularly because of its stance on the LGBT community…at least if the surveys from the Barna Group and Pew are to be believed.

    I also think that Michael is right. There simply aren’t many in the LGBT community who are willing to dialogue on the level that Marin has previously articulated (I haven’t read his newest book yet). There is inherent distrust. Most expect that folks like Marin are being nice to lure us in, only to later pull the wool over our eyes. Personally, I don’t happen to believe that. My guess would be that Marin does believe gay sex is a sin, which honestly doesn’t bother me all that much on an interpersonal level (more on a moral-philosophical one), because it hasn’t kept us from sharing in very meaningful ways. I just wish he would say that, because then at least there is no fear of the unknown. LGBT people would know where he stands, and would either reject him for his beliefs, or choose to engage with him regardless of them. But at the same time, I understand why he won’t come out of the proverbial closet too. I just have a feeling that he might actually be more effective at reaching his end goal (at least with LGBT people) if he was more upfront abut that.

    I’m sure it will be an interesting read…if/when I ever get around to it…

  3. I find it very revealing that Marin titles his book “Our Last Option”. Sounds desperate. Is his title an admission that all of the other “models of engagement” conservative Christians have tried to attract LGBT people to Christianity have failed miserably?

    Models of engagement like: Turn or burn. Stop the evil gay agenda. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Outlaw same-sex marriage. Culture wars. “The Bible clearly says.” Fire gay teachers. Keep gayness as a mental illness. Come to Jesus. Deliverance. Criminalization. “Change is possible”. Celibacy is possible. Mixed-orientation marriage. “You can become ex-gay”. Exodus. NARTH. RHN. Reparative “therapy”.

    All of those have been tried. Are conservative Christians now realizing that those “models of engagement” have actually backfired on them — and have actually pushed LGBT people further and further away from the Church? Is the “last option” now to “build bridges”, become “welcoming” and pretend to have no opinion about “sin” or equality under law? My prediction is that feigned neutrality on those issues will also fail.

  4. Heaven help us if Marin’s approach (giving the “appearance of neutrality” on important issues like sin and equality under law so as not to offend conservative Christians) is our “last option” for civil discourse and “saving the public square”. I much prefer people being upfront about where they stand and having a reasoned debate. Disagreement doesn’t have to be uncivil.

    • your requirement for plainly stating the ‘equality under law’ perspective might have been addressed previously, if not to your satisfaction, at Excerpt from:
      “First, for all of those LGBT couples that, for all intents and purposes, have been married for years, if not decades, I want to congratulate each of you for your now legal right to receive both the State and Federal benefits you deserve as citizens of the United States of America.” See blog article: Gay Marriage Passed in Illinois; dated November 6, 2013 By Andrew Marin.
      while I can not answer your misgivings, I can ask for a civil discussion in a public forum such as a blog.

  5. “If Christians continue to engage in the culture wars as they presently do, will we be at risk of losing positive cultural associations and good will that have long been a part of our history?”

    That train has left the station, anti gay “gay sexual relationships are a sin” religions, because they stuck their nose into the body politic and tried forcing their Religious beliefs into our Civil Laws have lost positive cultural associations AND good will. All the damned money WASTED on the fight to force their beliefs into Civil Law could have been spent for much better uses. I forget the percentage but why surveyed what first comes to mind about [insert name of religion], the FIRST thoughts are “Anti Gay.” A high percentage of the population has that as a first reaction, I mean the FIRST reaction. John Cardinal Cushing, when the Massachusetts law banning the sale of contraception was struck down, said he had no problem with it being struck, that the Church must live in the secular world. I have the exact quote saved somewhere.

    As far as Marin, most of my information had through Box Turtle

  6. str8grandmother: I think you are referring to the 2007 study by the Barna Group:

    “Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” “Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians.”

    That’s why I believe that maintaining the “appearance of neutrality” is not going to undo this growing “skepticism and frustration” with Christianity, especially among young people.

  7. St8grandmother: Thanks for the link to Jim Burroway’s article. He expresses the same misgivings I have about Marin:

    “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.

    ~ Jim Burroway, from the Ex-gay Watch article, “The Problem of Lukewarm”, April 2013

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