I'm having a hard time evaluating a book that hasn't so much enlightened me as it has left me with the strange impression that I was reading a chapter out of The Story of My Life. Andrew Marin's Love Is an Orientation has organized, systematized and articulated, better than I ever could, just about everything I've thought and experienced over the last nine years in my own outreach to the gay and lesbian community, and more. Marin has been laboring in his own ministry for ten years, except much more intensely and in a situation that is far more immersed. Nevertheless, I've learned from reading his book that we've had a lot of the same experiences, thought a lot of the same things, and come to a lot of the same conclusions. Dude, where have you been all my life?
Love Is an Orientation was written as a handbook for evangelical Christians who want to make a serious attempt at crossing the barriers that separate them from the GLBT community. It is designed to give Christians a brain make-over in their approach to understanding who gay people are and how to love them with the love of Christ. The best kind of review for this book ought to be written by a Regular Joe Christian who can point out stuff like, "I was so convicted when Marin wrote this," "I was so enlightened when he explained this to me," "I didn't want to face this fact about myself, but I had to." That kind of perspective can give us a true idea of whether Marin has accomplished what he intended in writing this book.
I can't give you that perspective because I was going through a whole different set of thoughts and emotions. For what it's worth, I'll explain. First, I had the weird experience of thinking I was looking at myself in a mirror, since Marin's experiences and my own were so alike: "I've noticed that, too." "I've been in that situation." "I've had those fears." "I've taken that approach before." Then, once I accepted the fact that he and I have evidently been living in parallel universes over the last decade, I started to feel jealous: "How come he gets to move his family to Boystown and work with the GLBT community 24/7? I'm stuck here at home in the suburbs with three kids, struggling just to get a couple of hours of blogtime a week. Grr!"
Then, once I accepted that my lot in life is squeezing in only a handful of coffee shop meetings a year with my gay friends, while Marin has gotten as far as starting an entire organization (The Marin Foundation) dedicated to full-time outreach to the GLBT community, I started to feel kind of sad as I read on. Not for myself and all the selfish reasons I just mentioned. Not exactly. This is the part that's hard to explain.
I felt sad because as I read this very helpful guidebook, in which Marin explains in clear, step-by-step terms how Christians can be more humble, more teachable, more loving, and more persevering in reaching out to the gay community, a certain realization began creeping up on me, though Marin never once elucidated on it. I knew that in order to gather this kind of information, in order to come to these kinds of conclusions, you have to have experienced some pretty hard knocks. You've gone down blind alleys. You've said wrong things and beat yourself up later. You've been bewildered and humiliated and rejected a few more times than you would've liked. You've had to tear yourself down and build yourself back up from the inside out. You've felt like a failure. Marin refers to some of these experiences, mainly to make himself an object lession for his readers on what to do or not do. But I could tell there was a lot more there between the lines. I think what made me sad--and I don't even know if "sad" is the right word--was seeing how Marin was largely restrained about revealing what goes on beneath the surface, which made me wonder what all this might be costing him as he abandons himself daily to what is perhaps the most neglected mission field of our time.
When you read this book you'll want to discuss Marin's ideas and critique his strategies and analyze what he says from a myriad of angles. But don't get so caught up in the debate that you forget to say a prayer for him, his family and the Marin Foundation. For I imagine that what they've had to suffer and sacrifice to accomplish what they've done so far is something that can only be rewarded at the gates of eternity.