There are some powerful conversion stories emerging out of the conversation in Christian communities and GLBT communities. Sara Miles' powerful story in Take This Bread does not fit into any neat traditional categories of sexuality and conversion. Well, it would have if she became straight. But she hasn't. On the other hand, there is, just as powerful, the journey of Melinda Selmys who leaves her lesbian lover of seven years to embrace the Roman Catholic faith (Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and the Catholic Church).
I am still mulling over Andrew Marin's book, Love is an Orientation. It is so challenging and refreshing in the midst of debates and heated rhetoric on both sides. I believe sexuality and Christian friendship is going to be an ongoing conversation in the 21st century. Longtime readers of my blog will know my passion for close, intimate, flourishing male-female friendships. I also believe Christian friendship and the GLBT community will be an ongoing conversation.
As I was reading Andrew Marin's story of his immersion into the gay community in order to understand their culture, gay orientation, and befriend them, I was wondering how men or women (whether or not they claim to be Christian) who either struggle with same-sex attraction or who see themselves as living with same-sex orientation would fare in communities 1 or 3. Personally, after reading his posts on this issue, I don't see much difference between the Neo-Reformed posture and Dave's WMT. I love ya as a friend, Dave, with great respect, but I don't think gays who would read your posts would come running to your doors and wanting to join community 3. I seriously wonder if those wrestling with same-sex desires would experience deep love or any kind of deep acceptance of their stories in communities who are ready to stress "transformation."
Okay, this is where Andrew Marin comes in as a breath of fresh air in the midst of intense atmosphere. Marin understands love, friendship, gay orientation, and he's committed to biblical authority. As is well known now, evangelicals in our society first and foremost known as vehemently opposing the GLBT community. We are perceived as bigots--haters of gay lovers.
I would venture forth that many evangelical leaders are afraid of sexuality and friendship--intimate friendships whether they be male-female or intimate gay friendships. Very tight heterosexual male-female friendship within marriage is the only intimate norm regarding sexuality and friendship for communities 1 and 3 as I see it. I know from personal experience, but I believe many evangelical leaders are quite fearful of moving away from this norm and there is great pressure on any Christian to conform to conventional marital standards in community regarding sexuality and friendship.
Some may criticize Marin's approach as too individualistic; he doesn't make significant connections in his approach to the broader evangelical community. But in one sense, I can completely see where Marin is coming from for there are not many evangelical communities (especially in categories of 1 and 3) who would embrace Marin as an individual immersing himself into the GLBT community.
In some evangelical communities, Marin would be tagged as a mere "individual" and be seen as freaking people out in his intentional commitment to love and be with gay friends and no doubt, he would be called to submit and conform to his broader, immediate evangelical community. In some evangelical communities, Marin would be a loner, a freak, in danger of compromising sexual norms and traditions within the community. Communities emphasizing communal discernment would be tempted to pressure Marin, an individual, to conform to more "safer" or "biblical," or "wiser," ways of relating intimately to gays. A huge temptation for these communities is to fix or control those who are different from them when it comes to sexuality and friendship. There would be the pressure for gays to be the latest missional (i.e. conversion) project
I think there needs to be a fourth communal posture then, than the three Dave Fitch posted. A different posture is needed. I fear that there would be much pressure for gays to conform in category 3. I don't know what to name the 4th one. Relationally, or friendship-wise, it fits with category 2. Call it community of friends posture. This community of post-evangelical friends would welcome, listen, hear, and come alongside gays and honor their dignity and stories as powerful and loving. There is no pressure to conform, there is no pressure to fix gays in their orientation. There would also be a communal humility in coming alongside, hearing their stories, loving them, and if the opportunity develops, loving them deeply in friendship.
This communal humility emanates from a hermeneutic of humility. How many times have Christians advocated passionate, dogmatic, unequivocal interpretations of Genesis 1-3 only to repent from them? Women as inherent deceivers in their ontological/biological "weak" condition reigned in much "orthodox" interpretation for centuries. What about the earth as the center of the universe? The earth as flat? Slavery? Or prohibition of cross-race intimacy--and marriage? All of these reigned as orthodox with an understanding of biological, cosmic, or gender order. All these were at one time or another "clear" interpretations of "order" according to the Christian community (for example of someone today who thinks he's got a "clear" interpretation of the GLBT community--see Robert Gagnon's response to Andrew Marin). A hermeneutic of humility does not mean that the Scripture can be read "any old way."
But there is a need for a fourth communal posture for evangelicals (community of friends) who don't quite fit into any of the previous three communities. I find myself still affirming that marriage between a man and woman is the greatest expression of human sexuality. Male and female are made in the image of God--therefore I don't totally fit into community 2. But I do believe evangelical communities are called to deep compassion and deep friendship towards those within the gay community. Gays shouldn't be our missional or evangelistic projects when they come into an evangelical community.
There is incredible transforming power in sexuality--in hetereosexual relationships and homosexual relationships. There are deep personal love stories on both sides. But here is the kicker for both sides as it were. Both sides need to see stories happening that clearly witness to love in transformation. Where do you put Sara Miles and her powerful conversion? On the other hand, there is the powerful transformation of Melinda Selmys (I hope to review her book here within the next week).
I am sure of one another thing, too. Friendship, authentic friendship is a powerful, transformative practice, too.