Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community
IVP Books, 2009
205 pp., $17.00
Reviewed by Wesley Hill
Elevating the Conversation?
Or consider this paragraph, which comes in the middle of Marin's attempt to explain the relevance of Romans 1:18-32 for his project:
Romans 1:18-32 draws on the Christian community's responsibility to learn about gays and lesbians and their firsthand thoughts, feelings and religious belief systems to translate an already existing knowledge of God into a personal, close, intimate, one-on-one relationship with him. As gays and lesbians choose for God, they begin the process of integrating their faith with a daily life that is permeated by God. God meets them, speaks to them and hears them, personally and individually telling each of his beloved children what he feels is best for their life.
Leaving aside the stylistic infelicities (for one, what does it mean that Romans 1 "draws on" the Christian community's responsibility?), it is difficult to avoid seeing here an overemphasis on the role of the individual and a downplaying of the church's collective task of discernment and discipline. Say, for instance, that a gay Christian does hear God's personal, immediate voice telling them he affirms their sexuality, what then? What becomes of this person's identity as a member of a historic community of faith? Suppose a gay Christian who is—oh, I don't know, just hypothetically—Anglican hears God telling her he feels being gay is best for her life. Does it matter for this Christian that the Anglican Communion has not yet heard God's voice to that effect? And if it doesn't, why not?
For Marin, evangelicals' choice to love GLBT people, regardless of the presence or absence of moral and theological clarity on the issues involved, is a mark of elevation. But I wonder if, to many gay and lesbian people, it may seem like the opposite. For those gay Christians who see the affirmation of their sexuality as integral to a genuine commitment to justice and equality, Marin's proposal of simple love may appear as a cheap substitute for costly solidarity. On the other hand, for those gay Christians, like myself, who feel that their efforts to remain abstinent are bound up with their sanctification and growth in godliness, a plea for love without an attendant call for supportive pastoral accountability may sound hollow.
I still have hope that the conversation between evangelical Christians and the GLBT community may indeed be elevated. But it's hard to celebrate an elevation—even one motivated by the sincerest love—that comes at the cost of turning a blind eye to the hard work of discernment happening in the collective hearts and minds of historic Christian communities.
Wesley Hill graduated from Wheaton in 2004 and completed an MA in Theology & Religion at Durham University last year. He will be heading back to Durham in September to begin PhD work in New Testament.
Copyright © 2009 by the author or Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine.
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