A BBC World Service program shed major light on a straight Christian man in Chicago who has worked tirelessly over the past decade to bridge the gap between evangelical Christians and gay people.
Through, large-scale, conversation forums held at Roscoe’s, one of America’s famous gay bars; Andrew Marin is quickly becoming a well-known figure in the United States for fostering an ongoing discussion of spirituality and sexuality.
His work caught the attention of BBC journalist Christopher Landau who profiled him in last Friday’s BBC News magazine with the headline that asked, “Why are conservative Christians flocking to a Chicago gay bar?”
Marin started his non-profit called Marin Foundation which is devoted to bringing Christians and gay people together because he believes that a large number of Christians don’t understand the complexity of the small number of Bible verses that mention homosexuality. Also, he thinks it’s common for gay people to quickly dismiss Christianity before giving it a fair chance.
According to its website the Marin Foundation is “an organization that works to build a bridge between the religious and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in a non-threatening, research and biblically oriented fashion.”
While his work exists to quell ignorance from both sides, his main concern is to build trust between the two groups.
Marin came to this journey through the sexual outing of three of his closet male friends.
According to BBC Chicago, he said, “I was the biggest-Bible banging homophobic kid you ever met.”
Not one but three of his friends being gay shocked Marin since he grew up in a conservative Christian household. Initially shaken and unsure of how his belief system could ever line up with his friend’s way of life, he cut ties with his close buddies.
But as time continued, he felt God ask asking him to get back in touch with his friends and make amends.
And weeks later he was on his way to move to Boystown, Chicago the officially designated neighborhood for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) residents.
In his first few years in Chicago, Marin experienced difficulty as he struggled to work out whether or not he could reconcile his friend’s sexuality with his Christianity.
He spent time attending events with his friends and going out to gay bars. But his conscience followed him and in many social situations, he wondered if he should of been saying, “You’re wrong and you need to change” to those in social path.
But it clicked in his heart that he should be an open-minded Christian presence rather than condemning his friends or any of the Chicago locals.
What Marin didn’t expect from that decision was a funny, endearing pet name.
“For the first three years, everybody just called me Straighty Straighterson – because I was literally the only straight male they met. People would just start talking to me about God and church and the Bible – people would just bring their questions to me,” said Marin in BBC World Service News.
Natural conversations about religion and homosexuality started to evolve around Boystown’s bar presence. These conversations led to Marin launching Marin Foundation and ministering around the Chicago area for the past ten years.
One atypical facet of the Foundation’s work is its Living in the Tension gatherings where people from all belief backgrounds gather together to explore questions about Christian faith and sexuality.
According to the BBC World Service journalist Christopher Landau, one of the most interesting event participants was “Will”, an openly gay man who is also a pastor in the United States Methodist Church.
Will says that though the Marin Foundation, he has resolved the “creative tension” he initially felt between his calling to ministry and his sexuality.
Among an openly gay pastor was a man named Brian who also knew he was a homosexual but chose to marry a woman and father a child because of his traditional theology.
Brain told Landau, “that falling in love with his wife was "an experience that I can only say was through God himself bringing my wife and me together".
With homosexuality being a touchy subject, not all Christians are ready. However, a theologian from Harvard University weighed in on Marin’s work and Landau’s story.
Professor Mark Jordan suggests that it may be time for "a kind of ceasefire - a disengagement, where we stop spending all of our time sniping at each other".
Marin receives criticism for his foundation’s refusal to define its own position on Christian sexual ethics. However, his approach is open-ended and cannot be put categorized by traditional or progressive. He insists that his focus is on enabling gay people who wish to explore Christianity to be able to do so.
Christopher Landau's documentary, God and Gays: Bridging the Gulf, can be heard on the BBC World Service's Heart and Soul program.