Finding God in Boystown

How can we live out our faith in the gay community?

Editor's Note: This article appears in the Sept./Oct. 2009 issue of RELEVANT, which releases this week. Click here to view the digital edition, or pick it up at retailers nationwide.

God doesn’t only work when I know what the outcome is going to be. As a straight, conservative, evangelical, 28-year-old male incarnationally living within the broader gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community in Chicago, I’ve had to remind myself of this numerous times.

It seems simple enough. Yet, intellectualizing faith and living it out are two completely different things. The difficult part for the body of Christ is that “not knowing the outcome” is an acceptable means to building bridges with every other population except the GLBT community. With them, we need to definitively know the end of the journey before we even begin because it’s just too political. It’s just too agenda-driven. It’s just too foreign of a “lifestyle” to live out one of the cores of our belief system.

Or is it?

I was raised in a Christian home in a conservative suburb of Chicago and grew up in a large evangelical church. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with the GLBT community. Looking back, I don’t remember hearing anything explicitly defaming them—from either my church or my parents. Homosexuality grossed me out and I wasn’t about to have an in-depth conversation with my pastor or my parents about the subject. I just knew my beliefs were right because I saw gay people on TV and saw strange pictures of cross-dressers in magazines.

For the first 19 years of my life, I was the biggest Bible-banging, homophobic person I knew. I constantly used derogatory language about gay people without ever thinking twice about what I believed or said. I didn’t care about the gay community, nor did I ever want to care about them. That is, until the summer after my freshman year when everything changed.

During the course of three consecutive months, my three best friends all came out to me.

Yes, you read that right. Three best friends. With each of their admissions, I forcefully removed myself from their lives as they told me their truths for the first time. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to react. So I ran. Life was much cleaner and more comfortable living in the structure of the old hierarchy. But what I didn’t realize in my crippling fear was that there are very few times in life when truly sacred moments  are shared between people.

“I’m gay” or “I have cancer” or “We lost the baby” or “I’m getting married”—all brief moments when a person chooses to speak their life-changing revelation out loud. Participating in such a moment is an eternal bond regardless of what happens from that moment forward. If we desecrate that trust and violate that moment by turning the focus onto ourselves, we have lost much of what our faith allows us to be.

I lost what my faith allowed me to be—and I didn’t care.

I blindly kept praying, “Lord, why me?” I read books, I searched Scripture and I talked to whoever would listen to my horrible story searching for the answer. I would like to say each book, Scripture or person I talked to pointed me back to love. But in each situation my filter just pointed me back to being justified in my own woes.

After a few months of not finding my answer, I heard in my spirit: “Instead of asking ‘why me,’ you should ask yourself what it must have been like for them to grow up with a Bible-banging homophobe as their best friend.”

Ouch.

That single moment encompassed more spiritual conviction than I had felt my entire life. For the first time, I knew what I needed to do—go back, apologize, and learn how to live and love. This was my chance for a countercultural love. It was tangible, and consisted of a radical love in which I was absolved from my own self-inflicted oppression by the cultural burdens I had placed upon my perceptions of what I thought was a good (i.e. “safe”) Christian life. I realized I could hold on to my theological beliefs and yet be the person of faith who I so boldly claimed myself to be.

There’s a time and a place for ethereal knowledge, and that time and place had passed me long ago. Now was the time to act, live and love. The only way I knew how was to just go—to get involved somehow, someway. So I immersed myself in Chicago’s large GLBT community in a neighborhood called Boystown. Nine years later, my wife and I are still in Boystown, and still learning how to love in the uncomfortable gray areas encompassing faith, sexuality and culture.

People often ask me what is the one piece of advice I have for starting a bridge-building path with the GLBT community. It’s to become the most unique icebreaker by doing nothing other than going somewhere you don’t belong. Stick out like a sore thumb and humbly walk in the knowledge that God doesn’t only work when we know what the outcome is going to be. And then watch the Lord move in ways humanity thinks impossible.

Andrew Marin is the author of Love Is an Orientation (InterVarsity Press). He and his wife live in Boystown, a predominantly GLBT neighborhood in Chicago. Find out more at www.themarinfoundation.org and love-is-an-orientation.blogspot.com.

55 Comments

85,538

mikemcelyea commented…

how can we claim to be christian and continually and defiantly reject the word of God by livin in a gay life style. i mean yes we all fall short, we all make mistakes, but to say i am a follower of Christ, but i am gay is open defiance of His words. what is your reaction to the word of God when it clearly states that those who continue to defy His word will be eternally separated from Him?

85,538

brissiegirl commented…

Hi everyone, I've only just discovered this forum because a close christian friend of mine just let me know she thinks she's gay.
I really felt with her that my love for her was bigger. I know there is a time for conviction, and a time for correction, but I felt as she was sharing with me that my role was to love, and to listen.
I don't believe that this lifestyle is God's choice for her, and my heart longs for her to be free of the turmoil that she's dealing with internally, but she needs to know that at the end of what ever she faces in life, and through it all she has a friend who's praying and loving her, totally accepting who she is, even though I don't agree with the lifestyle. Rejecting a person in that moment is likely to have the opposite effect to what is desired - they are likely to associate God's heart with yours and fear ever approaching Him because of that rejection.
I think it's awesome that dialogue is happening with this issue, because it's been such an unspoken area.

85,538

Noah J. commented…

I have had this situation in my own life and have seen it done wonderfully and terribly. I've considered both sides, and it still leads me to one conclusion. The bible does not say in book 'X' chapter 'Y' verse 'Z' "when a friend reveals to you their sexual orientation and it is not inline with the previous stated commandments do ___________." It does, however, give all the given scenarios above.

I leave you with this: 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16)

It is not our decision to make. What to do it is all up to the situation and the guiding of the Holy Spirit. Some people, for example, may need just a friend to stand with them and pray with them and they rekindle the fire and zeal for God that pushes them back to what they believe is right. Then others, have made their choice. There is no changing their mind, and you will only hurt yourself by hanging around with them. Polar situations, but true all the same.

We must be led. Love will guide you and show you, God is love, and the Holy Spirit is one with God, so follow that and you'll have your answer. Not as easy as reading and printing the 'What to do with my Gay friend' blog, but hey, that Christianity-living. Not simply following blindly.

85,538

Tim commented…

there is a difference between a prostitute who thinks its ok to live in that lifestyle and a prostitute that looks at jesus and says i know im in a big mess help me ....are we to fellowship with perfect people??? there is no such thing!!.....but the difference is in the destination of the people you fellowship with ...... that destination my friend is to be conformed to the image of Christ...... no one said walk away from them....but if their destination is not the same as yours ...you will split roads whether you want to or not...
peace be with you friends:)

Braelyn

60

Braelyn commented…

For me I know that I have a much harder time when the person is not someone I would call close. Mutual respect is SO important to break the ice.

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