The Marin Foundation received widespread attention from a back-patting post by one of its members, who wrote “I Hugged a Man in His Underwear” after attending a pride parade (an achievement which, honestly, elicited little more than a “so what” from me). While many people were pleasantly surprised to see Christians apologizing for religious homophobia, a closer look at the Marin Foundation revealed that the organization isn’t quite so innocuous, and the impression that they accept LGBT people isn’t all that accurate. A 2006 story about Andrew Marin in the Chicago Reader reports:
Marin may be more comfortable with homosexuality than the average evangelical, but he shares a belief in the Bible as the inerrant word of God. Which invites the question: does he consider homosexuality a sin?
When I ask it, Marin writes the question down on a piece of paper and studies it carefully. “It’s theologically sloppy to say it’s not a sin,” he replies. But he quickly adds that all Christians are sinners, according to Romans 3:23. “We’re all dealing with something.”
In their FAQ, the Marin Foundation won’t give a direct answer to “Do you think homosexuality is a sin?”, instead dismissing the validity of the question entirely:
The one common theme of these “Big 5” is that they are all close-ended, yes-or-no questions. Each of them must be answered with one word and they are all meant to end conversation. Based solely on one’s close-ended answers, it is easy to label, judge and dismiss the other community entirely. Thus we dehumanize a community based off of a word rather than create a productive conversation. In essence, by close-ended answers either the Christian or the LGBT community judges who you are, what you believe, whose team you’re on and how you should be treated.
Most recently, Marin himself refused to tell pro-LGBT Christian activist John Shore that being gay isn’t a sin. Some people defended this by claiming that it was impossible for the Marin Foundation to answer this one way or the other, because doing so would alienate either the conservative Christians or the LGBT people that the organization is trying to reach out to and bring together. This is a poor excuse, because refusing to say that being gay isn’t a sin is alienating to LGBT people anyway. Marin’s silence indicates that either he does believe that being gay is a sin, or he doesn’t but lacks the courage to say so outright. Both of these possibilities are disrespectful to LGBT people.
The question is so simple that evading it is a reliable sign of dishonesty. If sin is defined as transgressing a binding moral code that’s defined by a deity, then being gay or having a gay relationship is either a contravention of that moral code, or it is not. It is a sin, or it is not. For atheists, this is an especially easy question to answer, because there is no deity to define such a moral code in the first place. In the case of religious believers, if they make any claim to know the content of this divinely commanded moral code in any other context, then asking them how this applies to LGBT people should be fair game. And Marin’s “whatever, everything’s a sin” approach still uniquely stigmatizes gay people in a way that straight people are not.
He does get one thing right: a yes or no answer to whether being gay is a sin really does make it easy to label and judge people and what they believe. What he doesn’t understand is that this is the point. The answer to the question does tell us what they believe – it tells us whether they believe that the almighty creator of the universe, whose powers extend to rewriting morality itself, has decreed that our lives are contrary to its will. There is nothing wrong with simply wanting a clear answer on whether they believe this is the case, and a direct question is only intimidating to people like Andrew Marin who won’t give an unambiguous reply. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.