High School Pep Rallies and Difficult Dialogues

This is my thoughtful response to what transpired yesterday with a friend and colleague of mine, Andrew Marin.

…well…to be honest, it didn’t start off that thoughtful. It only turned thoughtful after I got past this phase: “Ok, Jesus…I’m pissed!” Once that was off my chest I was able to move on. :-)  Here are the thoughts that followed:

I’m really frustrated and confused as to why Andrew Marin’s voice, of all the “evangelical” voices out there, is being uninvited to a UN forum. Andrew, who started The Marin Foundation in Boystown Chicago, provides a voice that speaks to the conservative heart of many evangelicals (including those in Uganda and other more conservative African nations) while at the same time honoring, respecting, loving, and fighting on behalf of the LGBT community in earnest sincerity. He, along with the LGBT discussants on that panel, believes that reparative therapy is potentially harmful and does not advocate for such treatment. He does not support attempts to change one’s sexual orientation. He provides a moderate voice amongst extremists on both sides.

I think I’m appalled at the lack of respect Andrew was shown when there was no explanation given as to why his invitation to speak was rescinded (see his blog post for details). If you invite someone to that level of a platform it better be because you have researched his or her credentials and know of the influence and stance that that individual holds. So if you then rescind that invitation after you have already publicized that he will be one of the discussants, you better give an adequate reason behind such a decision. He is an expert in the field of public policy bridge-building between the LGBT policy advocates and the evangelical policy advocates. Why is his voice not being heard in this important forum?

My mind immediately goes to calls and rally cries against discrimination. Sexual minorities and members of the LGBT community know all too well what it is like to be discriminated against, censored, and pushed aside. And now it seems as though many LGBT advocates are the ones promoting the same treatment. I know this seems like an extreme position to take. But what else are we left to think?

Why else would an organization, in which there are multiple departments that have a good working relationship with Andrew, disinvite him and not any of other speakers? Andrew’s voice is the only voice that somewhat differs from the others…how can you have a good discussion of ideas if all the ideas presented come from the same worldview and underlying premise? How can that be productive? How can we learn if we are only allowing certain (often extreme) views (from either side) to be heard?

I guess if you are only wanting to create an atmosphere of unison and one-wave thinking, of no potential dissension on any point, of complete agreement and energy much like a high school pep rally, then I guess having all of your speakers with the same underlying beliefs is appropriate. It feels a lot like a hot bed for groupthink to me. And in my teaching of social psychology, groupthink isn’t necessarily a good thing–especially when complex, difficult issues are being discussed and/or decisions need to be made.

If indeed these complex issues are to be discussed with care and a sincere desire to try to move forward, then multiple voices from various backgrounds are paramount. The differing views, shared in a respectful and nonjudgmental environment, pave the way for compromise and progress. With disrespect and judgment these types of discussions will only lead to opposing sides planting their feet more firmly in their stances and even pulling further into the extremes.

I’ll say it again: In order for compromise and progress to be made there has to be an environment of respect and non-judgment in which these difficult dialogues take place.

Thus voices from both sides of the table, and voices in the middle, need to be heard. And I would venture to say that the voices in the middle are going to be the most vital and important voices to attend. They are the ones that tend to not scream and yell for attention, but are willing to sit in the tension of the both-and while acknowledging the difficulties of each of the other sides. This is exactly what Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation do. They sit in the middle of the tension and acknowledge the difficulties between, yet unconditionally love, people on both sides of the heated debate between the LGBT advocates and the conservative Christians.

Please UN, if you really want productive discussions, reconsider your removal of Andrew Marin from the docket of this forum!

In Christ’s love and mine…

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