Wednesday, 29 September 2010

For the Bible Tells Me So - A Film Review

The other night I was watching the documentary feature For the Bible Tells Me So (2007). It is a very moving and powerful film following the lives and consequences of a number of American Christian families dealing with a relative who realises that they are gay.

It also looks at the actual content and context of homosexuality within the Bible, i.e. those verses used by individuals and groups to end their love or seek to cure what they have failed to understand or investigate. The families include that of Gene Robinson the openly gay Episcopal Bishop in New Hampshire and Dick Gephardt former Presidential candidate and his lesbian daughter Chrissy. But it was the tale of two less prominent families that really struck me.

First up there was Jake Reitan a young man from a Unitarian background. He came out as a teen to his big sister a full year before he could tell his parents. Their initial reaction was one of trying to hide Jake's sexuality from all around them and to catacomb themselves and him from the 'shame' of having a gay son. But Jake wanted to be open and honest about who he was and his family are an ideal example of a family coming to terms with their own inbuilt and learnt prejudices, seeking the truth themselves and coming to understand, love and stand beside and behind their son. They are active advocates as a family for acceptance from families of their LGBT sons, daughters, brothers, sisters etc.

The other is the sad story of Mary Lou Wallner, who couldn't accept the 'gay thing' about her daughter and they became estranged. As with too many gay children brought up in Christian households that led to estrangement and after an exchange of heart achingly terse letters Mary Lou's daughter took her own life. Too late to do anything to her daughter Mary Lou did investigate herself what the Bible actually said, the context it was said in and what it means to modern day life.

Fortunately I had neither of those experiences to those extremes when I came out to my parents. However, it didn't mean that at times I wasn't curling up into a ball, needing to reach out to something/one for comfort or bring the odd tear to me eyes. It was also a truncated version of the 10 years of searching scripture which I myself did. If only I'd taken the answers my 16-year-old self came up with it would have saved so much time, but may not have been so well grounded.

There is a lot of mental anguish because of the way many in our culture still see homosexuality. But as this film showed it is often out of repeated ignorance or selective verse selection that these put-downs that these judgements come.


  1. Stephen, we never listen to our 16 year old selves. And our 16 year old selves rarely listen to us. I'm not sure if you've done it, I cannot remember, but, mainly for others, writing a public letter to yourself at 16 is a powerful thing to help 'one' start to complete one's understanding of self. I did that last October.

    But that was not the primary purpose of my comment here. I have a very great friend, now retired, he is a well respected and much loved rabbi in the Conservative Judaism movement. He's a man of stern religious convictions and is black and white over morality. He is a teacher and a leader, even in retirement. WHen he finds something that he feels to be at odds with his humanity that stems from his religion he does not accept the religion blindly. Instead he challenges his beliefs.

    Faced with a congregant in, I think, the internet side of his ministry, a side which has a great and quiet reach, a congregant who was struggling to reconcile homosexuality and the teachings of the religion, my friend considered long and hard. And he conducted a Halakhic investigation into homosexual relationships. Having done so he wrote and published it under the title 'Dear David'.

    The investigation introduces itself. It is a somewhat technical read versed in the tenets of Judaism, but that didn't put me off. I read it with growing admiration for my friend, a man with whom I do not always agree, and saw his humanity shine through.

    This paper has been instrumental in creating the climate for the ordination of openly gay rabbis in the Conservative (or Masorti) Jewish movement, a significant and substantial part of Judaism.

    Would that we had such simple common sense in what passes for Christianity in so many places.

  2. I had the feeling that you had done it.