Thursday, September 29, 2011

For the Bible Tells Me So

This evening I will be leading a discussion of the documentary film, For the Bible Tells Me So, on the OSU campus. In case you're local and want to attend, the event--hosted by OSU's Sexual Orientation Diversity Association (SODA)--begins at 5:30 PM in rm 112 of the Classroom Building. Discussion will follow a screening of the film.

The film offers a powerful look into the lives and struggles of several families with strong Christian roots and a family member who is gay or lesbian. I know one of the profiled families pretty well: the Reitans. The parents, Phil and Randi, are the godparents to my son--which kind of makes their son, Jake, my son's godbrother? Dunno. In any event, Phil is my first cousin.

But even apart from this personal connection, I would be a strong advocate for this film. I don't think anyone can honestly and sincerely reflect on the traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality without considering its human impact, at least not if one is motivated by an ethic of love--which is, after all, the sort of ethic that Christians profess to endorse. To love our neighbors requires, first of all, paying attention to them. And this includes paying attention to our gay and lesbian neighbors and their families. It requires paying attention to how our choices, our actions and our attitudes, our teaching and preaching, affect them.

The makers of this documentary did just that. They paid attention. And in so doing, they have afforded a way for others to pay attention, too. Not that a documentary film is a substitute for actually sitting down with real live human beings, finding out about them and their lives, listening with compassionate attention. But it can be a starting place.

And even those of us who have close gay and lesbian friends may not always be comfortable initiating those hard, intimate conversations, the conversations which expose truths about the human condition that may challenge or even convict us. Sometimes it can be helpful for a filmmaker to ask those hard questions on our behalf, and record the answers for us to see. Sometimes that is what it takes to stimulate real, face-to-face conversations among human beings. Sometimes, that is what it takes to motivate someone to seek out people they otherwise avoid, people they are afraid of because they are entangled in misinformation and prejudice.

And so, even if my cousins weren't one of the featured families in the film, I'd encourage you to see it. It's a moving film (not long ago, for what it's worth, Katy Perry tweeted that the film had moved her to tears). But it's more than that. It's a window into human lives, an invitation to empathy and compassion. And it's a challenge to all those who sit easily in righteous "Christian" judgment on their gay and lesbian neighbors. Christ's warnings against Pharisaic self-congratulation and judgment are bound up, intimately, with his prioritization of love. His aim was to break down those things which prevent us from being channels through which love flows in the world.

Many such impediments have been in place, for a long time now, in the Christian community's relationship to those whose sexuality doesn't fit with the conventional pattern. As I've said before, the Bible becomes such an impediment to love when people plug up their ears with Bible verses so that they cannot hear the anguished cries of their gay and lesbian neighbors. If nothing else, "For the Bible Tells Me So" is an invitation to unplug our ears.

And in case that's not enough to spark your interest, here's the trailer:

1 comment:

  1. I read your post and watched the trailer, and the combination left me deeply troubled.

    Is there no room for conscientious objection to homosexuality? Must everyone who believes it is immoral be portrayed as a bigot? Is it no longer considered permissible to hate the sin and love the sinner?

    A generation ago, homosexuals were stigmatized. Today those who do not embrace the legitimization of homosexuality are stigmatized. I don't see the improvement.

    It is considered axiomatic that the only people who oppose homosexual rights are the same sorts of people who opposed civil rights for blacks. Yet I do not see the two as analogous at all. I am a white Southern male who strongly supported civil rights for blacks in the 1960's, but am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage. Am I the only one? I cannot believe so, yet when I read posts like this and see trailers like this I feel very much alone.