For The Bible Tells Me So is about how deeply Christian parents respond and relate to their children when the child comes out of the closet and announces his or her sexual preference. The story is told from the perspective of five normal, real-life adult homosexual children and their families. The families struggle with love for the child and the competing desire to do the right Christian thing. A literal interpretation of the Bible, for example, would mean the child is bad, wrong and sinful in the eyes of God. This DVD is important because it asks us to consider whether the Bible provides an excuse to judge and hate homosexuals. Several Biblical experts and prominent citizens talk about how a literal interpretation of select phrases from the Bible leads to a gross misinterpretation. As one of the experts says, “There’s nothing wrong with a 5th grade understanding of God as long as you’re in the 5th grade.”
The movie starts with 1977 video footage of Anita Bryant, the Christian activist and former beauty queen, singer and celebrity endorser of commercial products. We see the magnificent Anita making anti gay statements. She is wholesome, righteous, full of her Godly mission, and very sure of herself. Then a gay guy in a suit calmly walks up to her and throws a cream pie right in her face. A friend sitting next to Anita reminds her to forgive the pie thrower. Visibly shaken and sometimes crying, Anita extends the typical Christian version of forgiveness. “Father,” she says, “I ask him to be forgiven and that we love him and pray for him to be delivered from his deviant lifestyle, Father.” The chance to witness such a perfect example of the ego-based act of forgiveness is reason enough to see this movie. Through Anita we come to a new awareness, and it’s this: ego-based forgiveness is actually a subtle act of attack and hate rather than the love and goodness it pretends to be. Most of us routinely forgive from an I’m better than you or you’re the bad one posture.
Each child tells about the recognition of self as homosexual, how and when parents were told, and what happened next. We meet Imogene and Victor Robinson. Gene, their son, is now the first gay Episcopalian bishop in New Hampshire. We meet the Brenda and David Poteat who have a lesbian daughter, Tonia. David says when his children were born he made a prayer to God. “God, please don’t let my son grow up to be a faggot and my daughter a slut.” Then with tongue in cheek he tells us that God “didn’t do that. He reversed it.” Jane and Dick Gephardt’s lesbian daughter, Chrissy, talks about how she was worried her coming out might spoil her Dad’s campaign for president. Phil and Randi Reitan’s youngest son, Jake, realized he was gay when he was in middle school. When he told his parents, Phil said “it hit me so hard I felt like I had just had a death.” And lastly we meet Mary Lou Wallner. Her lesbian daughter, Anna, committed suicide after being rejected and troubled by her mother’s reaction to her coming out.
All five stories are emotionally moving, but it’s Mary Lou’s story that makes you cry, and her story stays with you long after the movie is over. Anna told her mother about her homosexuality when she was away in college. Mary Lou wrote a letter back to her saying, “I will never accept you…what you’re doing is spiritually and morally wrong…and I will always hate this in you.” At the time, Mary Lou’s opinion was strongly shaped by the church she was attending. According to the church, homosexuality wasn’t just a sin; it was the sin of sins. After her daughter’s death, Mary Lou began independently researching homosexuality. She discovered that gay people are 3-7 times more likely to commit suicide. They feel excluded. They feel like God doesn’t want them. They feel like there’s no place for them in the church. “Now instead of taking the Bible literally, I have to take it in the context of the day in which it was written. I believe differently than the way I was raised.” Mary Lou still attends church, but it’s not the same church.
We know that love does not attack, and we know that love does not separate. Therefore, if words from any source are interpreted in a way that justifies judgment and condemnation of our brothers and sisters, then our interpretation of those words must be mistaken. The Bible has 6 or 7 verses that speak directly to homosexual conduct. Picking out these highly selective passages draws attention away from the whole message of love and focuses on a minor flaw in the message. It’s like looking at a tiny freckle and saying the freckle is what’s most important and most relevant about a whole person. The word abomination, for example, is used in the Bible and is frequently quoted as God’s opinion about homosexual activity. “If a man lies with another man, it’s an abomination.” Yet modern day Biblical experts tell us that abomination needs to be re-interpreted within the context of the time in which it was used. Our current interpretation of abomination means extreme disgust, hatred and loathing, but during Biblical times abomination referred to a violation of a ritual requirement, such as the ritual requirement of marriage. The Bible also says that it’s an abomination to eat shrimp. It’s an abomination to co-mingle crops. It’s an abomination to weave linen and wool together. All of these other literal interpretations of the word abomination have been deselected from our attention, forgotten and ignored.
Desmond Tutu, the South African winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a featured guest in the movie, said, “I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re black, not white. I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re a woman, not a man. And I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re a homosexual, not a heterosexual.”
This movie won many well-deserved independent film/documentary awards. From the pie-in-the-face Anita Bryant moment to the heartbreaking story of Anna Wallner’s suicide, it grabs your attention and holds it. It’s a compelling, authentic account of what it’s like to be a Christian homosexual in this millennium. But even more importantly, For the Bible Tells Me So asks viewers to quit playing with homosexuality as a reason to block the love that is our truth. Do yourself a favor and see it.
DVD Title: For the Bible Tells Me So
Produced and Directed By: Daniel Karslake
Distributor: First Run Features
Karen Bentley is America’s Spiritual Reviewer. She reviews contemporary books and movies exclusively from a love-based perspective. For more information go to www.spiritualreviewer.com.
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