When I was in Bible school, I came out of the closet.
As an intellectual and a non-literal Biblical interpreter, that is.
This did not set well with my church back home, nor with the literalist president of the Jackson College of Ministries. He ended up firing a couple of the teachers who had taught me how to think for myself as a Christian.
So, I find fascinating a lot of the explanations that real theologians give for Biblical prohibitions of homosexuality, a lot of which is covered in For The Bible Tells Me So, a documentary which confronts the religious right about its homophobia. Which also begs the question of why be so dedicated to a book that seems so wrong about so many things. At least, that’s the question I asked myself many years ago before I left church, and the Church. Luckily for me and my sexuality, guilt has never been an issue, prohibitions have always felt provocative rather than oppressive and getting approval for my desires from religious leaders, or family members for that matter, never figured much in my personal coming-out story.
Others have not been so lucky.
Remarkable for its moral power — one of the mothers in this documentary became a gay activist after her lesbian daughter committed suicide; the mother directly blames the rhetoric of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, and herself — For The Bible Tells Me So limits itself somewhat by its talking-head didactics, a style made more obvious by an out-of-place animation short that comes out of nowhere.
Still, everyone interviewed responds and expounds in very articulate, lively, and impassioned ways, including retired U.S. Representative Dick Gephardt, a recently ordained gay Anglican priest and Bishop Desmond Tutu. How’s that for star power?. One of the film’s biggest assets: The filmmakers also treat fairly and non-judgmentally the parents of the lesbian and gay folks in this doc, even the ones who haven’t completley “come around.’
Everyone’s religious beliefs are also respected. This isn’t a radical critque of right-wing ideology. Rather it maintains a rather moderate view of the Bible and points out that fundamentalism itself is a modern invention. A well-timed reminder. The homophobes end up looking unreasonable, unkind and rather kooky. As it shoud be.
But will this film convince Biblical literalists? Having known some in my time, I’m not so sure about that leap of faith. But, you gotta have hope.