Documentary on homosexuality and the church focuses on family
Director/Producer: Daniel Karslake
Studio/Run time: First Run Features, 97 mins.
Gather round, it’s time for a little Bible study. Let’s start by ?ipping to the Old Testament: Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.” So, homosexuality is bad, according to Levitical Law.
But keep reading. Leviticus 20:18 says that if a man has sex with a woman while she’s on her period, both should be “cut off from their people,” and Leviticus 13:40-45 says that if a bald man has a sore on his head, he must wear torn clothes, leave his hair unkempt and run around screaming, “Unclean! Unclean!” Many Christians condemn homosexuals based on the rules and regulations of the Old Testament. But when it comes to sexuality and the Bible, where should the line be drawn between relevant and archaic? Daniel Karslake’s For the Bible Tells Me So examines this utterly polarizing question.
What might initially seem a bleeding-heart attack on Christianity turns out to be a levelheaded criticism of unswerving Biblical literalism. Granted, the ?lm isn’t without bias—it self-consciously challenges the homophobia that results from conservative Christianity through extensive interviews with ?ve Christian families, each with a gay or lesbian member, as well as interviews with several reverends, a rabbi and an archbishop. We meet Mary Lou Wallner, a Christian mother who blames her own ignorance for her lesbian daughter’s suicide. We meet the family of Gene Robinson, a gay Episcopal bishop who, in the face of death threats, had to wear a bulletproof vest at his consecration ceremony. We meet former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, whose lesbian daughter, Chrissy, accompanied him on the presidential campaign trail. We meet the Reitans, a Lutheran family that denounced Focus on the Family—an organization they once fervently supported—to start an activist group in honor of their gay son. And we meet the Poteats, two preachers who struggle every day with their daughter’s sexuality but love her nonetheless.
Karslake captures some startlingly honest moments. At one point, David Poteat says, “When my kids were growing up, I said ‘God, please don’t let my son grow up to be a faggot and my daughter a slut.’ And he did not do that. He reversed it.” His honesty is uncomfortable to watch, but it’s hardly the tip of this iceberg.
Still, The Bible Tells Me So doesn’t feature any interviews with religious experts who condemn homosexuality, or with families who’ve shunned their homosexual child. But it seems Karslake isn’t concerned with attempting objectivity so much as persuasively—yet subtly—arguing for the side he obviously feels, in his heart, is right. All of the parents Karslake interviewed for the ?lm used to consider homosexuality inherently wrong, and some of them still do. But they’ve all ?gured out a way to let their Christian faith coexist with unconditional parental love—without, in their mind, compromising either, and without using religion to justify hate.