Having spent the first half of my life immersed in the homophobic teachings of people like Drs. Bob Jones Jr. and III, Jimmy Swaggart, Dr. James Dobson, and Anita Bryant and the last half recovering from it, I’m at a point where I can honestly say the only emotion I feel for these anti-gay zealots is pity. (I’m working toward feeling compassion for them – not there yet, but check back in a few years – although the part where Anita Bryant gets the pie thrown in her face still – and always will – make me laugh). Karslake shows just enough snippets of these people spewing their venom so that you know it’s there, but thankfully, his film doesn’t dwell on that side of the issue.
Instead, he shows what’s at the heart of the matter – the impact that misunderstanding of the Bible’s teaching of homosexuality has on relationships between parents and children. We meet the well-known family of Congressman Dick Gephardt, as well as the wonderful parents of the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop. The most inspirational part of the film was witnessing the parents of one young man, Jake Reitan, transform themselves from a pained and fearful couple to courageous activists marching on the headquarters of Focus on the Family on a cold and rainy day in Colorado Springs.
Most frustrating were the parents of Tonia Poteat. They’ve taken some steps toward accepting their daughter, albeit baby steps, and you walk out of theater wondering if they’ve gone as far as they can go. What caused me to shed tears, though was watching the agony of Mary Lousie Wallner.
Finally, Karslake rounds out his subject by adding a third group of speakers to the professional homophobes and the families, creating sort of a trinity of knowledge with Biblical scholars on both sides of the issue, including Desmond Tutu. I write “both sides of the issue” against my principles because I don’t believe that there are two legitimate sides on this issue, just like I don’t believe there are two legitimate sides on the issues of segregation, child labor, women’s suffrage or anti-Semitism. But we live in a complicated world and I’m glad opposing viewpoints are presented.
Unfortunately, the people who need to see this movie the most – like the Bob Jones University faculty, staff, administration and students where I grew up – aren’t likely to, and not just because movie theaters are off limits to them. Their “hearts are hardened,” as they like to say about their enemies and they believe that a powerful, passionate yet reasonable message such as the one contained in “For the Bible Tells Me So” is the most dangerous form of Satan’s temptation.
The film opened two days ago in New York and it’s going to be a lot of places this week, so GO SEE IT NOW! Check the schedule.
Karslake’s film carries me a step closer to that ultimate prayer of compassion: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
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