For The Bible Tells Me So

For The Bible Tells Me So
Editor’s Note: Doc Soup is a monthly doc­u­ment­ary screen­ing pro­gramme run by the good folks at Hot Docs. It gives audi­ences in Toronto (and now Calgary and Vancouver!) their reg­u­lar doc fix each year from the fall through to the spring, lead­ing up to the Hot Docs fest­ival itself.

For The Bible Tells Me So (Director: Daniel Karslake): This doc­u­ment­ary came to my atten­tion through Joel Heller’s excel­lent site Docs That Inspire, before it played at Sundance this past January. The film explores the inter­sec­tion of homo­sexu­al­ity and reli­gion, par­tic­u­larly among con­ser­vat­ive Christians, and as such, it tackles a sub­ject near and dear to me. I spent many years immersed in the evan­gel­ical sub­cul­ture and went through the very pain­ful com­ing-out exper­i­ence of a close friend. This is exactly the sort of film I wish we’d had in the early 90s. Through the exper­i­ences of five Christian fam­il­ies, each with a gay or les­bian child, we watch as real people struggle to integ­rate their love for their fam­il­ies with their own beliefs and exper­i­ences. But this isn’t the typ­ical con­front­a­tional sort of film many of us have seen before. Instead, we meet clergy who have wrestled hon­estly with what the Bible says, and who are able to recon­cile their faith with accept­ance of gay and les­bian people. It’s gut-wrench­ing stuff, and not every­one will be con­vinced by the theo­logy, but at least it gets people dis­cuss­ing the mean­ing of the dis­puted bib­lical pas­sages, rather than just quot­ing them.

I par­tic­u­larly liked that not all the fam­il­ies are the same. Some still struggle to accept what they per­ceive to be their child’s “sin­ful” life­style, while oth­ers have gone on to polit­ical act­iv­ism (in some cases, even to the point of being arres­ted!). Karslake has made a very wise choice by adopt­ing the name of a par­tic­u­larly obstin­ate oppon­ent of gay rights, Focus on the Family, as his theme. By focus­sing on the real fam­il­ies and exper­i­ences of gay people, he removes much of the appre­hen­sion and fear of straight people, espe­cially reli­gious straight people. I loved the way he intro­duced each fam­ily by hav­ing the par­ents explain how they them­selves met and fell in love. It showed us that attrac­tion and romance are at the root of all of our fam­il­ies, and that the rela­tion­ships of gay people are really not much dif­fer­ent than any­one else’s.

If I have any mis­giv­ings about the film, they are rel­at­ively minor. One is the use of a short anim­ated seg­ment to try to explain some of the recent sci­entific research around homo­sexu­al­ity. I thought the tone was a little too self-con­sciously light-hearted and I thought the seg­ment was largely unne­ces­sary. The other quibble was that earlier in the film, Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson is (right­fully) called out for com­par­ing advoc­ates of gay mar­riage to Hitler, but then later, actual foot­age of Hitler is used to describe the per­se­cu­tion of gay people. I don’t think you can have it both ways.

Nevertheless, this is a fair, gen­er­ous, and incred­ibly mov­ing por­trait of real people try­ing to recon­cile their deep­est-held beliefs with their very iden­tit­ies of them­selves or of those closest to them. I’m not ashamed to tell you that I was moved to tears sev­eral times. Despite that, I think it’s a film that would move oth­ers who are per­haps not quite so close to the issues. My wife and I have a run­ning joke. We’ve got the great idea that if only fun­da­ment­al­ist Christians and gay people could actu­ally meet each other instead of hurl­ing insults across the divide, much under­stand­ing and even recon­cil­a­tion could be achieved. I’ve offered to hold a series of din­ner events called “Fags and Fundies” to which we could invite quite a few of our friends. I think I’ve found the per­fect film to get the dis­cus­sion star­ted.

NOTE: The film is show­ing in vari­ous ven­ues in the US in the com­ing months, but so far, there are no Toronto screen­ing dates. Check the film’s site for any changes, and look for a DVD release in the com­ing months.

UPDATE (January 9, 2008): The film’s Toronto premiere will be tonight at the Bloor Cinema as part of the Doc Soup pro­gramme. Director Daniel Karslake will be in attend­ance. Screenings at 6:30pm and 9:15pm.

Official web site of the film

Docs That Inspire’s Joel Heller inter­views dir­ector Daniel Karslake

Soulforce, an organ­iz­a­tion of gay and les­bian Christians and their straight allies fight­ing reli­gious bigotry

PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)


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One Response to For The Bible Tells Me So

  1. James McNally says:

    Just wanted to draw your atten­tion to the fact that the film is screen­ing tonight as part of the excel­lent Doc Soup pro­gramme. Screenings are held at 6:30pm and 9:15pm at the Bloor Cinema and there may be some tick­ets avail­able at the door. Director Daniel Karslake will be in attend­ance for a Q&A, too.

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