By David R. Larson
Getting started too late, my wife and I sped the 51.8 miles from our condominium in Loma Linda to the Camelot Theater in Palm Springs. Things were going well until we got lost in that California oasis because our Internet directions told us to turn right when we should have turned left. When we finally arrived at our destination, the previews of coming attractions had begun to roll. But For Me the Bible Tells Me So had not yet started. We are happy that we did not miss a single frame!
I encourage as many as possible to see this movie during its preliminary screening. For locations and further information about where it is showing, please visit www.forthebibletellsmeso.org. If you cannot see it now, watch for it on the Sundance Channel and on DVD in early 2008. Buy it! View it! Discuss it!
Robert Greenbaum, one of movie’s executive producers, said in the question and answer period after the film screening that the film’s purpose is “to open up conversations” about those who say they wish their church loved them as much as they love it. These would be our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ.
I misspoke. This movie is not about them. It is about the rest of us. It is about how we straight—or pretending-to-be-straight—Christians often treat them. It is about why homosexual men and women commit suicide at three times the rate of others. It is about sin, not theirs but ours.
The film shows in a compelling way (those who know more about making movies can explain) a collage of snippets from the actual lives of at least five groups of people. These bits of film seem to have been thrown into a hat, stirred up and then pulled out and rearranged topically without a booming voice that proclaims, “Now we turn to the issue of …………..” Everything just flows together in what I experienced as a zigzagging but smoothly running cinematic stream.
One of these groups is a small number of well-educated Christian homosexuals. As I now recall it, three are women, two are men. Four are white and one is black. Four of them are alive and well today. One is not. She was found dead, dangling in her home closet from a rope with a dog chain around her neck. She had kicked a chair out from under her.
The parents of these gay and straight people make up a second group. Those who use Scripture to make life miserable for homosexuals are a third. Others who read the Old and New Testament more responsibly constitute the fourth. The fifth is made up of animated characters that summarize recent scientific answers to the endless questions such as: “Why are they like that?” Well, why are we like this?
I think it generous that those who produced For the Bible Tells Me So say nothing about the leading Christian gay bashers who have recently displayed their hypocrisy by being caught in homosexual activities themselves. In some deep way did they want to be discovered so as it bring their big lies to an end? In their own fashion were they also “coming out of the closet?” Is this why the movie spares them? I don’t know but I do wonder.
For fear of dissuading some from seeing it, I hesitate to mention anything that I think this movie might have done more effectively; nevertheless, I hazard the following. First, I think it would have been helpful to have devoted more footage to thoughtful Christian leaders who are perplexed or even troubled by some things some homosexual men and women say and do. I understand that this movie’s producers tried but failed to find such people who were willing to be interviewed on camera. Only Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, agreed to be interviewed. Regrettably, as I know from my own attempts to get people involved in this topic, this is par for the course. No wonder most of those in this movie with more conservative views are unlettered and uncouth bigots!
I also think that this movie could have done more to emphasize that there is no such thing “as the homosexual life style” even though this expression has long been a menacing mantra. Just like straight people, gays and lesbians arranges their lives in many different ways. Many are healthy, others are deadly. To treat this subject by putting all heterosexuals in one moral category and all homosexuals in the opposite is false no matter which one we favor. The line between good and evil falls within us, not between.
A third issue is more strictly theological. The movie effectively shows how silly it can be to select some portions of Scripture and apply them to our own lives today without reference to their original contexts. But to some extent this still leaves unanswered the questions as to how we should pick and choose, as certainly we must.
I share the view that the life, teachings, death, resurrection and continuing ministry of Jesus Christ make up the criterion by which we should measure everything we find in Scripture and elsewhere. As Charles Scriven has written so well on this site and in Spectrum, we need to think of Scripture as a moving narrative with a discernable plot, one that moves to and from our Lord and Savior.
I like the language of “trajectory” because for me it connotes more strongly that this story advances into our time and beyond and that it does so in a certain direction, the one to which the ancient plot propels us! Being a Christian today is not to do in our time what the ancients did in theirs. It is to continue the struggle. It is to go further in the same direction. It is to remember that “His truth keeps marching on!” and to get in step.
One way to do this is to see and discuss For the Bible Tells Me So!
David R. Larson is a Seventh-day Adventist minister who has taught Christian ethics at Loma Linda University since 1974. He, David Ferguson and Fritz Guy are editing a book titled "Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives." It should be available by Christmas.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4080