February is LGBT history month, so once again we’re using real world events to make reviews we were going to do anyway seem relevant. Enjoy.
For the Bible Tells Me So is a moving documentary about a range of Christian parents in America coming to terms with having a gay child.
It follows a number of different families, including Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop; presidential candidate Dick Gephardt and his gay daughter; and the evangelical Reitan family who became gay rights activists after their son Jake came out to them.
The documentary is structured so the different stories are all intercut with one another. They all start out the same way, with the children of strongly Christian families gradually coming to terms with their homosexuality, but develop differently as the parents respond in their different ways. They range from out-and-out rejection to learning everything about homosexuality in order to accept their child. While all the parents start out with pretty horrible, if far from unusual, Christian views on homosexuality, the way some are prepared to challenge their most deeply held beliefs for their children is admirable. The Reitans are particularly exceptional, as they now campaign alongside their son against homophobic churches.
Clips are shown of homophobic preachers that are truly shocking. To those familiar with the language used by Christian fundamentalists it may sound unsurprising. That is, until you step back and realise the rhetoric about gay conspiracies to undermine the family and destroy society is really not that far from that used by the Nazis. It’s even more shocking once you realise that this isn’t happening in a dingy back room somewhere under the cover of night; these people are preaching like this to large congregations and TV cameras, openly, as if they have nothing to be ashamed about.
When US pastor Terry Jones announced he was going to burn a Koran it made international headlines, but when Christian preachers spew pure hate from the pulpit against gays it goes almost unnoticed. For the Bible Tells Me So says we should notice, and we should condemn.
This is a fantastic documentary which shines a light on the homophobia rife in American evangelical Christianity, but while it’s hard hitting and powerful, it’s also non judgemental of the Christian parents, who are given a fair chance to tell their story and show how they’ve come to terms with things. It manages to be moving and at times gut-wrenchingly sad, but also shows a ray of hope, when some of the most homophobic parents see the error of their ways.
One interviewee talks about how fear of the “other” is in many ways a natural response, and we shouldn’t respond by promoting prejudice against the prejudiced, but by trying to show them the error of their ways. That’s something this open minded and accessible documentary hopefully goes some way to doing.