Thursday, January 17, 2008

Excellent New Documentary: "For The Bible Tells Me So"

I attended a special screening last week of director Daniel G. Karslake's "For The Bible Tells Me So," at Toronto's Bloor Cinema.

For every Christian who believes their Holy Book condemns homosexuality as a sin against God or nature, you'd do very well to see this amazing movie to set the record straight (er, no pun

As Variety's Justin Chang puts it so well in this review, "Filmmaker Daniel Karslake lobs a grenade into the culture wars with his heartfelt, provocative and unabashedly polemical "For the Bible Tells Me So," which examines the intersection of homosexuality and religion and finds the latter wanting."

Many Christian homophobes have long pointed to the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament as proof that God condemns homosexuality. As we know, Leviticus was simply an ancient, Jewish rule book which dictated various living standards for all Jews at the time. The same book also states that eating shellfish is an "abomination", among other rules long since forgotten by modern, Evangelical Christians and most Jews.

In fact, the word "abomination" continues to be taken out of context, the film asserts. While many today consider that word to mean a "sin against God or nature", the word "abomination," at the time of Leviticus simply referred to something that went against the mainstream cultural norms of the time.

Because the survival of Jewish tribes was then very much in doubt, specific condemnations of same sex relations seem reasonable, even from a modern perspective. Of course, such condemnations have no place in our over-populated modern reality.

Karslake's film exposes many other misinterpretations of Scripture which have formed the basis of much homophobia in the modern era.

But "For The Bible Tells Me So" isn't just a theological deconstruction of modern-day homophobia. The bulk of this great film, which has been shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature award at this year's Oscars, focuses on the lives of ordinary Christian families with gay or lesbian children who have struggled and suffered greatly due to those misinterpretations of Scripture. Profiles include former American presidential candidate Richard Gephardt, whose daughter came out as a lesbian before he chose to seek the highest office in the U.S. in 2004.

Well-deserved scorn is levelled against Dr. James Dobson and his bigoted U.S.-based organization, Focus on the Family, for its actions in fanning the flames of hatred. One particularly poignant segment of the film chronicles a mother and member of Focus of the Family who followed Dobson's teachings and rejected her daughter after she came out as a lesbian. Their relationship completely disintegrated and months later her daughter took her own life. Today, the same mother has since rejected Focus on the Family's bigotry and taken up the cause of LGBT rights.

For anyone looking for ways to challenge the mindless, kneejerk homophobia of some Christians who use the Bible to justify their hatred, this film is essential viewing.

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